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 (See number three on this list).
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.
A few notes before we dive in:
- The “Top Five Prospects” are alphabetical, not ranked.
- This is the first instalment of what will be a periodically updated post. In future iterations, I’ll include key additions, graduations, subtractions and the club’s previous ranking.
- Defining prospects varies 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 – @JoshuaBellTHW .
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
Top Five Prospects: Calen Addison, Nathan Legare, Filip Hallander, Pierre-Oliver Joseph, Samuel Poulin
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a threat in the league ever since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin came into the league. Due to them being perennial contenders, the organization has been in “win-now” mode for that time. The result? An extremely thin prospect pool. In order to build the team around the core, picks and prospects have been sent away for immediate help.
The 2019 first-round selection of Samuel Poulin was the club’s first in five years. Because of this, it’s obvious that Poulin is one of the best prospects in the system. That being said, there are a few others that should be able to make an impact down the line.
Calen Addison could very well be a top-four defender for the Penguins down the line. He’s a great skater, and yes there’s still work to be done in his game, but he was just drafted in 2018. There’s still time. He and Pierre-Oliver Joseph, who came over in the Phil Kessel trade, make up the two best defensive prospects in the system.
There’s also no goaltender of the future right now after the team traded Filip Gustavsson to the Ottawa Senators. Although, Matt Murray is only 25 years old, so there’s still time.
Other than Poulin, a forward crop of Nathan Legare, Filip Hallander, Kasper Bjorkvist, and Judd Caulfield lacks high-end talent. There’s definitely skill there, but compared to the other teams in the league, it’s not looking too great for the future in Pittsburgh.
30) Washington Capitals
Top Five Prospects: Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Brett Leason, Connor McMichael, Ilya Samsonov
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.
The Caps’ farm system isn’t great, but there are pieces moving forward. It looks like they have Braden Holtby’s replacement in goaltender Ilya Samsonov. While he didn’t have a very strong season in 2018-19, you have to remember it was his first in North America. I’d expect a bounce-back season from the athletic goalie as he looks to further his case for the next-in-line.
From the net out, 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 Lucas Johansen. It falls off a bit after those three, although I wouldn’t count out Martin Hugo Has from surprising.
The forward group is a weak spot for the organization. Luckily, they realized that and used their first two selections in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft on Connor McMichael (25th overall) and Brett Leason (56th overall). Prior to those two, the forward group was bare, although they have some depth pieces in place for the future.
29) Dallas Stars
Top Five Prospects: Gavin Bayreuther, Ty Dellandrea, Thomas Harley, Jake Oettinger, Jason Robertson
Despite keeping their first-round picks in 11 straight drafts, the Dallas Stars’ find themselves near the bottom of this list. They regularly have prospects 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 should be 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, although undrafted Gavin Bayreuther showed promise in his 19 game NHL stint in 2018-19.
The forwards look to be in a bit better shape. Winger Jason Robertson is the club’s top offensive forward, after putting up 117 points in the OHL. Ty Dellandrea could be a future number one centre. And like Bayreuther, Denis Gurianov showed he could hold his own in his NHL preview. Don’t sleep on Tye Felhaber either. He was an offensive machine in the OHL last season and looks like he could be on the right track to the NHL.
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 this season. He looks on track to take the reins from Ben Bishop down the line though.
28) Boston Bruins
Top Five Prospects: John Beecher, Trent Frederic, Jakub Lauko, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen
The Boston Bruins are very similar to the Stars prospect situation in my eyes. They’ve 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.
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.
There’s a bit more depth up front for the Bruins, especially at centre. Jack Studnicka, John Beecher, Trent Frederic, and Karson Kuhlman (also a right-winger) are just a few of the names the club has at centre. The only problem is they lack elite-level prospects. They could all very well end up as top-nine forwards, 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.
In net, undrafted Kyle Keyser has shown flashes of being able to be an NHL defender. There’s still much work to do, but he has time to develop. He could even be pushed for the spot one day by 2017 pick, Jeremy Swayman although the 111th-overall pick looks to have a bigger hill to climb.
27) San Jose Sharks
Top Five Prospects: Ivan Chekhovich, Alexander Chmelevski, Josef Korenar, Ryan Merkley, Yegor Spiridonov
The San Jose Sharks system lacks a lot of high draft picks and high-end talent. They’ve traded a number of good prospects, including Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris to the Senators. That being said, their prospect pool is topped by a great offensive defenseman, and they have a number of later draft picks that looked to trend well last season. While they are low on this list, they have a number of bubble prospects that could surprise many moving forward.
