The general managers who run NHL front offices, with support from their staff, use a variety of methods to identify, develop and assess the future talent within their own organizations. Unfortunately for the general public, they tend to keep us in the dark about the inner workings, which is why it’s up to us to figure out where the prospects stand and how each team’s success with player development can be measured.

The main purpose of this exercise is two-fold: to create a one-stop listing and to give even the most casual of fans a general idea on how teams stack up against one another in the battle for player development supremacy.

For Sporting News, several factors were taken into consideration when creating the lists below:

Advertisement

1. Point production – a prospect’s development can be measured in a variety of ways, but their production on the traditional or analytic scoresheet always represents the lowest-hanging fruit. Any significant reduction in scoring from the season prior counted against the prospect while those who were among the team or league leaders in production by position benefitted. Some players with high point totals, but in their fourth or fifth year in the same junior league, were overlooked, depending on the depth of his organization’s farm system.

2. Age – There is a large pool of players who can qualify as prospects, so to simplify the list we eliminated any player who is no longer eligible for the Calder Trophy from a playing age standpoint, which according to the league is essentially 25 and under before training camp in September. Young players who produced or had a key role and succeeded in adults leagues such as Sweden’s SHL, Finland’s SM-Liiga and Russia’s KHL, helped tip the scales in their favor.

NHL prospect rankings: Top 50 players in NHL pipelines for 2019-20

3. NHL games played – We’re using Calder eligibility with a twist. Players who have appeared in more than 25 games in any single regular season were not considered. Players appearing in 25 games or less, even if combined over two seasons, were eligible.

4. NHL readiness and experience – Generally speaking, a player who is among the best team performers in the AHL usually is one of the first to receive an in-season promotion. Mounting injuries or veteran rosters can cause exceptions to this idea, but most of the kids you see called up must have done something right to get approval from both AHL and NHL team management; however, dreadful play in the NHL – even a small sample size – could count against them. Verified reports that certain prospects are in a position to earn an NHL roster spot at the start the season could also have factored in.

5. Draft ranking – Every ranking has a little bit of bias. Without taking it from a personal level, and also ignoring fan allegiances, there are players on this list who are held in higher regard than others. Shocking. Since the majority of players on these lists are relatively unproven by NHL standards, it is nearly impossible for them to validate their draft position before ever earning a regular shift – specifically those picked in the first round.

Furthermore, there’s a difference between where a player was ranked versus where he was drafted. Draft rankings intend to predict NHL success, not the actual order on draft day. There always are disagreements, and teams have a history of going against consensus opinions to draft a player they obviously value more than others. Still, we try not to parrot the same canned post-draft response we hear every year, which is why, for example, a prospect like Edmonton’s Raphael Lavoie (38th overall in 2019) is ranked ahead of Philip Broberg (eighth overall in 2019).

6. Graduations and trades – Prospects who were good enough to establish themselves as NHL regulars ultimately impact the depth chart in every direction. Additionally, GM’s who run teams with a top-heavy prospect pool do not have the same flexibility as those with depth at every position. Therefore, it is important to identify the organizations (usually the contending types) who did not have additional talent akin to that of the top-tiered prospects they promoted. Carolina graduated Andrei Svechnikov, but still have Martin Necas and Jake Bean to headline an incredibly deep pool. Conversely, the Buffalo Sabres may have drafted Dylan Cozens seventh overall, but they graduated Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, in addition to trading Alex Nylander, all in one year.

NHL DRAFT 2019: Team-by-team grades | Winners and losers

Kaapo Kakko

1. New York Rangers

2018-19 rank: 9th
Key additions: Adam Fox (RHD), Kaapo Kakko (RW), Patrick Newell (RW), Matthew Robertson (LHD)
Graduated: Lias Andersson (C), Filip Chytil (C/W), Alexander Georgiev (G), Brett Howden (C)
Traded/not signed: Daniel Bernhardt (RW), Dominik Lakatos (LW), Patrik Virta (LW)

Although the success of the Rangers rebuild is probably a few years from validation, you have to credit GM Jeff Gorton and staff for turning a once-gutted farm system into the league’s premier collection of young talent. Of course, finishing second in the draft lottery and, therefore, getting super-sniper Kaapo Kakko was more luck than the art of scouting. But beyond Kakko there are star prospects who not only have status from their draft positions, but also impressive numbers against older, stronger competition.

Not far from Kakko in terms of game-breaking skills is winger Vitaly Kravtsov, who before the age of 20 established himself as a top-line player in the KHL. The Rangers also boast two of the NCAA’s top defenders in two-way force K’Andre Miller and former Harvard power-play specialist Adam Fox. There’s also a string of the best young defensemen the European elite leagues have to offer in Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov and Tarmo Reunanen, the latter bouncing back from multiple injuries to lead all under-21 rearguards in scoring in Finland’s SM-Liiga. But of all their prospects, goalie Igor Shestyorkin may be the most intriguing, as he’s dominated the KHL for several years and could be earmarked as Henrik Lundqvist’s long-awaited replacement. Lastly, keeps tabs on Libor Hajek, a mobile two-way defender with size who played some of the best hockey of his young career during a late-season NHL promotion.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Kaapo Kakko RW NY Rangers (NHL) 1st/2019
2. Vitaly Kravtsov RW Hartford (AHL) 1st/2018
3. Adam Fox RHD NY Rangers (NHL) Trade: CAR
4. K’Andre Miller LHD Wisconsin (Big Ten) 1st/2018
5. Igor Shestyorkin G Hartford (AHL) 4th/2014
6. Nils Lundkvist RHD Lulea (SHL) 1st/2018
7. Libor Hajek LHD NY Rangers (NHL) Trade: TB
8. Yegor Rykov LHD Hartford (AHL) Trade: NJD
9. Matthew Robertson LHD Edmonton (WHL) 2nd/2019
10. Tarmo Reunanen LHD Lukko (SM-Liiga) 4th/2016

MORE: As the Rangers seek redemption, New York turns to Kaapo Kakko

2. Los Angeles Kings

2018-19 Rank: 24th
Key additions: Tobias Bjornfot (LHD), Carl Grundstrom (LW), Arthur Kaliyev (LW), Alex Turcotte (C)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: None

If there’s only one good thing to come out of not making the playoffs for the third time in five years – amassing high picks at the draft has to be it. No team has done a better job at selecting elite offensive talent without the benefit of multiple top-10 picks than the Kings. Yes, their 2019 selection of stud three-zone center Alex Turcotte at fifth overall was their highest since taking Brayden Schenn in that same spot 10 years earlier; however, after Turcotte, the depth chart is lined with impressive kids taken either late in the first round or immediately thereafter. Slick center Rasmus Kupari was one of the top teenage point producers in the SM-Liiga, and second rounders Akil Thomas (2018) and Arthur Kaliyev (2019) were two of only nine 100-point scorers in the OHL last season. All three should be top threats for their respective nations at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship.

What makes the Kings’ system stand out beyond the notable names is depth by position. Few teams have a pool with as many quality goaltenders, beginning with undrafted Cal Petersen who should start the season in the NHL and looks like a legitimate challenger to dethrone No. 1 netminder Jonathan Quick. Behind Petersen are Lukas Parik, David Hrenak and Matt Villalta who is a likely candidate to spend the upcoming season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. On defense, critics are raving about Mikey Anderson’s development and first-round quality in second rounder Kale Clague and 2019 first-round pick Tobias Bjornfot with the former gunning for a top-6 spot on opening night and the latter the favorite to be Sweden’s No. 1 defender at the world juniors. And although mum’s the word on the health of 2017 first-rounder Gabe Vilardi, he still is one of the top playmakers among all NHL prospects.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Alex Turcotte C Wisconsin (Big Ten) 1st/2019
2. Rasmus Kupari C Ontario (AHL) 1st/2018
3. Carl Grundstrom LW Los Angeles (NHL) Trade: TOR
4. Akil Thomas C/W Niagara (OHL) 2nd/2018
5. Tobias Bjornfot LHD Djugardens (SHL) 1st/2019
6. Kale Clague LHD Ontario (AHL) 2nd/2016
7. Arthur Kaliyev LW Hamilton (OHL) 2nd/2019
8. Gabe Vilardi C/W Los Angeles (NHL) 1st/2017
9. Cal Petersen G Los Angeles (NHL) FA (BUF 5th/2013)
10. Mikey Anderson LHD Ontario (AHL) 4th/2017

NHL free agency 2019: Complete list of all 31 teams’ UFA, RFA players

3. Colorado Avalanche

2018-19 rank: 6th
Key additions: Bowen Byram (LHD), Drew Helleson (RHD), Alex Newhook (C)
Graduated: A.J. Greer (LW)
Traded/not signed: Gustav Olhaver (C)

The Av’s seem to be on the cusp of Western Conference dominance thanks to a powerhouse top line featuring Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog who are all original Colorado draft picks. But what should compound the issue for opponents is the fact that they also own the two best defensive prospects in all of hockey – former NCAA standout Cale Makar and WHL playoff hero Bowen Byram. What’s ironic is that both players were selected fourth overall in their respective draft years – years in which Colorado lost the draft lottery. These two “consolation” prizes have the potential to be perennial Norris Trophy candidates, with Makar having already showcased his offensive abilities during an Av’s playoff run that nearly took them to the conference finals.

