The NHL’s Best Farm Systems Ranked – 2020-21 Season Update

Prospects can make or break an NHL organization.

Properly scouting, drafting, and developing players can set up a team for a decade of success. Trading off those pieces and draft picks for an immediate fix may help that season, even the next one, but it will hurt the franchise in the long run.

A team’s farm system is a very fluid thing. Prospects graduate to become full-time NHL players, general managers make trades involving some of these young players, and sometimes players just don’t work out. Knowing exactly what you have, where they are in their development and what they need to accomplish next is a major responsibility of every front office.

Every team is at a different stage. Some are ready to contend for a Stanley Cup, while others are working to restock their prospect cupboard. There are even teams at the wonderful point where their farm system is looking great and they could make a strong push in the playoffs.

Related: THW’s Wall-to-Wall Prospect & Draft Coverage

The following ranking of every team’s prospect pool is based on the ceiling of the players in the system while keeping an eye on their age, production thus far in their development, and it’s very hard to not have at least a little bias based on where the majority of prospects were picked in the draft.

Ranking the NHL Prospect Pools

A few notes before we dive in:

  • The “Top Five Prospects” are alphabetical, not ranked.
  • Defining prospects varies from source to source. I will use Corey Pronman’s definition that he uses in his work: “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”).
  • Finally, 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 – @MatthewZatorSC.

Without further ado, here are all 31 NHL farm systems ranked, with a few of their top prospects and a little bit of explanation of why they are sitting at that position.

31) Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Ranking: 31

Top 5 Prospects: Kasper Bjorkqvist, Nathan Legare, Emil Larmi, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Samuel Poulin

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Joel Blomqvist, Jonathan Gruden

The Pittsburgh Penguins did nothing to change their position from the last time we did these farm system rankings. They did not have a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and despite adding a solid goaltender in the second round in Joel Blomqvist, did not do enough to change where their prospect pool is at the moment.

Related: Pittsburgh Penguins’ Top-10 Prospects for 2021

Samuel Poulin remains the top prospect in the Penguins’ system and he’s done nothing but solidify that status so far in the 2020-21 season. In his fourth and final campaign in the QMJHL with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, he already has three goals and six points in only five games.

Samuel Poulin Pittsburgh Penguins
Sherbrooke Phoenix’s Samuel Poulin (Courtesy of Vincent Lévesque-Rousseau)

Other than Poulin, the club lacks high-end talent at every position. They added some potential depth forwards during the draft in Lukas Svejkovsky, Raivis Ansons, and Chase Yoder, but they likely won’t address the elephant in the room once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin eventually retire.

They did land Jonathan Gruden in the Matt Murray trade, but he may only have a ceiling of a second-line center at the moment. They have some NHL pieces in the system, but compared to the star power and depth of other teams, the Penguins remain at the bottom of the totem pole.

30) New York Islanders

Previous Ranking: 30

Top 5 Prospects: Kiefer Bellows, Otto Koivula, Simon Holmstrom, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

Similar to the Penguins, the New York Islanders did not have a first-round selection in the 2020 draft. In fact, they did not have a second-round pick either. Both were traded away in the Jean Gabriel Pageau deal (which has worked out quite well for the Islanders so far), so they did not have any means to add top-end talent to their pipeline.

Defenceman Noah Dobson and goaltender Ilya Sorokin recently graduated too, so they basically did nothing to move the needle when it comes to these rankings. Bellows, Wahlstrom, and Wilde all showed well in training camp for head coach Barry Trotz, but the future beyond the recently signed Mat Barzal still remains murky.

Oliver Wahlstrom New York Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wahlstrom, who was a first-round selection in the 2019 draft, is a solid talent but he is no Barzal or John Tavares. He probably will rise to the status of a solid top-six forward, but he cannot carry this prospect class alone. With the 2021 draft on the horizon, the Islanders need to start adding more to their pipeline or they risk some dark years before too long.

29) St. Louis Blues

Previous Ranking: 28

Top 5 Prospects: Nikita Alexandrov, Joel Hofer, Klim Kostin, Niko Mikkola, Scott Perunovich

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Jake Neighbours

The St Louis Blues drop a spot in the rankings due to their poor showing at the 2020 draft. They already had a relatively shallow prospects pool beforehand and did nothing to make it deeper. Don’t get me wrong, their first-round pick, Jake Neighbours will probably be an NHL player one day, but him alone does not change a whole lot. The rest of their 2020 draft class lacked potential and did nothing to inspire confidence in their pipeline.

Related: Blues’ Winter 2021 Prospect Pyramid

The sheer number of graduations in Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, Jordan Binnington, and Jordan Kyrou punched a huge hole in their depth and so far, they have done nothing to address it. The fact that they were the only NHL team without a representative at the 2021 World Junior Championship is more than enough proof of that.

Jake Neighbours Edmonton Oil Kings
Jake Neighbours of the Edmonton Oil Kings (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Scott Perunovich is now the Blues’ top prospect after a Hobey Baker performance in 2019-20 and could see time in the NHL this season after being assigned to the taxi squad after training camp. He was an elite puck mover at the college level and could thrive in the speed that is the modern-day NHL.

The forward group includes Klim Kostin, Nikita Alexandrov, and Alexei Toropchenko – all of whom have top-nine potential. The forward group lacks high-end talent even with the addition of Neighbours, who will probably top out at a second or third line utility man.

Goaltending is a strong suit, with Colten Ellis, Vadim Zherenko, and Joel Hofer in the system. They’re a long way away, but that’s fine with Binnington holding down the NHL net.

28) Boston Bruins

Previous Ranking: 26

Top Five Prospects: John Beecher, Trent Frederic, Jakub Lauko, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Mason Lohrei

The Boston Bruins recently had an NHL top prospect graduate (Charlie McAvoy), and while there’s a solid prospect or two on defence, at forward, and in net, after that, there’s a bit of a drop-off.

Related: 3 Bruins Prospects Ready to Make an Impact in 2020-21

The club has another bright defenseman in Urho Vaakanainen. While he’s not a highlight-reel player, he seems to simplify the game and make great choices. Could you ask for anything else in a defender? There’s a steep decline in defensive talent after Vaakanainen, although Jakub Zboril could surprise.

Vaakanainen
Urho Vaakanainen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s a bit more depth up front for the Bruins, especially at centre. Jack Studnicka, John Beecher, and Trent Frederic are just a few of the names the club has at the position. The only problem is they lack elite-level prospects. They could all very well end up as top-nine forwards, especially Studnicka, but they’ll need some higher-end talent later on.

On the wing, Jakub Lauko (could also play centre) and Oskar Steen seem to be the best available in a group that needs some filling out.

The 2020 draft didn’t add anything special as they selected four players with steep paths to the NHL in Mason Lohrei, Mason Langenbrunner, Trevor Kuntar, and Riley Duran. Although Kuntar is showing well as a freshman in the NCAA with Boston College as he’s started the 2020-21 season with five goals and eight points in 11 games so far.

In net, undrafted Kyle Keyser has shown flashes of being able to be an NHL goaltender. There’s still much work to do, but he has time to develop. He will be pushed for that spot though by 2017 pick, Jeremy Swayman, the NCAA’s top goaltender in 2019-20. The goaltending future looks bright.

27) Washington Capitals

Previous Ranking: 29

Top Five Prospects: Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Hendrix Lapierre, Connor McMichael, Alexei Protas

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Hendrix Lapierre

Like the Penguins, the Washington Capitals are definitely still contenders for the Stanley Cup. However, they’re one step ahead of their rivals in the prospect department. The Capitals have traded away quite a few picks, but they’ve managed to hang onto most of their first-round selections. Of course, other than 2017 when they sent it to the St. Louis Blues in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.