That defensive prospect mentioned above is 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 and Mario Ferraro round out the top-three defenders in the system, although their ceiling isn’t as high as of yet.
On the forward front, the team has a number of later round picks that have progressed very nicely. Wingers Ivan Chekhovich and Joachim Blichfeld were both picked in the seventh round (2017 and 2016, respectfully), yet are now among the team’s top prospects. Alexander Chmelevski was selected in the sixth round and is right there as well.
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 an intriguing storyline in the near future. At this point, I might give the edge to AHL All-Star Korenar, but Emond just led the QMJHL in nearly everything and could be right there as well.
26) Columbus Blue Jackets
Top Five Prospects: Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Krill Marchenko, Daniil Tarasov, Alexandre Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets are low on this list, and it looks like it will get worse before it gets better. After going all-in in 2018-19, the Blue Jackets sent away prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson to the Senators (are we sensing a trend yet?) and traded away a number of future picks.
Like many others near the bottom of this list, the organization lacks elite-level prospects and many high-draft picks. Yet, there’s a trio of forwards who lead the pack. Emil Bemstrom, Krill Marchenko, and Alexandre Texier all look like they could be top-six forwards down the line, followed fairly closely by Liam Foudy. They’re doing alright up front.
The defensive prospects are really lacking in the organization, with Vladislav Gavrikov and Andrew Peeke the best options. Both have a ceiling as likely bottom-pairing defensemen unless one or both have a breakout season. This is an area that they’ll likely look to stock up on in the near future.
Jumping back into some positives, the goaltender situation is looking good. Russia netminder Daniil Tarasov looks like he has the makings of an NHL goaltender, and Elvis Merzlikins looks like he’ll be with the big club this season. It’s not all bad in Ohio.
25) Calgary Flames
Top Five Prospects: Ilya Nikolayev, Jakob Pelletier, Emilio Pettersen, Filip Sveningsson, Juuso Valimaki
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 NHL Draft helped restock some pieces, but there’s still work to be done.
At the latest 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. Along with Emilio Pettersen and Filip Sveningsson, the forward group has potential.
Defender Juuso Valimaki was nearly a graduate, playing 24 games in 2018-19, and he’ll need to wait for his 25th after tearing his ACL. For now, he’s the only defender in the system that looks like a no-question NHLer.
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.
24) Nashville Predators
Top Five Prospects: Egor Afanasyev, Dante Fabbro, Rem Pitlick, Eeli Tolvanen, Phil Tomasino
There’s a pattern among the teams near the bottom, in that they lack an elite prospect in their system. For the Nashville Predators, they have two players that could be considered right on the cusp of elite.
Many thought Eeli Tovanen was an elite prospect. 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 – I expect a bounce-back season. 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.
There’s 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.
Dante Fabbro leads the defensive group, likely sticking in Nashville this season. I could see Fabbro becoming a Ryan Suter-type, not the fastest or most skilled, but make the right choices. While there aren’t really any high-end goalies of note (maybe Connor Ingram), the team has 24-year-old Juuse Saros who looks like the Pekka Rinne replacement of the future.
23) St. Louis Blues
Top Five Prospects: Dominik Bokk, Colten Ellis, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Mitch Reinke
The St. Louis Blues may be low on this list, but that’s in large part due to the graduating class of Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, and Jordan Binnington – all of whom now have Stanley Cup rings. Another plus for the Blues is that right here is where we start getting into the teams with at least one high-end/elite talent in their pools.
For the Stanley Cup champions, that player is Jordan Kyrou. He’s a likely candidate for graduation as well this season, but for now the dynamic is at the top of their system for his speed, hockey IQ and creativity. His 16-game NHL stint in 2018-19 is very promising for the young player.
Kyrou leads a forward group with Dominik Bokk, Klim Kostin, and Alexei Toropchenko all of whom have top-six potential. The forward group is looking good right now.
Defensively doesn’t look as great, although both Mitch Reinke and Scott Perunovich show promise. Goaltending isn’t looking too bad, with QMJHL star Colten Ellis in the system. He’s a long way away, but that’s fine with Binnington holding down the NHL net. There’s some promise in this group, although if Kyrou does graduate it will likely see a slight drop on this list.