Up front, the prospect pool has one of the top-scoring centers from the 2019 draft in Boston College recruit and reigning BCHL Most Valuable Player Alex Newhook. Winger Martin Kaut is a sturdy playmaker who was among the AHL’s top teenage scorers last season and Shane Bowers, a 2017 first-round pick of Ottawa’s acquired in the Matt Duchene deal, was one of Hockey East’s top two-way centers; he is signed to play this season with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. And keep your fingers crossed for a clean bill of health for right-handed defenseman Conor Timmins to make an impact. The 2017 second rounder was our ninth-ranked prospect a year ago but sat out the entire 2018-19 season due to concussion symptoms.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Cale Makar RHD Colorado (NHL) 1st/2017
2. Bowen Byram LHD Vancouver (WHL) 1st/2019
3. Alex Newhook C Boston College (HE) 1st/2019
4. Martin Kaut RW Colorado (AHL) 1st/2018
5. Shane Bowers C Colorado (AHL) Trade: OTT
6. Conor Timmins RHD Colorado (AHL) 2nd/2017
7. Nikolai Kovalenko RW Lokomotiv (KHL) 6th/2018
8. Adam Werner G Colorado (AHL) 5th/2016
9. Drew Helleson RHD Boston College (HE) 2nd/2019
10. Danila Zhuravlyov LHD Bars Kazan (VHL) 5th/2018

4. Ottawa Senators

2018-19 rank: 13th
Key additions: Vitalii Abramov (RW), Erik Brannstrom (LHD), Jonathan Davidsson (RW), Josh Norris (C), Mads Sogaard (G), Lassi Thomson (RHD), Max Veronneau (RW)
Graduated: Max Lajoie (LHD), Christian Jaros (RHD), Brady Tkachuk (LW), Colin White (C), Christian Wolanin (LHD)
Traded/not signed: Filip Ahl (LW), Jordan Hollett (G)

Sens fans are all too familiar with the process of getting hyped over a prospect and seeing him develop into an NHL star, only to watch him leave the organization over money shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, the key takeaway is that the Senators are in fact drafting better than most teams and the stinginess of their deep-pocketed owner shouldn’t detract from that.

The law of averages says respectability is the worst-case scenario for a team that has accumulated as many blue-chip prospects as Ottawa has. Not only did the Senators receive Calder Trophy-caliber rookie reasons from Brady Tkachuk and Colin White, but the ongoing rebuild allowed the likes of goalie Joey Daccord and forwards Drake Batherson, Logan Brown and speedy Alex Formenton, to experience the rigors of the NHL first hand. But Swedish defenseman Erik Brannstrom – the prized piece in the Mark Stone deal with Vegas – appears to be at peak readiness to join an impressive young blue line that already features Thomas Chabot, Christian Wolanin and Max Lajoie, with Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker not far behind. If there is one sleeper in the bunch, it’s probably tough two-way center Josh Norris, a 2017 first-round pick acquired from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal. Norris is done at the University of Michigan and could be a surprise roster addition out of training camp.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Erik Brannstrom LHD Ottawa (NHL) Trade: VGK
2. Drake Batherson C/W Ottawa (NHL) 4th/2017
3. Josh Norris C Belleville (AHL) Trade: SJS
4. Logan Brown C Belleville (AHL) 1st/2016
5. Lassi Thomson RHD Ilves (SM-Liiga) 1st/2019
6. Alex Formenton LW Belleville (AHL) 2nd/2017
7. Joey Daccord G Belleville (AHL) 7th/2015
8. Jacob Bernard-Docker RHD North Dakota (NCHC) 1st/2018
9. Jonathan Davidsson RW Belleville (AHL) Trade: CBJ
10. Mads Sogaard G Medicine Hat (WHL) 2nd/2019

Senators’ Joey Daccord on Arizona State hockey, plans for next season

5. Montreal Canadiens

2018-19 rank: 18th
Key additions: Cole Caufield (RW), Otto Leskinen (LHD)
Graduated: Noah Juulsen (RHD), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C)
Traded/not signed: Jarret Tyszka (LHD), Scott Walford (LHD)

The rich just kept getting richer at this year’s NHL draft. Already boasting an impressive prospect pool and fresh off a 25-point improvement in the standings, Montreal nabbed one of the top goal-scoring prospects in recent draft history by selecting Cole Caufield 15th overall. Not only does Caufield provide instant offense, but he may be closer to the NHL than one may think. The Habs also acquired cerebral playmaker Nick Suzuki from Vegas in the Max Pacioretty deal; he’ll battle fellow 2017 first-rounder Ryan Poehling to make the big club out of camp. Poehling may already have a leg up on Suzuki thanks to his hat trick in his NHL debut.

Montreal received career seasons from defensemen Josh Brook (75 points in 59 WHL games), Alexander Romanov (eight points in seven WJC games), and AHL rookie Cale Fleury (23 points in 60 games), and that was before they loaded up at the 2019 draft with additional two-way types. Goalie Cayden Primeau produced his second consecutive all-star season for Northeastern and nearly backstopped Team USA to WJC gold – which is crazy to think considering the South Jersey native was drafted late in the seventh round in 2017. And Montreal’s good luck with Finnish prospects seems to be continuing following Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s breakout rookie season, as winger Jesse Ylonen and center Joni Ikonen looked strong as teenagers in the SM-Liiga, where they also signed coveted free agent defense prospect Otto Leskinen from.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Cole Caufield RW Wisconsin (Big Ten) 1st/2019
2. Ryan Poehling C Laval (AHL) 1st/2017
3. Nick Suzuki C Laval (AHL) Trade: VGK
4. Josh Brook RHD Laval (AHL) 2nd/2017
5. Alexander Romanov RHD CSKA (KHL) 2nd/2018
6. Cayden Primeau G Laval (AHL) 7th/2017
7. Jesse Ylonen RW Pelicans (SM-Liiga) 2nd/2018
8. Jacob Olofsson C Skelleftea (SHL) 2nd/2018
9. Otto Leskinen LHD Laval (AHL) UDFA
10. Joni Ikonen C Kalpa (SM-Liiga) 2nd/2017

Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato on newest Canadiens forward Cole Caufield

6. Carolina Hurricanes

2018-19 rank: 4th
Key additions: Anttoni Honka (RHD), Chase Priskie (RHD), Patrik Puistola (RW), Ryan Suzuki (C)
Graduated: Warren Foegele (LW), Andrei Svechnikov (RW), Lucas Wallmark (C)
Traded/not signed: Brendon De Jong (LHD), Adam Fox (RHD, NYR), Nicolas Roy (C/RW, VGK), Aleksi Saarela (C/W, CHI), Valentin Zykov (LW, waived)

Much like the Avalanche, the Canes were able to inject youth into a lineup that enjoyed playoff success, yet still maintained one of the league’s deeper farm systems. Although the bulk of Carolina’s prized prospects were drafted and developed under former GM Ron Francis, current GM Don Waddell has continued the trend by not only making the right picks but trading away excess at peak value. While it seems like roster spots are at a premium at both the NHL and AHL levels, it’s a problem any team would like to have – especially coming off a visit to the Eastern Conference finals and an AHL championship for the Charlotte affiliate.

Of all their prized neophytes, the edge to making Hurricanes out of camp belongs to speedy center Martin Necas, who led all AHL teenagers in scoring and is versatile enough to play wing. Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic was the AHL’s top goalie in leading the Checkers to the Calder Cup and the play of power-play quarterback Jake Bean (44 points in 70 games) along with the drafting of right-shot playmaker Anttoni Honka soften the blow from trading Adam Fox to the Rangers.

However, the strength of the organization’s depth lies within the forward ranks, and with a dash of Finnish flavor to boot. Even after trading away Aleksi Saarela to Chicago, the Canes still own four dual-threat forwards from Finland and Eetu Luostarinen may be the best, as he was a consistent point producer as a top-line player in the SM-Liiga. Last season centers Janne Kuokkanen, Nicolas Roy (traded to Vegas) and Morgan Geekie and big winger Julien Gauthier, joined Necas, Bean and Saarela as seven of Charlotte’s top-10 scorers – all drafted from 2015 onward. Waddell also more than replenished the losses of Saarela and Roy at the 2019 draft with the selections of skilled forwards Ryan Suzuki and Patrik Puistola.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Martin Necas C Carolina (NHL) 1st/2017
2. Jake Bean LHD Carolina (NHL) 1st/2016
3. Alex Nedeljkovic G Charlotte (AHL) 2nd/2014
4. Eetu Luostarinen C Charlotte (AHL) 2nd/2017
5. Janne Kuokkanen C Charlotte (AHL) 2nd/2016
6. Ryan Suzuki C Barrie (OHL) 1st/2019
7. Patrik Puistola C/W Tappara (SM-Liiga) 3rd/2019
8. Morgan Geekie C Charlotte (AHL) 3rd/2017
9. David Cotton C Boston College (HE) 6th/2015
10. Julien Gauthier RW Charlotte (AHL) 1st/2016

MORE: Hurricanes sign Waddell to extension: ‘He’s going to be here a long time’

7. New Jersey Devils

2018-19 rank: 19th
Key additions: Arseni Gritsyuk (RW), Jack Hughes (C), Daniil Misyul (LHD)
Graduated: Joey Anderson (RW)
Traded/not signed: Jocktan Chainey (LHD), Jeremy Davies (LHD, NSH), John Quenneville (C, CHI)

The knee-jerk reaction is to think the Devils are ranked this high because of Jack Hughes and not because of GM Ray Shero’s craftiness at the draft table. Although there is a significant amount of force to that argument, the truth is that New Jersey is an organization on the rise and the prospect pool is deep enough to help fuel a sustained run towards perennial playoff contention. Hughes won’t be a prospect for long, as he’s expected to make the immediate jump to the NHL and likely center one of the Devils’ top two lines.

