Welcome back to the Hockey Prospecting Team Strength Rankings. Time to breakdown the top 10 prospect systems in the NHL!
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10. Ottawa Senators
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Tim Stützle, Erik Brännström, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Jake Sanderson
The Senators top 5 prospects are really good. They rank 6th in star probability and 8th in NHLer probability. In fact, four of them are or on the verge of becoming full-time NHLers as we speak. Stützle and Brännström, especially, have significant star potential. They have some good depth throughout the system beyond their top 5 as well. Their prospect system is sound. They still didn’t capitalize on the 2020 draft like they could of. They had one of the best draft positions of all times in 2020, with the number of picks they had and where they were. They could have and should have walked out of that draft with one of the best prospect systems in the NHL. They still have a good one. It could have been out of this world.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Morgan Frost, Tyler Foerster, Emil Andrae, Yegor Zamula and Cam York
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games/drafted prior to 2016): Joel Farabee and Carter Hart
As was the case last year, the Flyers have a system with lots of depth but it lacks bonafide star potential. The Flyers have 16 players in their system with some chance of making the NHL and they continue to add to it each year. Some of the players included here: Wisdom, McClennon, Wylie, Brink and Ratcliffe. They don’t have anybody in the system with a 50% or greater probability of turning into a star (however, Farabee has that potential and just became a regular NHLer and is omitted from this list).
The Flyers fell back by six spots from their post-draft rankings and the only reason they did is because Carter Hart (a good goalie prospect with a great track record who had a very yikes 2020-21 campaign) and Joel Farabee (a player who’s production exploded in his 2nd NHL season and third season after being drafted) crossed over 100 games and are now NHLers. Their two biggest pieces are omitted and dropped them back. The Flyers have done well at drafting the past few years, over shooting their draft position. They just need to add another star piece to the rotation and continue to add depth to the pool.
8. San Jose Sharks
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Thomas Bordeleau and Artemi Kniazev
The Sharks system continues to surprise even myself in how high it comes out here. But the truth is the Sharks have a ton of guys in their system that have a good chance of becoming NHLers. Their top 5 is slightly below average but the system as a whole is really strong. They have six players in the system with at least a 10% chance of becoming a star and 19 players in the system with at least a 30% chance of becoming an NHLer. Outside the top 5, Robins, Gushcin, Pasichunk, Blichfeld, Gregor, Leonard, Coe, Chekhovich and many others all have a better than average chance of making the NHL. This ranks them 5th and 4th in those categories.
They also have a solid goalie prospect in Alexei Melnichuk (a Russian free agent signing from a few years ago). He showed well, very early on in the KHL. These are the types of goalies that typically make it. He’s in the AHL now, likely to start getting NHL starts next year. The Sharks are likely to not be very good for a few years (despite what their GM is preaching). Now it’s time to add the cornerstone star pieces to round out the top 5 and really build this pool into a solid one.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Jamie Drysdale, Trevor Zegras, Maxime Comtois, Jacob Perreault and Isac Lundestrom
The Ducks had a very good 2020 draft which shot them up in our post-draft rankings. They’ve shot up again, going from 15th to 7th because of the development of a few recent draftees – Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale namely. Zegras and Drysdale both had stellar success in a limited sample in the AHL this year. They also both made their way to the NHL for a sample of games and showed well there as well. As a result, their probabilities of becoming stars and NHLers increased dramatically. Both of these players are trending to be stars. Perreault is another solid piece from the 2020 draft who showed well in the AHL as well. He neither improved nor regressed and he already looked pretty good to begin with. Mostly due to these three players, the Ducks have the 3rd best top 5 in terms of star probability and NHLer probability. The system, beyond the top 5, has some decent depth as well. And Lukas Dostal, their #1 goalie prospect, is a rising asset, who’s chance of making the NHL is growing by the month.
6. Chicago Blackhawks
Top 5 Prospects: Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Phillipp Kurashev and Lukas Reichel
I’ve come up with a way of using math and probabilities to rank systems in an objective, fair and true fashion. Overall, the system seems to work very well. However, every year there seems to be a team that trips it up. Last year the Sharks were that team. This year it’s the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have the 6th ranked system and have shot up 13 spots since their post-draft ranking, the biggest jump of any team. The Blackhawks have a bit of a Oprah Winfrey thing going on here – “you get to be an NHLer and you get to be an NHLer and you get to be an NHLer”. And something just doesn’t feel right about it being ranked so high. Let me explain.
Three out of their top 5 prospects are already in the NHL. Boqvist is legitimate. Drafted in 2018, he has great production early in the NHL, looks like a star in the making. Dach, drafted 3rd overall in 2019, doesn’t look like most players that make the NHL right away. He had the look, based on comparables in the model, of a player that needed a few more years in juniors. But he’s in the NHL directly after being drafted which essentially guarantees his likelihood of becoming an NHLer in the model (99%). He’s going to play hundreds of games in the NHL. Will he be a star? Probably not. Kurashev, drafted in 2018, made the NHL two years after he was drafted. He also didn’t look like he would be a player that’s ready yet. Prior to this season, he had a 32% chance of making the NHL. He had mostly average production in his leagues in Europe and is an older draftee. Nothing to suggest that he should be fast tracked to the NHL so fast. Only four other players in thirty years have looked like Kurashev from their D-1 to D+2 and made in their D+3. He’s the only one that wasn’t drafted in the 1st round. This has me wondering … what’s he doing here already? And is he ready for the NHL? But he’s made the NHL early and is highly regarded. Most that make the NHL this early make it to 200 games so the model assumes he will too.