Related: Washington Capitals ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

With the graduation of goaltender Ilya Samsonov, they lack a high-end goaltender in the system. However, Samsonov should be the go-to guy for the foreseeable future. Now, their biggest strength is in their forward corps, headlined by one of the biggest risers in the prospect world, Connor McMichael.

McMichael is 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. Behind him, Brett Leason has a ton of promise. He hasn’t had the best start to his AHL career, but there’s lots of time. Alexei Protas is another one to keep an eye on.

Washington Capitals Connor McMichael
Washington Capitals forward Connor McMichael (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Hendrix Lapierre boosted the top end of the Capitals’ prospect pool when he was selected 22nd overall in the 2020 draft. He’s a bit of a gamble after an injury-riddled 2019-20 season, but at his best, he’s an elite two-way pivot who’s good at everything. If the injuries don’t have a lasting effect on his career, he could be a top-line center in the NHL one day.

There are a couple of solid defensive prospects in Alexander Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary. Both have the potential to be top-four NHL contributors, as could Martin Hugo Has. Lucas Johansen is another player to keep an eye on.

As mentioned, the Capitals are still very much in win-now mode. However, there is still some very impressive talent waiting in the ranks, albeit not a very deep pool overall.

26) Arizona Coyotes

Previous Ranking: 17

Top Five Prospects: Kyle Capobianco, Barrett Hayton, Jan Jeniík, Matias Maccelli, Victor Söderström

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

The Arizona Coyotes are another organization that has a prospect pool that has suffered from recent graduating classes and trading away prospects. Dylan Strome was sent to the Chicago Blackhawks, we’ve already discussed Pierre-Oliver Joseph who was sent to Pittsburgh, Kevin Bahl and Nick Merkley were sent to the New Jersey Devils, and the team has seen numerous young players make the jump in the last few seasons.

Related: Arizona Coyotes ‘Untouchable’ Prospects for 2020-21

Left in the prospect pool, are a number of solid defenders and a potential star in Barrett Hayton. The centreman looks like an elite prospect after collecting 1.67 points per game in the OHL last season. He has the speed and playmaking ability that could see him become a top-line centreman.

Barrett Hayton
Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Behind Hayton, Jan Jenik is a name to know. I think he could be a star in the NHL. He’s shown what he’s capable of in the OHL, including a 26-game point streak in 2019-20. He can score, he can pass, and he can skate. Behind these two, Matias Maccelli, Liam Kirk, Valentin Nussbaumer, and the newly acquire Blake Speers are a few to keep an eye on.

The organization has some solid defenders in place, led by 2019 draftee Victor Soderstrom. The Coyotes traded up for the puck-moving defender, who should be a top-four defender and simply continues to impress as he develops.

Other defenders of note are Kyle Capobianco and Michael Callahan, who could one day be defending in front of goaltender-of-the-future Adin Hill, who has already started to see some NHL action and is now a graduate of this list.

The Coyotes suffered a drop in these rankings because of their lack of additions in the 2020 draft. They did not have a first-round pick and forfeited their second-rounder due to violating the NHL’s scouting combine testing policy. Their first pick came in the fourth round where they selected defenceman Mitchell Miller, who does not have a certain NHL future.

25) Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous Ranking: 27

Top Five Prospects: Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy, Kirill Marchenko, Andrew Peeke, Daniil Tarasov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Yegor Chinakhov

After trading away two solid prospects in Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson in 2018-19, the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking slightly depleted. Fast forward to the 2020-21 season, and it gets even worse for the Ohio prospect pool. They haven’t lost any more prospects but had many of their top prospects graduate during the 2019-20 season.

Emil Bemstrom, Vladislav Gavrikov, Elvis Merzilikins, Eric Robinson, and Alexandre Texier are all with the big club now. Hope isn’t completely lost though, as the Blue Jackets have a few prospects of note. Headlining this is a trio of forwards in Liam Foudy, Kirill Marchenko, and the recently drafted Yegor Chinakhov.

Yegor Chinakhov Team Russia
Yegor Chinakhov was a big surprise in the first round at the 2020 draft (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

All of them are top-six talents, with Foudy bringing beautiful skating ability and the skill to match. Marchenko brings incredible puck handling and even more great skating ability. The biggest surprise at the 2020 draft, Chinakhov, has already begun to prove general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen right by starting off his season in the KHL with 8 goals and 15 points. He’s a smart, quick puck handler with soft hands that could be a top-six forward one day. Along with this season’s rookies, the future of the Blue Jackets forward corps is looking pretty good.

Other than the team’s top three talents, another forward of note is Dmitri Voronkov. Currently playing in the KHL at 20-years-old, he’s being given more ice time this season as he’s averaged over 15 minutes a night and has six goals and 16 points in 42 games so far. After him, it drops rather significantly though, but Marcus Karlberg and Trey Fix-Wolansky are two others to keep an eye on.

The defensive prospects are really lacking in the organization, with Andrew Peeke and newly drafted third-rounder Samuel Knazko as the top options. Peeke is one of those players who isn’t likely to be on any highlight reels, but he makes good decisions, is solid in his own end, and he has a proven track record as a leader. Knazko was an intriguing pick at 78th overall, as he’s a strong puck-moving defenceman with leadership qualities as he captained Team Slovakia in the 2021 WJC. After those two, there’s another significant drop. Tim Berni may be one to keep an eye on, as is Eric Hjorth.

Samuel Knazko Slovakia 2021 World Juniors
Samuel Knazko, Slovakia, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Jumping back into some positives, the goaltender situation is looking pretty good. Both Veini Vehvilainen and Daniil Tarasov look like they have the makings of NHL goaltenders. It’s not all bad in Ohio.

24) San Jose Sharks

Previous Ranking: 25

Top Five Prospects: Joachim Blichfeld, Thomas Bordeleau, Alexander Chmelevski, Ryan Merkley, Ozzy Wiesblatt

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Ozzy Wiesblatt, Thomas Bordeleau, Tristen Robins, Danil Gushchin

The San Jose Sharks’ system got a massive boost when they selected Ozzy Wiesblatt, Thomas Bordeleau, and Tristen Robins 31st, 38th, and 56th respectively in the 2020 draft. They bring a much-needed infusion of skill and depth to their forward prospect group. Wiesblatt, while a safe pick, is a solid all-around player who has both goal-scoring and playmaking abilities and Bordeleau brings a speedy game to the rink that has already translated to the college ranks. Playing for the Michigan Wolverines, he has 18 points in 14 games and is currently on an eight-game point streak.

Related: San Jose Sharks’ Prospect Pyramid

Robins may be the most intriguing of the group. He’s a slick puck handler with a goal scorer’s mentality, which is what the Sharks need a lot of right now. He accumulated points at an insane rate at the end of the 2019-20 season by putting up 52 in his final 31 games. Other than Seth Jarvis, he was the most prolific point producer in the entire Western Hockey League.

Tristen Robins Saskatoon Blades
Tristen Robins of the Saskatoon Blades. (Steve Hiscock/Saskatoon Blades)

As for the defensive side of the prospect pool, the Sharks are led by an elite defenceman in Ryan Merkley. The Sharks’ first-round pick from 2018 is deadly in the offensive zone, makes passes look easy, and has a solid shot. He needs to work on his play in his own end, but there’s no question that there’s a solid play in Merkley. Other than him, Artemy Knyazev rounds out the top-two defenders in the system, although his ceiling isn’t as high as Merkley’s.

They might be the best set-up in net. Not because they have elite talent, but because they have a trio of goaltenders that could very well become NHL-level netminders. Josef Korenar, Zachary Emond, and Andrew Shortridge have all shown promise in their respective leagues and should be intriguing storylines in the near future.

