To say prospects are essential to success in the NHL of today would be a massive understatement.
In the modern-day NHL, it is virtually impossible for any team to achieve sustained success without a strong and deep group of prospects. Not only is it important to retain highly skilled players, but it is arguably more important in fact to hold said players at each and every position on the ice. If the Edmonton Oilers of the past decade have taught the League anything, it is that a team cannot be truly successful, especially in a rebuild, without acquiring and developing young players at each position on the ice.
While prospects can be drafted and developed, they can also be traded. Depending on the future projection of a particular player, trading a highly touted asset can, in fact, bring about greater team success, albeit in the short-term. While this choice is quite obviously an understandable one, especially so for a team on the brink of playoff success, it can also be a hindrance if said success is not achieved. The Los Angeles Kings are one team who have fallen into the trend of trading prospects over the past few seasons, and it is a decision which has left their prospect cupboard virtually bare.
All things considered, it is time to look at the complete, 1-30 ranking of the NHL’s farm systems, or prospect pools if you will. Where does your favorite team rank in the NHL as a whole? There’s only one way to find out!
#30 – Los Angeles Kings:
Top Prospects: Spencer Watson, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Patrik Bartosak, Michael Amadio, Alexander Dergachyov, Adrian Kempe, Kale Clague
On the Rise: Michael Amadio – 2015-16 OHL: 68 GP – 50G, 98P
Well, it’s the Kings who take home the dubious distinction of holding the weakest pool of prospects in the NHL. With just one pick within the top-100 selections in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Kings failed to make significant upgrades to their current pool of prospects. Michael Amadio, most recently of the North Bay Battalion is arguably the Kings’ top prospect, while Spencer Watson has also impressed. Trading prospects and picks have not helped their situation.
#29 – New York Rangers
Top Prospects: Igor Shestyorkin, Brandon Halverson, Nicklas Jensen, Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, Ryan Graves, Sean Day
On the Rise: Brady Skjei – 2015-16 AHL/NHL: 64/7 GP – 4G, 24P
Just edging out the Kings are the New York Rangers, who have also fallen into the pattern of trading picks and prospects in exchange for NHL ready players. Sure, they have enjoyed an incredibly successful past, but their willingness to move their assets could cost the Rangers in the long-run. A clear example of which is the fact that their first pick in 2016 didn’t come until 81st, where they selected Sean Day.
#28 – Minnesota Wild
Top Prospects: Stephen Michalek, Alex Tuch, Jordan Greenway, Joel Erikkson Ek, Tyler Graovac, Mike Rielly, Gustav Olofsson, Luke Kunin, Dmitry Sokolov
On the Rise: Alex Tuch – 2015-16 NCAA: 40 GP – 18G, 34P
Despite having their fair share of draft selections, the Wild simply haven’t drafted particularly well following the second round. 2016 first rounder Luke Kunin, a center with the University of Wisconsin certainly has significant upside, however, 2015 first rounder Joel Eriksson Ek amongst others have failed to develop in a timely manner. Holding onto just four selections in the 2016 Draft certainly didn’t help the Wild replenish their prospect pool.
#27 – San Jose Sharks
Top Prospects: Mantas Armalis, Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin, Kevin Labanc, Noah Rod, Rourke Chartier, Mirco Mueller, Jeremy Roy, Dylan DeMelo
On the Rise: Timo Meier – 2015-16 QMJHL: 52 GP – 34G, 87P
The San Jose Sharks have had a ton of draft picks in recent history – 29 over the past four Draft’s to be exact, yet of these selections, just two have played games for the Sharks at the NHL level. The two, Mirco Mueller and Nikolay Goldobin, are both solid prospects, yet there is a major drop-off in talent following these two. The Sharks’ top prospect at the moment is undoubtedly Timo Meier, who was selected 9th overall in 2015. A big-bodied winger with an explosive shot and release, Meier is fresh off of a 34 goal season and Memorial Cup appearance.
