Welcome the 2012 Top 10 Prospects series. Throughout the summer, we will be ranking and profiling each NHL team's top 10 prospects. To start off, though, we will rank each team's organization based on the strength of their prospect pool.
My methods for determining prospect value are almost the same as during my draft rankings. To read how I accumulate my information on these prospects, my thoughts why I prioritize puck possession skills, and my takes on defense and goalie prospects, please go here. The one major difference from doing draft rankings is the age and pro experience factor. I tend to give slightly more value to older prospects, as well as those who have proven success at the AHL, NHL level, or other significant pro leagues.
There have been two major changes to my rankings. One is this year I will be using a games played cutoff to determine prospect status. I have for a while made a subjective call on if a prospect was an established NHLer, but that has become a major headache. The Calder Trophy uses a 25-games-played cutoff to determine eligibility and that's partly what I've chosen to use. However, to make sure prospects who played a good number of NHL games in previous seasons and were sent down in the next season were not disqualified, I am using 25 GP in the 2011-12 season. I also think the Calder Trophy's cutoff of six games in any two seasons was too strict, so I've decided to use 50 games. Also for dealing with Russian transfers, I've decided if a player is signed in the KHL past their age-22 season they become ineligible for the purpose of these rankings as a prospect until they sign in North America. I use 22 as it's the age most prospects drafted out of the CHL have their entry level contracts end. Also per the Calder requirements, an age cutoff of 26 or younger as of September 15th is used so a player like Roman Cervenka is eligible.
So for example on the GP cutoff, Nazem Kadri, Cam Atkinson, and David Rundblad are ineligible but Brayden McNabb is eligible. For the Russian transfer cutoff, players like Kirill Petrov and Maxim Chudinov are ineligible, but Evgeny Kuznetsov is eligible.
The second change has been to my ranking philosophy. Last year, I predominantly favored whichever team had the most "top prospects". While am I still valuing that very heavily, I put more emphasis than last year on teams who have systems that have significant talent throughout. That doesn't mean the teams that have a lot of bottom-six type prospects, but just talented players who may not be top-tier prospects.
As an added bonus, this year I will also rank each organization's top-10 young players which extends beyond prospect status.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my Twitter @coreypronman.
1. Florida Panthers: The Panthers system is headlined by stud prospect Jonathan Huberdeau, but it goes on way beyond him. Florida has accumulated not only depth, but talented depth. I felt the top four systems were somewhat interchangeable, but the fact that Florida has so many good prospects and a few high-end ones put them over the top for me.
2. New York Islanders: The Islanders have one the deepest systems in the NHL. They have great talent as well, of course, with top forward prospects like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, and Kirill Kabanov to go along with a very impressive group of defense prospects. They have talent and depth at seemingly every position.
3. Detroit Red Wings: Detroit lacks the headliner prospect but they have several well above-average prospects and a system stocked with players that have desirable upsides. The fact they've held players back like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Smith slightly contributes to their strong system, but once they start letting these young guys play there's still a lot of quality coming.
4. Minnesota Wild: I originally had them as the top system before somewhat changing my philosophy. Minnesota is led by elite prospect Mikael Granlund and several high quality prospects afterwards. The Wild lack the high-end depth of the three systems above although their depth is still quality. However, their top 5-6 prospects relative to other teams are easily the best in the league.
5. Ottawa Senators: Ottawa has a ton of good players throughout its ranks and its depth can rival the Panthers and Islanders. They lack the top-end prospects outside of Mika Zibanejad to get into that same tier with the four systems I have ranked in front of them, but they have quite a few very good ones.
6. Chicago Blackhawks: The anchors of this system are high-end prospects in Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Saad, two top talents who slid to Chicago in last two drafts although those were different cases. After that, they have pretty solid talent at each skater position, although it's a forward-heavy system and they several key prospects knocking on the door.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning : Their AHL team did not win a championship because of journeymen AHLers, it was because Tampa has a lot of quality prospects helping the team during their playoff run. Combine that with a great first pick last year in Vlad Namestnikov as well and you get a system that is very deep and has several players with significant upside.
8. Anaheim Ducks: Losing Justin Schultz hurts, but only so much that it keeps Anaheim from reaching an elite tier and rather they simply remain a top-10 system. They have several well above-average prospects between players like Rickard Rakell, Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, Hampus Lindholm, and William Karlsson.
9. Edmonton Oilers: The anchor is to nobody's surprise top pick Nail Yakupov, but Edmonton has also assembled a very nice group of defense prospects as well, led by top-end defense prospect Justin Schultz. After Nail they lack a significant forward prospect, but given how the big club looks now that isn't really a problem.
10. Montreal Canadiens: Going into the 2012 draft, I saw the Habs system as a roughly average system, maybe even below-average, but an extremely strong draft haul brings them into the top 10. Despite missing a full season, Galchenyuk is one of the best prospects in hockey. The Habs have assembled several quality forward and defense prospects.