23) Chicago Blackhawks

Previous Ranking: 23

Top Five Prospects: Evan Barratt, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Ian Mitchell, Lukas Reichel

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Lukas Reichel, Drew Commesso, Landon Slaggert, Dennis Gilbert

The Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool made a big leap forward in 2019, adding third-overall pick Kirby Dach to an already fairly impressive system. They also acquired Alex Nylander. But so far, many of the team’s top prospects have graduated to the big club. Dach, Nylander, Adam Boqvist, and Dominik Kubalik are in the NHL now, and Aleksi Saarela was sent packing. Even with all of these players graduated, there’s some promise in the ranks.

Related: Chicago Blackhawks’ ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

Before Lukas Reichel was selected 17th overall in the 2020 draft, Evan Barratt was the Blackhawks’ top prospect. With his addition to the pipeline, that has changed as the big German has taken over the mantle. He will be the next David Bolland for the franchise, playing a gritty, forecheck heavy game with a dose of agitation.

Lukas Reichel Eisbaeren Berlin
Lukas Reichel, Eisbaeren Berlin (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

The defence is looking strong right now. Alec Regula, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Alex Vlasic all show top-four potential. Ian Mitchell leads this pack right now, he’s excellent in his own end and the defensive end, plays big minutes, and plays a very smart game.

Goaltending is a big miss for them right now, with no clear-cut goaltender of the future in place. There’s still room to improve in the Blackhawks system, but there are still some good pieces in place.

22) Winnipeg Jets

Previous Ranking: 24

Top Five Prospects: David Gustafsson, Jansen Harkins, Ville Heinola, Cole Perfetti, Dylan Samberg

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Cole Perfetti, Daniel Torgersson

The Winnipeg Jets are looking strong on defence for the future. The majority of their top-end prospects are defenders, but there are a couple of other positions sprinkled in there. Trading Brendon Lemiuex and the graduation of Sami Niku hurts a bit, but there’s still some great talent in the organization.

Related: Winnipeg Jets Top 10 Prospects for 2020-21

Jets’ 2019 draft pick Ville Heinola could very well develop into a top-two defender. He’s calm, he’s smart and he can move the puck. There’s no question in my mind that he’ll be a stud in the NHL one day. Jets’ fans got to see a glimpse of that at the beginning of 2019-20, and the future looks bright for Heinola.

Winnipeg Jets Ville Heinola Draft
Winnipeg Jets Ville Heinola (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Heinola is up there with a number of other defenders. Logan Stanley, Dylan Samberg, and Declan Chisolm all look like future NHLers that could be top-four. Samberg, in particular, looks like he could join Heinola on a future top-two, providing the defence with some solid offence.

The forward group got stronger with the additions of Cole Perfetti and Daniel Torgersson in the 2020 draft. Perfetti instantly became the Jets’ top prospect and could become their next great number one pivot. He’s a solid two-way center with creativity and a knack for putting up a lot of points. He tore up the OHL last season with 37 goals and 111 points for the Saginaw Spirit and will probably see time in the AHL this season due to them allowing junior players to play there because of the pandemic.

As for the goaltending, the Jets do have a solid netminder in the system in Mikhail Berdin, although he has some work to do if he ever wants to be an NHL starter. For now, the NHL is his ceiling, so we’ll just have to keep watching.

21) Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous Ranking: 22

Top Five Prospects: Hugo Alnefelt, Alex Barre-Boulet, Cal Foote, Gabriel Fortier, Alexander Volkov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Jack Finley, Eamon Powell

Considering how stacked the Tampa Bay Lightning are on their NHL roster, they’ve done a good job keeping their prospect pool respectable. Even after the graduations of Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Cirelli, and Mathieu Joseph, and trading away Nolan Foote, the Bolts have a solid group of prospects.

The farm system is currently highlighted by Cal Foote, who looks like he could be a top-four defender very soon. He’s a player that won’t really stand out in any particular way but is so well-rounded that he’ll be a solid contributor at the NHL level.

Cal Foote, Kelowna Rockets, WHL, NHL farm systems
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Cal Foote (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

The Lightning have shown again and again that they know what they’re doing when it comes to prospects, and it looks they’ve done it again with Alex Barre-Boulet. An undrafted winger, Barre-Boulet has taken massive strides over the past two seasons. He looks like an absolute steal at this point.

Related: Top 4 Lightning Prospects for 2020-21

The Lightning are looking solid on the wings in the system. They have Taylor Raddysh, Alexander Volkov, Boris Katchouk, and Gabriel Fortier all with various levels of NHL potential in the ranks. It’s a solid group.

Behind Foote on defence, it looks pretty slim. Dmitri Semykin and Quinn Schmiemann had good seasons, but I’d put both on the bubble of being NHLers one day. They added two potential NHL defenders in Eamon Powell and Jack Thompson during the later rounds of the 2020 draft, but we all know the hit-or-miss nature of those picks. Powell is slippery, but he’s undersized and maybe more suited to be a forward in the future.

Eamon Powell USNTDP
Eamon Powell of the USNTDP (Rena Laverty)

In net, they are looking pretty good with Hugo Alnefelt, an athletic goalie who can steal games. He’s a few years away, but he’s promising. The Lightning addressed their depth on the defence and at center ice with the additions of Powell, Thompson, Jack Finley, and Gage Goncalves, so they get a bit of a boost in the rankings as a result.

20) Calgary Flames

Previous Ranking: 21

Top Five Prospects: Ilya Nikolayev, Jakob Pelletier, Mathias Emilio Pettersen, Dustin Wolf, Connor Zary

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Connor Zary, Yan Kuznetsov, Jeremie Poirier

The Calgary Flames are one of those teams that are starting to make a push to the next level and have therefore either seen a number of prospects graduate (Dillon Dube, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane) or traded away (Adam Fox). The 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts helped restock some pieces, but there’s still work to be done.

Related: Calgary Flames’ ‘Untouchable’ Prospects for 2020-21

At the 2019 draft, the Flames selected Jakob Pelletier and Ilya Nikolayev in the first and third rounds, respectfully, adding two forwards who never give up. Those are great players to have, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both end up as top-six players.

Then in the 2020 draft, they selected another blue-collar forward in Connor Zary at 24th overall who possesses a strong work ethic and impressive all-around game. Dmitry Zavgorodny is another to keep an eye on, as I think he’s developed into a very strong prospect despite his seventh-round selection in 2017. Along with Emilio Pettersen and Filip Sveningsson, the forward group has potential. Matthew Phillips is right there too.

Connor Zary Kamloops Blazers
Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers (Allen Douglas)

The Flames addressed their lack of defensive depth with the selections of Yan Kuznetsov, Jeremie Poirier, Jake Boltmann, and Ilya Solovyov in the latest draft. Not all of them will make the NHL, but more talent at that position was desperately needed. Kuznetsov is a solid two-way defender and Poirier, while raw defensively, could become a proficient point producer at the NHL level one day.

Another 2019 draft selection leads the goaltending group in Dustin Wolf. After a stellar season in the WHL, the Flames selected him in the seventh round, much later than many thought he’d go. He might end up as a steal for the club – you might even be able to call him that now.

19) Dallas Stars

Previous Ranking: 19

Top Five Prospects: Mavrik Bourque, Ty Dellandrea, Thomas Harley, Jake Oettinger, Jason Robertson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Mavrik Bourque, Antonio Stranges, Yevgeni Oksentyuk, Daniel Ljungman

Despite keeping their first-round picks in 11 straight drafts, the Dallas Stars’ find themselves low this list. They regularly have prospects that seem to struggle after being selected, and their prospect pool isn’t helped by the recent graduations of Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz.

Leading the prospect pack is defender Thomas Harley, selected in the 2019 NHL Draft. He looks like he should be a top-four defenseman moving forward. He eats up minutes, is a great skater, and sets up plays. There’s a lot of upside to his game. The defensive group drops off after him in a big way though.

