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Prospects Analysis: Metropolitan Division

Jon Litterine

Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.

This is the second of a four-part series that will cover our the top-10 prospects of each individual team by division leading into the 2015-16 season. Now, onto the rankings…

(Notes: Overall ranking in parenthesis. Only players with less than 25 games played are included.)

Carolina Hurricanes

1. Noah Hanifin - D (11)
2. Haydn Fleury - D (61)
3. Sergey Tolchinsky - F
4. Brett Pesce - D
5. Roland McKeown - D
6. Alex Nedeljkovic - G
7. Sebastian Aho - F
8. Warren Foegele - F
9. Jaccob Slavin - D
10. Phil Di Giuseppe - F

Tolchinsky has 186 points the last two years for Sault Ste. Marie (OHL). He was signed as an undrafted free agent. He will spend his first year in the AHL this fall. Pesce spent three years as a regular for the University of New Hampshire and then signed with Carolina this spring. He plays a very safe, efficient game and will head to the AHL for this coming year. McKeown was Carolina's big return for sending Andrej Sekera to the Kings. As long as he isn't trying to do too much, he has the skills to play an effective two-way game. He needs one final season in the OHL. Nedeljkovic had a lousy year playing for a bad team in Plymouth (OHL). He isn't very big and relies on his positioning to be successful. Aho spent this past year playing against men in Finland and was the 35th overall pick this past June. He has terrific hands and the Canes will allow him to develop in Europe. After a huge final year of high school hockey, Foegele had an up and down first year at the University of New Hampshire. He has the ability to take a big step forward this year. Slavin took a slight step back with Colorado College this past year, but he was still productive and he decided to forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility and sign with Carolina. He has very good offensive ability, but he will need time to adjust in the AHL. After three years at the University of Michigan and one in the AHL, Di Giuseppe's offensive game still hasn't come around. The odds are against him becoming an NHL regular.

Columbus Blue Jackets

1. Sonny Milano - F (16)
2. Zach Werenski - D (18)
3. Oliver Bjorkstrand - F (34)
4. Kerby Rychel - F (47)
5. T.J. Tynan - F
6. Paul Bittner - F
7. William Karlsson - F
8. Oscar Dansk - G
9. Dillon Heatherington - D
10. Michael Paliotta - D

Tynan became a very mature player over his four years at Notre Dame and that showed when he put up 48 points in 75 games in his first AHL season. His NHL debut should come at some point this year. Bittner has the tools to be a dominant power forward, but he has battled consistency issues. He needs to take a step forward this year for a Portland (WHL) team that is going to lose their two best players. Karlsson had a productive year for Anaheim and their AHL affiliate in Norfolk, but he was terrible when he came over in exchange for James Wisniewski. The poor play will likely force him to begin next season in the minors. Dansk was so bad that he was banished to the ECHL. He was so bad there that the Jackets decided to send him back to Sweden for this coming year in hopes of finding his game. This is a guy who was a top-25 prospect at this point a year ago. Heatherington continues to do his thing. That being, playing a tough defensive game and offering no offense whatsoever. To his credit, he knows his limits. He may only need one year in the AHL. Paliotta has good size and skill. He came over from Chicago in the Brandon Saad trade. He will begin next season in the AHL, but he could get a look at some point during the year.

New Jersey Devils

1. Pavel Zacha - F (45)
2. Steve Santini - D (79)
3. John Quenneville - F
4. Miles Wood - F
5. Joshua Jacobs - D
6. MacKenzie Blackwood - G
7. Blake Speers - F
8. Blake Coleman - F
9. Blake Pietila - F
10. Ryan Kujawinski - F

