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Josh Bell The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, January 24, 2020





The NHL’s Best Farm Systems Ranked – Midseason Update

Prospects can make or break an NHL organization.

Properly scouting, drafting and developing players can set up a team for a decade of success. Trading off those pieces and draft picks for an immediate fix may help that season, even the next one, but it will hurt the franchise in the long run.

A team’s farm system is a very fluid thing. Prospects graduate to become full-time NHL players, general managers make trades involving some of these young players, and sometimes players just don’t work out. Knowing exactly what you have, where they are in their development and what they need to accomplish next is a major responsibility of every front office.

Every team is at a different stage. Some are ready to contend for a Stanley Cup, while others are working to restock their prospect cupboard. There are even teams at the wonderful point where their farm system is looking great and they could make a strong push in the playoffs (See number three on this list).

Related: THW’s Wall-to-Wall Prospect & Draft Coverage

The following ranking of every team’s prospect pool is based on the ceiling of the players in the system, while keeping an eye on their age, production thus far in their development, and it’s very hard to not have at least a little bias based on where the majority of prospects were picked in the draft.

NHL farm system rankings

A few notes before we dive in:

  • The “Top Five Prospects” are alphabetical, not ranked.
  • Defining prospects varies from source to source. I will use Corey Pronman’s definition that he uses in his work: “A skater no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 25 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 50 games total; or reaches age 27 by Sept. 15. A goalie no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 10 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 25 games total; or reaches age 27 by Sept. 15.” (From: “Pronman: 2019-20 NHL Farm System Rankings”).
  • Finally, feel free to reach out with questions, comments or thoughts. This can either be done in the comment section at the bottom or send me a message on Twitter – @JoshuaBellTHW.

Without further ado, here are all 31 NHL farm systems ranked, with a few of their top prospects and a little bit of explanation of why they are sitting at that position.

31) Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous Ranking: 26

Top Five Prospects: Liam Foudy, Kirill Marchenko, Andrew Peeke, Daniil Tarasov, Dmitri Voronkov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Emil Bemstrom, Vladislav Gavrikov, Elvis Merzilikins, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier

Key Additions: N/A

After trading away two solid prospects in Vitaly Abravmov and Jonathan Davidsson in 2018-19, the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking slightly depleted. Fast forward to the 2019-20 season, and it gets even worse for the Ohio prospect pool. They haven’t lost any more prospects (yet), but have had many of their top prospects graduate this season.

Emil Bemstrom, Vladislav Gavrikov, Elvis Merzilikins, Eric Robinson, and Alexandre Texier are all with the big club now. Hope isn’t completely lost though, as the Blue Jackets have a few prospects of note. Headling this are a pair of forwards in Liam Foudy and Kirill Marchenko.

Both of them are top-six talents, with Foudy bringing beautiful skating ability and the skill to match. Marchenko brings incredible puck handling and even more great skating ability. Along with this season’s rookies, the future of the Blue Jackets forward corps is looking pretty good.

Liam Foudy, OHL, London Knights, Columbus Blue Jackets
Liam Foudy of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images

Other than the team’s top two talents, another forward of note is Dmitri Voronkov. Currently playing in the KHL, he’s been used in more of a depth role. But he showed some offensive talent at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, so there’s still hope for this young player. After him, it drops rather significantly though, but Marcus Karlberg and Trey Fix-Wolansky are two others to keep an eye on.

The defensive prospects are really lacking in the organization, with Andrew Peeke the top option. He’s one of those players who isn’t likely to be on any highlight reels, but he makes good decisions, is solid in his own end, and he has a proven track record as a leader. After him, there’s another significant drop. Tim Berni may be one to keep an eye on, as is Eric Hjorth.

Jumping back into some positives, the goaltender situation is looking pretty good. Both Veini Vehvilainen and Daniil Tarasov look like they have the makings of an NHL goaltender. It’s not all bad in Ohio.

30) Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Ranking: 31

Top Five Prospects: Calen Addison, Nathan Legare, Filip Hallander, Pierre-Oliver Joseph, Samuel Poulin

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Sam Lafferty, John Marino

Key Additions: N/A

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a threat in the league ever since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin came into the league. Due to them being perennial contenders, the organization has been in “win-now” mode for that time. The result? An extremely thin prospect pool. In order to build the team around the core, picks and prospects have been sent away for immediate help.

The 2019 first-round selection of Samuel Poulin was the club’s first in five years. Because of this, it’s obvious that Poulin is one of the best prospects in the system. That being said, there are a few others that should be able to make an impact down the line.

Samuel Poulin NHL farm system rankings
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Samuel Poulin (Courtesy of Vincent Lévesque-Rousseau)

Calen Addison could very well be a top-four defender for the Penguins down the line. He’s a great skater, and yes there’s still work to be done in his game, but he was just drafted in 2018. There’s still time. He and Pierre-Oliver Joseph, who came over in the Phil Kessel trade, make up the two best defensive prospects in the system.

There’s also no goaltender of the future right now after the team traded Filip Gustavsson to the Ottawa Senators. Although, Matt Murray is only 25 years old, so there’s still time.

Related: Penguins Stock up on Skaters in the 2019 Draft

Other than Poulin, a forward crop of Nathan Legare, Filip Hallander, Kasper Bjorkvist, and Judd Caulfield lacks high-end talent. There’s definitely skill there, but compared to the other teams in the league, it’s not looking too great for the future in Pittsburgh.

29) Washington Capitals

Previous Ranking: 30

Top Five Prospects: Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Brett Leason, Connor McMichael, Alexei Protas

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Ilya Samsonov

Key Additions: N/A

Like the Penguins, the Washington Capitals are definitely still contenders for the Stanley Cup. However, they’re one step ahead of their rivals in the prospect department. The Capitals have traded away quite a few picks, but they’ve managed to hang onto most of their first-round selections. Of course, other than 2017 when they sent it to the St. Louis Blues in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.

With the graduation of goaltender Ilya Samsonov, they lack a high-end goaltender in the system. However, Samsonov should be the go-to guy for the foreseeable future. Now, their biggest strength is in their forward corps, headlined by one of the biggest risers in the prospect world, Connor McMichael.

Washington Capitals Connor McMichael
Washington Capitals forward Connor McMichael (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

McMichael is an offensive weapon, with excellent vision, and a shot to be envious of. He seems to have gained confidence since being drafted, creating a dangerous player for all of his opponents. Behind him, Brett Leason has a ton of promise. He hasn’t had the best start to his AHL career, but there’s lots of time. Alexei Protas is another one to keep an eye on.

