Once again, we are proud to bring our rankings of NHL organizations' prospect pools to you. This is done as a snapshot in time, with knowledge that organizational strength can change significantly even based on one addition or subtraction. This is not a ranking of an NHL organization's drafting ability, or an overview of their entire U23 strength, as the prospect definition strictly focuses on players outside of the NHL.
For our purposes, a prospect is defined as a player who has 25 or fewer regular season games played during the last NHL season, or 50 or fewer career NHL regular season games playednot the same as Calder Trophy requirements. For example, Mikhail Grigorenko and Louis Leblanc are eligible, while Beau Bennett, Nino Niederreiter, and Brett Connolly are not. The age cutoff is 26 years old, as of September 15th. If a player is in the KHL, he is not considered a prospect if he is signed past his age-22 season. For example, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Yaroslav Kosov are eligible, while Maxim Chudinov and Kirill Petrov are not.
Organizational strength is based on a variety of factors, with the quality of a system's top prospects being the most important, followed by the depth of the system. Depth, when referenced in this column, means quality depth, as in prospects that, for the most part, project as top-six forwards or top-four defensemen. Some extra value is given to teams who possess a star prospect, such as Colorado with Nathan MacKinnon, or Florida with Aleksander Barkov.
My methods for determining prospect value are almost the same as those used to construct my draft rankings. To read how I accumulate my information on these prospects, why I prioritize puck possession skills, and my takes on defense and goaltender prospects, please go here.
There is one major difference in the methodology between organizational rankings and draft rankings: the age/professional experience factor. Slightly more value is given to older prospects, as well as those who have had some success at the AHL/NHL level or other significant professional leagues.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at my Twitter @coreypronman.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Yzerman era has not yet been too successful at the NHL level, but at the prospect level, the Bolts have built the best system in hockey. Elite prospect Jonathan Drouin leads the way, and Tampa Bay has a ton of top talent elsewhere in their minor league affiliates and in the amateur ranks. The Lightning have a lot of very good prospects to go with their high-end quality depth, and that is true even with the fact that former sixth overall pick Brett Connolly no longer qualifies as a prospect. The future is bright for this organization.
2. New York Islanders
Ryan Strome remains a top prospect, Brock Nelson had a strong year in the AHL, Griffin Reinhart had a quality season in the WHL, and drafting Ryan Pulock was a big addition. I have become more bearish on winger Kirill Kabanov, but one prospect does not change the Islanders' picture much. New York has several top talents, and many good prospects throughout the organization.
3. Buffalo Sabres
Mikhail Grigorenko is just one game away from losing prospect eligibility, and although his inclusion played a notable part in this high ranking, Buffalo has built a very strong system behind the 12th overall selection in 2012. Their draft class in 2013 was exceptional, they acquired forward Johan Larsson from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade, and defenders Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk had good years.
4. Anaheim Ducks
Top defense prospect Hampus Lindholm looked quality in the AHL, but concussion issues marred his season. Even with Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem graduating, the Ducks possess very good prospects such as William Karlsson, Rickard Rakell, Stefan Noesen, Sami Vatanan, and John Gibson. Kevin Roy was a big riser this past season, and Anaheim's depth is solid as well.
5. Florida Panthers
Florida loses Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore to graduation, and Corban Knight via trade, but drafting Aleksander Barkov maintained their system as elite. 2012 first round selection Michael Matheson looked very strong at Boston College this season, and Vincent Trocheck was similarly good in the OHL.
6. Nashville Predators
Adding Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg will do wonders for an organization's future; Nashville's young outlook is very bright behind those two cornerstones. The system does not end after them, though. Mattias Ekholm is a quality defense prospect, and forwards Taylor Beck, Austin Watson, Jimmy Vesey, and Brendan Leipsic had good years as well.
7. Detroit Red Wings
Brendan Smith graduated, and Detroit lacks a truly elite prospect, but the amount of good to very good prospects in this organization is among hockey's best. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, and Calle Jarnkrok lead the pack, but there are many other names that possess upside beyond them.
8. Dallas Stars
Dallas adding winger Valeri Nichushkin in the 2013 draft was a big move for this system, and the Stars have a lot of other good pieces in addition. Brett Ritchie and Jamie Oleksiak had good years, but 2012 first round pick Radek Faksa was only average, perhaps disappointingly so. Still, the quality depth in the Stars' system is very good.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago does not have a superstar prospect, or many big names beyond Teuvo Teravainen, but they are the deepest organization in the NHL when it comes to quality prospects. The Blackhawks have drafted so well beyond the first round, and some nice signings have helped them build a strong system despite routinely high NHL finishes and two Stanley Cups over the past four seasons.
10. Calgary Flames
Calgary's system has not been their strong point in recent years, but this summer, the outlook is starting to change. Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi are top-end young talents, while Corban Knight and Johnny Gaudreau are also very good. The Flames' depth is not great, but it is average, and with a good top end in their pipeline, this system is a quality one.
11. Washington Capitals
Star prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov delivers a lot of value to Washington's system, and both Andre Burakovsky and Madison Bowey were nice additions at the 2013 draft. The development of Tom Wilson, Riley Barber, and Christan Djoos has been solid, as well. Despite a disappointing season for Stanislav Galiev, and just average depth, Washington's ranking remains strong behind very good top-end prospects in their system.