#26 – Pittsburgh Penguins
Top Prospects: Tristan Jarry, Daniel Sprong, Blaine Byron, Jake Guentzel, Jean-Sebastian Dea, Derrick Pouliot, Lukas Bengtsson, Filip Gustavsson, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Dominik Simon
On the Rise: Dominik Simon – 2015-16 AHL/NHL: 68/3GP -25G, 48/1P
Fresh off of another Stanley Cup Championship, the Pittsburgh Penguins are fortunate to have a number of prospects who should soon make their mark at the NHL level. Daniel Sprong saw 18 games of NHL action last season but was eventually returned to the QMJHL where he scored 46 points over 33 games played. He added 15 points in the playoffs as well as seven points over ten post-season games with Wilkes-Barre Scranton. One prospect to keep an eye on is Czech fifth rounder Dominik Simon, who netted 25 goals in his rookie AHL season.
#25 – Colorado Avalanche:
Top Prospects: Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen, A.J Greer, Rocco Grimaldi, JT Compher, Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, Will Butcher
On the Rise: Mikko Rantanen – 2015-16 AHL: 52 GP – 24G, 60P
The main problem facing the Avalanche is the fact that they hold a slim number of quality prospects. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado’s first-round selection in the 2015 Draft had a spectacular AHL season and appears NHL ready, while JT Compher had an amazing year with the University of Michigan where he scored 63 points in just 38 games. However, there is a major drop-off in talent after these players. Newly acquired Tyson Jost looks like the real deal, but otherwise, the cupboard is relatively bare.
#24 – Chicago Blackhawks:
Top Prospects: Alex DeBrincat, Mark McNeill, Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte, Graham Knott, Nick Schmaltz, Vince Hinostroza, Ville Polka, Gustav Forsling, Victor Svedberg
On the Rise: Nick Shmaltz – 2015-16 NCHC: 37 GP – 11G, 46P
It seems as though the Chicago Blackhawks have always drafted well, but due to their consistent cap crunch over the years have been forced to unload a number of their talented young players. With regards to their current crop, the Blackhawks hold a number of highly touted prospects. Nick Schmaltz, who spent last season with the University of North Dakota appears NHL ready, while so too does Ryan Hartman, who played three games with the ‘Hawks last season. One prospect to watch is Mark McNeill, selected 18th overall in 2011 yet has thus far been unable to crack Chicago’s roster.
#23 – St. Louis Blues
Top Prospects: Ivan Barbashev, Zack Phillips, Ville Husso, Jordan Schmaltz, Vince Dunn, Jordan Binnington, Tage Thompson, Jordan Kyrou, Evan Fitzpatrick, Conner Bleackley
On the Rise: Jordan Schmaltz – 2015-16 AHL: 71 GP – 6G, 36P
The St. Louis Blues had a very successful 2016 NHL Draft, only adding to their current pool of prospects. They picked up Tage Thompson at 26th overall, Jordan Kyrou 35th as well as goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick at 59th overall. These three join the likes of Vince Dunn, Zack Phillips and Jordan Schmaltz as the team’s top prospects. Schmaltz, an up and coming defender, is one player to keep an eye on, while so too is Conner Bleackley, who the Blues picked up at 144th overall after re-entering the Draft.
#22 – Washington Capitals
Top Prospects: Ilya Samsonov, Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Stanislav Galiev, Madison Bowey, Jonas Seigenthaler, Lucas Johansen
On the Rise: Madison Bowey – 2015-16 AHL: 70 GP – 4G, 29P
The Capitals already possessed a decent number of quality prospects prior to the 2016 NHL Draft, where they added Lucas Johansen, the brother of Nashville’s Ryan, with the 28th overall selection, as well as Garrett Pilon and Damien Riat in later rounds. In terms of those already drafted, Jakub Vrana is arguably the team’s top forward prospect. The young Czech netted 16 goals and 34 points in 36 games as a rookie in the AHL, yet his season was cut short due to injury. Another tantalizing prospect who spent the 2015-16 season with the Hershey Bears in Madison Bowey. A second round pick in 2013, Bowey was an offensive threat in his rookie season while also recording a solid +22 rating from the blue-line.
#21 – Detroit Red Wings:
Top Prospects: Anthony Mantha, Martin Frk, Evgeny Svechnikov, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Joe Hicketts, Vili Saarijarvi, Ryan Sproul, Dennis Cholowski, Givani Smith, Jared Coreau, Filip Hronek
On the Rise: Joe Hicketts – 2015-16 WHL: 59 GP – 8G, 61P
Well known as one of the smartest, most calculative teams at the annual NHL Draft, the Detroit Red Wings have long stolen prospects deep in later rounds of the Draft. Fortunately, their first and second round selections in recent years have been spot on, drafting a number of players who are arguably ready for the NHL. Andreas Athanasiou was one player who broke out in 2015-16, while Anthony Mantha, Joe Hicketts and Ryan Sproul appear ready to do the same in the near future. Hicketts will be an interesting prospect to watch in 2016-17 – he earned a contract with the team despite going undrafted and has represented Canada on the international stage.