There are a couple of solid defensive prospects in Alexander Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary. Both have the potential to be top-four NHL contributors, as could Martin Hugo Has. Lucas Johansen is another player to keep an eye on.

As mentioned, the Capitals are still very much in win-now mode. However, there is still some very impressive talent waiting in the ranks.

28) Boston Bruins

Previous Ranking: 28

Top Five Prospects: John Beecher, Trent Frederic, Jakub Lauko, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Connor Clifton

Key Additions: N/A

The Boston Bruins recently had an NHL top prospect graduate (Charlie McAvoy), and while there’s a solid prospect or two on defence, at forward, and in net, after that, there’s a bit of a drop-off.

The club has another bright defenseman in Urho Vaakanainen. While he’s not a highlight-reel player, he seems to simplify the game and make great choices. Could you ask for anything else in a defender? There’s a steep decline in defensive talent after Vaakanainen, although Jakub Zboril could surprise.

Boston Bruins defender Urho Vaakanainen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s a bit more depth up front for the Bruins, especially at centre. Jack Studnicka, John Beecher, Trent Frederic, and Karson Kuhlman (also a right-winger) are just a few of the names the club has at the position. The only problem is they lack elite-level prospects. They could all very well end up as top-nine forwards, especially Beecher, but they’ll need some higher-end talent later on.

On the wing, Jakub Lauko (could also play centre) and Oskar Steen seem to be the best available in a group that needs some filling out.

In net, undrafted Kyle Keyser has shown flashes of being able to be an NHL goaltender. There’s still much work to do, but he has time to develop. He could even be pushed for the spot one day by 2017 pick, Jeremy Swayman although the 111th-overall pick looks to have a bigger hill to climb.

27) San Jose Sharks

Previous Ranking: 27

Top Five Prospects: Joachim Blichfeld, Alexander Chmelevski, Jonathan Dahlen, Josef Korenar, Ryan Merkley

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Mario Ferraro, Dylan Gambrell

Key Additions: N/A

The San Jose Sharks system lacks a lot of high draft picks and high-end talent. They’ve traded a number of good prospects, including Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris to the Senators. That being said, their prospect pool is topped by a great offensive defenseman, and they have a number of later draft picks that looked to trend well last season. While they are low on this list, they have a number of bubble prospects that could surprise many moving forward.

That defensive prospect mentioned above is Ryan Merkley. The Sharks’ first-round pick from 2018 is deadly in the offensive zone, makes passes look easy and has a solid shot. He needs to work on his play in his own end, but there’s no question that there’s a solid play in Merkley. Other than him, Artemy Knyazev rounds out the top-two defenders in the system, although his ceiling isn’t as high as Merkley’s.

Ryan Merkley San Jose Sharks
Ryan Merkley, San Jose Sharks, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas Texas, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the forward front, the team has a number of later round picks that have progressed very nicely. Wingers Ivan Chekhovich and Joachim Blichfeld were both picked in the seventh round (2017 and 2016, respectfully), yet are now among the team’s top prospects. Alexander Chmelevski was selected in the sixth round and is right there as well.

They might be the best set-up in net. Not because they have elite talent, but because they have a trio of goaltenders that could very well become NHL-level netminders. Josef Korenar, Zachary Emond and Andrew Shortridge have all shown promise in their respective leagues and should be an intriguing storyline in the near future. At this point, I might give the edge to AHL All-Star Korenar, but Emond just led the QMJHL in nearly everything in 2018-19 and could be right there as well.

26) St. Louis Blues

Previous Ranking: 23

Top Five Prospects: Joel Hofer, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Scott Perunovich, Mitch Reinke

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Dominik Bokk

Key Additions: N/A

The St. Louis Blues may be low on this list, but that’s in large part due to the graduating class of Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, and Jordan Binnington – all of whom now have Stanley Cup rings. Trading Dominik Bokk definitely hurts the group as well. Another plus for the Blues is that right here is where we start getting into the teams with at least one high-end/elite talent in their pools.

For the Stanley Cup champions, that player is Jordan Kyrou. He’s a likely candidate for graduation as well this season, but for now the dynamic is at the top of their system for his speed, hockey IQ and creativity. His 16-game NHL stint in 2018-19 showed why he is a very promising prospect, and he should be a graduate from this list in the next update.

Jordan Kyrou
St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrou leads a forward group with Klim Kostin, Nikita Alexandrov, and Alexei Toropchenko – all of whom have top-nine potential. The forward group is looking fairly good right now.

Defensively doesn’t look as great, other than NCAA star player Scott Perunovich. After Kyrou, he’s likely the next best prospect. He led the University of Minnesota-Duluth to back-to-back championships and has become an offensive weapon for the team. After him, Mitch Reinke and Tyler Tucker show promise but are clearly a tier or two below Perunovich.

Goaltending is a strong suit, with Colten Ellis, Vadim Zherenko, and Joel Hofer in the system. They’re a long way away, but that’s fine with Binnington holding down the NHL net. There’s some promise in this group.

25) Calgary Flames

Previous Ranking: 25

Top Five Prospects: Ilya Nikolayev, Jakob Pelletier, Emilio Pettersen, Juuso Valimaki, Dmitry Zavgorodny

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

The Calgary Flames are one of those teams that are starting to make a push to the next level and have therefore either seen a number of prospects graduate (Dillon Dube, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane) or traded away (Adam Fox). The 2019 NHL Draft helped restock some pieces, but there’s still work to be done.

At the latest draft, the Flames selected Jakob Pelletier and Ilya Nikolayev in the first and third rounds, respectfully, adding two forwards who never give up. Those are great players to have, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both end up as top-six players. Dmitry Zavgorodny is another to keep an eye on, as I think he’s developed into a very strong prospect despite his seventh-round selection in 2017. Along with Emilio Pettersen and Filip Sveningsson, the forward group has potential. Matthew Phillips is right there too.

Jakob Pelletier Brad Treliving Flames
Jakob Pelletier poses with general manager Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames at the 2019 NHL Draft (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Defender Juuso Valimaki was nearly a graduate, playing 24 games in 2018-19, and he’s been waiting for his 25th after tearing his ACL. For now, he’s the only defender in the system that looks like a no-question NHLer. There’s a significant gap between him and the next defenseman, Carl-Johan Lerby. This will be an area to address at the 2020 NHL Draft.