Beyond their prized swift-skating American is a phenomenal two-way defenseman in Ty Smith, a first-round selection in 2018 who dazzled in training camp a year ago. Another playmaker from the blue line is Harvard rearguard Reilly Walsh, a right shot who averaged nearly a point per game as a sophomore, which may have made it easier for Shero to send Jeremy Davies to Nashville for P.K. Subban. Additionally, there is a significant amount of speed up front, beginning with Jesper Boqvist, 2016 first rounder Mike McLeod and AHL-proven winger Brandon Gignac, who was one of the top scorers on a thin Binghamton squad. A pair of impressive 1999-born Finnish wingers produced excellent post-draft campaigns, as Eetu Pakkila was the leading goal scorer in the Jr. A SM-Liiga, and center Aarne Talvitie was among the best NCAA freshman scorers and the key to Finland capturing WJC gold before a torn ACL ended his season prematurely.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Jack Hughes C New Jersey (NHL) 1st/2019
2. Ty Smith LHD Spokane (WHL) 1st/2018
3. Jesper Boqvist C/W Binghamton (AHL) 2nd/2017
4. Reilly Walsh RHD Harvard (ECAC) 3rd/2017
5. Aarne Talvitie C Penn State (Big Ten) 6th/2017
6. Akira Schmid G Omaha (USHL) 5th/2018
7. Arseni Gritsyuk RW Omskie Yastreby (MHL) 5th/2019
8. Mike McLeod C Binghamton (AHL) 1st/2016
9. Daniil Misyul LHD Loko Yaroslavl (MHL) 3rd/2019
10. Brandon Gignac LW Binghamton (AHL) 3rd/2016

MORE: Devils’ P.K. Subban’s top five quotes: ‘I don’t play for New York’

8. Vancouver Canucks

2018-19 rank: 3rd
Key additions: Nils Hoglander (RW), Vasily Podkolzin (RW)
Graduated: Adam Gaudette (C), Elias Pettersson (C)
Traded/not signed: Matt Brassard (RHD), Jonathan Dahlen (LW, SJS), Kristoffer Gunnarsson (LHD)

Jim Benning’s plan to beef up his organization with speed and skill continues to achieve benchmarks, as the Canucks not only received a Calder Trophy-winning season from electrifying 2017 first-round pick Elias Pettersson but now have playmaking puck rusher Quinn Hughes ready to challenge for a full-time role and his own hardware. Vancouver added a bulldog of a competitor in Russian-trained winger Vasily Podkolzin, who was the 10th pick in June although he likely stays overseas for at least another season.

Benning and staff also scooped up feisty forward Nils Hoglander from Sweden and speedy center Tyler Madden from Northeastern who tied for fourth in freshman scoring in Hockey East. This group, along with two stud goalie prospects, Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro, represent a sizable chunk of the organization’s future, one that already includes established NHL producers like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. Now that the nucleus has formed, the Canucks can patiently follow the progress of an impressive tier of potential point-producing defensemen like Olli Juolevi, Toni Utunen, Jett Woo, and Jack Rathbone.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Quinn Hughes LHD Vancouver (NHL) 1st/2018
2. Vasily Podkolzin RW SKA-Neva (VHL) 1st/2019
3. Thatcher Demko G Vancouver (NHL) 2nd/2014
4. Nils Hoglander RW Rogle (SHL) 2nd/2019
5. Jett Woo RHD Calgary (WHL) 2nd/2018
6. Michael DiPietro G Utica (AHL) 3rd/2017
7. Olli Juolevi LHD Utica (AHL) 1st/2016
8. Tyler Madden C Northeastern (HE) 3rd/2018
9. Jack Rathbone LHD Harvard (ECAC) 4th/2017
10. Toni Utunen LHD Tappara (SM-Liiga) 5th/2018

With all eyes on Jack, Canucks’ Quinn Hughes ready to take next step

9. Philadelphia Flyers

2018-19 rank: 2nd
Key additions: Ronnie Attard (RHD), Bobby Brink (RW), Cam York (LHD)
Graduated: Carter Hart (G), Oskar Lindblom (LW)
Traded/not signed: None

No team has spent more time atop recent prospect rankings than the Flyers, who under former GM Ron Hextall opted for a deliberate rebuild rather than take the organization’s traditional “win now” approach. Unfortunately, the lengthy undertaking of roster reconstruction played a role in his firing, and Philadelphia failed to make the playoffs for the third time in five years in 2019. Current GM Chuck Fletcher has yet to part with any of Philadelphia’s prized prospects, many of whom should finally advance from the college or junior ranks to Lehigh Valley, which iced one of the AHL’s older lineups last year. Additionally, none of the key offseason roster changes involved prospects going the other way, as trades for defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, plus getting signing rights for center Kevin Hayes, cost only a handful of picks. The Flyers have averaged nearly nine picks per draft year since 2015 and the significant majority still remain within the organization. On the plus side, the logjam should create furious competition to separate the haves and the have-nots.

The top player from this stacked system is slick two-way winger Joel Farabee, a 2018 first-round pick who is under contract and was a top performer as a freshman for Boston University. He’ll have to battle speedy playmaker Morgan Frost, sniper Isaac Ratcliffe and center German Rubtsov for one of the few roster spots available. The promotions last season of Carter Hart and winger Oskar Lindblom played a role in the drop from last year’s ranking, but Fletcher and staff did well at the 2019 draft by getting elite playmaking potential in defenseman Cam York and winger Bobby Brink, plus hard-shooting defender Ronnie Attard.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Joel Farabee LW Lehigh Valley (AHL) 1st/2018
2. Morgan Frost C Lehigh Valley (AHL) 1st/2017
3. Cam York LHD Michigan (Big Ten) 1st/2019
4. Isaac Ratcliffe LW Lehigh Valley (AHL) 2nd/2017
5. Philippe Myers RHD Philadelphia (NHL) UDFA
6. German Rubtsov C Lehigh Valley (AHL) 1st/2016
7. Bobby Brink RW Denver (NCHC) 2nd/2019
8. Samuel Ersson G Brynas (SHL) 5th/2018
9. Ronnie Attard RHD W. Michigan (NCHC) 3rd/2019
10. Wyatt Wylie RHD Lehigh Valley (AHL) 5th/2018

10. Detroit Red Wings

2018-19 rank: 10th
Key additions: Albert Johansson (LHD), Oliwer Kaski (RHD), Robert Mastrosimone (LW), Moritz Seider (RHD)
Graduated: Dennis Cholowski (LHD), Filip Hronek (RHD), Michael Rasmussen (C)
Traded/not signed: Cole Fraser (RHD), Zach Gallant (C), Brady Gilmour (C), Axel Holmstrom (C), Reilly Webb (RHD), Lane Zablocki (C)

Steve Yzerman’s tenure as Detroit’s general manager’s got off to a questionable start when he bypassed conventional draft wisdom and took two-way defenseman Moritz Seider with the sixth overall pick. The move certainly will be monitored for several years, but what shouldn’t be lost in the post-draft hysteria is that Yzerman had already inherited an excellent group of young talent and had the flexibility to roll the dice.

Goal-scoring winger Filip Zadina and center Joe Veleno – the last two first-round picks made by predecessor Ken Holland – are among the elite of the elite. Zadina is the odds-on favorite to beat out his peers for a roster spot and Veleno is the primary target to center Team Canada’s top line at the under-20 world juniors. To no one’s surprise, the majority of the organization’s other notable neophytes are Swedes, with goalie Filip Larsson coming off another stellar campaign in which he posted a .932 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against average as a freshman for Denver. Detroit also owns a pair of confident three-zone puck movers in Gustav Lindstrom and Albert Johansson and won a key free-agent derby by luring former Western Michigan defenseman Oliwer Kaski away from Finland, where he was the top-scoring blueliner in the SM-Liiga. Left winger Robert Mastrosimone, a Boston University recruit who was of the more underrated players from this year’s draft class, has a bit of Gustav Nyquist in him and should be considered having first-round value in a second-round pick.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Filip Zadina LW Detroit (NHL) 1st/2018
2. Joe Veleno C Grand Rapids (AHL) 1st/2018
3. Moritz Seider RHD Adler Mannheim (DEL) 1st/2019
4. Filip Larsson G Grand Rapids (AHL) 6th/2016
5. Gustav Lindstrom RHD Grand Rapids (AHL) 2nd/2017
6. Jared McIsaac LHD Halifax (QMJHL) 2nd/2018
7. Otto Kivenmaki C Assat (SM-Liiga) 7th/2018
8. Robert Mastrosimone LW Boston Univ. (HE) 2nd/2019
9. Albin Grewe LW Djugardens (SHL) 3rd/2019
10. Albert Johansson LHD Farjestad (SHL) 2nd/2019

11. Anaheim Ducks

2018-19 rank: 15th
Key additions: Brendan Guhle (LHD), Brayden Tracey (LW), Trevor Zegras (C)
Graduated: Max Jones (LW), Jacob Larsson (LHD), Troy Terry (RW)
Traded/not signed: Kyle Olson (C), Marcus Pettersson (LHD, PIT)

Years upon years of stockpiling picks and prospects has kept the Ducks a competitive franchise for most of the last two decades – so even an 80-point effort in 2018-19 (their lowest in seven seasons) could be viewed as an aberration. Few teams do a better job at plugging holes from within than the Ducks who took advantage of the lost season by playing over a dozen youngsters age 23 and younger, including heralded rookie Troy Terry (32 games). The time it takes for the collective to take that experience and translate it to NHL success remains to be seen, but history certainly is on Anaheim’s side. Additionally, they added a premier playmaking center in Trevor Zegras this year and a hard-working scorer in Brayden Tracey via the first round of this year’s draft. Of all their prospects, Zegras has the highest star potential and should be groomed to take over for aging captain Ryan Getzlaf.