#20 – Florida Panthers:
Top Prospects: Samuel Montembeault, Logan Shaw, Lawson Crouse, Connor Brickley, Dryden Hunt, Jayce Hawrlyuk, Kyle Rau, Corban Knight, Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Adam Mascherin, Henrik Borgstrom
On the Rise: Adam Mascherin – 2015-16 OHL: 65 GP – 35G, 81P
To say the Florida Panthers have a solid group of young prospects would be an understatement. The likes of Lawson Crouse, Connor Brickley, Dryden Hunt and Mike Matheson provide a solid prospect base, while the additions of Henrik Borgstrom and Adam Mascherin only improve the Panthers’ pool of prospects. Mascherin will be an interesting player to watch in particular, as the former second overall selection in the OHL Priority Selection increased his offensive production by 50 points in his sophomore OHL year.
#19 – Edmonton Oilers:
Top Prospects: Laurent Brossoit, Jujhar Khaira, Drake Caggiula, Griffin Reinhart, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Jesse Puljujarvi, Jordan Oesterle, Tyler Benson, Nick Ellis
On the Rise: Drake Caggiula – 2015-16 NCHC: 39 GP – 25G, 51P
The Edmonton Oilers have been rebuilding their franchise for seems like forever, yet you wouldn’t believe so based on their current crop of prospects. Fortunately, those expected to return the Oilers to the postseason are already in the Edmonton lineup. The 2016 Draft provided the Oilers with yet another bit of Draft luck when Jesse Puljujarvi fell into their hands at fourth overall. Outside of the first round, Edmonton stole Tyler Benson, once projected to be a top-15 pick, at 32nd overall. The greatest addition of all, however, could be that of Drake Caggiula, a star with the University of North Dakota who landed in Edmonton as a free agent.
#18 – Tampa Bay Lightning
Top Prospects: Adam Erne, Nikita Gusev, Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens, Slater Koekkoek, Dominik Masin, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk
On the Rise: Brayden Point – 2015-16 WHL: 48 GP – 35G, 88P
Brayden Point headlines an improving cast of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects who are best defined by their speed and skill. Point, who checks in at 5’11” 170 pounds, is a dynamic offensive force who has the ability to change the course of a game. In 2015-16 he bested his previous point total by one despite playing in 12 fewer games. Outside of Point, prospects Adam Erne, Mitchell Stephens, Brett Howden and Libor Hajek are among the Lightning’s most promising skaters. Stephens in particular is, alongside Point, one prospect to keep an eye on in 2016-17. An incredible leader, Stephens produced at a point per game pace in the OHL last season before skating in five games with the Syracuse Crunch.
#17 – Vancouver Canucks
Top Prospects: Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Alexandre Grenier, Brendan Gaunce, Cole Cassels, Dmitry Shukenov, Jordan Subban, Olli Juolevi, Andrey Pedan, Nikita Tryamkin, Jakob Stukel
On the Rise: Thatcher Demko – 2015-16 H-EAST: 39 GP – 27-8-4, 1.88, .935%
The 2015-16 season didn’t go quite as expected for the Vancouver Canucks. Injuries played a major role in their demise, eventually providing them the opportunity to select fifth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Drafting Olli Juolevi was a no-doubter, as the young ‘Finn shot up respective Draft rankings before becoming the first defenseman selected. Juolevi joins a fairly promising pool of prospects which features elite talent at each and every position.
Brock Boeser and Brendan Gaunce lead the Canucks’ group of forward prospects, while Juolevi alongside Jordan Subban, Andrey Pedan and Nikita Tryamkin generate an incredibly intimidating defense core. Goaltender Thatcher Demko will be especially interesting to watch this coming season, as the former second-round selection will likely get his first taste of professional hockey at the AHL level after downright dominating the NCAA with Boston College.