Thomas Harley Mississauga Steelheads  NHL farm system rankings
Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars prospect (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The forwards look to be in a bit better shape, especially after the 2020 draft that saw them select Mavrik Bourque. At 30th overall, he was a steal of a pick and could become a top-six option in the future. He’s quick, creative and a proficient playmaker from the center position, so it was kind of surprising to see him still available at the end of the first round. The Stars will soon benefit from the oversight of the 29 other general managers.

The Stars also selected three other interesting forwards in Antonio Stranges, Yevgeni Oksentyuk, and Daniel Ljungman in the later rounds. They all have NHL potential, which is amazing when you are drafting towards the end of every round. Once a shallow prospect pool has become deeper with these picks.

In net, the Stars have a promising goalie in Jake Oettinger. He seems to be developing nicely so far and should really show what he’s capable of after some time in the AHL during the 2019-20 season. He looks on track to take the reins from Ben Bishop down the line and is one of the more promising goalies of the future.

18) Nashville Predators

Previous Ranking: 20

Top Five Prospects: Yaroslav Askarov, Egor Afanasyev, David Farrance, Eeli Tolvanen, Phil Tomasino

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Yaroslav Askarov, Luke Evangelista, Luke Prokop

Many thought Eeli Tolvanen was an elite prospect for the Nashville Predators. He’s taken longer to develop than expected, even taking a step back in 2018-19. Still, this is a great prospect. Don’t count him out just yet. Phil Tomasino is another one to watch, selected in the first round in 2019. You’ll have to watch closely though, or you might miss the speedy winger. He had a great 2019-20 and might just break through the NHL ranks in 2020-21.

Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators
Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There are more forwards to talk about for the Predators. Egor Afanasyev keeps the puck on a string and will be one of the most exciting players to watch on this team. Along with him, Rem Pitlick looks like the real deal as well. Add in the playmaking prowess of Luke Evangelista and the promising Gunnarwolf Fontaine from the 2020 draft, and they have some offensive potential coming down the pipe very soon.

The future defence for the Preds isn’t looking as promising after the graduation of Dante Fabbro. However, they do have a couple of notable prospects in David Farrance, Marc Del Gaizo, and Frederic Allard. They also added more depth at the most recent draft in Luke Prokop, Adam Wilsby, and Luke Reid. Prokop intrigues me the most with his size and no-nonsense defensive game, so there could be help on the way beyond Fabbro’s graduation after all.

On the goaltending side, the Predators hit a home run with the selection of franchise goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. The crease was solid with Pekka Rinne and Jussi Saros, but after them, there was a big drop off. That is no longer the case.

Yaroslav Askarov Team Russia
Team Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

Askarov has all the tools to be a dominant goaltender in the NHL with his size, athleticism, and flawless technique. Look for him to be a number one in this league for years to come.

17) Vegas Golden Knights

Previous Ranking: 11

Top Five Prospects: Brendan Brisson, Pavel Dorofeyev, Jack Dugan, Lucas Elvenes, Peyton Krebs

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Brendan Brisson, Lukas Cormier

The Vegas Golden Knights are one of those teams that are in the sweet spot of a playoff team and an organization with a solid prospect pool. Considering they’ve traded away Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki, while Cody Glass and Nicholas Hague have graduated, coming in at number 17 is very impressive. The only reason they dropped from 11th was because of the many talented prospects that were added to the teams ahead of them.

Related: Vegas Golden Knights ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

The star of this system is Peyton Krebs. This dynamic player will either shift to the wing or be one of the best one-two punches in the league behind Glass (more likely). He has elite potential, with great skating and high-end playmaking.

Peyton Krebs Kootenay Ice
Peyton Krebs will be a dynamic forward for the Golden Knights (Robert Murray/WHL)

Next comes Pavel Dorofeyev, who probably should have gone much earlier than 79th in the 2019 NHL Draft – like in the first round. He has great offensive ability and is creative with the puck. Other forwards to mention include Nicolas Roy, Jack Dugan, and Lukas Elvenes. All of whom continue to get better and better.

Finally, there’s Brendan Brisson, who was just added from the 2020 draft class. He is having a solid season with the stacked Michigan Wolverines clocking in with 12 points in 14 games so far. He’s a smart center with a very high hockey IQ, so look out for him as he progresses.

The defence will need some new life soon, especially after the loss of Brannstrom and Hague, but there’s still a number of promising rearguards. Jimmy Schuldt, Dylan Coghlan, Peter Diliberatore, Lukas Cormier, and Kaedan Korczak all look like they could be NHLers, and Xavier Bouchard could be right there as well.

In net, Isaiah Saville is a name to watch. He might not be a high-end prospect, but he very well could develop into an NHL netminder.

16) Buffalo Sabres

Previous Ranking: 18

Top Five Prospects: Dylan Cozens, Oskari Laaksonen, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ryan Johnson, Mattias Samuelsson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Jack Quinn, John-Jason Peterka

The Buffalo Sabres are one of the most-changed pools over the last couple of years. Rasmus Dahlin, Lawrence Pilut, Casey Mittelstadt, Rasmus Aplund, and Victor Olafsson graduated, while Brendan Guhle and Alex Nylander were traded away. While it’s a significant drop from a year ago, one prospect still carries this pool.

Related: Buffalo Sabres ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

That prospect is the elite Dylan Cozens. Drafted seventh overall in 2019, the prospect looks to have a very full toolkit of skills that will make him a great, top-line player in the NHL.

Dylan Cozens Lethbridge Hurricanes
Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens (Robert Murray/WHL)

The most recent draft saw the Sabres add two more potential top-six wingers to the fold in Jack Quinn and John-Jason Peterka. Quinn is a goal-scoring winger who could team up with Cozens and Peterka showed what he could do at the 2021 WJC when he put up four goals and ten points in only five games. They both will be productive pieces of the Sabres in the very near future.

Puck-moving defender Ryan Johnson is the next prospect behind Cozens and Quinn. The Sabres’ other first-round pick in 2019 makes big plays, is a great skater and is solid in his own end. Johnson and fellow defenders Mattias Samuelsson and Oskari Laaksonen all have top-four potential.

Finally, the Sabres have goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. There’s a lot to be excited about in his game. He looks like he’ll be a starting goalie in the NHL and has the ability to steal games. He’s one of the better goaltender prospects in the league.

15) Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous Ranking: 16

Top Five Prospects: Mikhail Abramov, Rodion Amirov, Filip Hallander, Tim Liljegren, Nick Robertson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Jeremy Bracco

Key Additions: Rodion Amirov, Roni Hirvonen, Topi Niemela, William Villeneuve

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, many of their young guys have moved up in the last few seasons. Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, and Rasmus Sandin all did it this season. Although, they did add one solid prospect in a trade with the Penguins in Filip Hallander.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

The Maple Leafs prospect pool is highlighted by defender Timothy Liljegren. Taken in the first round in 2017, Liljegren got a taste of the NHL last season and will likely graduate this season. Behind him, Mikko Kokkonen shows promise as a shut-down defender.

Marlies defenseman Timothy Liljegren
Toronto Marlies defenseman Timothy Liljegren (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The club also added Topi Niemela in the most recent draft who had a very strong showing at the 2021 WJC. He led all blueliners with two goals and eight points in seven games, helping them to a bronze medal. He has a lot of potential as a mobile, puck-moving defenceman who can fill a role on the power play.

William Villeneuve, who was drafted 122nd overall, could also surprise as he was the top-scoring defenceman in the QMJHL last season with nine goals and 58 points in 64 games. He’s off to a fast start in 2020-21 with six points in 15 games.