Another 2019 draft selection leads the goaltending group in Dustin Wolf. After a stellar season in the WHL, the Flames selected him in the seventh round, much later than many thought he’d go. He might end up as a steal for the club – you might even be able to call him that now.

24) Winnipeg Jets

Previous Ranking: 18

Top Five Prospects: Mikhail Berdin, Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, Logan Stanley, Kristian Vesalainen

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

The Winnipeg Jets are looking strong on defence for the future. The majority of their top-end prospects are defenders, but there are a couple of other positions sprinkled in there. Trading Brendon Lemiuex and the graduation of Sami Niku hurts a bit, but there’s still some great talent in the organization.

Jets’ 2019 draft pick Ville Heinola could very well develop into a top-two defender. He’s calm, he’s smart and he can move the puck. There’s no question in my mind that he’ll be a stud in the NHL one day. Jets’ fans got to see a glimpse of that at the beginning of 2019-20, and the future looks bright for Heinola.

Winnipeg Jets Ville Heinola Draft
Winnipeg Jets Ville Heinola (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Heinola is up there with a number of other defenders. Logan Stanley, Dylan Samberg, and Declan Chisolm all look like future NHLers that could be top-four. Samberg, in particular, looks like he could join Heinola on a future top-two, providing the defence to the newcomer’s offence.

The forward group isn’t as strong as the defensive group, but Kristian Vesalainen keeps it relevant. He could very well be a top-six winger one day, bringing speed and offensive ability. Behind him, there might not be many forwards in the system that will be NHLers.

However, the Jets’ do have a solid netminder in the system in Mikhail Berdin, although he has some work to do if he ever wants to be an NHL starter. For now, the NHL is his ceiling, so we’ll just have to keep watching.

23) Nashville Predators

Previous Ranking: 24

Top Five Prospects: Egor Afanasyev, David Farrance, Rem Pitlick, Eeli Tolvanen, Phil Tomasino

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Dante Fabbro

Key Additions: N/A

There’s a pattern among the teams near the bottom, in that they lack an elite prospect in their system. For the Nashville Predators, they have two players that could be considered right on the cusp of elite.

Many thought Eeli Tolvanen was an elite prospect. He’s taken longer to develop than expected, even taking a step back in 2018-19. Still, this is a great prospect. Don’t count him out just yet. Phil Tomasino is another one to watch, selected in the first round in 2019. You’ll have to watch closely though, or you might miss the speedy winger. He’s having a great 2019-20 and could challenge Tolvanen as the top prospect.

Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators, NHL farm system rankings
Nashville Predators 2017 first-round draft pick Eeli Tolvanen (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There’s more forwards to talk about for the Predators. Egor Afanasyev keeps the puck on a string and will be one of the most exciting players to watch on this team. Along with him, Rem Pitlick looks like the real deal as well.

The future defence for the Preds isn’t looking as promising after the graduation of Dante Fabbro. However, they do have a couple notable prospects in David Farrance, Marc Del Gaizo, and Frederic Allard.

While there aren’t really any high-end goalies of note (maybe Connor Ingram), the team has 24-year-old Juuse Saros who looks like the Pekka Rinne replacement of the future.

22) Chicago Blackhawks

Previous Ranking: 13

Top Five Prospects: Evan Barratt, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, Michal Téply, Alex Vlasic

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Alex Nylander, Aleksi Saarela

Key Additions: N/A

The Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool made a big leap forward in 2019, adding third-overall pick Kirby Dach to an already fairly impressive system. They also acquired Alex Nylander. But so far in 2019-20, many of the team’s top prospects have graduated to the big club. Dach, Nylander, Adam Boqvist, and Dominik Kubalik are in the NHL now, and Aleksi Saarela was sent packing. Even with all of these graduated, there’s some promise in the ranks.

The team’s top prospect is now Evan Barratt. I believe he could one day take the second-line centre spot behind Dach. He competes hard, can make plays and has a good shot. There’s a drop behind him, but Michal Téply, John Quenneville, and Antti Saarela are some keep an eye on for sure.

Evan Barratt
Evan Barratt (Hickling Images)

The defence is looking strong right now. Alec Regula, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Alex Vlasic all show top-four potential. Alex Vlasic leads this pack right now, he’s excellent in his own end, using his size to rub opponents off the puck and his long reach to break up plays.

Goaltending is a big miss for them right now, with no clear-cut goaltender of the future in place. Alexis Gravel is likely the top option right now, but he has a ways to go if he hopes to be an NHL goaltender.

There’s still room to improve in the Blackhawks system, but there are still some good pieces in place.

21) Dallas Stars

Previous Ranking: 29

Top Five Prospects: Gavin Bayreuther, Ty Dellandrea, Thomas Harley, Jake Oettinger, Jason Robertson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Denis Gurianov

Key Additions: N/A

Despite keeping their first-round picks in 11 straight drafts, the Dallas Stars’ find themselves low this list. They regularly have prospects seem to struggle after being selected, and their prospect pool isn’t helped by the recent graduations of Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz.

Leading the prospect pack should be defender Thomas Harley, selected in the 2019 NHL Draft. He looks like he should be a top-four defenseman moving forward. He eats up minutes, is a great skater, and sets up plays. There’s a lot of upside to his game. The defensive group drops off after him, although undrafted Gavin Bayreuther showed promise in his 19 game NHL stint in 2018-19.

Thomas Harley Mississauga Steelheads  NHL farm system rankings
Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars prospect (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The forwards look to be in a bit better shape. Winger Jason Robertson is the club’s top offensive forward, after putting up 117 points in the OHL. Ty Dellandrea could be a future number one centre. Don’t sleep on Tye Felhaber either. He was an offensive machine in the OHL last season and looks like he could be on the right track to the NHL.

In net, the Stars have a promising goalie in Jake Oettinger. He seems to be developing nicely so far and should really show what he’s capable of after some time in the AHL this season. He looks on track to take the reins from Ben Bishop down the line though.

20) Minnesota Wild

Previous Ranking: 22

Top Five Prospects: Adam Beckman, Matthew Boldy, Vladislav Firstov, Kirill Kaprizov, Mason Shaw

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Carson Soucy

Key Additions: N/A

The Minnesota Wild are a team with numerous issues, as made public by the firing of general manager Paul Fenton after one year at the helm. Yet in terms of prospects, there’s promise. Two (maybe three) young players carry the system right now, but that should be enough to build around for new GM Bill Guerin.