The everyday lineup for this upcoming season will be based on the health of several oft-injured veterans, but these kids are ready to assume responsibility if called upon. Center Sam Steel was huge for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls in their run to the conference finals, as was rugged two-way winger Maxime Comtois who made the Ducks out of training camp last season and was one of the NHL’s better rookies before a back injury. The organization also appears to be high on defenseman Josh Mahura, a third-rounder in 2016 who showed advanced puck-moving abilities during a 17-game midseason stint.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Trevor Zegras C Boston Univ. (HE) 1st/2019
2. Sam Steel C Anaheim (NHL) 1st/2016
3. Maxime Comtois LW Anaheim (NHL) 2nd/2017
4. Josh Mahura RHD Anaheim (NHL) 3rd/2016
5. Isac Lundestrom C San Diego (AHL) 1st/2018
6. Blake McGlaughlin LW Minnesota (Big Ten) 3rd/2018
7. Brayden Tracey LW Moose Jaw (WHL) 1st/2019
8. Lukas Dostal G Ilves (SM-Liiga) 3rd/2018
9. Benoit-Olivier Groulx C Halifax (QMJHL) 2nd/2018
10. Jack Perbix RW Minnesota (Big Ten) 4th/2018

12. Vegas Golden Knights

2018-19 rank: 22nd
Key additions: Pavel Dorofeyev (LW), Kaedan Korczak (RHD), Peyton Krebs (C), Jimmy Schuldt (LHD)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: Erik Brannstrom (LHD, OTT), Nick Suzuki (C, MTL), Maxim Zhukov (G)

The Golden Knights sure know how to emulate the city they represent when it comes to attracting attention. Forget about the fact that they’ve iced Cup-contending rosters in each of their two years of existence. What’s becoming patently obvious is that the scouting department knows how to find prospects who consistently improve their post-draft stock. Naturally, you’d expect a high pick like Cody Glass (fifth overall in 2017) to shred the WHL to a tune of nearly two points per game, then follow that up with a dominant showing in the AHL playoffs. But Glass was far from the only Vegas phenom to pile up impressive numbers.

The top four scoring defensemen on their AHL affiliate in Chicago that eventually went to the Calder Cup Final – Erik Brannstrom, Nicolas Hague, Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud – all are under 22-years-old. Brannstrom was the main prize sent to Ottawa in the Mark Stone deal; however, that trade was telling as it revealed Vegas as an organization to be reckoned with both on the ice and down on the farm. GM George McPhee may have moved center Nick Suzuki to Montreal for Max Pacioretty last season, but he was gifted two elite prospects at the 2019 draft in center Peyton Krebs and winger Pavel Dorofeyev. Some of the top NCAA performers also belong to the organization, as Providence winger Jack Dugan was the school’s second-highest scoring freshman with 39 points and free-agent defenseman Jimmy Schuldt was a Hobey Baker finalist.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Cody Glass C Chicago (AHL) 1st/2017
2. Nicolas Hague LHD Chicago (AHL) 2nd/2017
3. Pavel Dorofeyev LW Magnitogorsk (KHL) 3rd/2019
4. Peyton Krebs C Winnipeg (WHL) 1st/2019
5. Jimmy Schuldt LHD Chicago (AHL) UDFA
6. Jack Dugan LW Providence (HE) 5th/2017
7. Dylan Coghlan RHD Chicago (AHL) UDFA
8. Lukas Elvenes C Chicago (AHL) 5th/2017
9. Jonas Ronbjerg C Chicago (AHL) 3rd/2017
10. Peter Deliberatore LHD Quinnipiac (ECAC) 6th/2018

13. Florida Panthers

2018-19 rank: 8th
Key additions: Spencer Knight (G), Vladislav Kolyachonok (LHD)
Graduated: Henrik Borgstrom (C)
Traded/not signed: None

If organizational depth weren’t a factor in these rankings, the Panthers probably would crack the top five, possibly top three. The first half of their listed players have impeccable prospect resumes, beginning with shot-stopping machine Spencer Knight, who at 13th overall became the highest goalie taken at the draft in nearly a decade. Knight is committed to Boston College, but the severity of Florida’s goaltending situation, even with the addition of prized free agent Sergei Bobrovsky, may keep his underclassmen days at The Heights to a minimum.

Next up is flashy winger Grigori Denisenko, who wowed crowds in Vancouver at the most recent world junior championship with his stickhandling, dangles and a silky set of hands. Want more? How about one of Finland’s premier playmakers in Aleksi Heponiemi, who as a 20-year-old in the SM-Liiga tallied 46 points in 50 games. His pass-first acumen would be the perfect compliment to the blistering shot of speedy winger Owen Tippett, the 11th overall pick in 2011. Of course, any lineup could use a big-bodied presence to cause havoc in the low slot, and few prospects do it better than power winger Serron Noel, who in his third year led Oshawa in goals (34), assists (47) and points (81).

Sooner than later, however, these kids are going to have to contribute in a big way. There are too many examples of teams that stockpile high-ranking prospects, only to either misuse them or keep them blocked in the minors. As impressive as the Cats’ NHL roster looks on paper, they will need most of the aforementioned youngsters to develop into everyday contributors so the franchise finally can grow into something it has never been – a perennial playoff contender.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Spencer Knight G Boston College (HE) 1st/2019
2. Grigori Denisenko RW Lokomotiv (KHL) 1st/2018
3. Aleksi Heponiemi W/C Springfield (AHL) 2nd/2017
4. Owen Tippett RW Springfield (AHL) 1st/2017
5. Serron Noel RW Oshawa (OHL) 2nd/2018
6. Vladislav Kolyachonok LHD Flint (OHL) 2nd/2019
7. Riley Stillman LHD Springfield (AHL) 4th/2016
8. Santu Kinnunen RHD Pelicans (Liiga) 7th/2018
9. Max Gildon LHD New Hampshire (HE) 3rd/2017
10. Logan Hutsko RW Boston College (HE) 3rd/2018

MORE: Florida Panthers retool lineup, should make deep playoff run in 2019-20

14. Edmonton Oilers

2018-19 rank: 17th
Key additions: Philip Broberg (LW), Ilya Konovalov (G), Raphael Lavoie (RW), Joakim Nygard (LW)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: None

The Oilers were a mess last season and none of their recent first-round picks since Connor McDavid delivered the kind of earth-shattering performance to help alleviate the pain of another dreadful year as they failed to reach the 80-point mark for the ninth time in 10 years. Typically a losing franchise injects youth into the lineup for more than only a handful of games, but for whatever reason, the Oilers continued to ice a veteran roster even after the playoffs were a forgone conclusion. McDavid aside, the only Oilers prospect from the 2015 draft onwards to appear in at least 20 games was Jesse Puljujarvi, who currently waits in Europe for the Oilers to meet his trade demands. Edmonton tried their best to get the most of out Puljujarvi, but neither he nor 2017 first-rounder Kailer Yamamoto delivered an awe-inspiring performance.

On the bright side, the Oilers’ AHL farm team in Bakersfield had its best season since moving from Oklahoma City in 2015. Critical to their success was 2016 second-rounder Tyler Benson, who led the team in scoring during the regular season and playoffs, and a duo of puck-moving defenseman in 2015 draftees Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. Although 2018 top pick Evan Bouchard looked green in his nine-game NHL stint, he led the OHL’s London Knights in playoff scoring and produced eight points in eight AHL postseason matches. Another impressive OHL prospect was hard-shooting Russian defender Dmitri Samorukov, who notched 28 points in 24 playoffs games helping Guelph advance to the Memorial Cup.

Drafting speedy two-way defenseman Philip Broberg with the eighth overall pick in June could help in the short term, as his size, physicality and crisp first pass could be deemed advanced enough for a bottom-pairing role with the big club. Big winger Raphael Lavoie is a prospect to earmark for a bright future for the Oilers after they stole him in the second round of the 2019 draft as is 22-year-old center Cooper Marody who finished second to Benson in scoring for Bakersfield. Of all their prospects, however, the most intriguing appears to be Swedish speedster Joakim Nygard, a winger who is not Calder eligible but was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Evan Bouchard RHD Edmonton (NHL) 1st/2019
2. Tyler Benson LW Bakersfield (AHL) 2nd/2016
3. Raphael Lavoie RW Halifax (QMJHL) 2nd/2019
4. Philip Broberg LHD Bakersfield (AHL) 1st/2019
5. Kailer Yamamoto RW Bakersfield (AHL) 1st/2017
6. Dmitri Samorukov LHD Bakersfield (AHL) 3rd/2017
7. Olivier Rodrigue G Moncton (QMJHL) 2nd/2018
8. Caleb Jones LHD Bakersfield (AHL) 4th/2015
9. Kirill Maksimov RW Bakersfield (AHL) 5th/2017
10. Ilya Konovalov G Lokomotiv (KHL) 3rd/2019

MORE: Is Oilers’ Evan Bouchard ready to take on a full-time role?