#16 – Anaheim Ducks:
Top Prospects: Stefan Noesen, Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Max Jones, Brandon Montour, Sam Steel, Julius Nattinen, Nick Sorensen, Kevin Boyle
On the Rise: Shea Theodore – 2015-16 AHL: 50 GP, 9G, 37P
The Anaheim Ducks were fortunate to have two first round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, and they used them to select two highly skilled forwards. Max Jones, a tenacious and often overly competitive winger for the London Knights was selected by the Ducks 24th overall, before Sam Steel, a playmaking center, was nabbed at 30th overall. These two joined a prospect pool led by the likes of Nick Ritchie and Shea Theodore. Theodore, in particular, will be of incredible interest come the 2016-17 season, as the young, fleet-footed defender was impressive in a short 19 game stint with the Ducks last season, in which he scored three goals and eight points.
#15 – Ottawa Senators
Top Prospects: Matt O’Connor, Francis Perron, Logan Brown, Matt Peumpel, Colin White, Nick Paul, Ryan Dzingel, Thomas Chabot, Andreas Englund, Filip Chlapik, Max McCormick
On the Rise: Colin White – 2015-16 H-EAST: 37 GP – 19G, 43P
In Ottawa, the Senators have quietly built one of the better prospect pools in the NHL. Over the past two Draft’s, Ottawa has added Logan Brown, Colin White, Thomas Chabot and Filip Chlapik to an already strong prospect base. Nick Paul was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars, while 2014 seventh round selection Francis Perron eclipsed the century mark in the QMJHL in 2015-16. As a result, the Senators could be much closer to truly competing than most might think, and their young prospects will play a major role in any future success. White, in particular, is one player the Senators and their fans would do well to keep an eye on, as he dominated the NCAA as a freshman with Boston College in 2015-16.
#14 – Nashville Predators
Top Prospects: Jusse Saros, Max Gortz, Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, Victor Arvidsson, Justin Kirkland, Vladislav Kamenev, Yakov Trenin, Jack Dougherty, Alexandre Carrier, Dante Fabbro, Samuel Girard, Rem Pitlick
On the Rise: Kevin Fiala – 2015-16 AHL: 66 GP – 18G, 50P
News and aftershock of the Shea Weber trade have dominated the Nashville Predators’ offseason, quieting what was a very strong and purposeful Draft for General Manager David Poile. The team turned its focus to defensemen at the Draft, selecting Dante Fabbro 17th overall, followed by Samuel Girard 47th and three others in later rounds of the Draft. Fabbro, a star defender with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, is an elite offensive threat from the blue-line as well as a sturdy defender in his own zone – so too is Girard, who produced more points than games played in both the regular and post-seasons. Fortunately for the Predators, they are equally flush with young talent up-front, where Kevin Fiala leads a group of extremely talented playmakers and snipers.
#13 – Dallas Stars:
Top Prospects: Phillipe Desrosiers, Devin Shore, Brett Ritchie, Denis Gurianov, Remi Elie, Jason Dickinson, Radek Faksa, Gemel Smith, Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Riley Tufte
On the Rise: Jason Dickinson – 2015-16 AHL: 73 GP – 22G, 53P
The Dallas Stars haven’t had a player drafted by their organization play a game at the NHL level since 2013, but that appears set to change when the 2016-17 season rolls around. 2014 first round selection Julius Honka is an offensively gifted defender who had a great rookie season in Texas, netting 11 goals and 44 points, and is arguably set to challenge for a full-time spot with Dallas. In addition to Honka, the Stars hold a number of elite talents, led by Remi Elie, Brett Ritchie and Jason Dickinson. Dickinson, in particular, is one player to watch – he scored a goal in his first NHL game last season and made the jump to the AHL with relative ease, finishing fourth in team scoring as a rookie. While 2016 first rounder Riley Tufte remains ways away from the NHL level, the Stars have plenty of young talent to supplement their immediate success.
#12 – Buffalo Sabres:
Top Prospects: Alex Nylander, Rasmus Asplund, Hudson Fasching, Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, Andrey Makarov, Brendan Guhle, Linus Ullmark, Cal Peterson, Jason Kasdorf
On the Rise: Alex Nylander – 2015-16 OHL: 57 GP – 28G, 75P
When the Buffalo Sabres drafted Alex Nylander with the eighth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, he immediately became the team’s number one prospect. A highly skilled left-winger whose hands are on par, if not better, than those of his brother William in Toronto, Nylander is a dynamic offensive threat who can pass or shoot the puck. His addition will mix nicely with the pre-existing talent of the team, led by the likes of offensively gifted players such as Rasmus Asplund, Nick Baptiste and Hudson Fasching.
