Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings.
What we 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 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings (20-11)
After going through the top 10 prospects of every team in the NHL and giving full scouting reports, we will now be ranking each team’s prospect pools in our 2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings.
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.
10.) Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes have a stud centre prospect in Martin Necas. He the star of what is a strong group up the middle that also includes Ryan Suzuki, Morgan Geekie, and Jamieson Rees. While the Hurricanes only have one elite prospect, what they have is enviable depth of very good prospects, beyond even the top 10 we reviewed. Defenceman Jake Bean is NHL ready but seems to be stuck behind the Hurricanes strong defensive group. The team also has Antonni Honka, Chase Priskie, Roland McKeown, Domenick Fensore, and Luke Martin. Wingers include Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, Stelio Mattheos, and Patrik Puistola. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic will soon push for a roster spot, while newly drafted Pyotr Kochetkov was one of this draft’s top goalie prospects.
9.) Anaheim Ducks
With Patrick Eaves and Ryan Kesler out for the season, the time is now for the Ducks young forwards to carry some of the burdens in the NHL. Luckily the Ducks have a number of young forwards ready to do so in Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Maxime Comtois. First-round pick Trevor Zegras and 2018 draftee Isac Lundestrom are not far behind. There is further depth in Brendan Tracey, Max Jones, Antoine Morand and Jack Kopacka. Brendan Guhle is close to being ready on the blueline but his upside is a question mark The most talented Ducks defenders aren’t quite as close to being in the NHL but Josh Mahura and Henry Thrun are talented. Lukas Dostal is a quality goaltending prospect.
First overall pick Jack Hughes could become a franchise-changing player. He will be supported up front by Jesper Boqvist, Joey Anderson, Michael McLeod, and Aarne Talvitie. On defence, Ty Smith could become a top-notch puck mover. He has a ton of offensive skill. Reilly Walsh and newly drafted Daniil Misyul provide blueline depth. Goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood is ready to compete for the Devils top job.
The Blackhawks are extremely deep and talented on defence with Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, Alex Vlasic, and Lucas Carlsson. They drafted a high-end centre prospect in Kirby Dach. Fellow centre Evan Barrett improved his status with a big season at Penn State. Dylan Sikura and Niklas Nordgren are quality wingers. Alex Nylander was acquired from the Sabres. He is extremely talented but has not yet put it together at the professional level. The Hawks hope he benefits from the change of scenery, ala Dylan Strome last season. In goal, Alexis Gravel is the top prospect in the system.
The Kings are strong up the middle with Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, and Akil Thomas. They could be even better is Gabriel Vilardi can finally get over his back issues. On the wings, they are supported by Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, and Carl Grundstrom. In net Cal Peterson should push Jack Johnson for the backup job. The blueline features Kale Clague, Tobias Bjornfot, Mikey Andersson, and Sean Durzi.
Quinn Hughes is one of the best skating prospects in the world. He should make an immediate impact on the Canucks blueline. Olli Juolevi, Jett Woo and Guillaume Brisebois should not be far behind. Vasili Podkolzin was third in our draft rankings. The fact that he has a two-year commitment in the KHL dropped him down on draft days, but the Canucks may have a steal here. Nils Hoglander and Tyler Madden provide support upfront. The lack of a top-six centre prospect is the main flaw in the system (although it is mitigated by Elias Pettersson, who is considered graduated and does not factor into this ranking). Few teams have as good a one-two punch in goal as the Canucks with Michael DiPietro and Thatcher Demko.
What a season it was for Habs prospects. Nick Suzuki was the OHL Playoff MVP. Ryan Poehling was World Junior MVP and scored a hat-trick (plus a shootout winner) in his first NHL game. Cole Caufield was the IIHF Under-18 MVP. He set records for most goals in the tournament and most goals with the US NTDP. Alexander Romanov was the top defenceman at the World Juniors. Josh Brook led all WHL defencemen in scoring and was on the league’s 1st All-Star Team. Cayden Primeau was named the NCAA’s top goalie. Jesse Ylonen won a gold medal at the World Juniors. Joel Teasdale led the QMJHL in playoff scoring and was the Memorial Cup MVP. Add in solid seasons from Cale Fleury, Jake Evans, and Noah Juulsen and the Habs have arguably the deepest group in the NHL with quality at all positions.
Carter Hart is our top goaltending prospect and looked good in his first NHL season. He has a strong group of defenders in front of him with Philippe Myers ready for NHL duty and Cam York picked at 14th overall. Samuel Morin is looking to get past injury issues and also take a spot in the NHL. Upfront, Morgan Frost put up a huge final season in the OHL, scoring 109 points in 58 games. Wingers Joel Farabee, Bobby Brink, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Wade Allison also provide scoring potential. This group is a bit top-heavy as it lacks depth, but the elite talent of those prospects more than makes up for it.
Cale Makar and Bowen Byram are two of the top defence prospects in the world. Makar won the Hobey Baker Award and was impressive in the playoffs. Byram was the top defenceman in the 2019 Draft and was given the CHL Top Draft Prospect Award. He is an early favourite for the Calder Trophy. They are joined by Conor Timmins, Ryan Graves, Drew Helleson, and Nicholas Meloche to form the strongest defence prospect group in the league. The team also has highly skilled forwards in Alex Newhook and Martin Kaut. They are supported by Vladislav Kamenev, Shane Bowers, and Igor Shvyryov upfront. The team could use a top goaltending prospect.
1.) New York Rangers
Second overall pick Kaapo Kakko is the crown jewel of the group, but there are a number of elite talents in the group. 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov had a strong season in the KHL and makes his way to the Rangers. Swedish centre Lias Andersson comes in just under our criteria for what qualifies as a prospect. Also coming to North America is one of the top goalie prospects from the KHL in Igor Shestyorkin. He will have to compete with fellow Russian goalie prospect Alexandar Georgiev. Defencemen Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Matthew Robertson, and Libor Hajek are a strong group on the blueline.
2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings Main Photo:
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: (L-R) Kirby Dach, third overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, Jack Hughes, first overall pick by the New Jersey Devils, and Kaapo Kakko, second overall pick by the New York Rangers hold up their fingers of their pick order in front of the stage during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)