15. Chicago Blackhawks

2018-19 rank: 23rd
Key additions: Kirby Dach (C), Alex Nylander (RW)
Graduated: Carl Dahlstrom (LHD), Dylan Sikura (RW)
Traded/not signed: Radovan Bondra (RW), John Dahlstrom (LW), Blake Hillman (LHD), Henri Jokiharju (RHD, BUF), Anthony Louis (C), Spencer Watson (RW)

One of the bigger movers from last year’s list, the Blackhawks had luck on their side when they won the third pick in the draft lottery following a season in which they improved in the standings and nearly snuck into the playoffs. The reward turned out to be big-bodied center Kirby Dach, who can be a heck of a set-up man and groomed to one day replace captain Jonathan Toews. If Dach can make the team out of camp, he’s versatile enough to play wing and contribute to the power play. The decision to take Dach over defenseman Bowen Byram was a bit of a surprise, but not as much as the post-draft trade of 2017 first-rounder Henri Jokiharju to Buffalo for finesse winger Alex Nylander, a former first-round selection himself. Although a right-shot defenseman like Jokiharju likely was expendable after promising seasons from both Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell, he had an outstanding start to his rookie NHL season. Nylander, on the other hand, has game-breaking potential but his time as Sabres property was nothing short of underwhelming. A new start with Chicago could revive his offensive flair.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Adam Boqvist RHD Rockford (AHL) 1st/2018
2. Kirby Dach C Saskatoon (WHL) 1st/2019
3. Evan Barratt C Penn State (Big Ten) 3rd/2017
4. Ian Mitchell RHD Denver (NCHC) 2nd/2017
5. Alex Nylander RW Rockford (AHL) Trade: BUF
6. Nicolas Beaudin LHD Rockford (AHL) 1st/2017
7. Lucas Carlson LHD Rockford (AHL) 4th/2016
8. Aleksi Saarela C/W Rockford (AHL) Trade: CAR
9. Niklas Nordgren RW HIFK (SM-Liiga) 3rd/2018
10. Arthur Kayumov LW Lokomotiv (KHL) 2nd/2016

Jonathan Toews on next season, Blues winning Cup: ‘No part of me that was happy’

16. Winnipeg Jets

2018-19 rank: 11th
Key additions: Ville Heinola (LHD)
Graduated: Mason Appleton (LW), Sami Niku (LHD)
Traded/not signed: Brendan Lemieux (LW, NYR)

A last-minute deal that sent Jacob Trouba to the Rangers allowed GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to recoup the first-round pick he had originally shipped to New York months earlier in his trade for Kevin Hayes. The move proved critical, as it allowed the Jets to bolster the top of the prospect pool with Ville Heinola, the purest “offenseman” the franchise has ever drafted, and his dynamic skating ability and impressive shot power will compliment the skilled wingers with the parent club.

Cheveldayoff also deserves credit for making deadline deals without surrendering any of his prized prospects from either the minors or abroad. Gifted winger Kristian Vesalainen and towering defenseman Logan Stanley were hot topics around the trade deadline but ultimately stayed put, as did top 2018-19 prospects Sami Niku and Mason Appleton. Trading Trouba and letting Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot sign elsewhere opens the door for the likes of Niku, Heinola, Stanley and hard-hitting Dylan Samberg to possibly secure a coveted role on the Stanley Cup contender. Down the middle, the Jets could use an infusion of top-end talent, although Finland’s Santeri Virtanen and Sweden’s David Gustafsson, a pair of mature European two-way pivots, need to continue upwards in their development.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Ville Heinola LHD Lukko (SM-Liiga) 1st/2019
2. Kristian Vesalainen LW Manitoba (AHL) 1st/2017
3. Logan Stanley LHD Manitoba (AHL) 1st/2016
4. Dylan Samberg LHD Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) 2nd/2017
5. Mikhail Berdin G Manitoba (AHL) 6th/2016
6. Declan Chisolm LHD Peterborough (OHL) 5th/2018
7. Santeri Virtanen C SaiPa (SM-Liiga) 4th/2017
8. David Gustafsson C HV71 (SHL) 2nd/2018
9. Jonathan Kovacevic RHD Manitoba (AHL) 3rd/2017
10. Michael Spacek RW Manitoba (AHL) 4th/2015

MORE: ‘I’m just prepared for anything’: Jets’ Patrik Laine says he isn’t sure what future holds

17. New York Islanders

2018-19 rank: 14th
Key additions: Simon Holmstrom (RW), Mason Jobst (C/W)
Graduated: Devon Toews (LHD)
Traded/not signed: Petter Hansson (LHD)

An underwhelming draft summed up by the puzzling selection of Swedish scoring winger Simon Holmstrom in the first round, should not detract from the overall quality of the Islanders’ farm system. Buoyed by one of the best all-around defensemen in all of junior hockey, Noah Dobson, the Isles’ cupboard is stocked with one of the better defense corps of any team – which is in concert with the smothering style of their NHL group. The Islanders were surprisingly successful a season ago, mainly because of a veteran-filled roster that bought into head coach Barry Trotz’s defense-first mentality. If the Isles are going to keep defensive-zone stinginess as the core strategy behind their identity, then they certainly have the right kids lining the pipeline.

Not only do they own two elite goalie prospects in Ilya Sorokin and Jakub Skarek, but also a collection of young defensemen whose on-ice presence range from the dominant (Dobson) to the offensively gifted (Bode Wilde, Sebastian Aho, Parker Wotherspoon, Mitchell Vande Sompel) to the engulfing (Robin Salo). Their inspired play could make this year’s training camp more competitive than in previous seasons, and not to be forgotten are goal-scoring wingers Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows – two recent first-round picks who likely spend the season in Bridgeport but are held in high regard.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Noah Dobson RHD NY Islanders (NHL) 1st/2018
2. Ilya Sorokin G CSKA (KHL) 3rd/2014
3. Oliver Wahlstrom RW Bridgeport (AHL) 1st/2018
4. Bode Wilde LHD Bridgeport (AHL) 2nd/2018
5. Sebastian Aho LHD Bridgeport (AHL) 5th/2017
6. Robin Salo LHD SaiPa (SM-Liiga) 2nd/2017
7. Jakub Skarek G Bridgeport (AHL) 3rd/2018
8. Simon Holmstrom RW HV71 J20 (Superelit) 1st/2019
9. Otto Koivula LW Bridgeport (AHL) 4th/2016
10. Parker Wotherspoon LHD Bridgeport (AHL) 4th/2015

18. Tampa Bay Lightning

2018-19 rank: 7th
Key additions: Nolan Foote (LW)
Graduations: Anthony Cirelli (C), Mathieu Joseph (LW)
Traded/not signed: None

A catastrophic first-round loss in the playoffs notwithstanding, the Bolts still possess a strong collection of prospects – even after the graduations of impressive rookies Anthony Cirelli (sixth in Calder Trophy voting) and Mathieu Joseph (26 points in 70 games.) Moving forward, Tampa remains comfortably stable with AHL-proven talent in Syracuse such as 2017 first-rounder Cal Foote, who tied for the team lead among defensemen with 10 goals. Undrafted sniper Alex Barre-Boulet took it a step further by tying for a league-best 34 tallies as a rookie.

The wing is the organization’s position of strength, as Taylor Raddysh (18) and Boris Katchouk (11) both reached double-digit goal totals as first-year AHLers, and used the 2019 first-round pick on Foote’s younger brother Nolan, who led the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets with 36 goals in 66 games. The ridiculous depth Tampa Bay has at the NHL level makes it difficult to predict which prospects have the best chance as promotion. Still, the cupboard is far from bare and the organization’s reputation for developing draftees into quality full-time players tells us they likely have additional diamonds in the rough who can answer the call at a moment’s notice.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Cal Foote RHD Syracuse (AHL) 1st/2017
2. Alex Barre-Boulet C Syracuse (AHL) UDFA
3. Taylor Raddysh RW Syracuse (AHL) 2nd/2016
4. Alexander Volkov RW Syracuse (AHL) 2nd/2017
5. Boris Katchouk LW Syracuse (AHL) 2nd/2016
6. Nolan Foote LW Kelowna (WHL) 1st/2019
7. Gabriel Fortier C/W Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) 2nd/2018
8. Nick Perbix RHD St. Cloud State (NCHC) 6th/2017
9. Mitchell Stephens C Syracuse (AHL) 2nd/2015
10. Ross Colton RW Syracuse (AHL) 4th/2016

NHL free agency: Recapping what all seven Canadian teams did this offseason

19. Buffalo Sabres

2018-19 rank: 1st
Key additions: Dylan Cozens (C/W), Ryan Johnson (LHD)
Graduated: Rasmus Dahlin (LHD), Casey Mittelstadt (C)
Traded/not signed: Brendan Guhle (LHD, ANA), Alex Nylander (RW, CHI)

Any team that loses multiple premier prospects to graduation is going to take a fall in preseason rankings, so it helps to look at Buffalo’s talented pool with perspective. Each of Buffalo’s five first-round picks since 2014 are either full-time Sabres or were traded for quality help. Still, the addition of two young stars in power forward Dylan Cozens and smooth puck rusher Ryan Johnson are acceptable consolation prizes for the aforementioned promotions of Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, who spent all of last season in the NHL.

Buffalo also has in its possession one of the league’s top goaltending prospects in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player and led Finland to gold at the world juniors. He is recovering from hip surgery but is expected to be with the AHL’s Rochester Americans for most of the season. One of the prospects with a legitimate chance to see significant NHL action this season is sniping winger Victor Olofsson, a former seventh-round pick who scored 30 goals as an AHL rookie plus two more in six NHL games. Fellow Swede Rasmus Asplund is one of the better two-way centers among prospects, and the Sabres have several impressive college prospects such as in speedy winger Linus Weissbach, power-play specialist Jacob Bryson and punishing defender Mattias Samuelsson. Although Cozens is the lone forward within the pipeline with star potential, the system as a whole is well balanced and offers the parent club immediate relief when necessary.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Dylan Cozens C/W Lethbridge (WHL) 1st/2019
2. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen G Rochester (AHL) 2nd/2017
3. Victor Olofsson LW Buffalo (NHL) 7th/2014
4. Oskari Laaksonen RHD Ilves (SM-Liiga) 3rd/2017
5. Ryan Johnson LHD Minnesota (Big Ten) 1st/2019
6. Rasmus Asplund C Rochester (AHL) 2nd/2016
7. Mattias Samuelsson LHD W. Michigan (NCHC) 2nd/2018
8. Marcus Davidsson C/W Vaxjo (SHL) 2nd/2017
9. Linus Weissbach LW Wisconsin (Big Ten) 7th/2017
10. Jacob Bryson LHD Rochester (AHL) 4th/2017

20. St. Louis Blues

2018-19 rank: 5th
Key additions: Nikita Alexandrov (C), Colten Ellis (G)
Graduations: Sammy Blais (C/W), Robert Thomas (C)
Traded/not signed: None

The Blues top 10 may no longer rank among the league’s premier prospect pools, but keep in mind they just won a Stanley Cup with a roster that featured 14 Blues draftees. That roster included rookie goalie Jordan Bennington, a third-round pick in 2011, who this postseason produced a Conn Smythe-worthy performance. It’s no secret that the Blues find a way to make the draft work for them and there’s no reason to see that trend stopping any time soon. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1970 to find a Blues’ draft class that didn’t produce at least one NHL player with 100 games or more under his belt.

