2011-12 NHL Prospect Preview
By Jon Litterine, RotoWire Writer
With training camp right around the corner, we take a look at the top prospects for all 30 NHL teams and discuss what to expect from them this coming season. (Note: Players with 25 games or more NHL experience are not included)
Anaheim Ducks: The biggest problem with Anaheim playing Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan on the same line is that they are all right-handed shots. 2009 first-round pick Kyle Palmieri and 2010 second-round pick Devante Smith-Pelly both could fit nicely on the top line, but they are right-handed shots also. Palmieri is almost certain to earn a roster spot out of training camp and the Ducks seemed determined to give Smith-Pelly every opportunity to also make the team. Goalie Jonas Hiller says he is over his battle with vertigo that cost him the latter part of last season, but he's still a poor bet over the long-term. 2011 second-round pick John Gibson is the goalie of the future for the Ducks. Gibson backed out of his commitment to the University of Michigan and will instead playing this season with Kitchener of the OHL. He has a shot to earn the backup job with Team USA at the 2012 World Juniors. 2010 first-round pick Emerson Etem can skate like the wind and is proving to be a top flight goal scoring prospect in the WHL. Etem will get his second taste of the World Juniors this coming December. It's not a huge concern at the moment, but he's also a right-handed shot. 2009 first-round pick Peter Holland had six points in just three AHL games after finishing his fourth full season with Guelph of the OHL. He will turn pro this season. He's the only left-handed shot among the Ducks top prospects.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Emerson Etem-RW, 2) Kyle Palmieri-RW, 3) Peter Holland-C, 4) Devante Smith-Pelly-RW, 5) John Gibson-G
Boston Bruins: By the time Zdeno Chara is ready to hang up the skates, 2011 first-round pick Dougie Hamilton should be ready to assume a major role for the Bruins. With his selection, Toronto is finally done paying off the Phil Kessel trade. Hamilton projects as a big time two-way defender who can be a major factor at both ends of the rink. For this season, he's headed back to the OHL. Marc Savard may never play again due to concussion issues, which should give 2009 first-round pick forward Jordan Caron to assume a bigger role this season. Caron would probably do just fine if the Bruins put him on one of the top two lines and just left him there all season, but they probably won't do that. 2010 second-round pick forward Ryan Spooner should probably be putting up better numbers than he has the past couple seasons in the OHL, but the Bruins are still high on him. Fellow 2010 second-round pick forward Jared Knight (also acquired with a draft pick from the Kessel trade) brings a nice mix of skill and grit to the table and he figures to vie for a roster spot out of training camp. Spooner is likely at least another year away.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Dougie Hamilton-D, 2) Jordan Caron-RW, 3) Ryan Spooner-LW, 4) Jared Knight-RW, 5) Alexander Khokhlachev-C
Buffalo Sabres: Every time you turn around these days, it seems like Ryan Miller is injured, which means more playing time for Jhonas Enroth. Miller is still the goalie of the future for the Sabres, but within the next year or so, Buffalo will have to make a decision on Enroth, because he is too good to be a backup for the long term. 2011 first-round pick Joel Armia is ticketed for at least one more season in Finland but he should be ready to provide some punch to the Sabres offense as soon as he decides to come over. 2009 first-round pick Zack Kassian has finished his junior career and is ready to turn pro. The power forward figures to challenge for a spot in training camp, but he's probably going to open the season in the AHL. 2008 second-round pick Luke Adam dominated in his first professional season with 62 points in 57 games with Portland of the AHL but he had just four points in 19 games with the Sabres. He should get a longer look this season for a full time gig. 2009 fourth round selection Marcus Foligno surprised everyone by not only making the Canadian World Junior team this past year but by also being an effective player for Team Canada. He will also turn pro and should begin the season with Rochester of the AHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Jhonas Enroth-G, 2) Joel Armia-RW, 3) Zack Kassian-RW, 4) Luke Adam-C, 5) Marcus Foligno-LW