22) Minnesota Wild
Top Five Prospects: Matthew Boldy, Vladislav Firstov, Kirill Kaprizov, Brennan Menell, Mason Shaw
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. Two young players carry the system right now, but that should be enough to build around for new GM Bill Guerin.
Kirill Kaprizov is one of the best players in the world not in the NHL. With Nikita Gusev coming to the NHL this season, he might be the best player very soon. An elite offensive talent, he has one more year on his KHL deal at which point he should make the Wild roster.
Matthew 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.
There’s a significant drop after these two though, although forwards Vladislav Firstov, Mason Shaw, Alexander Khovanov, and Nico Sturm have shown some upside.
The defence is a weak spot for the farm system, with just defender Brennan Menell looking like an NHL prospect. In net, Hunter Jones and Mat Robson both have a chance to succeed as well, and it looks like Kaapo Kahkonen could have a slim chance as well.
21) Arizona Coyotes
Top Five Prospects: Kevin Bahl, Kyle Capobianco, Barrett Hayton, Adin Hill, Victor Soderstrom
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, and the team has seen numerous young players make the jump in the last few seasons.
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 a 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.
The forward group is lacking behind Hayton, but 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.
Related: Coyotes Trade Up, Draft Söderström
Other defenders of note are Kevin Bahl and Kyle Capobianco, who could one day be defending in front of goaltender Adin Hill, who has already started to see some NHL action.
20) Tampa Bay Lightning
Top Five Prospects: Alex Barre-Boulet, Cal Foote, Nolan Foote, Taylor Raddysh, Alexander Volkov
Considering how stacked the Tampa Bay Lightning are on their NHL roster, they’ve done a great job keeping their prospect pool respectable. Even after the graduations of Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph, the Bolts have a solid group of prospects.
The farm system is currently highlighted by a pair of prospects, who just so happen to be brothers and the sons of legendary defender Adam Foote. Cal and Nolan Foote, taken two years apart in the first round (2017 and 2019, respectfully). Defender Cal just might be the top prospect in the organization, and in time Nolan should develop into a top-six player.
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 in 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: Lightning: 2019 Top 4 Prospects
The Lightning are looking solid on the wings in the system. On top of Nolan Foote, they have Taylor Raddysh, Alexander Volkov, Boris Katchouk, and Gabriel Fortier. It’s a solid group. They’ll need to work on their centre and defensive depth moving forward, but they are in a pretty good spot right now.
19) Toronto Maple Leafs
Top Five Prospects: Jeremy Bracco, Tim Liljegren, Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Joseph Woll
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, many of their young guys have moved up in the last few seasons. Andreas Johnsson did it this past season. They don’t really have any elite players at the top of their system, but they have a few high-end that puts them in the top-20.
The Maple Leafs prospect pool is highlighted by two defenders in Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Taken in the first rounds in 2018 and 2017, respectfully, it’s only a matter of time before both young d-men make the jump to the NHL.
Jeremy Bracco has received mixed reviews over the last couple of seasons, but he’s a solid playmaker and is creative with the puck. Don’t sleep on him making a difference when he gets the call-up. A few other forwards of note are Yegor Korshkov, Ilya Mikheyev, Dmytro Timashov and Nick Robertson.
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 continue developing on the right track.
18) Winnipeg Jets
Top Five Prospects: Mikhail Berdin, Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, Logan Stanley, Kristian Vesalainen
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 would have brought this ranking down, but there’s still some great talent in the organization.
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.
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 to the newcomer’s offence.
Related: Winnipeg Jets’ Top 10 Prospects
The forward group isn’t as strong as the defensive group, but Kristian Vesalainen keeps it relevant. He could very well be a top-six winger one day, bringing speed and offensive ability. The Jets’ also 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.
17) Buffalo Sabres
Top Five Prospects: Dylan Cozens, Oskari Laaksonen, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ryan Johnson, Victor Olofsson
The Buffalo Sabres are one of the most-changed pools from a year ago. Rasmus Dahlin, Lawrence Pilut and Casey Mittelstadt graduated, while Brendan Guhle and Alex Nylander were traded away. While it’s a significant drop from a year ago, there’s enough talent to keep them in the middle of the pack.
The Sabres have a very strong top-five prospect group, headlined by the potential 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. Victor Olofsson looks like he has top-six potential as well, and should stick with the NHL club in 2019-20.
Puck-moving defender Ryan Johnson is right behind Cozens. 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 defender Oskari Laaksonen bother 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 goalie prospects in the league.
