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: @JoshuaBellTHW.
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. He likely won’t be in the NHL this season, but he could see a few games and be ready to make the jump in 2020-21 if he decides to leave Boston University.
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: John Beecher
Previously: Urho Vaakanainen (Surpassed)
Is it possible that the Bruins have the next Patrice Bergeron in their ranks? Alright, John Beecher might not be at that level, but that’s the game he plays. He’s effective in all three zones of the rink, can chip in offensively and knowns how to throw his body around. On top of this, he’s a great skater. As I said, he’s not Bergeron, but he could be Bergeron-esque. Beecher is looking very promising and with Urho Vaakanainen not exactly taking the jump forward that many thought, the younger prospect takes the top spot in my mind.
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’s back with the Lethbridge Hurricanes tearing up the WHL for a season before having a great chance to see the NHL in 2020-21.
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: Ryan Suzuki
Previously: Martin Necas (Graduated)
The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki, Ryan Suzuki makes plays like few others. He’s an elite passer, is a great puck handler, and he’s a great skater. His shot is in need of improvement, but he’s still young. He’s a great prospect that should develop into a top-six NHLer in a few seasons. There’s an argument for Jake Bean to hold this spot, but right now, Suzuki looks more promising in my eyes.
Chicago Blackhawks: Adam Boqvist
Previously: Kirby Dach (Graduated)
When you have the ability to be a calming presence in the middle of a high-intensity, high-stress game of hockey, you’re immediately the target of any team. The Chicago Blackhawks scooped up Adam Boqvist eighth overall in 2018, and they’ll be happy they did. He has a complete sense of the game, a wicked shot, and great puck control. Boqvist is very likely to graduate before the season’s end.
Colorado Avalanche: Bowen Byram
Previously: Cale Makar (Graduated)
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
Previously: Emil Bemstrom (Graduated)
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. There’s definitely an argument for Kirill Marchenko in this spot, but Foudy gets the edge for now.
Dallas Stars: Thomas Harley
The Dallas Stars just had a pretty notable defender graduate last season in Miro Heiskanen. Their next best defensive prospect and prospect overall is newly drafted, Thomas Harley. Taken 18th overall in 2019, the defender 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, but it will likely be at least one more season before he cracks the NHL lineup.
Detroit Red Wings: Filip Zadina
The Detroit Red Wings Filip Zadina was the sixth-overall selection in 2018. He’s an offensive winger that defenders will start to take notice of if they haven’t already. After playing nine games in the NHL last season, he’s been called up and is showing why the Red Wings were right in selecting him. He’s unpredictable with a great shot – a dangerous combination. He’s one of the top prospects in the entire league and won’t be on this list for very much longer.
Edmonton Oilers: Philip Broberg
Previously: Evan Bouchard (Surpassed)
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. I thought Broberg and Evan Bouchard were very close in the previous edition of this – and Broberg seems to have taken a bigger step forward this season.
Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight
Our first goaltender and one of just two on this list. 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 has great 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 at the very latest 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. He’s been piling up the points in Russia, and it won’t be long before he’s doing that same in the NHL.
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 is surging right now and deserves mention.
Nashville Predators: Eeli Tolvanen
One of the oldest prospects on this list, the Nashville Predators have been patient with Eeli Tolvanen – and he hasn’t exactly been breaking the door down. Still, Tolvanen is a very strong offensive talent that is absolutely lethal in the offensive zone. I thought he’d make the jump this season, but it might be 2020-21 at this point.
New Jersey Devils: Ty Smith
Previously: Jack Hughes (Graduated)
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: Noah Dobson
With the potential to be a top defenseman in the NHL, New York Islanders prospect Noah Dobson leads the current pool. He can skate, shoot, and he has great vision. He’s a dominating player and is one of the best defensive prospects in the league right now. He may very well make the jump this season, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Islanders wait for another season either.
New York Rangers: Igor Shestyorkin
Previously: Kaapo Kakko (Graduated)
If Knight isn’t the top goaltending prospect in the league, it’s because Igor Shestyorkin is. However, it doesn’t look like he will be in this spot for long. Shestyorkin looks to be the heir to the King (Henrik Lundqvist) and has the resume to back it up. He dominates everywhere he goes, and as a recent call-up, he’s shown that in the NHL already. Look out Broadway, Shestyorkin is going to steal the show.
Ottawa Senators: Drake Batherson
Previously: Erik Brannstrom (Graduated)
Related: Ottawa Senators Prospect Pyramid
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 through a hot 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
Previously: Joel Farabee (Graduated)
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: Calen Addison
Related: Penguins 2019-20 Top-10 Prospects
The Pittsburgh Penguins have put more stock in the present than the future in recent years, but Calen Addison is one of few prospects to note. Addison could very well be a top-four defender for the Penguins in a few years. He’s a great skater and a solid playmaker. He’s some time away still, but the 2018 second-round pick shows a great deal of promise.
San Jose Sharks: Ryan Merkley
Despite the recent 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: Jordan Kyrou
The St. Louis Blues’ 35th overall selection in 2016, Jordan Kyrou won’t be on this list for long. For now, the dynamic forward is at the top of their system for his speed, hockey IQ, and creativity. He played in 16 NHL games in the 2018-29 season and should be a full-time player this season as the Blues begin to defend their Stanley Cup title. After being told to find a place in St. Louis, he won’t be on here for long.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nolan Foote
Previously: Cal Foote (Surpassed)
The younger brother to Cal, Nolan Foote seems to have already surpassed his brother in potential. Foote still needs to work on his skating, but his shot is out of this world. It seems to be getting harder and faster. He’s great with the puck, and there’s really not much he can’t do with it. The Lightning love their goal-scorers to have a hard, heavy shot, and Foote has that all over. Cal is still a very good prospect, but it’s hard to overlook the ceiling of Nolan.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Rasmus Sandin
The Toronto Maple Leafs are yet another club that has seen many of its recent top prospects make the jump to the NHL. Although, the play of Rasmus Sandin last season gives even more hope for the future. The defender is an elite puck-mover, plays big minutes, he’s great in his own end, and can play a physical game. He looks to be a top-four defender at this point but has been trending up.
Vancouver Canucks: Vasily Podkolzin
Previously: Quinn Hughes (Graduated)
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 two years left on his contract in the KHL, that should improve before he hits the NHL.
Vegas Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs
Previously: Cody Glass (Graduated)
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
Previously: Ilya Samsonov (Graduated)
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
Previously: Kristian Vesalainen (Surpassed)
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!