Calgary Flames: Calgary's prospect pool is among the worst in the league, which isn't a good sign for a team whose best players are all getting up there in age. Pretty much by default, 2011 first-round pick forward Sven Bartschi is the team's top prospect. He's an intriguing talent, but he shouldn't be the number one prospect on any NHL team. Bartschi will return to Portland of the WHL this season and will have his work cut out for him with teammates Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter expected to turn pro. Forward Greg Nemisz hasn't developed like the Flames had hoped since being selected in the first round in 2008. He had just 33 points in 68 games in his first pro season with Abbotsford of the AHL. He will get a shot to make the team out of training camp, but he clearly needs more time to develop. 2006 first-round pick goalie Leland Irving puts up elite numbers wherever he plays, and although he's going to begin this season in the AHL (his fourth), he's a better bet to be Calgary's goalie in five years than current starter Miikka Kiprusoff.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Sven Bartschi-LW, 2) Leland Irving-G, 3) Greg Nemisz-RW, 4) Ryan Howse-LW, 5) T.J. Brodie-D
Carolina Hurricanes: 2008 second-round pick forward Zac Dalpe had a fantastic first pro season with 23 goals and 57 points in 61 AHL games and he chipped in a goal and four points in 15 games with Carolina. It would be upset if he didn't play in the NHL this season. Carolina drafted 2010 second-round pick Justin Faulk to be their power play quarterback of the future, and then proceeded to draft Ryan Murphy, who figures to fill the same void, with their first-round pick in 2011. Both are undersized and are right-handed shots. Faulk turned late last season after winning the NCAA championship with Minnesota-Duluth. He figures to start this season in the AHL while Murphy is ticketed for another season in the OHL. 2011 second-round pick forward Victor Rask announced his intentions to play this season in North America, which is a great sign for Carolina. Rask figures to suit up either with Calgary of the WHL, who own his junior rights or with Carolina's AHL team in Charlotte.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Zac Dalpe-C, 2) Ryan Murphy-D, 3) Justin Faulk-D, 4) Victor Rask-C, 5) Brian Dumoulin-D
Chicago Blackhawks: Forward Jeremy Morin, acquired in the deal that sent Dustin Byfuglien to Winnipeg, suffered through an injury-plagued 2010-11 season, but he did score 10 goals in just 31 games between Rockford of the AHL and Chicago. He also suited up for Team USA at the World Juniors for the second straight year, although he was injured during the tournament. He's a pure sniper, who could easily be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL in a couple years. Forward Kyle Beach had an average first professional season in the AHL with 36 points in 71. Of course, he did chip in 163 penalty minutes. Chicago is still trying to get Beach to play on the edge, without going over it – that's something that he figures to struggle with his entire career. 2009 first-round pick Dylan Olsen left Minnesota-Duluth in the middle of the season to turn pro and play in the AHL. He had just four assists in 42 games with Rockford, although his offensive skills are a bit better than those numbers indicate. 2011 first-round pick forward Mark McNeill is as physically ready to play in the NHL as any player taken in the draft, but it seems doubtful Chicago will have any room for him this coming season.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Jeremy Morin-LW, 2) Kyle Beach-LW, 3) Dylan Olsen-D, 4) Mark McNeill-C, 5) Brandon Saad-LW
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs need all the scoring help they can get and 2011 second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog should be able to help in that area. He's expected to spend the entire season with Colorado and since he's going to play with either Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny, he should have no problem reaching the 50-point mark in his rookie season. 2009 second-round pick defenseman Stefan Elliott dominated in his final season in the WHL with 31 goals and 81 points in 71 games. He will get a long look in training camp and is worth keeping an eye on. Elliott's defensive partner this past season with Saskatoon, Duncan Siemens, was Colorado's first-round pick this past June. Siemens needs another couple years in juniors, but they two could easily form Colorado's top defensive pair a few years down the road. 2010 first-round pick center Joey Hishon has put up huge numbers the past couple seasons in the OHL (87 points in 50 games this past season) but he has really struggled with injuries. His chance to shine on a national stage at the Memorial Cup came to an end when he suffered a concussion in his team's first game. He will need to prove he can make it through an entire season before the Avs give real consideration to giving him a full time spot.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Gabriel Landeskog-LW, 2) Stefan Elliott-D, 3) Joey Hishon-C, 4) Duncan Siemens-D, 5) Calvin Pickard-G