Although they lost 2017 first-rounder Robert Thomas to graduation, St. Louis has every reason to be excited about speedster Jordan Kyrou, who notched 43 points in 47 games as an AHL rookie with San Antonio. Kyrou earned a 16-game promotion to the Blues early last season, which was not the case for fellow winger Klim Kostin, whose second year in the minors was inconsistent but still finished seventh in scoring (24 points in 66 games). News was more promising out of Sweden, where German-born goal scorer Dominik Bokk was third among SHL teenagers with eight goals and 23 points for Vaxjo. The organization’s biggest surprise may have been the play of undrafted signee Mitch Reinke, a puck-moving defenseman who led San Antonio with 33 assists and was second with 45 points. Joining him high on the defense depth chart is an equally-excitable puck rusher and cerebral playmaker in Scott Perunovich, who will run Minnesota-Duluth’s power play as they look for a third straight NCAA championship.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Jordan Kyrou RW St. Louis (NHL) 2nd/2016
2. Klim Kostin RW San Antonio (AHL) 1st/2017
3. Dominik Bokk RW Rogle (SHL) 1st/2018
4. Mitch Reinke RHD San Antonio (AHL) UDFA
5. Mathias Laferriere RW Cape Breton (QMJHL) 6th/2018
6. Colten Ellis G Rimouski (QMJHL) 3rd/2019
7. Scott Perunovic LHD Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) 2nd/2018
8. Nikita Alexandrov C Charlottetown (QMJHL) 2nd/2019
9. Tyler Tucker LHD Barrie (OHL) 7th/2018
10. Joel Hofer G Portland (WHL) 4th/2018

MORE: St. Louis, the Blues and the Stanley Cup come together in perfect harmony

21. Toronto Maple Leafs

2018-19 rank: 16th
Key additions: Joe Duszak (RHD), Nick Robertson (RW)
Graduated: Andres Johnsson (LW)
Traded/not signed: Sean Durzi (RHD, LAK), Carl Grundstrom (LW, LAK), Ryan McGregor (C)

GM Kyle Dubas sure likes his speed and skill, which is obvious in the manner Toronto has drafted since he joined the organization as an assistant general manager in 2014. To his credit, the competitive nature of the demanding market he works in hasn’t forced him to rush prospects, which may explain why the Leafs AHL affiliate has been so successful in both the standings and developing NHL-ready talent. He may, however, need to make an exception this year; two-way defenseman Rasmus Sandin, the 29th overall pick in 2018, is coming off a splendid rookie reason for the Marlies in which he registered 28 points in only 44 games and added 10 more in the playoffs. Not far behind Sandin is fellow Swede Tim Liljegren, a gifted puck rusher himself and a first rounder from the 2017 draft.

The Leafs want to win in the postseason, and Dubas’s offseason acquisitions of defensemen Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur likely keeps both Sandin and Liljegren (and undrafted signee Joseph Duszak) in the minors for most of the year. Same rings true for leading scorer Jeremy Bracco, a second-round pick in 2015 who as a sophomore winger led the Baby Buds in both regular and playoff scoring with 79 and 16 points, respectively. Bracco, along with incoming Russian import Yegor Korshkov and playmaker Dmytro Timashov, are part of a talented group of AHL wingers that could see one promoted if star forward Mitch Marner holds out for a new contract. If not, there’s no harm in keeping the Marlies stocked for another Calder Cup run.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Rasmus Sandin LHD Toronto Marlies (AHL) 1st/2018
2. Jeremy Bracco RW Toronto Marlies (AHL) 2nd/2015
3. Tim Liljegren RHD Toronto Marlies (AHL) 1st/2017
4. Yegor Korshkov LW Toronto Marlies (AHL) 2nd/2016
5. Dmytro Timashov LW Toronto Marlies (AHL) 5th/2015
6. Ian Scott G Toronto Marlies (AHL) 4th/2017
7. Joseph Woll G Toronto Marlies (AHL) 3rd/2016
8. Nick Robertson RW Peterborough (OHL) 2nd/2019
9. Adam Brooks C Toronto Marlies (AHL) 4th/2016
10. Joseph Duszak RHD Toronto Marlies (AHL) UDFA

MORE: Maple Leafs, Senators six-player swap is a win-win as Zaitsev, Ceci start anew

22. Arizona Coyotes

2018-19 rank: 25th
Key additions: Victor Soderstrom (RHD)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: Pierre-Olivier Joseph (LHD, PIT), Dylan Strome (C, CHI)

It took a while to pinpoint how a team that hasn’t had a playoff appearance in almost eight years can’t seem to impress the masses when it comes to its prospects. The obvious answer may be that fact that the Coyotes don’t mind promoting their notable youngsters within one or two years after being drafted, which was the case for Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun, and several others. Another way to look at it is how the organization tends to keep AHL development to a maximum of two or three years. Or that the Coyotes aren’t afraid to trade high picks or prospects for veteran help, which is exactly what GM John Chayka did in 2017 when he moved the seventh pick for Derek Stepan and recently when he shipped 2017 first-rounder Pierre-Olivier Joseph to Pittsburgh in the Phil Kessel deal.

Still, there are several key pieces still in place, with flashy 200-foot center Barret Hayton at the top of the list. Hayton went fifth overall in 2018 and didn’t disappoint in his post-draft season, averaging 1.67 points a game for the OHL’S Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Chayka also added Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom, an intelligent and mature puck mover, who would be a nice compliment to the physical, shut-down style of Kevin Bahl. Both Bahl and Soderstrom could be top-pairing defenders for their respective nations at the world juniors. There aren’t many needle-movers thereafter, although defenseman Kyle Capobianco and goalie Adin Hill both saw NHL action after stellar AHL seasons with Tucson.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Barrett Hayton C Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 1st/2018
2. Victor Soderstrom RHD Brynas (SHL) 1st/2019
3. Kyle Capobianco LHD Arizona (NHL) 3rd/2015
4. Kevin Bahl LHD Ottawa (OHL) 2nd/2018
5. Adin Hill G Arizona (NHL) 3rd/2015
6. Nate Schnarr C Tucson (AHL) 3rd/2017
7. Nick Merkley LW Tucson (AHL) 1st/2015
8. Filip Westerlund RHD Frolunda (SHL) 2nd/2017
9. Lane Pederson C Tucson (AHL) UDFA
10. Erik Kallgren G Tucson (AHL) 7th/2015

MORE: Phil Kessel excited to begin next phase in Arizona: ‘I think it’s going to be great’

23. Calgary Flames

2018-19 rank: 21st
Key additions: Ilya Nikolayev (C), Jakob Pelletier (LW)
Graduated: Rasmus Andersson (RHD), Oliver Kylington (LHD), Andrew Mangiapane (LW)
Traded/not signed: Zach Fisher (RW), D’Artagnan Joly (RW)

This ranking may come off as a surprise, but Calgary’s the sleeping giant when it comes to drafting. Take the 2015 draft for example – the Flames only had five picks and none in the first round, yet still walked away with three impressive NHL roster players in defensemen Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and winger Andrew Mangiapane. In 2016, they picked Matthew Tkachuk in the first round but also scored with future top-9 Dillon Dube in the second round, then unearthed a gem with since-traded Adam Fox in the third.

Is it only a coincidence that Denver’s Emilio Pettersson, their sixth-round pick from last year, was one of the nation’s top freshman scorers? What about 2016 sixth-rounder Eetu Tuulola, who placed in the top five in under-21 scoring in the SM-Liiga? Another sixth-round selection, Matthew Phillips, produced 38 points for Stockton – more than most AHL rookies from his 2016 draft class.

These kids are trending in the right direction and have shortened their path to the NHL, which also shouldn’t be a problem for skilled 2019 first-rounder Jakob Pelletier, who classifies as one of the toughest competitors at any level and can get to the show on his work ethic alone. Those traits also belong to Ilya Nikolayev, who was the top-line center for Russia’s U18 squad and saw major minutes in the MHL playoffs. Even an offseason ACL tear suffered by promising defenseman Juuso Valimaki shouldn’t dampen the mood, as a full year of recovery leaves room for improving his overall understanding of the league. A big-bodied puck mover and a first-round pick in 2017, Valimaki already appeared in over 25 NHL games, including two in last year’s playoffs. No matter where they pick them, Calgary’s kids continue to improve to the point where the Flames are finding room on their roster – a Stanley Cup-caliber roster, no less – for youngsters either previously passed over or undervalued by others.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Dillon Dube C/W Calgary (NHL) 2nd/2016
2. Juuso Valimaki LHD Stockton (AHL) 1st/2017
3. Jakob Pelletier LW Moncton (QMJHL) 1st/2019
4. Emilio Pettersen C Denver (NCHC) 6th/2018
5. Eetu Tuulola RW Stockton (AHL) 6th/2016
6. Matthew Phillips C Stockton (AHL) 6th/2016
7. Ilya Nikolayev C Loko Yaroslavl (MHL) 3rd/2019
8. Adam Ruzicka C Stockton (AHL) 4th/2017
9. Milos Roman C Vancouver (WHL) 4th/2018
10. Dmitry Zavgorodniy LW Rimouski (QMJHL) 7th/2018

MORE: Flames secure goaltending tandem, re-sign David Rittich to two-year deal

24. Minnesota Wild

2018-19 rank: 20th
Key additions: Matthew Boldy (LW), Vladislav Firstov (LW)
Graduated: Luke Kunin (C/W), Jordan Greenway (C/W)
Traded/not signed: Jacob Golden (LHD), Ales Stezka (G
)

As odd as the timing was, firing GM Paul Fenton after less than two years seemed like the appropriate course of action – even if it had to happen shortly after the draft. The Wild, forever stuck in mediocrity and coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in six years, seem somewhat stable when it comes to the pipeline. They have arguably the best European prospect outside of Kakko in Russian winger Kirill Kaprizov. They also got a bit of a draft-day steal when intelligent two-way winger Matthew Boldy fell to them at 12th overall. Kaprizov still has a year left on his KHL deal and it looks like Boldy will stick around the college ranks for the next season or two.