Kirill Kaprizov is one of the best players in the world not in the NHL. An elite offensive talent, he’s in the final year of his KHL deal at which point he should make the Wild roster and make an impact in 2020-21. As the New Jersey Devils saw with Nikita Gusev though, temper your expectations right off the bat.

Kirill Kaprizov
Minnesota Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov (Photo: Elena Rusko,

Matthew Boldy is another high-end talent and could even be elite. Of his many strengths, his greatest is probably his adaptability. Whatever the team needs from him, he can run with it and seems to excel whether it’s score goals, make plays or defend. He’s having a rough season, but don’t count him out just yet.

Adam Beckman has played himself into this conversation as well, with a dominant season in the WHL. There’s a significant drop after these three though, although forwards Vladislav Firstov, Mason Shaw, Alexander Khovanov, and Nico Sturm have shown some upside.

The defence is a weak spot for the farm system, with just defender Brennan Menell looking like an NHL prospect. In net, Hunter Jones and Mat Robson both have a chance to succeed, and Kaapo Kahkonen has impressed in his few starts in 2019-20. A high pick in the 2020 NHL Draft could change this team’s future outlook.

19) Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous Ranking: 20

Top Five Prospects: Hugo Alnefelt, Alex Barre-Boulet, Cal Foote, Nolan Foote, Taylor Raddysh

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Carter Verhaeghe

Key Additions: N/A

Considering how stacked the Tampa Bay Lightning are on their NHL roster, they’ve done a great job keeping their prospect pool respectable. Even after the graduations of Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph, the Bolts have a solid group of prospects.

The farm system is currently highlighted by a pair of prospects, who just so happen to be brothers and the sons of legendary defender Adam Foote. Cal and Nolan Foote, taken two years apart in the first round (2017 and 2019, respectively). Nolan just might be the top prospect in the organization as a future top-six player, and Cal looks like a top-four defender at this point.

Cal Foote, Kelowna Rockets, WHL, NHL farm systems
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Cal Foote (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

The Lightning have shown again and again that they know what they’re doing when it comes to prospects, and it looks they’ve done in again with Alex Barre-Boulet. An undrafted winger, Barre-Boulet has taken massive strides over the past two seasons. He looks like an absolute steal at this point.

The Lightning are looking solid on the wings in the system. On top of Nolan Foote, they have Taylor Raddysh, Alexander Volkov, Boris Katchouk, and Gabriel Fortier. It’s a solid group.

Behind Cal on defence, it looks pretty slim. Dmitri Semykin and Quinn Schmiemann are having good seasons, but I’d put both on the bubble of being NHLers one day. It net, they are looking pretty good with Hugo Alnefelt, an athletic goalie who can steal games. He’s a few years away, but he’s promising.

They’ll need to work on their centre and defensive depth moving forward, but they are in a pretty good spot right now.

18) Buffalo Sabres

Previous Ranking: 17

Top Five Prospects: Dylan Cozens, Oskari Laaksonen, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ryan Johnson, Mattias Samuelsson

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Rasmus Asplund, Victor Olafsson

Key Additions: N/A

The Buffalo Sabres are one of the most-changed pools from a year ago. Rasmus Dahlin, Lawrence Pilut, Casey Mittelstadt, Rasmus Aplund, and Victor Olafsson graduated, while Brendan Guhle and Alex Nylander were traded away. While it’s a significant drop from a year ago, there’s enough talent to keep them in the middle of the pack.

The Sabres have a very strong top-five prospect group, headlined by the potential elite Dylan Cozens. Drafted seventh overall in 2019, the prospect looks to have a very full toolkit of skills that will make him a great, top-line player in the NHL. There isn’t anyone in the system at Cozens’ calibre, but Matej Pekar deserves a mention.

Dylan Cozens Lethbridge Hurricanes
Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens (Robert Murray/WHL)

Puck-moving defender Ryan Johnson is right behind Cozens. The Sabres’ other first-round pick in 2019 makes big plays, is a great skater and is solid in his own end. Johnson and fellow defenders Mattias Samuelsson and Oskari Laaksonen all have top-four potential.

Finally, the Sabres have goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. There’s a lot to be excited about in his game. He looks like he’ll be a starting goalie in the NHL and has the ability to steal games. He’s one of the better goaltender prospects in the league.

17) New Jersey Devils

Previous Ranking: 8

Top Five Prospects: Kevin Bahl, Michael McLeod, Nick Merkley, Ty Smith, Reilly Walsh

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Jesper Boqvist, Jack Hughes, Mackenzie Blackwood

Key Additions: Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley

The Devils have had their prospect pool take a big hit in 2019-20, with the graduation of three of their top prospects in Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, and Mackenzie Blackwood. Still, there’s some very good talent left in the farm system.

2018 first-round pick Ty Smith looks like he will be an elite, two-way defender for the Devils. He’s a high-end skater with great playmaking abilities. He’ll be running the organization’s power play in no time.

Ty Smith New Jersey Devils
Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Reilly Walsh is another one to watch, as he looks to be another great defender in the system. Also, I believe that Daniil Misyul will surprise many once they get a better look at him. He’s a poor man’s Scott Stevens. You’ll love him, New Jersey.

Related: Devils 2019-20 Midseason Prospect Update

The forward ranks have been slightly depleted. The top option now is Michael McLeod, who has a top-nine ceiling. He’s a bit more of a power foward, which could be perfect for behind Hughes and Nico Hischier. Behind him, Tyce Thompson has looked very good this season, as has Mitchell Hoelscher and Arseni Gritsyuk.

In net, Blackwood’s graduation hurts the group, with Evan Cormier and Cole Brady leading the pack. I’m not sure either one will make it to the NHL at this point.

16) New York Islanders

Previous Ranking: 16

Top Five Prospects: Sebastian Aho, Noah Dobson, Ilya Sorokin, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: N/A

The New York Islanders were one of the harder teams to place in this list. They have great talent in the system, but the teams to come simply have more players with higher ceilings. The Islanders have put together a solid group though.

Noah Dobson leads the prospect pool, with the potential to be a number one defender in the NHL. He can skate, he can shoot, and he has great vision on the ice. He’s a dominating player and one of the best defensive prospects in the entire league.

Noah Dobson Acadie-Bathurst Titan
New York Islanders prospect Noah Dobson (Shawn Davidson/QMJHL)

The Isles also have one of the best goaltending prospects in the league in Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin makes the position look easy, dominating the KHL, where he might just be in his last season before making the jump to the NHL in 2020-21.