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets may have the best prospect in all of hockey in 2010 fourth overall pick center Ryan Johansen. Johansen is ready for the NHL and he is expected to make the club this season. Johansen is expected to get the first crack at centering high scoring winger Rick Nash, so he could have immediate fantasy value. The fantasy value of defenseman John Moore, Columbus' first-round pick in 2010, took a huge hit when the team went out and signed James Wisniewski as a free agent this summer. Even if Moore makes the team, he faces an uphill climb to see any significant power play time. 2008 second-round pick defenseman Cody Goloubef is another player to keep an eye on. He has a chance to earn a roster spot in his second professional season.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Ryan Johansen-C, 2) John Moore-D, 3) Cody Goloubef-D, 4) Boone Jenner-C, 5) David Savard-D
Dallas Stars: When he isn't injured, goalie Kari Lehtonen is too inconsistent and as a result, 2010 first-round pick Jack Campbell is likely to get his shot before he's truly ready. Campbell had a dreadful first season with Windsor of the OHL, but he once again was stellar on the international stage for Team USA at the World Juniors. He is expected to be the starter for the United States once again in December, but he needs to prove he can succeed in the OHL before Dallas gives any thought to carrying him on their NHL roster. 2011 first-round pick defenseman Jamie Oleksiak had a fantastic freshman season at Northeastern, but has decided to spend this season in the CHL. The move should help his development. 2009 first-round pick forward Scott Glennie has proven he can score in the WHL, but there are many who doubt that he will be able to do it as a pro. He gets his first chance to prove the doubters wrong this season, likely with Texas of the AHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Jack Campbell-G, 2) Jamie Oleksiak-D, 3) Scott Glennie-RW, 4) Philip Larsen-D, 5) Alex Chiasson-RW
Detroit Red Wings: The retirement of Brian Rafalski should allow 2007 first-round pick Brendan Smith to not only earn a roster spot, but also to see substantial power play time alongside veteran Nicklas Lidstrom. In his first pro season in the AHL last year, Smith had 12 goals and 32 points in 63 games. Forward Tomas Tatar has been everything the Wings could have hoped for and more since being selected in the second round in 2009. He had 57 points in 70 AHL games this past season and he has a solid chance of earning a bottom six forward spot out of training camp. After a third straight dominating season at the University of Maine, 2008 fourth-round pick forward Gustav Nyquist turned pro and had four points in eight games with Grand Rapids of the AHL. He will also get a long look in training camp, but he would be better suited to spend most of his professional season in the minors.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Brendan Smith-D, 2) Tomas Tatar-C, 3) Gustav Nyquist-C, Calle Jarnkrok-C, 5) Tomas Jurco-RW
Edmonton Oilers: 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would benefit from another full season in the WHL, but I suspect in the end his talent will win out and he will at least start the season in Edmonton. The Oilers could very easily send him back to Red Deer as long as he plays less than 10 NHL games, so it's a tricky situation for fantasy owners. The safe play would be to just stay away until next year. 2010 second-round pick defenseman Martin Marincin was an absolute stud in his first season in North America with Prince George of the WHL. Marincin had 14 goals and 56 points in 67 games and has vaulted himself into the position of top defensive prospect in the Oilers system. After he was selected 19th overall this year, there were rumors that defenseman Oscar Klefbom may vie for a roster spot this season, but it looks like he will spend at least one more season in Sweden. It's the right move for a guy who turned 18 years old just last month.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-C, 2) Martin Marincin-D, 3) Oscar Klefbom-D, 4) Anton Lander-C, 5) Tyler Pitlick-C