One area where the Sabres are surprisingly strong is in-goal. Buffalo currently possesses four solid goaltending prospects, led by Linus Ullmark and Andrey Makarov. Cal Peterson, who spent the 2015-16 season with Notre Dame, posted a sparkling .927% SVP and 2.20 GAA, while Jason Kasdorf last season with R.P.I in the NCAA – he also impressed with a .931% SVP and 2.30 GAA before making his first NHL start with the Sabres.
#11 – Montreal Canadiens
Top Prospects: Zachary Fucale, Charlie Lindgren, Mike McCarron, Sven Andrighetto, Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon, Will Bitten, Connor Crisp, Jacob De La Rose, Mikhail Sergachev, Phillip Danault, Daniel Audette, Noah Juulsen, Dalton Thrower, Victor Mete
On the Rise: Mikhail Sergachev – 2015-16 OHL: 67 GP: 17G, 57P
The Montreal Canadiens, like other teams high on this list, are fortunate to have a solid number of quality prospects at each position on the ice. Up front, Montreal holds power-forward Mike McCarron, who at 6’6″, 231 pounds made his NHL debut last season. While he only scored two points over 20 games played with the Canadiens, McCarron showed considerable offensive promise at the AHL level, where he netted 17 goals and 38 points as a rookie. In addition to McCarron, Montreal also possesses 2016 third-rounder Will Bitten and former QMJHL first overall pick Daniel Audette.
On defense, the Canadiens hold their most valuable prospect in Mikhail Sergachev. The hulking Russian was widely regarded as the most ‘NHL ready’ defender ahead of the Draft, and could certainly make the jump to the NHL in 2016-17. In goal, the Canadiens also hold a notable prospect in Zachary Fucale. Fucale made professional debut in 2015-16 at the AHL level with the Canadiens’ affiliate, located at the time in St. Johns. Over 42 games played, Fucale generated a respectable rookie record of 16-19-4, a Save Percentage of .903% and Goals Against Average of 3.13.
#10 – Boston Bruins:
Top Prospects: Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Charlie McAvoy, Malcolm Subban, Zachary Senyshyen, Seth Griffith, Jeremy Lauzon, Zane McIntyre, Daniel Vladar
On the Rise: Charlie McAvoy – 2015-16 H-EAST: 37 GP – 3G, 25P
The Boston Bruins possessed just six picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, yet three of them came within the top-50 selections and two in the first round alone. The Bruins nabbed Charlie McAvoy, a big-bodied defender with offensive upside, at 14th overall, while the also selected centerman Trent Frederic 29th overall – 20 picks later, Boston grabbed Frederic’s teammate Ryan Lindgren 49th overall.
The selection of McAvoy essentially provides Boston with a new top prospect, not to say that the existing crop of prospects owned by the Bruins are lesser in skill and potential. Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, Zachary Senyshyen, the Bruins’ 13-15th overall selections in 2015, all remain highly touted, yet none of which truly took a major step forward in their development in 2015-16. Zboril’s offensive production dropped, DeBrusk scored 21 fewer goals than in 2014-15, while Senyshyen had arguably the best season of all, scoring 45 goals in just 66 games. With that being said, the 2016-17 season will be a telling one for the Bruins’ prospects, as it was somewhat of a stagnant year for their prospect pool.
#9 – New Jersey Devils
Top Prospects: MacKenzie Blackwood, Scott Wedgewood, Reid Boucher, Joseph Blandisi, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, John Quenneville, Blake Speers, Steve Santini, Josh Jacobs
On the Rise: Michael McLeod – 2015-16 OHL: 57 GP – 21G, 61P
With their first pick in the 2016 Draft, the New Jersey Devils selected speed demon Michael McLeod from the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. A gifted skater whose incredible hands make him a dangerous playmaker, McLeod has blistering speed and torrent acceleration – what makes him most dangerous is his ability to use said skills while operating at full speed. In addition to McLeod, the Devils added Nathan Bastian in the second round as well as goaltender Evan Cormier in the fourth to round out what was a great Draft for New Jersey. These new prospects join a strong supporting cast led by long-time OHL stars Pavel Zacha and MacKenzie Blackwood, two players who will enter their first professional campaigns in 2016-17. Steve Santini, Josh Jacobs and John Quenneville are also promising players in line for greater development this coming season.