12. Winnipeg Jets
2012 first round pick Jacob Trouba had a fantastic season, solidifying him as an elite defense prospect. Mark Scheifele remains a top prospect, and Adam Lowry had a quality season. The Jets lacked depth before the 2013 draft, but they sufficiently improved that area to a league-average level there.
13. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal graduated third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk and Calder finalist Brendan Gallagher, but their system remains strong and deep despite the absence of a true top-tier prospect. The Canadiens have added a lot of good prospects in their last two drafts to go along with first round defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. Still, 2009 first rounder Louis Leblanc struggled this season.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus' system improved thanks to their three first round picks at the 2013 draft, as well as the development of Boone Jenner. The Blue Jackets also possess some quality college prospects, such as T.J. Tynan and Mike Reilly. 2012 second overall pick Ryan Murray does not hurt, either. Columbus boasts good depth, but their top end is merely decent.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton has a very strong group of young defensemen, between Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, and others. Toni Rajala took huge strides this year, and while they have a few intriguing options in the KHL, they still have no real top-end forwards in the system. The overall depth of this system is also a tad below average.
16. Phoenix Coyotes
Phoenix does not have a ton of impressive names in their system, but the top end of it is very strong. Max Domi, David Rundblad, Brandon Gormley, and Henrik Samuelsson are a great quartet to go along with Laurent Dauphin and Connor Murphy just behind. Murphy, however, has had injury troubles of late.
17. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche system was lackluster prior to the 2013 draft, but they added Nathan MacKinnon at first overall, and took Chris Bigras in the second round. Mike Sgarbossa continues to impress, and they have a strong group of goaltender prospects. Still, graduation of a lot of their top young players leaves this system a little thin when it comes to skaters.
18. Ottawa Senators
The Senators lost Mika Zibanejad and Patrick Wiercioch to graduation, along with Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen to trade, but Ottawa still has good depth and a number of players to like. They have quality prospects at all positions, including an elite goalie prospect in Robin Lehner. Defenseman Mikael Wikstrand was a great riser this year, but first round pick Cody Ceci was up and down.
19. New York Rangers
Tim Erixon's trade, J.T. Miller's graduation, and average years from Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei led to a lower ranking for the Rangers. Acquiring Danny Kristo from Montreal was a nice boost, Michael St. Croix continued to look good in the WHL, and they made a few nice upside selections in the 2013 draft.
20. Vancouver Canucks
The 2013 draft was a shot in the arm for a Canucks system that was bottom five beforehand. First round picks Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk join Nicklas Jensen and Frankie Corrado to form a quality top end. Their depth, however, is poor. After Corrado and Jordan Subban, there is not a whole lot left as far as defensemen are concerned.
21. Boston Bruins
The Bruins' system loses Dougie Hamilton to graduation, and they lack an elite prospect, but they have a lot of good players in their system. Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Torey Krug all have potential, and Boston picked up a couple of solid prospects from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin trade.
22. Minnesota Wild
Minnesota was ranked fourth at this time last year, but losing Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Jonas Brodin to graduation, trading Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, and suffering average seasons from Mathew Dumba and Zack Phillips led to a sharp decline. On the bright side for the Wild, Jason Zucker and Tyler Graovac were some of this season's biggest prospect risers.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins lost Simon Despres and Beau Bennett to graduation and they traded Joe Morrow, yet they maintain a very strong group of defense prospects in the quartet of Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin, and Scott Harrington. Pittsburgh, however, really lacks scoring punch in their pipeline up front.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have a deep organization, but they lack strong prospects at the top. Morgan Rielly is the cornerstone for this organization, and players like Joe Colborne, Matt Finn, Stuart Percy, Josh Leivo, and Frederik Gauthier, among others, are good organizational prospects. Aside from Rielly, however, it is hard to argue that any of these names are significant pieces.
25. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have a top-heavy system with 2013 fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm and 2011 12th overall pick Ryan Murphy at the top, but it falls off after that. They have some intriguing forwards at the AHL level, as well as Victor Rask in junior, but a lot of Carolina's top prospects are either projects or figure to play at the bottom of a lineup.
26. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have not completely changed their system's outlook, but the last two NHL Drafts have seen things change a tad for San Jose as they have accumulated more talent. Tomas Hertl looks like a really good prospect, and they have some other quality forwards in the system.
27. Los Angeles Kings
There aren't star-level prospects in the Kings' pipeline, but they still have a few very good names in 2013 selection Valentin Zykov, as well as Tyler Toffoli, who had a great 2012-13 season. A lot of Los Angeles's top prospects are very close to the NHL, and their AHL affiliate in Manchester has had and will continue to have quality players.
28. New Jersey Devils
The Devils are well stocked in defense prospects with players like Jon Merrill, Steve Santini, and Eric Gelinas, among others, but this system is barren when it comes to forwards. First round pick Stefan Matteau is solid, and Reid Boucher looks good, but overall, the Devils lack scoring punch.
29. Philadelphia Flyers
2012 first rounder Scott Laughton and 2013 second round pick Robert Hagg are the most interesting names in this system, and defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin are good long-term prospects. Anthony Stolarz is intriguing as a goalie prospect, too. Still, Philadelphia does not have much beyond these players, but there are a couple of solid names on their AHL roster.
30. St. Louis Blues
St. Louis entered the year with a top-heavy system, and thus, graduating Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz is a big blow to their ranking. Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin are very good, young players, but it falls off here after that. Jordan Schmaltz and Tommy Vanneli, among a few others, could be interesting in a few years, but right now, the Blues' system is very thin.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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