For all intents and purposes, those two alone are keeping the farm system afloat, although productive AHL campaigns from defenseman Brennan Menell and playmaking center Mason Shaw add additional support to the foundation. And if you see a familiar name missing from this list, it most certainly is Swedish defenseman Filip Johansson – Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2018 who many believe was drafted a good round or two higher than expected and showed stagnation in his development overseas. Still, Fenton may have been on the job for just over a year, but it looks like his 2019 draft, headlined by Boldy and playmaking winger Vladislav Firstov, should set his successor up for success in later years.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Kirill Kaprizov LW CSKA (KHL) 5th/2015
2. Matthew Boldy LW Boston College (HE) 1st/2019
3. Brennan Menell RHD Iowa (AHL) UDFA
4. Mason Shaw C Iowa (AHL) 4th/2017
5. Vladislav Firstov LW UConn (HE) 2nd/2019
6. Nick Swaney RW Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) 7th/2017
7. Sam Hentges LW St. Cloud State (NCHC) 7th/2018
8. Alexander Khovanov C Iowa (AHL) 3rd/2018
9. Hunter Jones G Peterborough (OHL) 2nd/2019
10. Jack McBain C/RW Boston College (HE) 3rd/2018

MORE: Mike Babcock, Bruce Boudreau and 4 other NHL coaches on the hot seat in 2019-20

25. Nashville Predators

2018-19 rank: 27th
Key additions: Semyon Chistyakov (LHD), Phil Tomasino (C)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: Pavel Koltygin (C), Emil Pettersson (C, ARI), Karel Vejmelka (G)

The constant winning in Nashville has skyrocketed expectations to the point where Predators hockey is the main show in the football-crazed town. However, fans are growing impatient, even if they know all about sniper Eeli Tolvanen and heady puck rusher Dante Fabbro, Nashville’s two best prospects who appeared briefly in late-season action. Of course, neither are seasoned enough be considered saviors and playing time will be at a premium for those in a depth capacity. What roles they are given, even if limited in scope and scale, will be monitored closely, especially if the team hits a funk.

Drafting speedster Phil Tomasino creates a dream scenario where his precision passing will compliment Tolvanen’s cannon from the circles, but he’s still a few years away. Two-way blueliners Alexander Carrier and Frederic Allard have nothing left to prove in the minors after consecutive impressive AHL seasons with Milwaukee; they’ll battle Fabbro for the vacancy created by the P.K. Subban trade. A mobile defense has always been a hallmark of Nashville’s prospect pool, and collegians David Farrance (Boston Univ.) and Marc Del Gaizo (UMass-Amherst) were two of the better underclassmen in Hockey East. And try to keep tabs on Russian Semyon Chistyakov, a bulldog of a defenseman with leadership qualities who plays a rugged game in all three zones.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Eeli Tolvanen LW Milwaukee (AHL) 1st/2017
2. Dante Fabbro RHD Nashville (NHL) 1st/2016
3. Phil Tomasino C/W Niagara (OHL) 1st/2019
4. Frederic Allard RHD Milwaukee (AHL) 3rd/2016
5. Rem Pitlick C Milwaukee (AHL) 3rd/2016
6. Anthony Richard C/W Milwaukee (AHL) 4th/2015
7. Tomas Vomacka G UConn (HE) 5th/2017
8. Semyon Chistyakov LHD Tolpar (MHL) 4th/2019
9. David Farrance LHD Boston University (HE) 3rd/2017
10. Marc Del Gaizo LHD UMass-Amherst (HE) 4th/2019

26. Boston Bruins

2018-19 rank: 12th
Key additions: John Beecher (C)
Graduated: J.F. Karlsson (C)
Traded/not signed: Daniel Bukac (RHD), Ryan Donato (RW, MIN), Cedric Pare (C)

It’s a tad unfair to ding an organization that came within one win of a second Stanley Cup this decade and had GM Don Sweeney named the NHL’s Executive of the Year. However, the best prospects the Bruins possessed heading into last season were either traded, promoted or were otherwise nondescript, which is why they took a tumble from last year’s rankings. A slow start from winger Ryan Donato likely convinced the Bruins to trade their best prospect to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle, and there wasn’t much going on among the forwards once he left. Helping that situation to a degree was the emergence of versatile 23-year-old winger Karson Kuhlman, who notched eight points in 19 games between the regular season and playoffs. Boston also made a strong pick late in the first round in 2019 by taking speedy power center John Beecher.

Furthermore, 2017 first-round selection Urho Vaakanainen appears to be developing nicely as a future top-four defender and there are several speed merchants in the system such as Jakub Lauko, a third-rounder in 2018 who impressed at several training camps. In goal, it looks like Jaroslav Halak will return as Tuukka Rask’s backup, but if the performance of undrafted netminder Kyle Keyser with Oshawa during the OHL playoffs is any indication, a long look in the AHL and a late-season promotion sound reasonable. The downside is that controversial 2015 first rounders Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn haven’t come close to validating Sweeney’s decision to draft them ahead of an all-star game’s worth of future NHL stars. It looks like both will be off the opening-night roster for the fifth consecutive year.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Urho Vaakanainen LHD Providence (AHL) 1st/2017
2. Jack Studnicka C Providence (AHL) 2nd/2017
3. John Beecher C Michigan (Big Ten) 1st/2019
4. Jakub Lauko C/W Providence (AHL) 3rd/2018
5. Trent Frederic C Providence (AHL) 1st/2016
6. Oskar Steen C/W Providence (AHL) 6th/2016
7. Karson Kuhlman C Boston (NHL) UDFA
8. Kyle Keyser G Providence (AHL) UDFA
9. Jakub Zboril LHD Providence (AHL) 1st/2015
10. Pavel Shen C Providence (AHL) 7th/2018

27. Columbus Blue Jackets

2018-19 rank: 28th
Key additions: None
Graduated: Gabriel Carlsson (LHD)
Traded/not signed: Vitalii Abramov (RW, OTT), Jonathan Davidsson (RW, OTT), Veeti Vainio (D)

The appeal of upgrading a roster at the trade deadline is such that even the most inflexible of GM’s can eventually cave to pressure. Of course, the ability to swing deals for late-season glory is predicated on several factors, namely the possession of coveted draft picks and prospects. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen had both. The gamble of surrendering a first-round pick and talented forwards Vitalii Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson to Ottawa in the Matt Duchene trade paid off in the short term, as the Jackets marched towards what became the deepest playoff run in franchise history.

Now that the dust has settled, the state of Kekalainen’s prospect pool isn’t as depleted as one would think, albeit a tad top-heavier than a year ago. Most of their recent draft picks had stellar seasons both in league and international play, with French-born forward Alexandre Texier leading the way after an excellent campaign in the SM-Liiga and difference-making play during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Although Texier is all but locked into a top-nine role with the big club, the Jackets have a handful of other forward prospects, who at a minimum, should be impact players with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.

Swedish sniper Emil Bemstrom wore out opposing goalies in the SHL to a tune of 23 goals in 47 games and hulking Russian winger Kirill Marchenko is a two-way player who is a threat to score while shorthanded. Speedster Liam Foudy is one of the game’s most athletic prospects and his physical style compliments his improving play-making and finishing abilities. Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlikins has been one of Europe’s top young netminders, and the loss of Sergei Bobrovsky helped the Jackets convince him to sign and challenge for a roster opening. As you can see, the future remains bright in Columbus, but another deadline-day spending spree should be put on hold for quite some time.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Alexandre Texier C/W Columbus (NHL) 2nd/2017
2. Emil Bemstrom RW Cleveland (AHL) 4th/2017
3. Elvis Merzlikins G Columbus (NHL) 3rd/2014
4. Liam Foudy C/W London (OHL) 1st/2018
5. Krill Marchenko RW SKA-Neva (VHL) 2nd/2018
6. Markus Karlberg RW Leksand J20 (Superelit) 3rd/2018
7. Andrew Peeke RHD Cleveland (AHL) 2nd/2016
8. Vladislav Gavrikov LHD Cleveland (AHL) 6th/2015
9. Kevin Stenlund C Cleveland (AHL) 2nd/2015
10. Trey Fix-Wolansky RW Cleveland (AHL) 7th/2018

28. Washington Capitals

2018-19 rank: 29th
Key additions: Brett Leason (RW), Connor McMichael (C), Joe Snively (LW)
Graduated: Jonas Siegenthaler (LHD)
Traded/not signed: Chase Priskie (RHD, FA-CAR)

The formula for building and maintaining a contending team differs from franchise to franchise, yet even the regime change and recent Stanley Cup triumph hasn’t altered a program that continues to favor building from the net outward. The progress of every notable name within Washington’s improving prospect pool appears to be moving in concert with the success of the parent club; as soon as lineup issues occur, a contingency involving a prospect is executed. Of course, Washington boasts a veteran team that leans on its superstars – although be on the lookout for the likes of defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, their first pick in 2018 who looks healthy after a knee injury in March. The big Russian is an excellent two-way defenseman who can excel in any situation and fellow 2018 draftee Martin Fehervary is both mobile for his size and a physical defensemen in Sweden’s SHL.