There is lots of other talent in the Islanders system, including top forward Oliver Wahlstrom and defenders Bode Wilde, Sebastian Aho, and Robin Salo. Another forward to keep an eye on this season is Simon Holmstrom, who I expect to surprise many fans and scouts.

15) Arizona Coyotes

Previous Ranking: 21

Top Five Prospects: Barrett Hayton, Adin Hill, Jan Jeniík, Matias Maccelli, Victor Söderström

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley

Key Additions: Blake Speers

The Arizona Coyotes are another organization that has a prospect pool that has suffered from recent graduating classes and trading away prospects. Dylan Strome was sent to the Chicago Blackhawks, we’ve already discussed Pierre-Oliver Joseph who was sent to Pittsburgh, Kevin Nahl and Nick Merkley were sent to the Devils, and the team has seen numerous young players make the jump in the last few seasons.

Left in the prospect pool, are a number of solid defenders and a potential star in Barrett Hayton. The centreman looks like an elite prospect after a collecting 1.67 points per game in the OHL last season. He has the speed and playmaking ability that could see him become a top-line centreman.

Barrett Hayton
Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Behind Hayton, Jan Jenik is a name to know. I think he could be a star in the NHL. He’s shown what he’s capable of in the OHL, including a 26-game point streak in 2019-20. He can score, he can pass, and he can skate. Behind these two, Matias Maccelli, Liam Kirk, ValentinNussbaumer, and the newly acquire Blake Speers are a few to keep an eye on.

The organization has some solid defenders in place, led by 2019 draftee Victor Soderstrom. The Coyotes traded up for the puck-moving defender, who should be a top-four defender and simply continues to impress as he develops.

Other defenders of note are Kyle Capobianco and Michael Callahan, who could one day be defending in front of goaltender-of-the-future Adin Hill, who has already started to see some NHL action.

14) Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous Ranking: 19

Top Five Prospects: Jeremy Bracco, Tim Liljegren, Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Joseph Woll

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, Dmytro Timashov

Key Additions: N/A

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, many of their young guys have moved up in the last few seasons. Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, and Dmytro Timashov all did it this season. They have one potential elite player at the top of their system and a few high-end that puts them in the top-20.

The Maple Leafs prospect pool is highlighted by two defenders in Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Taken in the first rounds in 2018 and 2017, respectfully, it’s only a matter of time before both young d-men stick in the NHL. They’ve both seen action in 2019-20, and they could both be graduates by 2020-21. Behind these two, Mikko Kokkonen shows promise as a shut-down defender.

Toronto Maple Leafs Rasmus Sandin
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Jeremy Bracco has received mixed reviews over the last couple of seasons, but he’s a solid playmaker and is creative with the puck. Don’t sleep on him making a difference when he gets the call-up. Nick Robertson is a need-to-know name. He can put up the points, he’s creative and has great offensive instincts. He might already be a steal. A couple of other forwards to note are Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Mikhail Abramo, and Adam Brooks.

In net, the Maple Leafs have a couple of prospects who could both one day be NHL starters. I give Joseph Woll the edge, but Ian Scott could very easily be the heir to Fredrik Andersen. Both goaltenders have the tools to do so if they continue developing on the right track.

13) Anaheim Ducks

Previous Ranking: 14

Top Five Prospects: Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Isac Lundestrom, Josh Mahura, Brayden Tracey, Trevor Zegras

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Maxime Comtois, Sam Steel

Key Additions: N/A

The Anaheim Ducks have some elite talent at the top of the system, but they’ve seen a few graduates over the last two seasons. Now, their depth isn’t as deep as it once was, but the group as a whole shows promise.

Trevor Zegras is the club’s top prospect, and one of the best in the NHL, fresh off of his ninth-overall selection in 2019. He has the chance to be an elite, impact player at the NHL level and it looks like he’s well on his way. A great, creative playmaker that should be the club’s next number one centre.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks 2019 NHL Draft
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The majority of the Ducks’ other top prospects are forwards as well, including Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Isac Lundestrom, and Brayden Tracey. They have put together a very talented group of forwards.

Josh Mahura headlines the defensive group, which is fairly weak after him. Brendan Guhle looks like an NHL defender as well, but I don’t see his ceiling as high as Mahura. Other than these two, there’s not much to be excited about.

In net, John Gibson will be holding down the fort for a while, but Lukas Dostal shows some promise. The Ducks are requiring a bit of a re-stock in the 2020 NHL Draft to keep their prospect pool relevant.

12) Detroit Red Wings

Previous Ranking: 11

Top Five Prospects: Filip Larsson, Gustav Lindstrom, Moritz Seider, Evgeny Svechnikov, Joe Veleno

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Oliwer Kaski, Filip Zadina

Key Additions: N/A

The Detroit Red Wings are about to see a big burst of talent hit their roster, and some of that has already started. With the graduations of Michael Rasmussen, Filip Hronek, and Filip Zadina and the trade of Oliwer Kaski, there’s been some change, but it still has some very good prospects at the top and throughout.

Joe Veleno is now the best forward in the system. A future top-six threat, Veleno is a strong skater and a well-rounded two-way centre. He’s lightyears ahead of the second tier of forwards including Jonatan Berggren, Robert Mastrosimone, Otto Kivenmaki, and Albin Grewe.

Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings
Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The nice thing about the Red Wings system is that they have great pieces across the positional board. Moritz Seider looks like the real deal, he’s a very smart player who wouldn’t surprise me in making the just to the NHL sooner rather than later. He’s quickly become one of the best defensive prospects in the league and showed why at the 2020 World Juniors. He’s going to be very good.

Defender Gustav Lindstrom deserves some mention too, coming in behind Seider. Jared McIsaac and Antti Tuomisto could both be NHLers are well. Behind them, goaltender Filip Larsson has the tools to be an NHL goaltender. He hasn’t had a great season so far, but the traits are still there. Give him time.

11) Vegas Golden Knights

Previous Ranking: 10

Top Five Prospects: Pavel Dorofeyev, Jack Dugan, Lucas Elvenes, Peyton Krebs, Jimmy Schuldt

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Cody Glass, Nicolas Hague

Key Additions: N/A

The Vegas Golden Knights are one of those teams that are in the sweet spot of a playoff team and an organization with a great prospect pool. Considering they’ve traded away Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki, while Cody Glass and Nicholas Hague have graduated, coming in at number 12 is very impressive.