Florida Panthers: It may be hard to believe, but the top prospect pool in the entire NHL belongs to the Florida Panthers. Florida has done a brilliant job of drafting the last few years and they are led by 2011 third overall pick, forward Jonathan Huberdeau. Perhaps the most offensively gifted player in the entire draft, Huberdeau will get a look in training camp, but with all the forwards the Panthers signed in the free agent market this summer, he may be headed back to the QMJHL for one more season. 2008 second-round pick goalie Jacob Markstrom had a mediocre first pro season with Rochester of the AHL, but an argument can be made that he is the top goaltending prospect in the entire league. 2010 third overall pick defenseman Erik Gudbranson should have been in the NHL last season, but he couldn't agree on a contract in time and was forced to spend one final season with Kingston of the OHL. That won't happen again, as he's already signed - Gudbranson will play this season in the NHL. Another pair of 2010 first-round picks, forwards Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden, both had solid seasons and both played very well at the World Juniors for Team USA and Team Canada respectively. The Panthers have at least 10 prospects who project to be solid NHL regulars in the next few years.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Jonathan Huberdeau-C, 2) Jacob Markstrom-G, 3) Erik Gudbranson-D, 4) Nick Bjugstad-C, 5) Quinton Howden-LW
Los Angeles Kings: With goalie Jonathan Bernier in the NHL full time and Brayden Schenn traded to the Flyers, 2008 fifth-round pick forward Andrei Loktionov has turned into the Los Angeles' top prospect. He has battled injuries the last couple seasons, but Loktionov has 55 points in 63 AHL games since turning pro two years ago. He also had a 19 game stint in the NHL this past season where he had four goals and seven points. He has a good shot of earning a full time job this year. 2010 first-round pick defenseman Derek Forbort had a nice freshman season at North Dakota and made Team USA at the World Juniors, but he served as the team's seventh defenseman and saw virtually no playing time during the tournament. He will return this year with a bigger role. 2010 second-round pick forward Tyler Toffoli had 57 goals and 108 points in 68 games with Ottawa of the OHL this past season. Owners need to keep an eye on him because he could make the team with a strong camp.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Andrei Loktionov-C, 2) Derek Forbort-D, 3) Tyler Toffoli-RW, 4) Maxim Kitsyn-LW, 5) Thomas Hickey-D
Minnesota Wild: The Wild really could have used the services of 2010 first-round pick forward Mikael Granlund this season, but he will spend one more year in Finland before coming over next year. When he arrives, Granlund will immediately secure a top-six forward spot and be a candidate for the Calder Trophy. Other than Granlund, Minnesota's system lacked another top flight prospect until forward Charlie Coyle was acquired from San Jose in the Brent Burns deal. Coyle had a great season at Boston University and was a standout for Team USA at the World Juniors. Coyle is returning to college for his sophomore season, but at least the Wild finally have some hope beyond Granlund. 2008 second-round pick Marco Scandella battled a concussion last year, but he should have a full time spot in the Minnesota blueline this season and 2009 third-round pick goalie Matt Hackett led Houston of the AHL to the Calder Cup Finals in his first pro season. He's Minnesota's goaltender of the future.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Mikael Granlund-C, 2) Charlie Coyle-RW, 3) Marco Scandella-D, 4) Matt Hackett-G, 5) Jonas Brodin-D
Montreal Canadiens: Montreal was pleased with the decision of 2009 first-round pick forward Louis Leblanc to leave Harvard and join Montreal of the QMJHL, but he struggled with just 58 points in 51 games. A player of his talent level should have been far more productive. Leblanc made Team Canada for the World Juniors, but he needs to have a better overall season. 2008 second-round pick forward Danny Kristo battled a couple injuries in his sophomore season at North Dakota including frostbite. He does have 64 points in 75 games over two collegiate seasons and he remains Montreal's most gifted offensive prospect. 2010 first-round pick defenseman Jarred Tinordi is still trying to do too much by himself, his main flaw in his draft year and had a rough first season with London of the OHL. Even though he's a few years away, Montreal did a great job to pickup defenseman Nathan Beaulieu with the 17th overall pick this past June.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Louis Leblanc-C, 2) Danny Kristo-RW, 3) Nathan Beaulieu-D, 4) Jarred Tinordi-D, 5) Aaron Palushaj-RW
