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. Montreal Canadiens
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Cole Caufield, Joshua Roy, Justin Barron, Ryan Poehling and Kaiden Guhle
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games (50 NHL games for goalies)/drafted prior to 2017): Alexander Romanov
The Canadiens prospect pool in recent years has always been strong from a depth standpoint. They’ve had a lot of players in the system with good likelihood of making the NHL. That continues. They’re tied for 1st with Carolina with 21 prospects in the system with a decent chance of making the NHL.
Their system was lacking in their top 5 but that’s starting to change. Cole Caufield has emerged as a strong star candidate, and has grown substantially over the years, which has helped augment their top 5. But also the emergence of Joshua Roy (who I consider a top 5 prospect) from the 2021 draft as well as gains in production from Guhle has also helped boost the top 5. Finally, adding Justin Barron from the Avalanche in the Lehkonen trade has provided another likely NHL piece to round out the top 5.
The news gets better for the Canadiens as they will be drafting 1st overall in 2022 and will almost certainly be adding elite prospect Shane Wright to their pool. Add in a couple more depth pieces from the 2022 draft and another strong draft in 2023 where they will be picking high and the Canadiens will be in great shape, skater wise. They could use an elite goalie prospect to round out the pool (unlikely to be available in this year’s draft, however).
9. Calgary Flames
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Matthew Coronato, Juuso Valimaki and Adam Ruzicka
The Flames system continue to be strong but part of this is strange usage of Valimaki this year. He started out with the Flames and quickly got demoted to the AHL and as a result he still counts as a prospect by my measures as he was drafted in 2017 and hasn’t passed 100 games yet. Valimaki has the profile of a star (over 70% probability of becoming a star to which I still think he will get there) and boosts up the prospect pool. Next year, one way or another, he won’t count anymore and the pool will drop back.
The rest of the Top 5 is decent. The list includes Pelletier, Coronato, Zary and Ruzicka. Zary had a big fall back year which is concerning as its completely changed his trajectory (history dictates that players that fall back like this after looking promising doesn’t bode well for their career). Coronato is an intriguing player to watch. His freshman year at college wasn’t a massive jump forward. But Coronato showed signs that a big jump could be coming. He ran hot and cold throughout the season. If he can turn that to more hot over the next year and put together a big campaign, we could see his star potential increase dramatically. Pelletier likely won’t be a game-breaking star but should be a good middle six option, one that is desperately needed within the organization. Ruzicka is likely nothing special, but appears like he’ll make the NHL as a bottom 6 C.
The Flames system has good depth to it, aided by the 2020 and 2021 drafts, where the Flames drafted above their draft slot, finding good value at almost every pick. Some of the depth pieces included outside the top 5 include: Ryan Francis, Jeremie Poirier, William Stromgren, Rory Kerins (he’s my favorite of the bunch) and Cole Huckins. There’s likely a few NHLers in there.
The Flames goalie prospects (Wolf, Werner and Vladar) are all promising. Wolf has put together a 5th straight terrific year and could get a shot in another year. Vladar is already serving as the Flames back-up. Werner may be past his best before date but also shows well in the model. Likely the Flames have an NHL goalie that will make 100+ games in their system.
The prospect pool will start to decline as the aforementioned Valimaki no longer counts anymore as well the team trading away their 1st rounder for the 2022 draft in the Toffoli trade. The Flames only have 3 picks in the 2022 draft, so the ability to add star pieces or substantial depth (guys with some chance of making the NHL) to the system at this draft are difficult.
8. Philadelphia Flyers
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Morgan Frost, Cam York, Tyson Foerster, Bobby Brink and Emil Andrae
The Flyers system is pretty solid all over. Decent top 5 in Frost, York, Foerster, Brink and Andrae, although it could use a big star piece to round it out. The depth is good for the Flyers as well as they have many pieces in the system that could turn into NHLers. The Flyers are also set in goal as well. Carter Hart, drafted only in 2016, has already played 146 games in the NHL. But they also have two substantial European prospects in Fedotov and Kolosov (both playing in the KHL). One or both could prove to be legit NHLers if they come over to North America. The Flyers will get to add a few big pieces to the system this year, especially with their high 1st rounder .