The star of this system is Peyton Krebs. This dynamic player will either shift to the wing or be one of the best one-two punches in the league behind Glass (more likely). He has elite potential, with great skating and high-end playmaking.

Peyton Krebs Kootenay Ice
(Robert Murray/WHL) Peyton Krebs of the Kootenay Ice was the first overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and the cerebral forward is now in his NHL draft year.

Next comes Pavel Dorofeyev, who I thought should have gone much earlier than 79th in the 2019 NHL Draft – like in the first round. He has great offensive ability and is creative with the puck. Other forwards to mention include Nicolas Roy, Jack Dugan, and Lukas Elvenes. All of whom continue to get better and better.

The defence will need some new life soon, especially after the loss of Brannstrom and Hague, but there’s still a number of promising rearguards. Jimmy Schuldt, Dylan Coghlan, Peter Diliberatore, and Kaedan Korczak all look like they could be NHLers, and Xavier Bouchard could be right there as well.

In net, Isaiah Saville is a name to watch. He might not be a high-end prospect, but he very well could develop into an NHL netminder.

10) Edmonton Oilers

Previous Ranking: 12

Top Five Prospects: Tyler Benson, Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Raphael Lavoie, Kailer Yamamoto

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Ethan Bear

Key Additions: N/A

The Edmonton Oilers made some big additions to their prospect pool over the last season and their existing group took steps forward. It’s been a dark time for the Oilers for a long time, but there looks to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Two defenders lead the system in Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. The back-to-back first-round picks (2018 and 2019, respectfully) both look like they could be the future top-pairing defenders for the Oilers. They are both going to have very good NHL careers and you should be excited to watch them blossom.

Edmonton Oilers Evan Bouchard
Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

A pair of forwards also help the prospect pool ranking, with Tyler Benson and Raphael Lavoie both providing offensive flair. Benson is creative and great puck handling, where Lavoie brings high-end skill and a great shot.

There are many other players to mention, from forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Kirill Maksimov to defenders Dmitri Samoruko and Caleb Jones. In net, I have high hopes for newly drafted Ilya Konovalov, and Olivier Rodrigue also has a lot of potential. The Oilers are getting deeper and shouldn’t be far away from coming back to respectability.

9) Florida Panthers

Previous Ranking: 15

Top Five Prospects: Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi, Spencer Knight, Serron Noel, Owen Tippett

Key Graduates/Subtractions: N/A

Key Additions: Aleksi Saarela

The Florida Panthers are trending up. Both on their NHL roster and the prospect pool, things are looking pretty good in Florida. They have some elite talent, with the potential to be among the best at their positions. If they can add some more depth, they’d likely be much higher.

The team surprised many by selecting goaltender Spencer Knight 13th overall in 2019. Knight is one of (if not the) the best goaltending prospects in the league, who seems to remain calm and collected at all times. With Sergei Bobrovsky signed, they won’t need Knight for a while, but that will give him time to properly develop.

Spencer Knight of the U.S. National Development Program
Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers prospect (Hickling Images)

The Panthers are looking strong at forward as well. Grigori Denisenko is a great skater, with some of the best puck handling skills not in the NHL. He sets the pace when he’s on the ice and should be an elite, top-line player for the panthers. Owen Tippett is right there as well, with a lightning-quick shot that is consistently overwhelming and, on top of its weight, is surprisingly accurate.

Aleksi Heponiemi and Serron Noel are both right behind Denisenko and Tippett. A few more forwards worth keeping an eye on are Aleksi Saarela, Greg Meireles, and Cole Schwindt.

Defensively, the pool doesn’t have high-end talent like in net and up front, but Vladislav Kolyachonok, Santtu Kinnunen, Riley Stillman and Brady Keeper give the organization some defenders to look forward to.

8) Philadelphia Flyers

Previous Ranking: 9

Top Five Prospects: Bobby Brink, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, Cam York, Yegor Zamula

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Joel Farabee, Philippe Myers

Key Additions: N/A

I could easily be convinced that the Philadelphia Flyers should be higher on this list. They have a great crop of prospects, and then, of course, there’s the goaltender of the future in Carter Hart, who showed what he can do last season. The duo of Joel Farabee and Philippe Myers are also impacting at the NHL level early. While they have a number of future stars in the fold, I think that most of the teams above simply have more players with higher ceilings.

Morgan Frost is now their top prospect, a centreman who has great speed and is a high-end playmaker. He’s extremely good with the puck and exciting to watch. Isaac Ratcliffe comes in behind him as a big (6-foot-6) goal-scoring machine.

Morgan Frost Philadelphia Flyers
Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A prospect that Philadelphia fans should be excited about is Bobby Brink. Drafted in the second round this past June, the winger is an elite passer, with great hockey sense. His skating needs some tweaking, but there’s a great future NHLer in Brink. Jim O’Brien is also having a big year in the BCHL and has a ton of promise.

The future defence is just as impressive. 2019 first rounder Cam York was the number one guy on a stacked USNTDP team, largely due to his elite hockey sense. He’s patient, makes good decisions, and seems to slow the game down for the entire team. Undrafted Yegor Zamula is also impressing in his development. He’s a very smart defender who seems to do all of the little things right.

On top of these two, the Flyers drafted another potential steal, Ronnie Attard, in the third round in 2019, while Wyatte Wylie is on the rise as well. Keep an eye on Mason Millman too. The Flyers don’t have a sure-thing goaltender in the ranks anymore, but Matej Tomek has been having a very good season in Slovakia.

7) Vancouver Canucks

Previous Ranking: 4

Top Five Prospects: Nils Hoglander, Olli Juolevi, Tyler Madden, Vasily Podkolzin, Jett Woo

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Thatcher Demko, Quinn Hughes

Key Additions: N/A

Despite the graduation of Quinn Hughes, the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best prospect pools in the league. Padded by a solid draft, the Canucks could very well be on the verge of something great. And it is going to be fun to watch.

Forward Vasili Podkolzin is creative, has a great shot, and can make plays as well He has one year left in Russia, but the prospect has elite talent in his game. He’ll run you over and score while doing it. Canucks fans should be very excited to see him.

Vasily Podkolzin of SKA St. Petersburg
Vasily Podkolzin of SKA St. Petersburg (photo courtesy SKA)

Sticking with the forwards, one player I was excited about in the 2019 NHL Draft was Nils Hoglander. He plays a similar game to Podkolzin, despite his smaller size. He’s fast, gets in the face of opponents, and can produce. The future Canucks offence will be getting under the rest of the NHL’s skin. Another prospect to watch is centreman Tyler Madden who is having a great season. As are Kole Lind, Carson Focht, and Arvid Costmar.