So essentially the Hawks end up having one of the top ranked top 5 in terms of NHLer probability because most of them have already made it and they game the system a bit. On the other hand, to their credit, outside their top 5, the Hawks have a number of players with 30% or more chance of making the NHL which helps their positioning in these rankings. The Hawks have 17 of them which ranks 8th. Some of those pieces include: Beaudin, Borgstrom, Nylander, Hagel and Regula. They also have a pretty notable goalie prospect in Nalimov which, legitimately, which also helps their score. However, Nalimov was drafted seven years ago and still hasn’t made it into an NHL game yet. 18 of 20 goalies that look like Nalimov (who aren’t recently drafted and developing) made the NHL. Will Nalimov get a shot before its too late? Time is running out. Overall, I’d say Chicago is a bit overvalued here (I would say they should be ranked in the early teens rather than 6th overall). Dach and Boqvist will reach 100 games early in the season next year and the Hawks will likely tumble down the rankings a bit.
5. Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Prospects: Matthew Boldy, Marco Rossi, Calen Addison, Marat Khusnutdinov and Adam Beckman
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games/drafted prior to 2016): Kirill Kaprizov
Kirill Kaprizov doesn’t even count anymore because he was drafted in 2015, and yet the Wild still have one of the best systems. The Wild have the best top 5 prospect group in the entire NHL, that’s where they really shine. That top group of Boldy, Rossi, Addison, Khusnutdinov and Beckman is loaded with star potential especially. The average star probability of their top 5 prospects is 51% (for perspective, the average star probability of all the team top 5s is 18%). Again, not including Kaprizov who is very likely a star, maybe a superstar, that top 5 probably has another two stars in it, which is incredible. The Wild need to add more depth to the system (they’ve only been rebuilding/retooling for a short time so that will come) and also need to add a stud goalie prospect. But the Wild certainly have the star power in their system and are going to be very fun to watch over the next few years.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Filip Hallander, Rodion Amirov and Timothy Liljegren
The Maple Leafs are on the cusp of turning into a contender and they refuse to do so with empty prospect cupboards. The Maple Leafs have a good system, all the way through. They have the likely star piece in Sandin. They have a nice top 5 grouping with significant NHLer potential and some star potential as well. They continue to add pieces to their system each year that have a chance at making the NHL, whether that be through the draft, through trade or through minor league free agent signings. All told, they have 21 players in their system with at least a 30% probability of making the NHL which ranks 3rd and they have nine players in their system with at least a 10% probability of becoming a star which ranks 2nd. Some of the notable prospects outside the top 5 are Hollowell, Ovchinnikov, Villneuve, Brooks, Kral and Abruzzese.
Drafting wise, the Leafs have been lights out since Dubas fully took over in 2018. In three straight drafts, they are projected to have outpaced their draft slot by at least a full NHLer. This is the only time in at least the past 30 years a single team has done this for three years straight. The Maple Leafs also have a few growing goalie prospects with at least some potential as well. This system does not get enough love for what it is. To put it in perspective, no other division winner has a prospect system even in the top 15. The Leafs are a division leader, have one of the youngest and best star cores in the league and have a prospect system in the top 5. Dubas and Co. are doing some good work in Toronto.
3. New Jersey Devils
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Ty Smith, Jesper Boqvist and Reilly Walsh
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games/drafted prior to 2016): Jack Hughes and Mackenzie Blackwood
The Devils used to have the best prospect system but they lost Hughes and Blackwood from the system because they became full-time NHLers with 100 games under their belt so they fell back a bit. Given how highly ranked Hughes and Blackwood are in the system, if they still counted, the Devils would probably still be first. The Devils still have a loaded system. Their top 5 is really good. All five probably make the NHL and they have the star piece in Ty Smith and might have another one in Alexander Holtz when everything is said and done (he’s not there yet though). Their system outside of the top 5 is loaded as well. They rank in the top 6 across all categories. A good prospect system all around.
2. New York Rangers
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Vitali Kravtsov and Zac Jones
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games/drafted prior to 2016): Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox
Important to note that Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox don’t even count anymore. Still one of the best pool in the NHL. Interestingly, they’re well above average in every category but are not the best in any skater category. They have a solid top 5 that likely has at least one star in it (Lafrenière or Lundkvist are the odds on favorite). They’ve also added good depth pieces in the past few years through the draft to help supplement their pool outside of the top 5. Guys like Schneider, Robertson, Vierling, Berard and Barron. What really sets them apart from most of the other teams in the top 10 though is their goalies. Shesterkin and Georgiev (who still counts as he hasn’t crossed 100 games) provide by far the highest top two goalie ranking of any team. Early NHL returns from both goalies have been tremendous for a rebuilding team like the Rangers. This elite prospect goalie tandem coupled with a very good skater prospect pool gives them the #2 position. This team could be very frightening in a few seasons.
1. Los Angeles Kings
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte, Tobias Bjornfot and Gabriel Vilardi
The Kings continue to have the very best prospect pool in the NHL. Part of this is due to very few of their big pieces have made the NHL yet but that’s coming. Very soon. Their top 5 is loaded with sure NHLers and star power and this is even factoring in Turcotte falling back quite a bit, in terms of star probability, since being drafted. Their pool is that good that something like that doesn’t even really matter. The depth of their system is also top notch. They have a number of players outside of their top 5 that will make the NHL, they may even have a star outside their top 5.
They have 23 prospects in total with at least a 30% chance of making the NHL and 10 prospects with at least a 10% chance of becoming stars. Akil Thomas, Helge Grans, Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom, Martin Chromiak, Lias Andersson, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Kale Clague, Samuel Fagemo, Rasmus Kupari… absolutely loaded. They rank 1st or 2nd in every single category except goaltending. The Kings need the stud goalie prospect to replace Quick and they’ll be rolling! There’s two goalies (that show very well in Hockey Prospecting) that should go in the first round this year, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Kings pull the trigger on one of them to put the finishing touches on their outstanding prospect pool.