Nashville Predators: With Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and 2007 first-round pick Jon Blum on the roster, it's difficult to see where 2009 first-round pick Ryan Ellis' ice time is going to come from if he makes the team. Ellis has more potential fantasy value than any other defensive prospect in the entire league, but if he isn't going to be getting any power play time, he should be in the AHL. And although he doesn't have quite the upside that Ellis does, same goes for 2008 second-round pick Roman Josi. 2009 third-round pick forward Taylor Beck has torn up the OHL the past couple seasons and is ready to turn pro. He has turned himself into Nashville's top forward prospect. Nashville also has high hopes for 2010 first-round pick forward Austin Watson, although he projects as more of a third line player once he turns pro.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Ryan Ellis-D, 2) Jon Blum-D, 3) Taylor Beck-LW, 4) Roman Josi-D, 5) Austin Watson-RW
New Jersey Devils: Not only will 2011 fourth overall pick Adam Larsson make the Devils roster, I expect him to be playing well over 20 minutes a game by midseason. Even as a rookie, he's easily the best player on a very fragile Devils defense. How much power play time he gets will likely depend on how Matt Taormina fares in his return from a serious ankle injury. 2010 second-round pick defenseman Jon Merrill had a great freshman season at Michigan and was one of Team USA's best players at the World Juniors. He will be back for a second tour of duty this December. The Devils top offensive prospect is 2008 third-round pick Adam Henrique who had 50 points in 73 games in his first season in the AHL. With Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson already in the NHL, the Devils have one of the worst group of forward prospects in the entire league.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Adam Larsson-D, 2) Jon Merrill-D, 3) Brandon Burlon-D, 4) Adam Henrique-C, 5) Alexander Urbom-D
New York Islanders: Considering they knew they wouldn't be winning anything last season, I agreed with the decision to send 2010 fifth overall pick forward Nino Niederreiter back to the WHL after spending nine games as a pro. This year he figures to spend the entire season on Long Island, although I don't expect him to have any fantasy value for at least another season. I put the odds of 2011 fifth overall pick forward Ryan Strome starting the season in the NHL at 50/50. It wouldn't surprise me if he was sent back to juniors after nine games just like Niederreiter was last season. The bottom line though is that the Isles need someone to play alongside John Tavares and both Niederreiter and Strome are candidates. If Mark Streit can return from a shoulder injury that cost him all of last season, it will crush the chances of 2009 first-round pick Calvin de Haan having any fantasy value. Before he worries about how much power play time he's going to see, de Haan has to first make the team. Regardless of what the Isles claim, I would be surprised if 2008 third-round pick forward Kirill Petrov ever came over to play in North America.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Nino Niederreiter-LW, 2) Ryan Strome-C, 3) Calvin de Haan-D, 4) Kirill Kabanov-RW, 5) Scott Mayfield-D
New York Rangers: After spending the last three seasons as a regular in the Swedish Elite League, no defensive prospect in the game is more ready than Tim Erixon. He would have to totally fall flat on his face to not make the team. Erixon is going to start the season as the team's fifth defenseman, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's playing over 20 minutes a night by Christmas. For the second straight summer, 2009 first-round pick forward Chris Kreider turned down the Rangers offer to turn pro and will instead return to Boston College for his junior season. He has already won a NCAA Championship and a World Junior gold medal in the same season, so I'm not sure what he's waiting for. 2010 second-round pick forward Christian Thomas has 95 goals in his last two OHL seasons. He would fit very well on the Rangers' first line with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, but it's doubtful he'll ever get the chance. He's ticketed for one final season in juniors. 