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Corson Ceulemans, Kent Johnson, Yegor Chinakhov, Kirill Marchenko and Cole Sillinger
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games (50 NHL games for goalies)/drafted prior to 2017): Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist
It started with the 2021 draft and the Seth Jones. The Blue Jackets acquired numerous assets from that trade, and with their own draft capital, have already turned it into something pretty substantial. Adam Boqvist, who doesn’t count anymore as a prospect, looks like he’s going to be a great offensive dman down the road. Jake Bean (also doesn’t count but worth mentioning), who they obtained for a 2nd rounder from the Jones trade, had a full-time role with the Blue Jackets this year and looks like he’s on his way to turning into a good NHLer as well.
Their top 5 prospects, in the past year, have gone from very underwhelming to pretty strong (they’re one of the best top 5 prospect pools in the league in fact). All 5 are likely to make it and they have some good star potential in Marchenko, Sillinger and Johnson (I bet at least one of those guys hit). The Blue Jackets, who now have the infamous Computer Boys, formerly with Florida, helping to guide the ship, are sure to add another massive piece to the Top 5 (likely pushing out a good prospect like Ceulemans or Chinakhov in doing so). The depth, which only really started to be built out last year, is middle of the pack but the Blue Jackets will add a lot to it over the next few months. I’ve got a feeling the Blue Jackets will have a scary system in a few years.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, Rodion Amirov, Matthew Knies and Timothy Liljegren
The Maple Leafs system continues to be solid all over. The top 5 is good (especially for a Cup contender). There’s some star potential in it (Sandin is the best bet). Robertson still looks favorable although he’s fallen back from the star potential he showed after his D+1 season. Knies doesn’t profile great yet but the praise is very high for him, likely takes a big step forward over the next few years. Amirov’s health prognosis is a big concern and likely why he hasn’t evolved as hoped. We just hope that Amirov is able to return to hockey in time, happy and healthy. Liljegren is settling in as a full-time NHLer.
The Maple Leafs, every year, continue to add to the depth of the system. They always seem to be in on late rounders or free agent signings with decent value in the model. You can tell that they value something similar to the Hockey Prospecting model and understand the concept of adding as many good bets as you can to the pool. And it’s going to help keep them competitive as they lose good players because they can’t afford them anymore.
5. New Jersey Devils
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Dawson Mercer, Luke Hughes, Alexander Holtz, Arseny Gritsyuk and Shakir Mukhamadullin
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games (50 NHL games for goalies)/drafted prior to 2017): Jack Hughes, Ty Smith and Jesper Boqvist
The Devils are a team ready to burst on the scene and turn into a playoff team over the next few years. They’ve got the superstar in Jack Hughes. They have the other star cast (already there or starting to build into it) in Hamilton, Smith, Bratt and Hischier. And they also have a really solid prospect pool.
The top 5 is good (ranks #7 in average star prob and #5 in average NHLer prob). Luke Hughes is the big piece there. Like his brothers, Luke Hughes has the profile of a star. Perhaps he doesn’t match what Quinn has been able to accomplish but it’s possible he’s a similar level of talent. Luke’s own brothers have both suggested “Luke is the best one of us”. If that turns out to be true that would be incredible for the Devils.
The Devils are also set to pick 2nd overall in the 2022 draft and are sure to add another massive piece to the pool (Nemec, Cooley, Savoie perhaps?)
The depth for the Devils is good as well (they rank #8 in star depth and #12 in NHLer depth). As the Devils become a good team again, they’re going to need a deep prospect pool to keep propelling them forward. They have it. After the 2022 draft, they should be ready to move out of the rebuild and start becoming a good team.
4. Los Angeles Kings
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Brandt Clarke, Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Sean Durzi and Jordan Spence
The Kings system continues to be very strong, although falling back a few spots. The reason for the fall back is few of their notable prospects that once had high star probabilities falling down (Byfield, Kaliyev, Turcotte). Byfield I could see rebounding over the next few years and driving that star probability back up. COVID has left him with a strange unorthodox development path. Normally he would have gone back to the OHL for another dominating season in his D+1 and come in to the NHL full of confidence. However, he ended up going to the AHL (becoming the youngest North American to play in the AHL in at least the past 30 years). And now he’s been thrust into the NHL on a rebuilding team that was in the playoff hunt (and made it) all season so he wasn’t given a prominent role to start. I’d be looking for a big jump in production from him next year.