16) New York Islanders
Top Five Prospects: Sebastian Aho, Noah Dobson, Ilya Sorokin, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde
The New York Islanders were one of the harder teams to place in this list. They have great talent in the system, but the teams to come simply have more players with higher ceilings. The Islanders have put together a solid group though.
Noah Dobson leads the prospect pool, with the potential to be a number one defender in the NHL. He can skate, he can shoot, and he has great vision on the ice. He’s a dominating player and one of the best defensive prospects in the entire league.
The Isles also have one of the best goaltending prospects in the league in Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin makes the position look easy, dominating the KHL, where he’ll be for one more season.
There is lots of other talent in the Islanders system, including top forward Oliver Wahlstrom and defenders Bode Wilde, Sebastian Aho, and Robin Salo. Another forward to keep an eye on this season is Simon Holmstrom, who I expect to surprise many fans and scouts.
15) Florida Panthers
Top Five Prospects: Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi, Spencer Knight, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Owen Tippett
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.
The team surprised many by selecting goaltender Spencer Knight 13th overall in 2019. Knight is one of the best goaltending prospects in the league, who seems to remain 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.
The Panthers are looking strong at forward as well. Grigori Denisenko and Owen Tippett have the potential to be very high-end players, with Aleksi Heponiemi right behind them. Serron Noel is another one to keep an eye on.
Related: Top Panthers Prospects for 2019-20
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.
14) Anaheim Ducks
Top Five Prospects: Maxime Comtois, Isac Lundestrom, Josh Mahura, Sam Steel, Trevor Zegras
The Anaheim Ducks are in a similar position to the Panthers. They have some elite talent at the top of the system, but their depth needs some more pieces.
Newly drafted Trevor Zegras is the club’s top prospect, fresh off of his ninth-overall selection in 2019. He has the chance to be an elite, impact player at the NHL level and it looks like he’s well on his way. A great, creative playmaker that should be the club’s next number one centre.
The majority of the Ducks other top prospects are forwards as well, including Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois, Isac Lundestrom, and Brayden Tracey. They have put together a very talented group of forwards.
Josh Mahura headlines the defensive group, which is fairly weak after him. Brendan Guhle looks like an NHL defender as well, but I don’t see his ceiling as high as Mahura. In net, John Gibson will be holding down the fort for a while, but Lukas Dostal shows some promise.
13) Chicago Blackhawks
Top Five Prospects: Adam Boqvist, Evan Barratt, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Alex Nylander
The Chicago Blackhawks are another team that has made big changes to the farm system, and it’s improved a great deal. Of course, adding third-overall pick Kirby Dach would improve any prospect pool. Still, the Blackhawks have quickly restocked their cupboard and are looking good.
Dach immediately becomes the top prospect, although Adam Boqvist is right there. Dach looks to be the team’s next number-one centre with his IQ, patience and pure skill. Boqvist will be on the backend feeding Dach passes in no time as a top-two defender.
Evan Barratt is another prospect to keep an eye on, as I believe he could one day take the second-line centre spot behind Dach. He competes hard, can make plays and has a good shot. Other forwards of note are recently acquired Alex Nylander and Dominik Kubalik.
The defence is looking strong behind Boqvist as well, with Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Alex Vlasic. There’s still room to improve in the Blackhawks system, for example, they are in need of a goaltender stronger than Kevin Lankinen, but there are a lot of great pieces in place.
12) Edmonton Oilers
Top Five Prospects: Tyler Benson, Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Raphael Lavoie, Kailer Yamamoto
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.
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.
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.
There are many other players to mention, from forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Kirill Maksimov, to defenders Dmitri Samoruko and Caleb Jones. In net, I have high hopes for newly drafted 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.
11) Detroit Red Wings
Top Five Prospects: Filip Larsson, Gustav Lindstrom, Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina
The Detroit Red Wings are about to see a big burst of talent hit their roster. It might not all come in 2019-20, but this team has a ton of skill in the system. Even with the graduations of Michael Rasmussen and Filip Hronek, the prospect pool is in a good place.
The Red Wings will likely have another graduate this year in Filip Zadina. He’s an offensive winger that defenders will start to take notice of. After playing nine games in the NHL last season, he’s very likely to stick with the team this season.
Joe Veleno is the second-best forward in the system. A future top-six threat, Veleno is a strong skater and a well-rounded two-way centre. These two forwards are ahead of a second tier including Jonatan Berggren, Robert Mastrosimone, Otto Kivenmaki, and Albin Grewe.