2010 first-round pick defenseman Dylan McIlrath is turning into the solid rugged stay-at-home defenseman the Rangers envisioned when they took him. He is also due for one final year in the WHL. 2011 first-round pick forward J.T. Miller backed out of his commitment to North Dakota and will instead play for Plymouth of the OHL. Considering his grinding and gritty style of play, it was the right call. Miller's game is far more suited for the OHL than the WCHA.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Chris Kreider-LW, 2) Tim Erixon-D, 3) Christian Thomas-RW, 4) Dylan McIlrath-D, 5) J.T. Miller-RW
Ottawa Senators: After putting up 50 points in 55 games in the Swedish Elite League last season, defenseman David Rundblad is expected to earn a roster spot in Ottawa and run the power play with fellow Swede Erik Karlsson. Considering he will have to share duties with Karlsson and that he projects to skate for one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, I don't love Rundblad's fantasy outlook for this coming season. Ottawa signed Craig Anderson to an extension, which will allow 2009 second-round pick Robin Lehner to spend some more time in the AHL. Still, after leading Binghamton to the Calder Cup last season, I expect to see Lehner in the NHL sooner rather than later. 2009 first-round pick defenseman Jared Cowen should also earn a full time spot this season. Even in his prime though, Cowen projects more as a stay-at-home type defender. Mostly due to their lack of better options, I expect 2011 sixth overall pick forward Mika Zibanejad to make the team. If he makes the team, he'll probably play on the top two lines, but if he stays in the NHL for the entire season is anyone's guess.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) David Rundblad-D, 2) Robin Lehner-G, 3) Jared Cowen-D, 4) Mika Zibanejad-C, 5) Matt Puempel-LW
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers went from having the worst prospect pool in the entire league to being the proud owner of the league's top prospect, forward Brayden Schenn. Not only is Schenn going to have to make the team this season, but he's going to have to produce. I actually expect more from Jaromir Jagr in his return to the NHL than most do, but if the Flyers don't get at least 50 points from Schenn, I think they could be in trouble. I expect 2011 eight overall pick Sean Couturier to get a very long look in camp (and maybe the first couple games of the regular season) before being sent back to the QMJHL. Once you get past Schenn and Couturier (who were acquired in the deals for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter respectively), the Flyers have no noteworthy prospects.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Brayden Schenn-C, 2) Sean Couturier-C, 3) Eric Wellwood-LW, 4) Brendan Ranford-LW, 5) Erik Gustafsson-D
Phoenix Coyotes: An injury cost 2010 first-round pick defenseman Brandon Gormley a chance to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors last year. He should get his shot this time around. Gormley has been very injury prone his last three seasons with Moncton of the QMJHL and he will need to prove his can stay healthy for a full year. Fellow 2010 first-round pick goalie Mark Visentin will be remembered as the guy who cost Canada the 2011 World Junior gold medal, but with Ilya Bryzgalov gone to the Flyers, he is still Phoenix's goalie of the future. Outside of his meltdown in the gold medal game, he had a fantastic season with Niagara of the OHL. 2007 second-round pick forward Brett MacLean has produced in his first three AHL seasons and should get a full time look in Phoenix this year. After missing much of last season with a back injury, 2011 first-round pick defenseman Connor Murphy suffered a knee injury earlier this month at the Team USA evaluation camp for the World Juniors and is expected to miss at least the next three months. Murphy is at least three to four years away from NHL duty, but the injury bug is already a concern for him.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Brandon Gormley-D, 2) Brett MacLean-LW, 3) Mark Visentin-G, 4) Connor Murphy-D, 5) Maxim Goncharov-D