For defence, with Quinn Hughes graduating, Jett Woo is one of my favourites on this team. He can dance along the blue line and play physically when he needs to. Oh, and he can put up the points. The Canucks are very deep on the backend, with Olli Juolevi, Toni Utunen, and Jack Rathbone also looking like NHL defenders. Plus, Brogan Rafferty has been having a coming-out party this season in the AHL.

Related: Canucks’ Top 10 Prospects Midseason Update

In net, the club is set up very nicely. Michael DiPietro is one of the best goaltending prospects in the league. Even with the graduation of Thatcher Demko, the Canucks are set up nicely on all fronts.

6) Colorado Avalanche

Previous Ranking: 3

Top Five Prospects: Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, Martin Kaut, Alex Newhook, Connor Timmins

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Cale Makar, Pavel Francouz

Key Additions: N/A

The Colorado Avalanche just had one of the best prospects in the league graduate, yet they still find themselves high on this list. They look set up for a long time at every position and are even a playoff team. The Avalanche are going to be a threat for years to come with the help of numerous prospects.

2019 fourth-overall pick Bowen Byram highlights the group. Arguably the top prospect in the league, He’s creative, he can produce, and he can defend. He has an absolute cannon that was on display all season in the WHL. He’s an absolute stud that will transition nicely to the NHL.

Bowen Byram Vancouver Giants
Colorado Avalanche prospect Bowen Byram (Chris Relke/Vancouver Giants)

Behind this, the Avalanche still has Conor Timmins, Drew Helleson, and Calle Rosen. The future blue line is looking solid. Timmins missed a year of hockey, came back, and made the opening-night roster for the Avs. He’s going to be just fine.

For forwards, the team has a future star in Alex Newhook. The two-way centre is an offensive weapon, capable of putting up big point totals. Many had Newhook as a top-10 pick, so the Avalanche selecting him at 16 is an absolute steal. He’ll make teams regret passing on him.

Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers, and Alex Beaucage all look promising for the Avalanche as well. Kaut is likely the best behind Newhook, a top-six winger who hasn’t impressed as much as the Avs hoped, but the potential is still there.

In net, Adam Werner and Justus Annunen both show NHL-starter potential, and I’d give the edge to Annunen. He’s having a dominant season in the Liiga and looked very good through the 2020 World Juniors. The Avalanche are going to be set up for a long time.

5) Montreal Canadiens

Previous Ranking: 6

Top Five Prospects: Josh Brook, Cole Caufield, Ryan Poehling, Cayden Primeau, Alexander Romanov

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Nick Suzuki, Cale Fleury

Key Additions: N/A

The Montreal Canadiens already had a great group of prospects that was made much better by a strong 2019 NHL Draft. Selecting Cole Caufield with the 15th pick is almost laughable, as many thought he should go in the top-10. Instead, the Canadiens got a chance to improve their system a great deal.

Caufield is going to be a star. The club’s top prospect is arguably the best goal-scoring prospect in the league, after netting 72 in 2018-19. The best part is, he has every type of shot in his arsenal. Canadiens fans will see wrist shots, slap shots, snapshots, and one-timers from the 5-foot-7 forward – and a lot of goals. Combine that with his elite skating, and NHL goalies are going to be in trouble.

Montreal Canadians Cole Caufield NHL draft
Montreal Canadians prospect Cole Caufield (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The Canadiens already got a taste of what Ryan Poehling can do. He scored a hat trick in his NHL debut, bringing excitement to the fanbase. While he’s not likely to be a highlight-reel player, he’s a solid, two-way centreman who obviously has offensive talent. Also keep an eye on forwards Jesse Ylonen, Joni Ikonen, and Jacob Olofsson.

Defensively, the club has a couple of players who might just bring as much excitement as the forwards. Josh Brook is coming off of a season that saw him collect 75 points in 59 WHL games. He looks like a future top-pairing defender based on his puck-moving, defensive game, and decision making.

Alexander Romanov might be right there with Brook. He’s a defender who likes to play physical but can chip in offensively and might be the perfect complement to Brook down the line. The Canadiens are deep on defensive prospects with Noah Juulsen, Mattias Norlinder, and Jordan Harris as a few more to watch.

Even in net, the Canadiens have a great prospect in Cayden Primeau. Despite being a seventh-round pick, Primeau does a lot with very little, meaning he makes saves with very little effort. Could he be the heir to Carey Price?

4) New York Rangers

Previous Ranking: 1

Top Five Prospects: Zachary Jones, Vitaly Kravtsov, Nils Lundqvist, K’Andre Miller, Igor Shestyorkin

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Kaapo Kakko, Ryan Lindgren

Key Additions: N/A

The New York Rangers had four key players graduate this season, headlined by Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox. Yet, here they are, still at number two. They still have a stacked prospect pool, which can only get better in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The Rangers have talent all over. They are absolutely stacked everywhere and this is going to be a dominant team very soon, possibly even this season. Their pool is headlined by a goaltender in Igor Shestyorkin. He has the potential to become one of the best in the league. There are big skates to fill in Henrik Lundqvist, but Shestyorkin looks like he may be up to the task. Swedish goalie Olof Lindbom has a ton of potential as well, giving the Rangers two solid prospects in net.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports)

Vitaly Kravtsov is the top forward now, He’s an incredibly creative player that has a pass-first mentality. He’s a high-end playmaker and has the ability to change the course of a game. It drops a bit after him, although there is potential in Leevi Aaltonen, Karl Henriksson, Morgan Barron, and Lauri Pajuniemi.

On to the defence, which is just as exciting. Nils Lundqvist and K’Andre Miller headline the group. Both are two of the best offensive defensemen prospects in the league. Their potential is very high and other teams should be terrified. Zachary Jones is right there as well, just behind the other two.

Behind them are a few more names to keep an eye on, including Matthew Robertson, Yegor Rykov, and Tarmo Reunanen. The Rangers’ depth is unbelievable still, and the future is bright.

3) Carolina Hurricanes

Previous Ranking: 7

Top Five Prospects: Jake Bean, Dominik Bokk, Alex Nedeljkovic, Patrik Puistola, Ryan Suzuki

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Martin Necas

Key Additions: Dominik Bokk, Oliwer Kaski

The Carolina Hurricanes had one of my favourite drafts in 2019, adding on to an already stacked farm system. They just shocked the hockey world with a deep push into the playoffs, led by some very young players. The future is looking very bright in Carolina. Yes, they traded away Adam Fox and both Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas graduated, but then they went and added Dominik Bokk. Oh boy.