11. New York Rangers: The Rangers won't be this high next year with likely graduations from top prospects Chris Kreider and Tim Erixon, but until that time, it looks like New York has several more pieces to add to an already good young core. Beyond their top two prospects, they have several players with notable upside in their pipelines in addition to solid depth.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins: Between their 2012 picks and acquiring Brian Dumoulin to add to who they already have, the Penguins arguably have the best accumulation of defense prospects in the NHL. There is some forward talent as well between first rounder Beau Bennett and a few others, but it's nowhere near the same level.
13. Dallas Stars: Dallas is low on top prospects, but they have a ton of above-average ones and are ranked this high due to having a lot of good, but not great talent throughout their ranks.
14. Washington Capitals: Opposite of the Dallas profile above, Washington has three top-of-the-line prospects between Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, and Stanislav Galiev but it falls off sharply after that. The depth isn't non-existent, as they have a few lower-tier guys or players like Caleb Herbert who are talented but quite a ways away.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have a very strong assemblage of defense prospects between Matt Finn, Jesse Blacker, Stuart Percy, and top D prospect Morgan Rielly. Their forward prospects are okay, and while Joe Colborne has a ton of upside, he had a concerning 2011-12 season although it may have been impacted by a wrist injury.
16. Boston Bruins: The Bruins have an elite defense prospect in Dougie Hamilton and several well above-average prospects such as Ryan Spooner and Alex Khokhlachev, but they lack quality depth.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus has quality on their defense between a player like John Moore on the big club, the second overall pick Ryan Murray and other prospects like David Savard and Mike Reilly. They have a few good, but not great forward prospects as they lack a standout in that regard after Ryan Johansen's graduation.
18. Buffalo Sabres: I was concerned about the Sabres' system prior to the 2012 draft, but after getting an elite prospect in Mikhail Grigorenko and a very good one in Zemgus Girgensons, it restored stability to their pipeline. It's still thin, but the talent at the top between those two and a player like Joel Armia is very good.
19. St. Louis Blues: The Blues have three key players between high-end prospects Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz and a very good one in Ty Rattie. There are a few solid pieces after those three, but it's a pretty thin system in terms of quality prospects for the most part.
20. Calgary Flames: Sven Baertschi has emerged as a top-end prospect and the recently signed Roman Cervenka is a very good one. After them, Calgary has a few fine pieces between John Gaudreau, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, and Brady Lamb, but the talent falls off quickly, although the depth in terms of low-end guys is solid.
21. Los Angeles Kings: Losing Loktionov and Voynov to graduations is a big blow to this system but they've still got talent coming up. However, that talent is still undeveloped or there is above-average uncertainty on projections for players like Jordan Weal and Nicolas Deslauriers. Tyler Toffoli and Derek Forbort are the standouts here.
22. Nashville Predators: The Predators system gets hurt badly by the graduations of Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Craig Smith, and Gabriel Bourque. However, they were able to add Pontus Aberg in the second round at the most recent draft who I thought was worthy of a top-15 selection. Between Aberg, Mattias Ekholm, Taylor Beck, and Zach Budish there's still talent coming, but most of their top guns are in the NHL.
23. Winnipeg Jets: The Jets' system gets most of its value from their top picks in the last two years, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, who are both very good prospects. They have a few other quality prospects such as Ivan Telegin and Paul Postma to go along with decent depth at the AHL level, but the quantity of significant talent is low.
24. Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver was one of the hardest systems to rank because they have quite a bit of talent in their ranks, but there's uncertainty on that talent. Alex Grenier, Frankie Corrado, Anton Rodin, and Joseph Labate are examples of players who could surprise.
25. Carolina Hurricanes: A system I was very high on last season gets ranked this low due to the graduations of Justin Faulk, Zach Boychuk, and Drayson Bowman on top of trading Brian Dumoulin. Zac Dalpe didn't light up the score sheet as much as last year but he was hurt this year, Ryan Murphy suffered a concussion and that pretty much leads to Carolina in my bottom third.
26. Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog and Stefan Elliot graduating has somewhat contributed to a currently below-average system. Michael Sgarbossa, Tyson Barrie, and Duncan Siemens are quality prospects, but it really falls off after that. Colorado has one of the best groups of goalie prospects in the league, but I don't tend to value that highly.
27. New Jersey Devils: Jon Merrill is the lead prospect for this system and after him there are a few quality pieces like Alex Urbom, Eric Gelinas, and Stefan Matteau. After that, though, there is a lack of significant quality and the depth isn't all that impressive, although their 2012 class could change that.
28. Phoenix Coyotes: David Rundblad being ineligible as a prospect is a big blow to this system. Brandon Gormley is a great prospect, and after him Phoenix has a few decent pieces such as Connor Murphy, Maxim Goncharov, and Andy Miele but there's not a lot of significant talent. The depth is decent though.
29. San Jose Sharks: Drafting Tomas Hertl on top of signing Travis Oleksuk and Matt Tennyson provides more optimism for this system. The Sharks lack top-end prospects, but there's a decent amount of talent in their ranks and I think you could plausibly put them above some of the systems I've ranked ahead of them.
30. Philadelphia Flyers: With Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Erik Gustafsson gone there are still a few middle-tier prospects left but there's very little significant talent.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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