#8 – Calgary Flames:
Top Prospects: Matthew Tkachuk, Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube
On the Rise: Matthew Tkachuk – 2015-16 OHL: 57 GP – 30G, 107P
The Flames crack the top-10 thanks largely to their wealth of valuable prospects at each position on the ice. At forward, Calgary added Matthew Tkachuk, fresh off of an incredible rookie OHL, to the fold, joining Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski and Dillon Dube. On defense, the Flames hold Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson, two 2015 second rounders who are both arguably NHL ready. Kylington played the majority of 2015-16 with Stockton before playing in one NHL game, while Andersson scored 60 points over 64 OHL games with the Barrie Colts.
Lastly, Calgary also holds two elite goaltending prospects, a factor essential to the Flames’ future considering their inability to find a definitive starting goaltender. Tyler Parsons of the London Knights was added to the mix in the second round in 2016, while Jon Gillies, a long-time star with Providence College, made his professional hockey debut last season with Stockton, where he carried over his tremendous play. Given the Flames’ current cast of young NHL stars, when their amazing prospect base is developed, they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL at all positions of the ice.
#7 – New York Islanders
Top Prospects: Ilya Sorokin, Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Carter Verhaeghe, Ryan Pulock, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Matt Finn, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pilon, Keiffer Bellows
On the Rise: Mathew Barzal – 2015-16 WHL: 58GP – 27G, 88P
When it comes to scoring goals, it is safe to say the Islanders will have no issue doing so in the immediate future. The Islanders hold one of the strongest groups of forward prospects in the NHL, headlined by the presence of 2014 fifth overall selection Michael Dal Colle, 2015 first rounder Mat Barzal, the highly controversial Josh Ho-Sang, sniper Anthony Beauvillier and 2016 first rounder Keifer Bellows.
However, what makes the Islanders’ prospect pool amongst the strongest in the League is their equally impressive defensive assets. Ryan Pulock made his NHL debut in 2015-16, scoring four points over 15 games played, with his booming shot becoming the widely respected trademark of his game. In addition to Pulock, the Islanders also hold onto Matt Finn, Adam Pelech and Mitch Vande Sompel, whose shutdown style of game dominated Connor McDavid in the 2014-15 OHL Playoffs. One wildcard to watch will be Ryan Pilon, a fifth-round pick of the Islanders in 2015. He did not play in 2015-16 for personal reasons, yet remains a tremendously talented defender whose presence would only further strengthen the Islanders’ prospect base.
#6 – Carolina Hurricanes:
Top Prospects: Alex Nedeljkovic, Daniel Altshuller, Callum Booth, Valentin Zykov, Sebastian Aho, Brock McGinn, Sergey Tolchinsky, Phil Di Giuseppe, Nicolas Roy, Haydn Fleury, Trevor Carrick, Roland McKeown, Julien Gauthier
On the Rise: Sebastian Aho – 2015-16 SM-liiga: 45 GP – 20G, 45P
A team with undoubtedly one of the greatest prospect depths in the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes possess a stud prospect at virtually every position on the ice. In goal, Alex Nedeljkovic leads the way. Nedeljkovic, a second-round selection in the 2014 Draft, is a long-time OHL star who has represented the USA on the international stage. Further, the ‘Canes also hold two solid prospects in Callum Booth and Daniel Altshuller, netminders of great ability yet who remain fairly far from the NHL level.
Up front, the Hurricanes hold a number of dangerous offensive threats, the most promising of which a ‘Finn in Sebastian Aho. Selected 35th overall by Carolina in the 2015 Draft, Aho recently scored at a point per game pace as an 18-year-old in Finland’s Elite Hockey League, the SM-liiga. It only gets better for Hurricanes fans when the focus turns to defense, as the team holds 2014 seventh overall stud Haydn Fleury, 2012 fourth-rounder Trevor Carrick who made his NHL debut in 2015-16, and Roland McKeown, a 2014 second-round pick of the Kings who is arguably the team’s top defensive prospect.
