Every NHL team’s prospect pool is constantly changing. Players graduate to the big league, some might get traded, and the NHL Draft provides fresh faces every year. The future of a franchise in this league is extremely dependant on having both high-end talent and a deep farm system. Some teams are lucky enough to have both, others don’t really have either for various reasons.
On most teams, they have a clear-cut, number one prospect in the organization. Others have two or more that could easily take the title, but for the most part, there’s an obvious choice. In this list, we’ll take a look at just who those to prospects are.
As I do with all of my prospect posts, I will be following The Athletic‘s prospect definition from Corey Pronman:
“A skater no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 25 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 50 games total; or reaches age 27 by Sept. 15.
“A goalie no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 10 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 25 games total; or reaches age 27 by Sept. 15.” (From: “Pronman: 2019-20 NHL Farm System Rankings”).
This list will be updated regularly, so be sure to check back often and see who takes the crown as the current top prospect on your favourite team. (Alphabetical by team, not ranked).
As always, feel free to reach out with questions, comments or thoughts. This can either be done in the comment section at the bottom or send me a message on Twitter: @JoshuaBell31.
Note: If there’s no “Previously,” that player remains the team’s top prospect.
Anaheim Ducks: Trevor Zegras
The Anaheim Ducks held the ninth overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft and landed their top prospect in Trevor Zegras. He looks to be an elite, impact player in the league. A great, creative playmaker that should be the club’s next number one centre. As he continues to grow and improve, he could become one of the best centres in the game. He should see some NHL action this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick.
Arizona Coyotes: Barrett Hayton
We’re kicking off some high-end centres early on. Arizona Coyotes centreman Barrett Hayton is another elite prospect, especially after his 1.67 points per game performance in the OHL during 2018-19. He has the speed and playmaking ability that could see him become a top-line centreman. The fifth-overall draft pick in 2018 could very easily be graduated from this list very soon. Also, it’s worth noting that Victor Soderstrom is nipping at his heels for this spot.
Boston Bruins: Jack Studnicka
Previously: John Beecher (Surpassed)
Jack Studnicka is a solid, two-way centreman that is coming off a dominant 2019-20 campaign that saw him lead the AHL’s Providence Bruins in all offensive categories. He a very intelligent player, making good decisions both with and without the puck. I fully expect him to make the Bruins full-time roster for the 2020-21 season and graduate from this list.
Buffalo Sabres: Dylan Cozens
Buffalo Sabres’ prospect Dylan Cozens is one of the best prospects in the entire league. Taken seventh overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, the centreman is an all-around stud, capable of playing in any situation and excelling. He’s an elite talent with high-end skating and creativity with the puck. He could be very close to coming off of this list.
Calgary Flames: Jakob Pelletier
Jakob Pelletier didn’t look like an elite prospect right off the bat, but he has continued to look better and better. The Calgary Flames don’t have a great prospect pool right now, as many of their young players have graduated in recent years. Pelletier was the 26th selection in the 2019 NHL Draft who’s not afraid to battle on the ice. He’s a small (5-foot-9) power forward with a good shot, who’s likely a couple of years away from the NHL still.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Bean
A poised defender of immense intelligence, Jake Bean is a tremendous two-way player who thrives at both ends of the ice. Strong in his defensive zone through the use of his stick and the ability to read plays before they develop, he can transition the puck to his forwards with ease and is capable of joining the rush as it progresses. A hard-worker and relentless talent, Bean drives offence in the opposing zone through his ability to create plays and willingness to unleash his crisp shot when the appropriate moment arises.
Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Vlasic
Previously: Adam Boqvist (Graduated)
At 6-foot-6, 198 pounds, Alex Vlasic already has the build of an NHL player. He’s excellent in his own end, using his size to rub opponents off the puck and his long reach to break up plays. He makes great plays with the puck in his own end and if he can translate his skill defensively to the offensive end, he could be an all-around great player. I strongly considered Ian Mitchell, who might be more widely considered the top prospect, but I have a lot of faith in Vlasic.
Colorado Avalanche: Bowen Byram
Bowen Byram is a great skater with an ability to surprise opposing players with his speed. His vision allows him to make big passing plays, and he isn’t afraid to play physically. He handles the puck very well and has a quick, hard shot that can fool goaltenders. His will very soon be quarterbacking the Avalanche’s power play and leading the breakouts from his own end.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Liam Foudy
Foudy’s bread and butter is his skating, which is a thing of beauty. He has an enormous amount of skill and is incredible with the puck. Once he fine-tunes his play in his own end, he will be a top-six player for the Blue Jackets. I think Foudy is one of the most underrated prospects in the entire league and he proved that with a stellar performance in the 2020 NHL Playoffs.