Goalie Ilya Samsonov, a first-round pick in 2015, had an inconsistent rookie AHL season but is expected to once again challenge Vitek Vanecek for the lion’s share of Hershey’s netminding duties. With a strong core of defense and goaltending prospects already solidified, the Capitals addressed the need for skill up front by taking slick playmaker Connor McMichael and cerebral 200-foot winger Brett Leason with their first two picks of the 2019 draft. McMichael can finish as well as he can pass the puck and Leason was the WHL’s most complete player in leading Prince Albert to the Memorial Cup. Although roster spots will be at a premium, the Capitals have proven to be successful when ripening their prospects in the minors before handing them a critical role on a perennial contender. It also appears this will be the youngest lineup Hershey has iced since becoming Washington’s AHL affiliate in 2005-06.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Alexander Alexeyev LHD Hershey (AHL) 1st/2018
2. Ilya Samsonov G Hershey (AHL) 1st/2015
3. Connor McMichael C London (OHL) 1st/2019
4. Brett Leason RW Hershey (AHL) 2nd/2019
5. Martin Fehervary RHD Hershey (AHL) 2nd/2018
6. Garrett Pilon C Hershey (AHL) 3rd/2016
7. Damien Riat LW Biel-Bienne (NLA) 4th/2016
8. Vitek Vanecek G Hershey (AHL) 2nd/2014
9. Joe Snively LW Hershey (AHL) UDFA
10. Axel Jonsson-Fjalby LW Hershey (AHL) 5th/2016

Brett Leason’s ‘most fun year of hockey’ now continues with the Capitals

29. Dallas Stars

2018-19 rank: 26th
Key additions: Thomas Harley (LHD)
Graduated: Miro Heiskanen (LHD), Roope Hintz (LW)
Traded/not signed: Brett Davis (C), Liam Hawel (C), Markus Ruusu (G)

This low ranking may come as a surprise to some since the Stars tend to stay protective over their high picks and prospects; Dallas has drafted at least one player in the first round in 11 straight drafts, including two in 2017 (one being game-breaking defenseman Miro Heiskanen). Problems begin, however, when an objective assessment is made on the progress of the farm system as a whole. Simply put, the Stars seem to have several first-round picks who either struggle to produce or are no longer with the organization – or both. The hockey world still awaits the coming-out parties for wingers Denis Guryanov and Riley Tufte, two former first-rounders. At a time when prospects are generally afforded a longer leash to develop, neither has moved the needle enough to validate their draft position, let alone to earn a top-6 or top-9 role with Dallas.

Nonetheless, there still are impressive pieces who can help stem the tide, such as winger Jason Robertson, who in his fourth OHL season led the league with 117 points. The defense, already at an elite level in Dallas, has Heiskanen, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell, plus the additions of one-man breakout Thomas Harley at the draft and NCAA standout Gavin Beyreuther, who looked very good in limited NHL action. Goaltending also was part of the team’s success this year and 2017 first-rounder Jake Oettinger appears to be the favorite to shadow Ben Bishop until the starting job is his. In terms of the sleeper category, don’t be surprised if center Riley Damiani leapfrogs Ty Dellandrea on the depth chart. Dellandrea’s numbers look pedestrian by first-round pick standards (63 points in 60 OHL games), and although he played for a doormat in Flint, it’s been Damiani’s speed and playmaking from the center position that helped Team Canada invite him to the recent under-20 world junior camp.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Jason Robertson LW Texas (AHL) 2nd/2017
2. Gavin Bayreuther LHD Dallas (NHL) UDFA
3. Thomas Harley LHD Mississauga (OHL) 1st/2019
4. Ty Dellandrea C Flint (OHL) 1st/2018
5. Jake Oettinger G Texas (AHL) 1st/2017
6. Riley Damiani C Kitchener (OHL) 5th/2018
7. Adam Mascherin LW Texas (AHL) 4th/2018
8. Albin Eriksson LW Skelleftea (SHL) 2nd/2018
9. Denis Guryanov RW Texas (AHL) 1st/2015
10. Jacob Peterson C Frolunda (SHL) 5th/2017

30. San Jose Sharks

2018-19 rank: 30th
Key additions: Jonathan Dahlen (LW)
Graduated: None
Traded/not signed: Rudolfs Balcers (LW, OTT), Josh Norris (C, OTT)

The Sharks more than make-up for their trading of valuable assets by spanning the globe in search of late-round gems and undrafted free agents – either coveted or obscure. This method has not hurt the franchise at the gate or in the standings, as most of their long-shots and signees were impact players for their respective teams and still maintain Calder Trophy eligibility. Betting against San Jose’s front office is a risky endeavor, as the NHL roster came within a game of its second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in four years had six players who weren’t even drafted. Nonetheless, historical data also reveals the higher success rate of first-round picks over their drafted and undrafted peers, and in that regard, the Sharks are running out of room for error.

Their organizational depth chart below the NHL level is thin on elite prospects, with controversial playmaker Ryan Merkley the obvious choice to earmark as their lone potential star. Much like Calgary, however, the Sharks were rewarded with fantastic post-draft seasons from several later-round picks, such as winger Ivan Chekhovich (third in QMJHL scoring), Joachim Blichfeld (WHL scoring champion and Player of the Year) and Sasha Chmelevski (second in OHL playoff scoring). All three were picked after the fifth round yet continue to trend upward. Goalie Josef Korenar (another non-draftee) was one of the AHL’s top young netminders, while fellow goaltending prospect Zachary Emond was tops in the QMJHL in goals-against average (1.73), save percentage (.932) and shutouts (seven). Lastly, Russian-born 2019 draftees Yegor Spiridonov and defenseman Artemy Knyazev, were minute-eating mainstays for their under-18 national team.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Ryan Merkley RHD Peterborough (OHL) 1st/2018
2. Josef Korenar G San Jose (AHL) UDFA
3. Yegor Spiridonov C Stalnye Lisy (MHL) 4th/2019
4. Artemy Knyazev LHD Chicoutimi (QMJHL) 2nd/2019
5. Ivan Chekhovich LW San Jose (AHL) 7th/2017
6. Joachim Blichfeld RW San Jose (AHL) 7th/2016
7. Mario Ferraro RHD San Jose (AHL) 2nd/2017
8. Noah Gregor C San Jose (AHL) 4th/2016
9. Dylan Gambrell C San Jose (AHL) 2nd/2016
10. Zachary Emond G Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) 6th/2018

MORE: Comparing the San Jose Sharks to… well… actual Sharks

31. Pittsburgh Penguins

2018-19 rank: 31st
Key additions: Pierre-Olivier Joseph (LHD, ARI), Samuel Poulin (LW)
Graduated: Zach Aston-Reece (LW)
Traded/not signed: Zachary Lauzon (LHD)

With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still leading the way, the Penguins remain among the NHL elite and a perennial Stanley Cup contender. How much longer it lasts, however, is something to ponder especially when you consider how bare the cupboard is. The state of hockey in Steel City took a turn for the worse this past season, and some of the issues – aging roster, expensive contracts, onrushing division rivals, thin prospect pool – are symptomatic of a franchise on the brink of collapse. As the parent club’s star players move closer to their mid-30’s, only four of the Penguins’ top-20 scorers in the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton were original draftees; 2017 fifth-rounder Linus Olund is the only one who was picked since 2015.

Rugged two-way winger Samuel Poulin is a notable prospect with promise, but he is the club’s lone first-round pick in the last five years (and at 21st overall, a bit of a reach at that). Almost by default, Poulin automatically vaults to the top of the prospect depth chart, one which has been thinned in recent years via deadline deals and draft-day hijinks. Remember, it was GM Jim Rutherford who traded his 2017 first rounder for pugilist Ryan Reaves, only to use his second rounder in that same draft on defensive defenseman Zach Lauzon, who wasn’t even offered a contract.

Acquiring defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph from Arizona in the Phil Kessel trade helps make up for the Lauzon gaffe, and NCAA winger Kasper Bjorkvist was one of the top two-way wingers in Hockey East. They have a very good power-play quarterback in Calen Addison, and European forwards Filip Hallander and Jan Drozg provide finesse and playmaking. If there is one sleeper among this thinned-out group, it’s 200-foot winger Judd Caulfield, who will play for North Dakota in the fall. The group is expanding, but it still pales in comparison to the collections of young talent being accumulated by the league’s other 30 teams.

PROSPECT POS. 2019-20 TEAM (Proj.) ACQUIRED
1. Samuel Poulin LW Sherbrooke (QMJHL) 1st/2019
2. Pierre-Olivier Joseph LHD Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) Trade: ARI
3. Kasper Bjorkvist RW Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 2nd/2016
4. Calen Addison LHD Lethbridge (WHL) 2nd/2018
5. Filip Hallander C Lulea (SHL) 2nd/2018
6. Jan Drozg RW Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 5th/2017
7. Nathan Legare RW Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) 3rd/2019
8. Judd Caulfield RW North Dakota (NCHC) 5th/2019
9. Linus Olund C Brynas (SHL) 5th/2017
10. Justin Almeida C Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 5th/2018

Better with age: The top 32 moments of Sidney Crosby’s career

Source