#5 – Philadelphia Flyers
Top Prospects: Anthony Stolarz, Taylor Leier, German Rubstov, Pascal Laberge, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny, Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal, Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Mark Alt, Robert Hagg, Carter Hart
On the Rise: Travis Konecny – 2015-16 OHL: 60 GP – 30G, 101P
The Philadelphia Flyers break into the top-5 with a star-studded and highly promising pool of prospects. The major strength of the Flyers’ prospects comes on defense, where they are led by a trio of soon to be NHL stars in Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim. While Morin and Sanheim are equally promising, Provorov, in particular, may very well be the most skilled of the three. The young Russian defender netted 21 goals and 73 points over 62 WHL games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2015-16 and was a major reason why Brandon wound up claiming the WHL championship.
Up front, the Flyers’ future appears even more promising. Travis Konecny is one major reason why, as the under-sized forward plays a game bigger than his size and could be NHL ready come 2016-17. A playmaker first, Konecny can score too, but it is his drive and unrelenting compete level which allow him to overcome virtually any opponent. Lastly, a quick look in-goal reveals two blue-chip prospects in Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart. Hart was widely regarded as the top goaltender available in the 2016 Draft, while Stolarz, a 6’6″ tower, enjoyed a successful rookie season at just 22 years of age.
#4 – Columbus Blue Jackets:
Top Prospects: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Oscar Dansk, Anton Forsberg, Oliver Björkstrand, Daniel Zaar, Josh Anderson, Kole Sherwood, Paul Bittner, Vitaly Abramov, Sonny Milano, Justin Scott, Zach Werenski, Dillon Heatherington
On the Rise: Zach Werenski – 2015-16 NCAA/AHL: 36/24GP – 11/6G, 36/15P
The Columbus Blue Jackets have only made the playoffs twice in their fifteen-year history, failing to make it out of the first round on both occasions. However, given the Blue Jackets’ current wealth of prospects, this is a fact that will surely change in the near future. Columbus surprised the hockey world at the 2016 NHL Draft, selecting QMJHL star Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall. It had been no secret that the Jackets did not want to draft Puljujarvi, yet the team drafted a future gem regardless. A big-bodied forward with a nose for the net, Dubois leads a Blue Jackets prospect pool beaming with talent, the majority of which coming at the forward position.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Paul Bittner, Sonny Milano and Justin Scott are just a handful of further skilled forwards, each of which retaining various unique skill sets. On defense, Columbus has a future top-pairing blueliner in Zach Werenski, an offensively gifted defender who emphasizes defending alongside spurts of offensive genius – his 14 points over 17 AHL playoff games a clear indication of which. Then there is the crease, where seventh round pick Anton Forsberg has seemingly come out of nowhere to find nothing but success in the North American professional hockey ranks. While former second round pick Oscar Dansk has a ton of work ahead of him if he wants to return to the NHL, it is the Blue Jackets who could soon be returning to the playoffs.
#3 – Toronto Maple Leafs
Top Prospects: Antoine Bibeau, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Jeremy Bracco, Connor Brown, Tobias Lindberg, Kerby Rychel, J.J Piccinich, Nikita Soshnikov, Brendan Leipsic, Dmytro Timashov, William Nylander, Frederick Gauthier, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Carrick, Rinat Valiev, Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen, Joseph Woll
On the Rise: Mitch Marner – 2015-16 OHL: 57 GP – 39G, 116P
The Toronto Maple Leafs crack the top-three thanks largely in part to their seemingly endless quantity of young NHL prospects. Given the lack of success in Toronto, there has been a focus on accumulating draft picks in recent years, a philosophy which has provided the Leafs with an incredible quantity of youngsters eager to make their respective marks. The most promising of which is, of course, 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews, who will be looked upon to lead the Leafs back to playoff glory, something which they have not enjoyed since 1967.
Yet, Matthews will have a ton of help in doing so, as the Leafs are stacked with prospects at the forward position. Of the many mentioned above, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov, Brendan Leipsic and possibly Kerby Rychel will be looked upon to play major roles in Toronto’s offense. On defense, the Leafs added Russian defender Nikita Zaitsev, while Connor Carrick will look to play a greater role in 2016-17 alongside his new contract. Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen and Rinat Valiev all remain quality prospects, yet will need a considerably greater time to develop their games. In goal is the one major area of concern for the Leafs, who do not hold a truly elite goaltending prospect. Recently drafted Joseph Woll is arguably the most talented of all, while Antoine Bibeau and Garrett Sparks have yet to truly hone their respective game’s despite stints of brilliance.