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, he’s a very smart player who wouldn’t surprise me in making the just to the NHL sooner rather than later. Defenders Gustav Lindstrom and Oliwer Kaski deserve some mention too, while goaltender Filip Larsson has the tools to be an NHL goaltender.
10) Vegas Golden Knights
Top Five Prospects: Pavel Dorofeyev, Cody Glass, Nicolas Hague, Peyton Krebs, Jimmy Schuldt
Until now, many organizations have one to three prospects that I’m really excited about. The top 10 has four or more, and a deeper system. The Vegas Golden Knights kick this off. The club is one of those teams that are in the sweet spot of a playoff team and an organization with a great prospect pool. Considering they’ve traded away Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki, coming in at number 10 is very impressive.
We have to start with Cody Glass. I don’t think he’ll be on this list very long, as he’s very likely to make the roster this season. He’s the future number one centreman, combining elite playmaking with patience and offensive ability. He’s one of the top prospects in the NHL who should make an impact very soon.
Sticking with the forwards, Peyton Krebs 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.
Next comes Pavel Dorofeyev, who I thought 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.
Defensively, the Golden Knights have another elite-level prospect in Nicholas Hague. The big defender should one day be the club’s number one guy, He can shoot, skate and play physically, everything you’d want in a defender. Jimmy Schuldt and Dylan Coghlan are defenders to watch 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.
9) Philadelphia Flyers
Top Five Prospects: Bobby Brink, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, Cam York
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. 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.
Nevertheless, the Flyers have a very strong group. Headlining the group is 2018 first-round pick, Joel Farabee. He’s a dynamic, creative winger with a great two-way game. With a strong camp, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the young player crack the NHL roster this season for a nine-game stint at least.
Right there with Farabee is Morgan Frost, 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 the other two forwards as a big (6-foot-6) goal-scoring machine. The trio of forwards top a very promising future for the Flyers.
A prospect that Philadelphia fans should be excited about is Bobby Brink. Drafted in the second round this past June, the winger is an elite passer, with great hockey sense. His skating needs some tweaking, but there’s a great future NHLer in Brink.
The future defence is just as impressive. 2019 first rounder Cam York was the number one guy on a stacked USNTDP team, largely due to his elite hockey sense. He’s patient, makes good decisions, and seems to slow the game down for the entire team.
Philippe Myers looks like an absolute undrafted steal. He has great mobility, makes crisp passes, and does better than most at his age in his own end. 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.
8) New Jersey Devils
Top Five Prospects: Jesper Boqvist, Jack Hughes, Michael McLeod, Ty Smith, Reilly Walsh
When you hold the first-overall pick, you’re going to have a high ranking on a list like this, at least for one summer. The New Jersey Devils selected Jack Hughes as the first player taken in 2019, adding to a pretty good-looking prospect pool.
Of course, Hughes is in large part a reason for the high ranking. He’s one of the best prospects in the NHL, with just about everything you’d want in an NHL prospect. While Hughes helps the ranking, the Devils have a number of other prospects that are worth watching.
Sticking with the forward group, there are two more high-end centremen to watch for. Jesper Boqvist and Michael McLeod are both speedy forwards, with Boqvist having a chance to join McLeod on the NHL roster come October.
Defensively, 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.
Reilly Walsh is another one to watch, as he looks to be another great defender in the system. Also, I believe that Daniil Misyul will surprise many once they get a better look at him. He’s a poor man’s Scott Stevens. You’ll love him, New Jersey.
7) Carolina Hurricanes
Top Five Prospects: Jake Bean, Martin Necas, Alex Nedeljkovic, Patrik Puistola, Ryan Suzuki
The Carolina Hurricanes had one of my favourite drafts in 2019, adding on to an already stacked farm system. They just shocked the hockey world with a deep push into the playoffs, led by some very young players. The future is looking very bright in Carolina. Even with trading away Adam Fox and the graduation of Andrei Svechnikov, this is a great prospect pool.
There’s no question that Martin Necas is the club’s top prospect. He’s a future elite player in the NHL from his speed, playmaking, creativity, and shot. This young player is the complete package and will be terrorizing the league sooner rather than later.
Ryan Suzuki was the club’s first selection in 2019 and has shown incredible passing ability in the OHL. He’s a great skater with a wicked shot who will develop into a great NHL player. Patrik Puistola is right there as well, another draftee from the 2019 group.