Quenneville was the Devils' first-round pick in 2014. He had a lousy year for a loaded Brandon (WHL) team, but he was a bit better in the playoffs. He needs to take a significant step forward offensively this year. Wood somehow cracked the United States World Junior team despite the fact he was playing high school hockey in Massachusetts. He served as the 13th forward and barely played. A 2013 fourth-round pick, this coming year will be his first at Boston College despite the fact he will be 20-years old when the season starts. Jacobs played one mediocre season at Michigan State and decided to head to the OHL. His ceiling is an impactful two-way defenseman, although he didn't score a goal for the Spartans last year. Blackwood may have been the best North American goalie available in this year's draft, although he is a major project. Speers had a good year for a deep Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) team and he should take on a more prominent role this coming season with so many of their best players turning pro. Coleman will turn pro after four seasons at the University of Miami (Ohio). He had a decent college career, but he is undersized and will probably struggle to score as a pro. He will start in the AHL. Pietila played a key role in Team USA winning the 2013 World Juniors. After four seasons at Michigan Tech, he signed with the Devils this spring. He has a shot to make it as a fourth-line, penalty killing type. Kujawinski is big and has decent hands, but he never took that major step forward in the OHL that the team was looking for. He is still only 20, so time is on his side.

New York Islanders

1. Michael Dal Colle - F (10)
2. Mathew Barzal - F (24)
3. Ryan Pulock - D (40)
4. Josh Ho-Sang - F (41)
5. Anthony Beauvillier - F
6. Mitchell Vande Sompel - D
7. Scott Mayfield - D
8. Ilya Sorokin - G
9. Linus Soderstrom - G
10. Kirill Petrov - F

The Islanders thought enough of Beauvillier to trade up and make him the 28th overall pick this past June. He is a small, dynamic forward who put up 42 goals and 97 points for Shawinigan (QMJHL) this past year. He is a very good prospect and he could easily find himself in the top-100 at some point. Vande Sompel is extremely undersized, but he has the talent to be a power play quarterback at the NHL level. The concern is that he won't be able to take a regular shift at even strength due to the fact that he will get manhandled physically. Mayfield has shown enough that he seems likely to have an NHL career as a third-pairing defenseman. Sorokin played well as a 19-year-old in the KHL. The problem is no one knows if he ever plans on coming to North America. Soderstrom is gigantic (6-foot-5, 200) and he had a very good World Juniors for Sweden. He will continue to develop overseas. The Isles have been trying to get Petrov to come over from Russia forever. He finally agreed and he will play this upcoming season in North America. He's big, but he really hasn't developed all that much in the KHL. Still, the plan is apparently to carry him on the NHL roster.

New York Rangers

1. Pavel Buchnevich - F (23)
2. Brady Skjei - D (43)
3. Adam Tambellini - F (90)
4. Brandon Halverson - G
5. Oscar Lindberg - F
6. Ryan Graves - D
7. Ryan Gropp - F
8. Igor Shestyorkin - G
9. Robin Kovacs - F
10. Magnus Hellberg - G

In his first year as a starter for Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), Halverson went 40-5-2. He is slated to be the starter for Team USA at the World Juniors in December. Lindberg finally made his NHL debut last year (he played one game). He is out of options, so he would have to clear waivers (which he wouldn't) to be sent back to the AHL. The Rangers are hoping he seizes the third-line center position in training camp. Graves, who has always been a terrific skater and good defensively, added a real offensive element to his game last season for Quebec (QMJHL). He will turn pro and play this year in the AHL. Gropp was the Rangers highest pick (41st overall) in this past June's draft. He scored 30 goals in 67 games for Seattle (WHL) last year. Shestyorkin stood on his head for Russia at the World Juniors this past year. Who knows if he ever plans to come to North America, but he was a fine risk as a fourth-rounder in 2014. He is going to have a substantial role for SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) this year. Kovacs needs to put in weight, but he has terrific hands and playmaking ability. The Rangers will let him develop in Sweden. Nashville gave up on Hellberg after seeing him play three years in North America. The Rangers traded for him this summer and signed him to a two-year contract. He is only 24-years old and he has always put up decent numbers in the AHL. It was a worthwhile trade with the potential to pay off handsomely.