Ryan Suzuki was the club’s first selection in 2019 and has shown incredible passing ability in the OHL. He’s a great skater with a wicked shot who will develop into a great NHL player. Patrik Puistola is right there as well, another draftee from the 2019 group.

Brind'Amour Waddell Suzuki Hurricanes Draft
Ryan Suzuki poses with Rod Brind’Amour and Don Waddell after being selected by the Carolina Hurricanes (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Jamieson Rees is having an absolute breakout season in the OHL, he uses his elite speed and very high hockey IQ to stun his opponents offensively and then doesn’t give anything back by killing penalties and defending very well. This season, they added Dominik Bokk to the fold. Excellent hands, great passes, and a high IQ make this a terrifying prospect.

The Hurricanes forward depth is among the league’s best, with Tuukka Tieksola, Janne Kuokkanen, Luke Henman, and Jack Drury all looking like solid prospects.

It continues defensively for the Hurricanes, although it’s not as deep as the forwards. Jake Bean leads the pack, as one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the AHL last season. He’s extremely patient, waiting for the perfect play to present itself and then he strikes. He’s going to be an NHL star.

Anttoni Honka could end up as the steal of the 2019 NHL draft, slipping to the third round. He’s another great playmaker, with good hands and mobility. He’ll make a lot of teams regret not selecting him sooner. Chase Priskie is also one to watch, as he’s having a very good rookie season in the AHL.

For goaltenders, the organization is looking set for the future. Between Alex Nedeljkovic and Pyotr Kochetkov, the future pipes are in good hands in Carolina. Both netminders have the tools in place to be number one, NHL goalies. Right now, I’d say they are fairly neck and neck, so this will be a season to watch for the Canes goaltending prospects.

2) Ottawa Senators

Previous Ranking: 5

Top Five Prospects: Drake Batherson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Josh Norris

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Erik Brannstrom, Marcus Hogberg

Key Additions: N/A

The Senators are one year into their rebuild, and the prospect cupboard has been completely restocked. Yes, they traded star players Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene away to do it, but the future could be looking very bright in the Canadian capital. Despite having Brady Tkachuk, Erik Brannstrom, Colin White, Rudolfs Balcers, and Christian Wolanin graduate, the club is still worthy of the top three.

Starting up front, the Senators have a potential star in Drake Batherson. He broke out this season, becoming an AHL All-Star in his rookie season while getting a taste of the NHL. He has elite hockey sense and can both dish out the puck or finish it himself.

Drake Batherson #79 Ottawa Senators, November 27, 2018
Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Logan Brown also broke out last season with Batherson, becoming one of the top players in the AHL. It’s taken him a little bit longer, but it’s important to remember that every prospect is different. He’s a big player (6-foot-6) and a great playmaker who might be a graduate of this list very soon.

Josh Norris was acquired in the Karlsson trade. He’s a fast centreman with great offensive ability. Speaking of speed, Alex Formenton is an absolute rocket, who can be used in any situation. He’ll be keeping NHL defenders on their heels very soon. Jonathan Davidsson, Vitali Abramov, Shane Pinto, and Jonathan Gruden are a few more stellar forward for the club.

Related: Ottawa Senators’ Prospect Pyramid

The Senators are just as deep on the blue line with a pair of right-handed defenders Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker. Thomson has a cannon of a shot and is a great passer, while Bernard-Docker is a two-way defender that is very good in his own end. Maxence Guénette is having a big year in the QMJHL and Jonny Tychonick has shown flashes of being a solid NHLer one day.

The Senators may not have one of the best goaltending prospects in the league, but they have three with a ton of potential. Filip Gustavsson and Mads Sogaard have the best chance to be the next starting goaltender, while Joey Daccord is right there too. It will be an interesting storyline to watch these goalies battle in out over the next few years.

1) Los Angeles Kings

Previous Ranking: 2

Top Five Prospects: Tobias Björnfot, Samuel Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Alex Turcotte

Key Graduates/Subtractions: Blake Lizotte, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Matt Roy

Key Additions: N/A

If the Avalanche have the best defensive farm system, the Los Angeles Kings might just have the best forward group. And their defence core is looking pretty good too. They are coming off of a very bad season, but the Kings’ future is looking pretty good.

Alex Turcotte leads the pack, as a top-NHL prospect. He’s a very well-rounded, two-way centre with elite potential. He’s an excellent skater and can pile up the points. He may just be the perfect replacement for Anze Kopitar.

Related: Kings Prospects at the 2020 World Juniors

Behind Turcotte, the skill continues. Rasmus Kupari is a very skilled playmaker and like Turcotte, is an elite skater. He has great hockey sense and can be very creative with the puck. Turcotte and Kupari could be one of the best one-two punches in the NHL in a few years.

Arthur Kaliyev was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 NHL Draft, in that he slid all the way down to the 33rd selection. He’s an elite offensive weapon, that many teams worried about due to his play away from the puck and work ethic. If he can get on the right track, he as the potential to be a star.

Alex Turcotte of the U.S. National Development Program
Alex Turcotte, Los Angeles Kings prospect (Rena Laverty/USHL)

The Kings have numerous other high-end forwards, from Carl Grundstrom (acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Jake Muzzin trade) to Akil Thomas, to Gabe Vilardi, to Aiden Dudas. This is a very exciting crop of forwards.

Defensively, the Kings still have some high-end talent. Tobias Bjornfot leads the pack, arguably right alongside Kale Clague. Bjornfot was the Kings’ second first-round selection in 2019. He’s a potential top-four defender with elite skating and great hockey sense.

Clague is a puck-moving defender with excellent skating as well. As you can see, the Kings are working towards a very fast team. Clague will fit in perfectly with that. Other defenders to watch are Mikey Anderson, Jordan Spence, Kim Nousiainen and Daniel Brickley.

In net, it looks like the California team has their Jonathan Quick replacement in Cal Peterson. He is a calm and collected netminder that could even challenge Quick this season. He’s not a prospect anymore though. Behind him, Lukas Parik and Jacob Ingham are both goaltenders to watch.

What are your thoughts on your favourite team’s ranking? Leave a comment below!

The post The NHL’s Best Farm Systems Ranked – Midseason Update appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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