The Hurricanes forward depth is among the league’s best, with Eetu Luostarinen, Janne Kuokkanen, Julien Gauthier, and Jamieson Rees all looking like real deals as well.
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 last season. 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.
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.
6) Montreal Canadiens
Top Five Prospects: Josh Brook, Cole Caufield, Ryan Poehling, Alexander Romanov, Nick Suzuki
Similar to the Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens had an already great group of prospects that was made much better by a strong 2019 NHL Draft. Selecting Cole Caufield with the 15th pick is 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.
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.
The club acquired Nick Suzuki last season in the Max Pacioretty trade with the Golden Knights, and in the long run, the Habs look to come out on top. Suzuki has the potential to be another elite player, bringing high-end playmaking skills to the Canadiens system. He’s good in his own end, can score, and is a good skater. The possibility of him feeding Caufield pucks should excite Montreal fans.
The Canadiens already got a taste of what Ryan Poehling can do. He scored a hat trick in his NHL debut, bringing excitement to the fanbase. While he’s not likely to be a highlight-reel player, he’s a solid, two-way centreman who obviously has offensive talent. Also keep an eye on forwards Jesse Ylonen, Joni Ikonen, and Jacob Olofsson.
Defensively, the club has a couple of players who might just bring as much excitement as the forwards. Josh Brook is coming off of a season that saw him collect 75 points in 59 WHL games. He looks like a future top-pairing defender based on his puck-moving, defensive game, and decision making.
Alexander Romanov might be right there with Brook. 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. The Canadiens are deep on defensive prospects with Noah Juulsen, Mattias Norlinder, Jordan Harris, and Cale Fleury 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. Could he be the heir to Carey Price?
5) Ottawa Senators
Top Five Prospects: Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Josh Norris
Here we are, the top five – and it’s something to behold.
The Senators are one year into their rebuild, and the prospect cupboard has been completely restocked. Yes, they traded star players Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene away to do it, but the future could be looking very bright in the Canadian capital. Despite having Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Rudolfs Balers, and Christian Wolanin graduate, the club is still worthy of the top five.
Starting up front, the Senators have a potential star in Drake Batherson. He broke out this season, becoming an AHL All-Star in his rookie season while getting a taste of the NHL. He has elite hockey sense, who can both dish out the puck or finish it himself.
Logan Brown also broke out this season with Batherson, becoming one of the top players in the AHL. It’s taken him a little bit longer, but it’s important to remember that every prospect is different. He’s a big player (6-foot-6) and a great playmaker who might be a graduate of this list very soon.
Josh Norris was acquired in the Karlsson trade. He was having a great season before an injury took him out for the remainder of the year, but he’s a fast centreman with great offensive ability. 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 as early as this season. Keep an eye on Jonathan Davidsson this season as well.
The Senators are just as deep on the blue line, with Erik Brannstrom leading the charge. Acquired in the Stone trade, Brannstrom is one of the best defensive prospects in the league, combining elite speed with high-end puck movement. He’s going to be fun to watch.
Related: Ottawa Senators’ Prospect Pyramid
A pair of right-handed defenders come in behind Brannstrom in newly drafted 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.
The Senators may not have one of the best goaltending prospects in the league, but they have four with a ton of potential. Filip Gustavsson and Mads Sogaard have the best chance to be the next starting goaltender, while Joey Daccord and Marcus Hogberg are right there too. It will be an interesting storyline to watch these four battle in out over the next few years.
4) Vancouver Canucks
Top Five Prospects: Thatcher Demko, Nils Hoglander, Quinn Hughes, Vasily Podkolzin, Jett Woo
Despite the graduation of Elias Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best prospect pools in the league. Padded by a solid draft, the Canucks could very well be on the verge of something great. And it is going to be fun to watch.
Quinn Hughes is arguably the best defensive prospect in the NHL (we’ll get to his main challenger shortly). He displayed his elite skill at the end of the season, exciting British Columbia in the process. He’s an elite skater who is an offensive threat with his creativity, shot, and ability to pass.
Hughes is the obvious top prospect right now, but forward Vasili Podkolzin might be right there with him. He has two years left in Russia, but the prospect has elite talent in his game. He’ll run you over and score while doing it.
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. The future Canucks offence will be getting under the rest of the NHL’s skin. Another prospect to watch is centreman Tyler Madden.