Nick Robertson is the need-to-know name in the system. He can put up the points, he’s creative, and has great offensive instincts. He’s already one of the biggest steals of the 2019 NHL Draft. If he’s lucky he could see enough games in the NHL this season to graduate from this list by the next update of these rankings.

Joining Robertson at the top is the recently drafted Rodion Amirov. A lot of Leafs fans did not like the pick at the time, but he showed some amazing offensive potential at the 2021 WJC leading Team Russia with six points in seven games. He’s fast, has great hands, and above all else, is smart in all zones of the ice. His work ethic is probably his strongest attribute, though, as he’s rarely outworked by anyone. Leafs fans will soon love this pick.

Rodion Amirov Team Russia
Rodion Amirov of Team Russia (Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ)

In net, the Maple Leafs have a couple of prospects who could both one day be NHL starters. I give Joseph Woll the edge, but Ian Scott could very easily be the heir to Fredrik Andersen. Both goaltenders have the tools to do so if they continue developing on the right track.

14) Edmonton Oilers

Previous Ranking: 15

Top Five Prospects: Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod, Dmitri Samorukov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

The Edmonton Oilers made some big additions to their prospect pool over the last season and their existing group took steps forward. It’s been a dark time for the Oilers for a long time, but there looks to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Related: Oilers’ Untouchable Prospects for 2020-21

Two defenders lead the system in Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. The back-to-back first-round picks (2018 and 2019, respectfully) both look like they could be the future top-pairing defenders for the Oilers. They are both going to have very good NHL careers and you should be excited to watch them blossom.

Philip Broberg Oilers Draft
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

A pair of forwards also help the prospect pool ranking, with Tyler Benson and Raphael Lavoie both providing offensive flair. Benson is creative and great puck handling, where Lavoie brings high-end skill and a great shot.

In addition to the players mentioned above, the Oilers added two-way dynamo Dylan Holloway and the point machine, Carter Savoie in the first and fourth rounds respectively of the 2020 draft. Savoie in particular has risen his stock early by transferring his dominant game from the AJHL into the NCAA.

Savoie is leading all University of Denver skaters with 14 points in 15 games and is in the top half of the league in goals with nine. Suffice it to say, I think I may have pegged it in his draft profile when I said he should have been a first or second round pick.

Carter Savoie University of Denver
Carter Savoie, University of Denver (Mark Kuhlmann-NCHC)

There are many other players to mention, from forward Kirill Maksimov to defender Dmitri Samorukov. In goal, there are high hopes for Ilya Konovalov, and Olivier Rodrigue also has a lot of potential. The Oilers are getting deeper and shouldn’t be far away from coming back to respectability.

13) Minnesota Wild

Previous Ranking: 12

Top Five Prospects: Matthew Boldy, Alexander Khovanov, Kirill Kaprizov, Marat Khusnutdinov, Marco Rossi

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Marco Rossi, Marat Khusnutdinov, Ryan O’Rourke

The Minnesota Wild are a team with numerous issues, as made public by the firing of general manager Paul Fenton after one year at the helm. Yet in terms of prospects, there’s promise. A handful of young players carry the system right now, and that should be enough to build around for new GM Bill Guerin.

The supremely talented Kirill Kaprizov has already made his presence known in the NHL with five points in his first five games and looks like the real deal so far. Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov who were selected in the first and second rounds respectively bring speed and skill and Matthew Boldy will probably be a top-five winger in the NHL one day. Guerin definitely has a lot of talent to work with.

Rossi in particular could turn out to be a star in the NHL when all is said and done. He’s fast, creative, and can play at both ends of the ice with flawless precision. He also has leadership qualities as well. Basically the Wild got a rare commodity when they drafted him.

MArco Rossi Ottawa 67s
Marco Rossi of the Ottawa 67’s (Credit: CHL Images)

Boldy is another high-end talent and could even be elite. Of his many strengths, his greatest is probably his adaptability. Whatever the team needs from him, he can run with it and seems to excel whether it’s score goals, make plays or defend. He was a force at the 2021 WJC with Team USA and he’s had a bounce-back season in the NCAA too with 12 points in 10 games so far.

Adam Beckman has played himself into this conversation as well, with a dominant season in the WHL. There’s a significant drop after these three though, although forwards Vladislav Firstov, Mason Shaw, Alexander Khovanov, and Nico Sturm have shown some upside.

The defence was a weak spot for the farm system and it still is other than Calen Addison. Addison should be a top-four defender in the near future and could very well be a cornerstone on defence for the team. Recently drafted Ryan O’Rourke could also help in that regard as he has the potential to be a top-four defenceman in the future too.

Ryan O'Rourke Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Ryan O’Rourke of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

In goal, Hunter Jones and Mat Robson both have a chance to succeed, and Kaapo Kahkonen has impressed early in 2020-21 sporting a 1.20 goals-against average (GAA) and .951 save percentage (SV%) in two starts so far.

12) Florida Panthers

Previous Ranking: 10

Top Five Prospects: Grigori Denisenko, Spencer Knight, Anton Lundell, Eetu Luostarinen, Owen Tippett

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Emil Heineman, Devon Levi, Anton Lundell, Ty Smilanic, Justin Sourdif

The Florida Panthers are trending up. Both on their NHL roster and the prospect pool, things are looking pretty good in Florida. They have some elite talent, with the potential to be among the best at their positions. If they can add some more depth, they’d likely be much higher.

Related: Florida Panthers ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

The team surprised many by selecting goaltender Spencer Knight 13th overall in 2019. Knight is one of the (if not the) best goaltending prospects in the league, who remains calm and collected at all times. With Sergei Bobrovsky signed, they won’t need Knight for a while, but that will give him time to properly develop. They also have the recently drafted 2021 WJC star Devon Levi in the wings, who could potentially be a steal from the seventh round.

The Panthers are looking strong at forward as well. Grigori Denisenko is a great skater, with some of the best puckhandling skills not in the NHL. He sets the pace when he’s on the ice and should be an elite, top-line player for the Panthers. Owen Tippett is right there as well, with a lightning-quick shot that is consistently overwhelming and, on top of its weight, is surprisingly accurate. Then, on top of all that talent, they went out and drafted Finnish 2021 WJC standout Anton Lundell.

Anton Lundell IFK Helsinki
Anton Lundell could follow Barkov’s footsteps as the next star of the Panthers (Photo by Samuli Seila/IFK Helsinki)

Lundell could very well be the second coming of Alexander Barkov, who is currently the top-line center of the Panthers. He’s big, fast, and creative and could be a future captain of the franchise too.

Aleksi Heponiemi, Serron Noel and Emil Heineman are all right behind Denisenko, Tippett, and Lundell. A few more forwards worth keeping an eye on are Aleksi Saarela, Greg Meireles, Ty Smilanic and Cole Schwindt.

Defensively, the pool doesn’t have high-end talent like in net and up front, but Vladislav Kolyachonok, Santtu Kinnunen, Riley Stillman, and Brady Keeper give the organization some defenders to look forward to. Newly acquired Chase Priskie is also one to watch, as he had a very good rookie season in the AHL. They also added some potential during the draft in Kasper Puutio, who had a solid showing at the WJC for Team Finland.

11) Vancouver Canucks

Previous Ranking: 8

Top Five Prospects: Mike DiPietro, Nils Hoglander, Olli Juolevi, Vasily Podkolzin, Jack Rathbone

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Joni Jurmo, Dmitri Zlodeyev

Despite the graduation of Quinn Hughes, the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best prospect pools in the league. Padded by solid drafts in 2019 and 2020, the Canucks could very well be on the verge of something great. And it is going to be fun to watch.