Dallas Stars: Thomas Harley
The Dallas Stars top prospect is defender Thomas Harley. Taken 18th overall in 2019, he looks like he could be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. He plays big minutes and sets up plays very well. The best part of his game though is his elite skating. There’s a lot of upside to his game, and I think he may get a taste of the NHL this season.
Detroit Red Wings: Moritz Seider
Previously: Filip Zadina (Graduated)
Moritz Seider already has NHL size, he’s a great passer, a good skater, and can win battles along the boards. What might be most impressive is his defensive game. Seider seems to remain calm in all situations and make the right decision to get the puck out of his own end. Many defenders at this stage in their careers need to focus on their defending ability, and while there’s room to improve, the German prospect is starting at a very advanced stage.
Edmonton Oilers: Philip Broberg
Philip Broberg seemed to be a polarizing prospect ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. Some scouts had him high, some very low. The Oilers decided high was the right option, taking him eighth overall. He’s an elite skater who can blow by entire teams when his wheels get going. He’s solid offensively as well, as a set-up man from the point. He needs to fine-tune his game, but there’s lots to like about Broberg. Evan Bouchard is a very, very close second to Broberg.
Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight
With the 13th overall selection in 2019, the Florida Panthers selected goalie Spencer Knight. He’s incredibly calm and collected in the net, has great positioning, and remarkable reflexes. He won’t be in the NHL anytime soon, as goaltenders take longer than players and the team has Sergei Bobrovsky locked up, but Knight is one of – if not the – the top goaltending prospects in the league.
Los Angeles Kings: Alex Turcotte
The Los Angeles Kings have put together one of the best prospect pools in the league. Highlighting their strong system is 2019 fifth-overall pick, Alex Turcotte. Turcotte was the best two-way centre in the draft, and just might be the team’s next Anze Kopitar. He’s an excellent skater, can pile up the points, and is an elite prospect in the league. I’d expect to see the star prospect see some NHL time in 2020-21.
Minnesota Wild: Kirill Kaprizov
For the 2019-20 season, the Minnesota Wild have one of the best players in the world not in the NHL. Kirill Kaprizov is in the final year of his KHL deal, he’s an elite offensive threat that should be able to transition straight into the Wild’s top-six. Now that he’s signed for the 2020-21 season, we’ll be seeing him come off this list very soon.
Montreal Canadiens: Cole Caufield
Many had Cole Caufield as a top-10 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, yet he slid to 15 and the Montreal Canadiens – the first steal of the draft. He’s an elite skater and a pure goal-scorer. He has a full arsenal of shots, all of which can result in the puck in the back of the net. The Canadiens have a future superstar in their system, even if he spends a couple of seasons developing before he gets to the NHL. While Caufield is the obvious choice right now, Alexander Romanov deserves mention.
Nashville Predators: Philip Tomasino
Previously: Eeli Tolvanen (Surpassed)
Philip Tomasino is going to be a fan favourite for Predators fans very soon. He’s an excellent skater, with arguably elite puck-skills. He’s a very good playmaker, often making extremely creative passes through traffic. He’ll need to bulk up a bit, as he’s sometimes pushed around a bit, but Tomasino has a very full toolkit that will lead to him being a threat in the NHL very soon – likely in 2020-21.
New Jersey Devils: Ty Smith
Watching Devils prospect Ty Smith play, you can see that he knows everything that’s happening on the ice. He can see where everyone is but what makes him a great prospect is his ability to see where players are going to be. He can make a big stretch pass or carry it up himself, making a play in the offensive end. He should be a top-two defender very soon.
New York Islanders: Oliver Wahlstrom
Previously: Noah Dobson (Graduated)
The New York Islanders have an offensive weapon waiting to be unleashed in Oliver Wahlstrom. The forward is extremely skilled and has one of the best shots not in the NHL. He’s also a good setup man but has a shoot-first mentality. Wahlstrom needs to work on his skating, his consistency, and there are times where he doesn’t seem to compete as hard as he could, but he’s still a very good prospect.