Back to the defence, coming in behind Hughes is Jett Woo. He can dance along the blue line and play physically when he needs to. Oh, and he can put up the points. The Canucks are very deep on the backend, with Olli Juolevi, Toni Utunen, and Jack Rathbone also looking like NHL defenders.
Related: Vancouver Canucks’ Top 10 Prospects
In net, the club is set up very nicely. Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro are two of the best goaltending prospects in the league and are already making their mark on the NHL. Demko has 10 games under his belt, and that number will go up this season as he looks like he’ll stick with the big club. DiPietro had one game, that he probably shouldn’t have played in.
3) Colorado Avalanche
Top Five Prospects: Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, Martin Kaut, Cale Makar, Alex Newhook
The Colorado Avalanche have arguably the best defensive prospect system in the league – because of the top two they own. What’s even better, they are looking solid everywhere else and are even a playoff team. The Avalanche are going to be a threat for years to come with the help of numerous prospects.
Cale Makar is the challenger to Hughes for the best defensive prospect. Makar is the reigning Hobey Baker winner and became a Denver hero in the 2019 NHL playoffs where he made his debut and collecting six points in 10 games. He’s smart, he can skate, and he can do just about everything with the puck. Makar is a future star.
Right there with him is 2019 fourth-overall pick Bowen Byram. 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.
Behind these two future stars, the Avalanche still has Conor Timmins, Drew Helleson, and Calle Rosen. The future blue line is looking solid.
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 is 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.
In net, Adam Werner and Pavel Francouz both show NHL-starter potential, and I’d give the edge to Francouz. He played well in his two NHL games thus far, was good in the AHL last season, and then absolutely stood on his head at the World Championship. He’ll likely see some more NHL starts this season.
2) Los Angeles Kings
Top Five Prospects: Tobias Bjornfot, Carl Grundstrom, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Alex Turcotte
If the Avalanche have the best defensive farm system, the Los Angeles Kings might just have the best forward group. And their defence core is looking pretty good too. They are coming off of a very bad season, but the Kings future is looking pretty good.
Alex Turcotte leads the pack, 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. Turcotte and Kupari could be one of the best one-two punches in the NHL 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. 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.
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. Other defenders to watch are Mikey Anderson and Daniel Brickley.
In net, it looks like the California team has their Jonathan Quick replacement in Cal Peterson. He is a calm and collected netminder that could even challenge Quick this season. He’s a very good goaltending prospect that fans will love.
1) New York Rangers
Top Five Prospects: Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Vitaly Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, Igor Shestyorkin
Here it is, the team you’ve all been waiting for. Or, more likely, the team you scrolled all this way to see. The New York Rangers have a prospect pool that would beat many NHL rosters. They have everything from star defenders, potential all-star goalies, and quite possibly a player who will become one of the best in the league. It’s been a happy summer for hockey fans in Manhattan.
I mentioned that the Avalanche have the best defensive pool and the Kings for forwards. The Rangers could challenge both. They are absolutely stacked everywhere and this is going to be a dominant team very soon, possibly even this season. They are deep everywhere, and even with a few graduations likely coming this season, they’ll be n
Kappo Kakko is the top prospect in the organization, and one of the top in the entire league – any position. He’s a franchise player, a playmaker-meets-sniper, and can honestly do it all. He looked like an NHL player his entire draft year and will be one straight out of camp. The rise of Kakko will be exciting to watch for any hockey fan.
Behind Kakko is Vitaly Kravtsov, who is surprisingly similar to Kakko. He’s not quite on the same level, but he’s not far behind either. He can set-up, he can shoot and he’s extremely creative with the puck. A future star for sure.
There are many other forwards in the system behind these two that not only look like NHL players but very good players like Leevi Aaltonen and Brendan Lemieux. Like I mentioned, the Rangers are deep.
On to the defence, which is just as exciting. Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller headline the group, both coming from the NCAA where they are two of the best. Both are two of the best offensive defensemen prospects in the league. Their potential is very high right now.
Behind them are a few more names to keep an eye on, including Matthew Robertson, Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov, Libor Hajek and Tarmo Reunanen. The Rangers depth is unbelievable at this point.
Yet, there’s more. In net, goaltender Igor Shestyorkin has the potential to become one of the best in the league. There are big skates to fill in Henrik Lundqvist, but Shestyorkin looks like he may be up to the task. Swedish goalie Olof Lindbom has a ton of potential as well, giving the Rangers two solid prospects in net.