Related: Vancouver Canucks 2020-21 Prospect Pyramid

Forward Vasili Podkolzin is creative, has a great shot, and can make plays as well. He is still stuck in the KHL, but the prospect has elite talent in his game. He’ll run you over and score while doing it (think Alex Ovechkin but probably fewer goals). Canucks fans should be very excited to see him.

Vasily Podkolzin of SKA St. Petersburg
Vasily Podkolzin of SKA St. Petersburg (photo courtesy SKA)

Sticking with the forwards, one player I was excited about in the 2019 NHL Draft was Nils Hoglander. He plays a similar game to Podkolzin, despite his smaller size. He’s fast, gets in the face of opponents, and can produce as well, as evidenced by his two goals in the NHL so far. The future Canucks offence will be getting under the rest of the NHL’s skin. For prospects to watch, keep an eye on Kole Lind, Dmitri Zlodeyev, Carson Focht, Aidan McDonough, and Arvid Costmar, although they may be replacement-level players.

For defence, with Hughes graduating, Jack Rathbone is one of my favourites on this team. He can move the puck with aplomb and has the hockey IQ to dominate his opponents. The Canucks are very deep on the backend, with Olli Juolevi, Viktor Persson, Joni Jurmo, Toni Utunen, and Jett Woo also looking like NHL defenders.

In goal, the club is set up very nicely. Michael DiPietro is one of the best goaltending prospects in the league. Even with the graduation of Thatcher Demko, the Canucks are set up nicely on all fronts.

10) New Jersey Devils

Previous Ranking: 13

Top Five Prospects: Nolan Foote, Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Ty Smith, Tyce Thompson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Shakir Mukhamadullin

The Devils have had their prospect pool take a big hit in 2019-20, with the graduation of three of their top prospects in Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, and Mackenzie Blackwood. But then, they went out and added Nolan Foote and Janne Kuokkanen. Then, if that wasn’t enough, they also added first-round picks Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, and Shakir Mukhamadullin in the 2020 draft. Long story short, this prospect pool is back amongst the big dogs once again.

Alexander Holtz Djurgarden
Alexander Holtz, Djurgarden (Photo by ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

2018 first-round pick Ty Smith looks like he will be an elite, two-way defender for the Devils. He’s a high-end skater with great playmaking abilities. He’ll be running the organization’s power play in no time.

Related: New Jersey Devils‘ Top 20 Prospects: Preseason 2020-21

Reilly Walsh is another one to watch, as he looks to be another great defender in the system. Mukhamadullin was a divisive pick as a first-rounder, even though he does have the attributes of a top-pairing defenceman. He’s a great skater, has a hard slap shot, and has size. Some of his decision-making can be questionable at times, but with structure, he could become a great NHL defenceman.

Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer share the spotlight now as the top forward prospects in the pipeline. Holtz is a pure goal scorer with multiple weapons in his arsenal and Mercer is a swiss-army knife who does everything that is asked of him at a high level. In a playoff series, he will be the x-factor that wins you Stanley Cups.

Dawson Mercer Drummondville Voltigeurs
Dawson Mercer of the Drummondville Voltigeurs (Drummondville Voltigeurs)

Apart from those two, the Devils also have Foote, who will be a top-six contributor in no time with his hard shot and puck handling skills. Basically, the Devils rebuilt their forward depth with a solid first-round and a couple of trades.

In net, Blackwood’s graduation hurts the group, with Evan Cormier and Cole Brady leading the pack. I’m not confident either one will make it to the NHL at this point.

9) Anaheim Ducks

Previous Ranking: 9

Top Five Prospects: Jamie Drysdale, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Isac Lundestrom, Jacob Perreault, Trevor Zegras

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Sam Colangelo, Jamie Drysdale, Jacob Perreault

The Anaheim Ducks have some elite talent at the top of the system, but they’ve seen a few graduates over the last two seasons. Now, their depth isn’t as deep as it once was, but the group as a whole shows promise. Granted, a lot of that has to do with their top two prospects, one up front and one on the back end.

Related: Ducks Prospects: Colangelo, Andersson, Drew & More

Trevor Zegras is one of those prospects, and one of the best in the NHL. Fresh off of his gold medal performance at the 2021 WJC where he dominated with 18 points in seven games, he has the chance to be an elite, impact player at the NHL level. A great, creative playmaker that should be the club’s next number one centre and one of the league’s most dangerous players.

The majority of the Ducks’ other top prospects are forwards as well, including Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Isac Lundestrom, and Brayden Tracey. They have put together a very talented group of forwards.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks 2019 NHL Draft
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Newly drafted Jamie Drysdale and the incumbent Josh Mahura headline the defensive group, which is fairly weak after them. But Mahura and Drysdale are among the best of the best. They both can move the puck with the best of them, making plays in transition or stretching out passes. I can see them joining forces as the top-pairing in the very near future.

Drysdale wasn’t the only selection on defence as a couple of late-round picks hold some promise. Ian Moore and Thimo Nickl are both solid puck movers who could thrive in the new-age NHL. So definitely keep an eye on those two.

In net, John Gibson will be holding down the fort for a while, but Lukas Dostal shows some promise. The Ducks re-stocked their prospect pool a bit in the 2020 draft where they added three defencemen and five forwards to their repertoire. They are now much deeper and ready to keep their top-ten ranking intact for a few more seasons to come.

8) Philadelphia Flyers

Previous Ranking: 7

Top Five Prospects: Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, Cam York

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Tyson Foerster, Emil Andrae, Zayde Wisdom

I could easily be convinced that the Philadelphia Flyers should be higher on this list. They have a great crop of prospects, and then, of course, there’s the goaltender of the future in Carter Hart, who showed what he can do last season. The duo of Joel Farabee and Philippe Myers are also impacting at the NHL level early. While they have a number of future stars in the fold, I think that most of the teams above simply have more players with higher ceilings still in the system.

Morgan Frost is now their top prospect, a centreman who has great speed and is a high-end playmaker. He’s extremely good with the puck and exciting to watch. Isaac Ratcliffe comes in behind him as a big (6-foot-6) goal-scoring machine.

Morgan Frost Philadelphia Flyers
Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A prospect that Philadelphia fans should be excited about is Bobby Brink. Drafted in the second round in 2019, the winger is an elite passer, with great hockey sense. His skating needs some tweaking, but there’s a great future NHLer in Brink. Jay O’Brien also had a big year in the BCHL and has a ton of promise and newly drafted Zayde Wisdom could have an NHL future after a 29-goal season in the OHL.

The Flyers also added Tyson Foerster this past October who is equally as exciting as Brink. He has a hard shot on the power play and can pass the puck with the best of them. He also has to work on his skating and produce a little more five-on-five, but the offensive potential is definitely there for the Alliston, Ontario native.

The future defence is just as impressive. 2019 first-rounder Cam York is thriving with a stacked team in Michigan, largely due to his elite hockey sense. He’s patient, makes good decisions, and seems to slow the game down for the entire team. Undrafted Yegor Zamula is also impressing in his development. He’s a very smart defender who seems to do all of the little things right. Finally, 2020 second-rounder Emil Andrae is an excellent skater and could be a heck of a puck-moving defenceman down the road.

Cam York University of Michigan
Cam York, University of Michigan (Michigan Photography)

On top of these two, the Flyers drafted another potential steal, Ronnie Attard, in the third round in 2019, while Wyatte Wylie is on the rise as well. Keep an eye on Mason Millman too.

7) Detroit Red Wings

Previous Ranking: 14

Top Five Prospects: Filip Larsson, Gustav Lindstrom, Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Lucas Raymond, William Wallinder, Theodor Niederbach, Cross Hanas, Donovan Sebrango, Eemil Viro

The Detroit Red Wings are about to see a big burst of talent hit their roster, and some of that has already started. The 2020 draft is a big reason for that as they added a total of 12 prospects to their system. At the top is Lucas Raymond, the Swedish phenom who at times was projected to go second overall ahead of Tim Stutezle. He will bring a Pavel Datsyuk-type game to their roster as soon as next season.

