Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. The cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
NHL Organizational Prospect Pool Rankings (20-11)
Note: If you click on the team name, you will get a link to a full prospect report on that team. The snippets here are just a taste of the information available.
20.) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers were our top ranked organization last year. The graduations of three elite prospects in Darnell Nurse, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl has really taken a toll on the depth of the group. Add in Iiro Pakarinen, and Brandon Davidson also graduating, and Griffin Reinhart disappointing and even the depth of the group takes a major hit. The Oilers do have an elite prospect in newly drafted Jesse Puljujarvi along with a strong goalie prospect in Laurent Broissoit. They also selected Tyler Benson in the second round, and picked up undrafted free agent Drake Caggiula.
19.) Nashville Predators
Kevin Fiala and Vladislav Kamenev are forwards knocking on the door of making the Predators team. 2016 draftee Dante Fabbro was a really nice pick, and Juuse Saaros has been developing nicely in net. There isn’t an awful lot of quality in the Predators system though. Yakov Trenin, Justin Kirkland, Pontus Aberg, and Anthony Richard are intriguing darkhorses up front. Jack Dougherty and Alexandre Carrier are nice blue line prospect. Still, the overall depth is just lacking compared to other teams. That should not be that surprising considering the number of prospects the team graduated last year. The very fact that there is still a number of decent projects in the system, along with some high end talent in Fiala and Kamenev is a testament to the good job David Poile and his staff have done at the draft table.
18.) Tampa Bay Lightning
Like the Oilers, the Lightning also lost top prospects to graduation, with Jonathan Drouin graduating in 2015, and Andrei Vasilevskiy this year. Looking at the system, Slater Koekkoek got valuable experience in the playoffs, and should challenge for a role on the blue line this year. Brayden Point finished a great junior career and is ready to join the pro ranks. Adam Erne is developping into a power forward, while Dominik Masin was once looked at as a defensive defenceman, but showed offence this year. The depth in Tampa is very good, but the lack of elite talent hurts the ranking.
17.) Detroit Red Wings
Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, and Evgeny Svechnikov give the Red Wings a trio of strong forward talents. They are joined by Givani Smith, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Sadowy, Dominic Turgeon and others. Newly drafted Denis Cholowski joins Xavier Ouellette, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijärvi, Robbie Russo and Ryan Sproul on the blue line. In net Jared Coreau and Jake Patterson show potential. Much like Tampa, this is a case of great depth, but a lack of true elite talent.
16.) Ottawa Senators
The Senators added Logan Brown, to a group that includes 2015 first rounders Colin White and Thomas Chabot. They also saw Francois Perron put up an incredible junior season. While he is small, he showed potential to overcome that. Their best goalie prospect, Marcus Hogberg, spent last season in Sweden. Significant defensive depth, Christian Jaros and Andreas Englund were also plying their trade overseas. The Sens will want to get all three over to North America as soon as possible.
15.) Washington Capitals
The Capitals have continually replenished their team with strong drafting. The system has very good depth at the back-end. NHL goalies Braden Holtby and Phillip Grubauer are still relatively young, and the team has Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek and newly signed Adam Carlson in the system. The blue line is very well stocked with Madison Bowey, Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler, Christian Djoos,and Tyler Lewington. Beyond Jakub Vrana there are not any other blue chip forwards. Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Zach Sanford, Stanislav Galiev, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker provide depth and are possible role players.
14.) St. Louis Blues
The Blues are building from the crease out. With Ville Husso, they have an outstanding goalie prospect. In addition to Husso, they have Jordan Binnington, and Pheonix Copley. They also drafted Evan Fitzpatrick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Vince Dunn, Jake Walman, Jordan Schmaltz and Petteri Lindbohm give the Blues an excellent core on defence. Up front, Tage Thompson was their top pick this year. The added Jordan Kyrou in the draft as well. They also have Ivan Barbashev in the system, though his first year in the AHL was a little below expectations. Ty Rattie and Dany Kristo need to make an impact soon, as their time is running out.
13.) Montreal Canadiens
Drafting Mikhail Sergachev gives the Habs an elite prospect on the blue line. He joins Noah Juulsen, Brett Lernout, Simon Bourque, Joel Hanley, Ryan Johnston, and Tom Parisi. They also added Victor Mete and Casey Staum. The team also has a number of young goaltenders with potential, including Zach Fucale, Michael McNiven, Charlie Lindgren, and Hayden Hawkey. There is also good depth on the wings with Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon, Daniel Carr, Artturi Lehkonen, and Martin Reway.
However the team is looking for a stud centre. The attempts to convert both Scherbak and Hudon to centre show that the organization recognizes this weakness and is exploring internal options. If Scherbak does become a top-6 centre, it would be a real boost to the team. Other dark horse options include Lukas Vejdemo, and newly drafted Will Bitten. 2014 first rounder Michael McCarron is projecting as a shutdown centre. If he could find more offense in the AHL it would be a huge boost.
12.) Dallas Stars
The Stars have an excellent defence group with Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, Mattias Backman, Nick Ebert, Niklas Hansson, Chris Martenet and Michael Prapavessis in the system. They recently gave up on goaltender Jack Campbell after Philippe Desrosiers repeatedly outperformed him almost every year. Up front they have high hopes for Riley Tufte, Denis Guryanov, and Devin Shore while Jason Dickinson, Brett Ritchie, Roope Hintz, Cole Ully and Remi Ellie provide depth. Overall the system is strong at nearly every position.
11.) Calgary Flames
The Flames got a real boost when Matthew Tkachuk was surprisingly available at sixth overall. He is exactly the type of winger the Flames needed. Adding Hunter Shinkaruk in last season’s trade with the Canucks was also a strong move to add a talented winger. Former first rounder Mark Jankowski has now finished college and is ready to play pro hockey. His ultimate upside remains a question mark. Brett Pollock is an interesting dark horse at centre. Other recent first rounders, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk have struggled to take the next step at the AHL level. If either one can find their games, this group would look a whole lot better.
Goaltender Jon Gilles is looking like the Flames future franchise netminder, but must rebound from an injury filled year. Mason McDonald is developing nicely and the Flames drafted Tyler Parsons. On defence, the Flames have Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington. They have Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak further down the depth chart. Third round pick Adam Fox is a nice addition.