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2009 first-round pick defenseman Simon Despres just finished up a season where he led Saint John to the Memorial Cup title and was named QMJHL defenseman of the year. He has some real offensive ability, but with Kris Letang running the power play in Pittsburgh for the long term, Despres' fantasy value will take a hit. Of course, everyone in Pittsburgh's fantasy value is in limbo until Sidney Crosby's concussion issues are cleared up. Despres figures to start this season in the AHL, but he should see some time in Pittsburgh at some point. 2010 first-round pick forward Beau Bennett struggled at times in his first season at the University of Denver, but he remains an elite playmaker with great offensive upside. He figures to suit up for Team USA at the World Juniors this year. Once you get past Despres and Bennett, the Pens prospect pool drops off in a hurry.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Simon Despres-D, 2) Beau Bennett-RW, 3) Eric Tangradi-LW, 4) Tom Kuhnhackl-RW, 5) Joe Morrow-D
San Jose Sharks: Top to bottom, the Sharks have the worst system in the entire league. They traded their top prospect Charlie Coyle in the deal to acquire Brent Burns and they didn't have a 2011 first-round pick. 2008 first-round pick defenseman Nick Petrecki is San Jose's top prospect, but he's a gritty, stay-at-home defenseman who offers no fantasy value at all. The Sharks will count on the development of their top pick in the 2011 draft, second round right wing Matt Nieto. The Sharks are also counting on 2008 second-round pick, 6'8 defenseman Taylor Doherty. He will turn pro this season after four seasons with Kingston of the OHL. San Jose has two decent goaltending prospects in 2005 fourth-round pick Alex Stalock and 2008 fourth-round pick Harri Sateri, but both may be better suited to be backups down the road.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Nick Petrecki-D, 2) Matt Nieto-RW, 3) Taylor Doherty-D, 4) Alex Stalock-G, 5) Harri Sateri-G
St. Louis Blues: The Blues took a risk when they took Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko with the 16th overall pick in 2010, but as long as he comes over to play in North America, it looks like a brilliant decision. Tarasenko is one of the most gifted offensive prospects in the entire league. He's a fine choice in all keeper leagues. 2008 second-round pick, goalie Jake Allen, had a fantastic first pro season in the AHL and is the Blues' goalie of the future. He's going to eventually wrestle the number one job away from Jaroslav Halak. Fellow 2010 first-round pick Jaden Schwartz was having a nice season and a great World Juniors for Team Canada before his broke his ankle. The Blues sent a 2011 third-round pick to the Rangers in exchange for forward Evgeny Grachev. Grachev has been a huge bust as a pro since scoring 40 goals and being named OHL Rookie of the Year just two seasons ago. Once considered one of the league's brightest prospects, the Rangers had apparently been shopping Grachev for close to a year and the best they could do was a third rounder from St. Louis. It has the potential to be a steal for the Blues.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Vladimir Tarasenko-RW, 2) Jake Allen-G, 3) Jaden Schwartz-C, 4) Evgeny Grachev-C, 5) Phil McRae-C
Tampa Bay Lightning: New Tampa GM Steve Yzerman took a risk by selecting forward Brett Connolly with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft. Connolly played just 16 games in his draft season, but Connolly responded this season by playing in 59 games, scoring 46 times. Part of the action Connolly missed was while he was playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He projects as an elite NHL sniper for a team that already has one of the best in the league in Steven Stamkos. 2009 first-round pick forward Carter Ashton was one of the last cuts coming out of training camp last year and was sent back to the WHL for one final season. He played well, dividing the season between Regina and Tri-City. He has a real chance to make the team out of training camp. If he doesn't, he's headed to the AHL. 2009 second-round pick forward Richard Panik has played for three different OHL teams the past three seasons, but he's produced for each of them. Inconsistency is an issue for Panik, but he has real offensive ability. He's also likely ticketed for the AHL this season.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Brett Connolly-C, 2) Carter Ashton-RW, 3) Richard Panik-RW, 4) Vladislav Namestnikov-C, 5) Dustin Tokarski-G