#2 – Arizona Coyotes:
Top Prospects: Nick Merkley, Christian Fischer, Conor Garland, Henrik Samuelsson, Brendan Perlini, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Laurent Dauphin, Ryan MacInnis, Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun, Anthony DeAngelo, Kyle Wood
On the Rise: Jakob Chychrun – 2015-16 OHL: 62 GP, 11G, 49P
The Arizona Coyotes just fall short of coming in at number one in the ranking, yet it’s a placement that the Coyotes and their fans should not be concerned about, especially so given the team’s incredible young talent base. Up front, the Coyotes’ prospect pool is led by Dylan Strome, the third overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft whose game is simply too strong for the OHL. Projected to be Arizona’s future first-line center-ice man, Strome will be flanked by the likes of Christian Dvorak, Nick Merkley, Henrik Samuelsson, Ryan MacInnis and Clayton Keller – the Coyotes most recent addition at seventh overall in the 2016 Draft.
On defense, the Coyotes are equally stacked. Kyle Wood, a former third-round pick acquired by the Coyotes in a trade with Colorado, has seen his game progress at a frantic pace and is ready for his professional debut in 2016-17. Further, Jakob Chychrun, once projected to be a top-5 pick in the NHL Draft, fell to the Coyotes at 16th overall in what could be the steal of the Draft. An injury cut Chychrun’s 2014-15 rookie season short, and after failing to exceed the lofty expectations placed upon his in his sophomore OHL season, slid down the board. An intimidating force who was a man among boys in the OHL despite his young age of 18 years, Chychrun is a true wildcard who uses motivation, such as falling in the Draft, to inspire his play. His physique makes him capable of playing in the NHL this coming season, yet whether he will or not remains to be seen.
#1 – Winnipeg Jets
Top Prospects: Eric Comrie, Marko Dano, Joel Armia, Patrik Laine, Scott Kosmachuk, Brendan Lemieux, Jimmy Lodge, J.C Lipon, Kyle Connor, Nicolas Petan, Jansen Harkins, Jack Roslovic, Michael Spacek, Chase De Leo, Josh Morrissey, Jan Kostalek, Sami Niku, Logan Stanley
On the Rise: Kyle Connor – 2015-16 Big-10: 38 GP, 35G, 71P
Well, it is the Winnipeg Jets who take home top spot and possess the strongest farm system in the entire NHL. When it comes to the Jets, virtually every prospect owned by the team is one of incredible skill and potential. Although the Jets landed Patrik Laine at second overall in the 2016 Draft, a player who appears destined to quickly become of the League’s best, Winnipeg holds another top-tier prospect, a fact which played a major role in seizing the number-one ranking. Kyle Connor, a 19-year-old left-winger who recently played his first season at the University of Michigan, is of arguably equal promise. The youngster exploded onto the Big-10 scene, posting 35 goals and 71 points in just 38 games – finalizing what was one of the most impressive rookie debuts in national history. In addition to Laine and Connor, the Jets also hold onto former first round selections Marko Dano, Joel Armia and Jack Roslovic.
Equally promising prospects such as Brendan Lemieux, Nic Petan, Michael Spacek and Chase De Leo round of the Jets’ amazing group of forwards. On defense, Winnipeg holds 2013 13th overall pick Josh Morrissey, who is an agile, offensively gifted defender. Jan Kostalek, Sami Niku, and the newly acquired Logan Stanley, who was chosen 18th overall in 2016 NHL Draft, comprise the remainder of the Jets’ blue-line prospects.
In goal, Eric Comrie and Jamie Phillips are the team’s top two goaltending prospects, as Connor Hellebuyck has essentially become a full-time member of the Jets at the NHL level. Phillips recently completed an amazing season with Michigan Tech, the fourth of his career. Over his 36 games played, Phillips recorded a 1.97 Goals Against Average and .922% Save Percentage. Meanwhile, Comrie, a second round selection in 2013, completed his first full season in the AHL. While his individual statistics, a 3.13 Goals Against Average and .907% Save Percentage, didn’t pop off of the charts, they were impressive considering the Manitoba Moose posted a 26-41-9 record.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at email@example.com.