New York Rangers: K’Andre Miller
Previously: Igor Shestyorkin (Graduated)
Among the many strong prospects that the Rangers have, K’Andre Miller is one of the best defenders of the group. He’s a very good skater and his size gives him a big reach with his stick. Combine that with his ability to lay down hits, and you get a strong defender. He should be a top-four player at the very least when he makes the jump. He has offensive skill too – completing the package. I will note though, that this spot could easily go to Nils Lundkvist as well.
Ottawa Senators: Drake Batherson
Drake Batherson dominated the AHL in his rookie campaign, earning a brief stint in the NHL where he came in like a wrecking ball before tapering off. He’s always a threat when he’s on the ice, whether it’s a shot or a pass. He’s a core piece of the Senators rebuild, and likely won’t be on this list for very long.
Philadelphia Flyers: Morgan Frost
Morgan Frost is an exciting player to watch. In his last two seasons with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he put up 221 points in just 125 games. He looks like a sure-fire top-line centreman with superstar potential. His creativity is through the roof – you don’t want to face him one on one. He needs to improve his skating, and if he does, the NHL should watch out. He shouldn’t be on this list much longer.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Samuel Poulin
Previously: Calen Addison (Traded)
The one first-round pick that the Pittsburgh Penguins have had since 2014, Samuel Poulin is the system’s top prospect by a wide margin. Poulin might not be too far away from the NHL. He was invited to the Penguins Return to Play training camp in July 2020, and he’s had back-to-back impressive seasons in the QMJHL The power forward holds a lot of promise.
San Jose Sharks: Ryan Merkley
Despite the turmoil surrounding San Jose Sharks’ prospect Ryan Merkley, he remains the club’s top prospect. The 2018 first-round pick is lethal in the offensive zone, is a high-end playmaker, and has a great shot. He needs to work on his play in his own end and his attitude, but there’s no question that there’s a solid player in Merkley.
St. Louis Blues: Scott Perunovich
Previously: Jordan Kyrou (Graduated)
Scott Perunovich made anyone who wasn’t paying attention notice this season, winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA. He’s an excellent skater that can drive the rush and make a stellar play in transition. The top prospect for the St. Louis Blues could very much be headed to the NHL in 2019-20.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Cal Foote
Previously: Nolan Foote (Traded)
Cal Foote is a tremendous two-way defender whose game flourishes at both ends of the ice. Reliable in the defensive end due to his immense size and ability to physically dominate his opponents, he’s also a threat in the offensive zone, where his incredible hockey sense and underrated shot make him a focal point. Foote is immensely versatile, as he can play in seemingly any situation – whether it be the power play or penalty kill – and find great success in doing so.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nick Robertson
Previously: Rasmus Sandin (Graduated)
Nicholas Robertson has impressed early on, but there’s still work to be done for the young forward. He can put up the points, he’s creative and has great offensive instincts. His skating has been a knock against him, and he needs to improve in his own end, but there’s lots to like for this player who was just four days away from being eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft instead of 2019. I think he’s going to be a steal – if he’s not already.
Vancouver Canucks: Vasily Podkolzin
It will be at least a couple of years before we see Vasily Podkolzin hit North America, but the build-up will be worth it. He never stops playing at 100 percent, resulting in him making an impact every time he hits the ice. He’s creative, has a great shot, and can make plays as well. There’s been some concern about his skating, but with sometime in the KHL, that should improve before he hits the NHL.
Vegas Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs
Peyton Krebs is another player on this list that I think could very easily shoot up and prove this ranking wrong. He’s a well-rounded prospect that brings an offensive flair to his game and is known as a leader. He’s a great playmaker and skater. A big selling point in Krebs’ game is his defensive skill. There aren’t many players that age that are as sound in his own zone as he is. A potential first-line centreman.
Washington Capitals: Connor McMichael
His play all-around is incredible. He’s an offensive weapon, with excellent vision, and a shot to be envious of. He seems to have gained confidence since being drafted, creating a dangerous player for all of his opponents. He’s been surging this season and shows no signs of slowing down. His 25th-overall pick is going to look extremely good very soon. If it doesn’t already (it does).
Winnipeg Jets: Ville Heinola
One of my favourite defensemen in the 2019 NHL Draft, Ville Heinola is the definition of hockey sense. He’s patient with the puck, has a calming presence on the ice, and makes zone-exits with ease. He’s great positionally, especially in his own end, but he does need to work on his skating in order to thrive at the next level. He’s still young though, so there’s still time to improve this. Early on, it looks like he’s made strides in this (pun intended).
Any prospect decisions that you disagree with? Make sure to leave your comments below!