The Kings system still has tons and tons of depth to it, although they did lose a few players who no longer qualify because they were drafted too long ago or no longer with the organization. All in all the system is still in fine shape and they still have the #1 ranked skater pool overall. The only big missing continues to be an A+ goalie prospect. The Kings don’t appear to have one in the pipes right now.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Trevor Zegras, Olen Zellweger, Mason McTavish, Jacob Perreault and Sasha Pastujov
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games (50 NHL games for goalies)/drafted prior to 2017): Jamie Drysdale
The Ducks system continues to be a beautiful masterpiece. Drysdale (who has over a 90% probability he will turn into a star) no longer counts and the pool and top 5 is still incredible. Zegras also looks to be a certain star. He still barely counts here as he hasn’t quite played 100 games yet. Then they have Olen Zellweger, who already looked phenomenal at Hockey Prospecting when he was drafted, just put together one of the best D+1 seasons we’ve seen from a CHL defender in 2-3 decades. We love Olen Zellweger around these parts! McTavish had a really good D+1 season as well after not playing at all in his draft year. His D+1 equivalency was one of the best amongst all 2021 draftees this year. He’s probably a bit undersold in the model because of the missed draft year.
They add depth to the system every year by outperforming their draft slot as well, especially over the past 2 or 3 years. They have goalie prospects in Dostal and Clang (acquired in the Rakell trade) that look promising. Likely one of them hits. And they’re going to add another few big pieces this year before likely turning a big corner next year and start to pull out of the rebuild.
Star pieces at center and defense, depth all over. This system is nearly perfect.
2. Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi, Calen Addison, Carson Lambos and Marat Khusnutdinov
The Wild prospect pool is great across the board. They rank in the top 5 in all but one skater category (ranking 6th in NHLer depth). Their top 5 prospects is exceptional and littered with star potential. Between 2018 and 2021 only 11 skaters to play less than 100 NHL games have a star probability of 60% or higher, the Wild have three of them in Boldy, Rossi and Addison. No other team has more than one of them. Boldy, especially, has only played 47 games but already looks like he’s hit as a star, possibly even a superstar.
The Wild have 16 players all together in the system with a 30% of greater chance of making the NHL. On top of all of it, they snagged Jesper Wallstedt in the 2021 draft and now have the elite goalie piece as well. Wallstedt may not be ready yet but will likely make his way to the NHL within the next few years.
The Wild system is nearly perfect with few holes. This team is going to be very good over the next decade.
1. Detroit Red Wings
Top 5 Skater Prospects: Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson, Jonatan Berggren and Albert Johansson
Notable omitted prospects (crossed 100 NHL games (50 NHL games for goalies)/drafted prior to 2017): Filip Zadina
It may have taken a few years to emerge to really show its potential, but the Detroit Red Wings now own the best prospect system in the NHL.
The system for the past few years has always had great depth, having lots of NHLer potential in the system. Where it lacked was in its top 5 and showing significant star potential, now it has that in a big way. Seider, who started from uncharacteristically low probability in his draft year, has shot up and now, after his first season in the NHL, looks to be a certain star, a stud even. Raymond was always a player that many, including myself, were high on. It took a little bit longer for him to really pop but he has exploded as well with his first NHL season.
On top of the big two, Berggren, Johansson and Edvinsson have all made big jumps in their post-draft development years and as a result the Red Wings top 5 is now one of the best in the league. Each player has significant star and NHLer potential.
Other prospects with some NHL potential found in the system include Cotton, Tyutyayev, Savage, Hanas, Buium, Niederbach, Veleno and Wallinder.
In terms of goalies, he’ll likely still need a few more years before he’s ready, but Sebastian Cossa shows well and provides the Red Wings with a good option for the future.
Yzerman succeeds at everything and fails at nothing, he and his team have done a great job at turning around the Red Wings, in short order. I’d expect the Red Wings to pull out of the rebuild by the 2023-24 season.