Related: Detroit Red Wings ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

The Red Wings also added another Swede in the second round in Theodor Niederbach who could become a top-six threat as well. He is a smart two-way forward who is versatile enough to play both center and right-wing. He also had a strong outing at the 2021 WJC where he scored two goals in five games.

Joe Veleno is now the second-best forward in the system after Raymond’s selection. A future top-six threat, Veleno is a strong skater and a well-rounded two-way centre. He’s lightyears ahead of the second tier of forwards including Jonatan Berggren, Robert Mastrosimone, Otto Kivenmaki, and Albin Grewe.

Lucas Raymond Frolunda Indians
Lucas Raymond of the Frolunda Indians (Photo: Tommy Holl TT)

The nice thing about the Red Wings system is that they have great pieces across the positional board. Moritz Seider looks like the real deal as he’s a very smart player who wouldn’t surprise me in making the jump to the NHL sooner rather than later. He’s quickly become one of the best defensive prospects in the league and showed why at the 2020 World Juniors. He’s going to be very good.

The Red Wings also added more promising defencemen at the most recent draft when they selected William Wallinder from Sweden (of course), Donovan Sebrango from the OHL, and Eemil Viro from Finland. They all have mobility and can rush the puck up the ice. If all goes well, Steve Yzerman has a very solid group to build around going forward.

Defender Gustav Lindstrom deserves some mention too, coming in behind Seider. Jared McIsaac and Antti Tuomisto could both be NHLers are well. Behind them, goaltender Filip Larsson has the tools to be an NHL goaltender.

6) Colorado Avalanche

Previous Ranking: 6

Top Five Prospects: Justin Barron, Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, Martin Kaut, Alex Newhook

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Dennis Gilbert

Key Additions: Justin Barron, Jean-Luc Foudy

The Colorado Avalanche just had one of the best prospects in the league graduate, yet they still find themselves high on this list. They look set up for a long time at every position and are even a playoff team. The Avalanche are going to be a threat for years to come with the help of numerous prospects.

2019 fourth-overall pick Bowen Byram highlights the group. Arguably the top prospect in the league, He’s creative, he can produce, and he can defend. He has an absolute cannon that was on display all season in the WHL. He’s an absolute stud that will transition nicely to the NHL.

Bowen Byram Vancouver Giants
Colorado Avalanche prospect Bowen Byram (Chris Relke/Vancouver Giants)

Behind him, the Avalanche still has Conor Timmins, Drew Helleson, and now the recently drafted Justin Barron. The future of the blue line is looking very solid. Timmins missed a year of hockey, came back, and made the opening-night roster for the Avs. He’s going to be just fine. Barron, who was a projected top-15 pick before a blood clot derailed his 2019-20 season, could be a steal where he ultimately was drafted at 25th overall. He was once spoken in the same breath as Drysdale, who was chosen sixth overall by the Ducks. Sakic might have gotten away with grand larceny with that pick.

Related: Top 10 Avalanche Prospects Heading Into the 2020-21 Season

For forwards, the team has a future star in Alex Newhook. The two-way centre is an offensive weapon, capable of putting up big point totals. Many had Newhook as a top-10 pick, so the Avalanche selecting him at 16 was an absolute steal. He’ll make teams regret passing on him.

Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers, and Alex Beaucage all look promising for the Avalanche as well. Kaut is likely the best behind Newhook, a top-six winger who hasn’t impressed as much as the Avs hoped, but the potential is still there. Jean-Luc Foudy also could be an NHLer after getting selected in the third round in 2020.

Alex Newhook Avalanche Draft
Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In goal, Adam Werner and Justus Annunen both show NHL-starter potential, and I’d definitely give the edge to Annunen. He had a dominant season in the Liiga and looked very good through the 2020 World Juniors. The Avalanche are going to be terrifyingly set up for a long time.

5) Montreal Canadiens

Previous Ranking: 3

Top Five Prospects: Josh Brook, Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhle, Cayden Primeau, Alexander Romanov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Kaiden Guhle, Luke Tuch, Jan Mysak

The Montreal Canadiens already had a great group of prospects that was made much better by strong outings at both the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts. Selecting Cole Caufield with the 15th pick was almost laughable, as many thought he should go in the top-10. Instead, the Canadiens got a chance to improve their system a great deal.

Related: Canadiens’ Untouchable Prospects

Caufield is going to be a star. The club’s top prospect is arguably the best goal-scoring prospect in the league, after netting 72 in 2018-19. The best part is, he has every type of shot in his arsenal. Canadiens fans will see wrist shots, slap shots, snapshots, and one-timers from the 5-foot-7 forward – and a lot of goals. Combine that with his elite skating, and NHL goalies are going to be in trouble.

Montreal Canadians Cole Caufield NHL draft
Montreal Canadians prospect Cole Caufield (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

GM Marc Bergevin continued his luck at the draft in 2020 with another potential steal in the creative and slippery Jan Mysak. All three THW writers and Future Considerations had him going in the top-15 and the Canadiens got him in the middle of the second round. If he realizes his immense potential, they may have another Caufield on their hands. They also added power forward Luke Tuch, who fills a massive need in the organization. So basically, the rich got richer.

Defensively, the club has a couple of players who might just bring as much excitement as the forwards. Josh Brook is coming off a solid debut in the AHL where he had a respectable 13 points in 43 games. He looks like a future top-pairing defender based on his puck-moving, defensive game, and decision making.

Alexander Romanov might even be better than Brook. I do think he is, actually. He’s a defender who likes to play physical but can chip in offensively and might be the perfect complement to Brook down the line. He’s started the 2020-21 season in the NHL averaging 20 minutes a night on a third-pairing with Brett Kulak and already has his first goal. He appears to be a star in the making on the blueline.

Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Canadiens are deep on defensive prospects with 2020 first-round pick Kaiden Guhle, Noah Juulsen, Mattias Norlinder, and Jordan Harris as a few more to watch. Even in net, the Canadiens have a great prospect in Cayden Primeau. Despite being a seventh-round pick, Primeau does a lot with very little, meaning he makes saves with very little effort.

4) Carolina Hurricanes

Previous Ranking: 2

Top Five Prospects: Jake Bean, Dominik Bokk, Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees, Ryan Suzuki

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Noel Gunler, Seth Jarvis, Vasiliy Ponomarev, Alexander Nikishin, Zion Nybeck

After a solid draft in 2019, the Carolina Hurricanes continued their dominance in 2020, adding to an already stacked farm system. Seth Jarvis was their first selection at 13th overall, and he will be a star in the NHL before too long. He had 42 goals in the OHL last season and could be an elite two-way threat when he gets to the Canes top-six. They weren’t done there as they also snagged more offensive potential in Noel Gunler, Vasiliy Ponomarev, and Zion Nybeck in the second and fourth rounds respectively.

Nybeck in particular could be a steal as he was ranked to go in the late first or early second round by many outlets, and the Hurricanes got him in the fourth. He’s a speedy, creative forward with excellent offensive instincts, so they got an absolute beauty in the fourth round. He is undersized at 5-foot-8, but that shouldn’t be a problem in a league that has seen many smaller players thrive.

Related: Carolina Hurricanes‘ ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

Those additions just added to the riches the Hurricanes already had in Ryan Suzuki, Patrik Puistola, Jamieson Rees, and Dominik Bokk. Their forward depth is among the league’s best, with Tuukka Tieksola and Jack Drury all looking like solid prospects too.