Toronto Maple Leafs: With Nazem Kadri in the NHL, forward Joe Colborne, acquired from Boston in the Tomas Kaberle deal, is the Leafs top prospect. Colborne got into one game with Toronto late in the season and picked up an assist in the contest, but he needs another season in the AHL. The Leafs aren't going to be winning anything this season, so they would be foolish to rush him. Colborne's play really picked up after the trade, and at 6'5 and 210 pounds, he has all the making of an effective NHL power forward. Defenseman Jake Gardiner gives Toronto a future potential power play quarterback, but the acquistion of Cody Franson this summer and the presence of Dion Phaneuf suggests that the Leafs expect Gardiner to spend a couple seasons in the AHL. Toronto watched him drop in the first round at this past June's draft and they traded up to number 22 to get him. Tyler Biggs is a strong candidate to skate for Team USA at this year's World Juniors.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Joe Colborne-C, 2) Jake Gardiner-D, 3) Tyler Biggs-RW, 4) Greg McKegg-LW, 5) Jesse Blacker-D
Vancouver Canucks: It seems like he's been around forever, but 2008 first-round pick Cody Hodgson is just 21 years old. Hodgson played just eight NHL games last season and he really struggled at times in the AHL. He remains one of the NHL's best prospects, but if he doesn't get his act together this season, he may find himself with another organization. The Canucks spent their 2011 first-round pick (29th overall) on Danish forward Nicklas Jensen. Jensen had a very solid first season in North America with Oshawa of the OHL and he is ticketed for another season in the OHL this year. Forward Jordan Schroeder has gone backwards since being taken in the first round in 2009. In 61 AHL games this season, Schroeder had just 28 points. He's extremely undersized, so if Schroeder isn't putting up points, he isn't doing much else for your team. The odds of him being a long term contributor for the Canucks seems to drop by the day. The depth of the Vancouver system is a real concern, but since their so stacked at the NHL level, they can get away with a thin system for the moment.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Cody Hodgson-C, 2) Nicklas Jensen-RW, 3) Jordan Schroeder-C, 4) Anton Rodin-RW, 5) Bill Sweatt-LW
Washington Capitals: As soon as he announces his intention to come to North America, 2010 first-round pick forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will challenge for a top-six forward spot. Alexander Semin seems nearly certain to be on his way out of Washington sooner rather than later, opening a spot for Kuznetsov. 2008 fourth-round pick goalie Braden Holtby absolutely stood on his head during his NHL action last season, which allowed the Caps to deal Semyon Varlamov to Colorado. Washington then signed Tomas Vokoun to a one-year deal with the intention of having Holtby back up Vokoun this season and take over as the number one man next year. It will take an injury to Vokoun for Holtby to have any extended fantasy value this season. 2009 second-round pick defenseman Dmitri Orlov came over from Russia and finished the season with Hershey of the AHL. He's a potential power play quarterback down the road for the Caps, although he's likely to start this season in Hershey once again. 2009 third-round pick Cody Eakin will turn pro after an impressive season which saw him star for Canada at the World Juniors while 2010 third-round pick Stanislav Galiev is looking at one more season in Saint John after helping lead the Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup last year.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Evgeny Kuznetsov-RW, 2) Braden Holtby-G, 3) Dmitri Orlov-D, 4) Cody Eakin-C, 5) Stanislav Galiev-C
Winnipeg Jets: Considering their minimal talent at the NHL level, the Winnipeg system is in rough shape. 2011 seventh overall pick Mark Scheifele certainly has talent, but he was a risk that high. Winnipeg probably would have been better off with a safer pick. 2009 second-round pick Swedish forward Carl Klingberg has a good shot of making the Jets' opening night roster, but he projects as more of a third line type player. Same goes for Patrice Cormier who was acquired from the Devils in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. Winnipeg's system is shallow in all aspects, especially in goal. The Jets better hope that Ondrej Pavelec is the long-term answer there, because if he isn't, they have no one in the system who is anywhere near the caliber of a starting NHL goalie.
Top 5 Prospects: 1) Mark Scheifele-C, 2) Carl Klingberg-LW, 3) Patrice Cormier-C, 4) Paul Postma-D, 5) Ivan Telegin-C