Seth Jarvis Portland Winterhawks
Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks. (Keith Dwiggins/Portland Winterhawks)

It continues defensively for the Hurricanes, although it’s not as deep as the forwards. Jake Bean leads the pack, as one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the AHL. He’s extremely patient, waiting for the perfect play to present itself and then he strikes. He’s going to be an NHL star.

Anttoni Honka could end up as the steal of the 2019 NHL Draft, slipping to the third round. He’s another great playmaker, with good hands and mobility. He’ll make a lot of teams regret not selecting him sooner. They also added the physicality of Alexander Nikishin to the fold at the 2020 draft, so they are pretty much set on defence.

For goaltenders, the organization is looking set for the future. Between Alex Nedeljkovic and Pyotr Kochetkov, the future pipes are in good hands in Carolina. Both netminders have the tools in place to be number one, NHL goalies. Right now, I’d say they are fairly neck and neck, so this will be a season to watch for the Canes goaltending prospects.

3) New York Rangers

Previous Ranking: 5

Top Five Prospects: Vitaly Kravtsov, Alexis Lafreniere, Nils Lundqvist, K’Andre Miller, Matthew Robertson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Alexis Lafreniere, Braden Schneider, William Cuylle, Oliver Tarnstrom, Brett Berard

The New York Rangers had four key players graduate last season, headlined by Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox. Yet, here they are, still in the top five. They still have a stacked prospect pool, which just got better with 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere and defenceman Braden Schneider, who was selected a little later on.

Related: New York Rangers’ ‘Untouchable’ Prospects for 2020-21

The Rangers have talent all over. They are absolutely stacked everywhere and this is going to be a team back in contention very soon – possibly even this season.

Alexis Lafrenière Rimouski Oceanic
Alexis Lafrenière of the Rimouski Oceanic (Photo by Vincent Ethier/CHL)

Lafreniere is a generational player, no doubt about it. He’s good at everything, from scoring goals to setting them up. Not to mention he’s fast, shifty, and can dominate with his 6-foot-1, 193-pound frame. He is having a slow start with the Rangers right now, but that shouldn’t worry anyone. He will be a star in this league for decades to come.

Vitaly Kravtsov trails only Lafreniere now. He’s an incredibly creative player that has a pass-first mentality. He’s a high-end playmaker and has the ability to change the course of a game. I wouldn’t let last season take away from his potential. It drops a bit after him, although there is promise in Leevi Aaltonen, Karl Henriksson, Morgan Barron, and Lauri Pajuniemi.

On to the defence, which is more exciting than the forward group. Schneider, Nils Lundqvist, and K’Andre Miller headline the group. Their potential is very high and other teams should be terrified. Zachary Jones is right there as well, just behind the other three.

Braden Schneider Brandon Wheat Kings
Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings (Tim Smith)

Behind them are a few more names to keep an eye on, including Matthew Robertson, Yegor Rykov, and Tarmo Reunanen. The Rangers’ depth is unbelievable still, and the future is bright – especially with Lafreniere now a huge part of it.

2) Ottawa Senators

Previous Ranking: 4

Top Five Prospects: Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Josh Norris, Jake Sanderson, Tim Stuetzle

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Drake Batherson

Key Additions: Tim Stuetzle, Jake Sanderson, Ridly Greig, Roby Jarventie, Egor Sokolov

The Senators are two years into their rebuild, and the prospect cupboard has been completely restocked, and then some. The 2020 draft saw them have six picks in the first two rounds, and two in the top-five. By the end of it all, they had a future superstar in Tim Stuetzle, a top-pairing defender in Jake Sanderson, and a top-six forward in Ridly Greig. They also added promising prospects in Roby Jarventie and Egor Sokolov, so the cupboard is bursting right now.

Related: Ottawa Senators’ Prospect Pyramid

Starting up front, the Senators have a potential superstar in Stuetzle. He absolutely dominated the 2021 WJC with Team Germany and already has his first NHL goal. He has elite hockey sense and can both dish out the puck or finish it himself. Fans will absolutely love him in the Nation’s Capital for the next decade or so.

Josh Norris was acquired in the Karlsson trade. He’s a fast centreman with great offensive ability that could be the future at centre for the team. He made the club out of training camp in 2020-21 and is already producing with four points in his first five games, including his first NHL goal.

Tim Stützle Ottawa Senators
Tim Stützle, Ottawa Senators, first NHL game Jan. 15, 2021 (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Speaking of speed, Alex Formenton is an absolute rocket, who can be used in any situation. He’ll be keeping NHL defenders on their heels very soon. Jonathan Davidsson, Vitali Abramov, Shane Pinto, and Jonathan Gruden are a few more stellar forwards for the club.

The Senators are just as deep on the blue line with a pair of right-handed defenders Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker. Thomson has a cannon of a shot and is a great passer, while Bernard-Docker is a two-way defender that is very good in his own end. Sanderson just adds to the treasure trove with his elite two-way game. Along with Tomas Chabot, he will be the leader on the blueline for years to come.

The Senators may not have one of the best goaltending prospects in the league, but they have three with a ton of potential. Filip Gustavsson and Mads Sogaard have the best chance to be the next starting goaltender, while Joey Daccord is right there too. It will be an interesting storyline to watch these goalies battle in out over the next few years.

1) Los Angeles Kings

Previous Ranking: 1

Top Five Prospects: Alex Bjornfot, Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Quinton Byfield, Helge Grans, Brock Faber, Kasper Simontaival

The Los Angeles Kings are absolutely terrifying. Not at the NHL level though. They are coming off of a very bad season, but the Kings’ future is looking extremely good when you look at the system.

Related: Los Angeles Kings ‘Untouchable’ Prospects

Leading the charge is 2020 second-overall pick Quinton Byfield. He is a budding superstar power forward with a rare combination of size, speed, and power to go along with a soft pair of hands. Kings fans will absolutely love him when he finally makes it to the show.

Sudbury Wolves Quinton Byfield
Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves (Photo by Chris Tanouye/CHL)

Alex Turcotte follows Byfield, as a top-NHL prospect. He’s a very well-rounded, two-way centre with elite potential. He’s an excellent skater and can pile up the points. He may just be the perfect replacement for Anze Kopitar.

Behind Turcotte, the skill continues. Rasmus Kupari is a very skilled playmaker and like Turcotte, is an elite skater. He has great hockey sense and can be very creative with the puck. Byfield, Turcotte, and Kupari could be a force down the middle for the Kings in a few years.

Arthur Kaliyev was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 NHL Draft, in that he slid all the way down to the 33rd selection. He’s an elite, offensive weapon that many teams worried about due to his play away from the puck and work ethic. If he can get on the right track, he as the potential to be a star.

The Kings have numerous other high-end forwards, from Carl Grundstrom (acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Jake Muzzin trade) to Akil Thomas, to Gabe Vilardi, to Aiden Dudas to Kasper Simontaival. And then they went out and added the very promising Tyler Madden. This is a very exciting crop of forwards.

Defensively, the Kings still have some high-end talent. Tobias Bjornfot leads the pack, arguably right alongside Kale Clague. Bjornfot was the Kings’ second first-round selection in 2019. He’s a potential top-four defender with elite skating and great hockey sense.

Tobias Bjornfot Kings Draft
Tobias Bjornfot, Los Angeles Kings, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Clague is a puck-moving defender with excellent skating as well. As you can see, the Kings are working towards a very fast team. Clague will fit in perfectly with that.

If that wasn’t enough already, the Kings also went and added two more intriguing defenders in Helge Grans and Brock Faber at the 2020 draft. They both have mobility and smarts and will fit in perfectly with what they are building on the California coast.

In goal, it looks like the Kings have their Jonathan Quick replacement in Cal Peterson. He is a calm and collected netminder that could even challenge Quick this season. He’s not a prospect anymore though. Behind him, Lukas Parik and Jacob Ingham are both goaltenders to watch.


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