Philadelphia Flyers

1. Travis Sanheim - D (30)
2. Ivan Provorov - D (31)
3. Samuel Morin - D (49)
4. Shayne Gostisbehere - D (54)
5. Travis Konecny - F (76)
6. Robert Hagg - D
7. Anthony Stolarz - G
8. Nick Cousins - F
9. Nicolas Aube-Kubel - F
10. Felix Sandstrom - G

Hagg just missed the cut for the top-100. He improved in his first year in the AHL as the season wore on. With so many talented defensemen in the system, Hagg, who is a physical specimen, should thrive in a defensive role for the Flyers. Stolarz got a real wakeup call in his first AHL season. The numbers (3.28 GAA, .905 save percentage) weren't good. He is very athletic, but at 6-6, his size can work against him at times. He needs at least one more full season in the AHL. Cousins finally broke out in the AHL and earned an 11-game trial with the Flyers. He was a huge scorer in juniors and he should once again see spot duty in Philadelphia this season. Aube-Kubel put up 38 goals and 80 points for Val-d'Or (QMJHL) last year. He will play one final year for the Foreurs and he should get some consideration for the Canadian World Junior team. Sandstrom has been playing for the Brynas organization in Sweden since he was 14. He has a high ceiling, but he is a ways away. The Flyers will leave him in Sweden for the time being.

Pittsburgh Penguins

1. Daniel Sprong - F (73)
2. Matt Murray - G (88)
3. Brian Dumoulin - D
4. Sergei Plotnikov - F
5. Oskar Sundqvist - F
6. Scott Wilson - F
7. Tristan Jarry - G
8. Teddy Blueger - F
9. Frederik Tiffels - F
10. Anton Zlobin - F

Dumoulin played well in the playoffs for the Pens. He is a big kid who is at his best when he keeps things simple. He should be a regular in the NHL this year. Plotnikov was signed this summer as a free agent. He has had three straight productive seasons for Yaroslavl in the KHL. I wouldn't be surprised if he carved out a top-six role and provided some fantasy value this season. It appeared that Sundqvist had an inside track on a roster spot for this coming season before the Pens signed Matt Cullen. As it stands now, he is probably going to open the season in the AHL. For a 21-year-old kid who has never played in North America before, it is not the worst thing in the world. Wilson made his NHL debut last year, got hurt in the game and never sniffed the Pittsburgh roster again. He had a terrific first year in Wilkes-Barre Scranton (AHL) and he should see spot duty again this year with the Pens. He could eventually turn into a third-liner who can chip in offensively and brings energy. Not bad for a former seventh-round pick (2011). Jarry had back-to-back huge seasons for Edmonton (WHL) in 2012-13 and 2013-14, but this year when the Oil Kings lost a ton of talent, Jarry's play suffered. He will turn pro this year looking for a bounce back season. Blueger, who is from Latvia, is a playmaker that is currently playing for Minnesota-Mankato (NCAA). He will return to campus for his senior season this fall. Tiffels got on the map after three straight World Juniors for Germany. He had a good year in his first season at Western Michigan University and the Pens took him in the sixth round this past June. Injuries limited Zlobin to just six AHL games last year. The Russian scored 91 points in his final season in the QMJHL and he has potential if he can come back healthy.

Washington Capitals

1. Jakub Vrana - F (26)
2. Madison Bowey - D (44)
3. Ilya Samsonov - G (52)
4. Riley Barber - F
5. Jonas Siegenthaler - D
6. Vitek Vanecek - G
7. Zach Sanford - F
8. Christian Djoos - D
9. Travis Boyd - F
10. Stanislav Galiev - F

Barber has been a scoring machine since stepping onto the Miami (Ohio) campus three years ago. He signed with the Caps in April and he will start his pro career in the AHL. Siegenthaler is a big, mobile defenseman. The Caps selected him 57th overall this past June and immediately signed him to an entry-level contract. They loaned him back to his Swiss team where he will play this season. Vanecek had a terrible World Juniors, but he played very well for his Czech club team. He has a lot of talent, but is extremely raw. He will play this season in the AHL. Sanford's first season at Boston College was a good one, with 24 points in 38 games. At 6-4, 195, it is just a matter of him filling out and gaining experience. Djoos plays a solid all-around game, but doesn't stand out in any one area. He needs to put on a lot of muscle. The 21-year-old was a seventh-round pick in 2012 by the Caps and he will make his North American debut in the AHL this fall. Boyd was one of the better offensive players in the country this past season for the University of Minnesota. He signed with his entry-level deal with the Caps in March as soon as his senior season came to an end. He will begin this year in the AHL. Galiev was a huge goal scorer in juniors and won a Memorial Cup with Saint John (QMJHL). He was terrible during his first two professional seasons, but he took a monumental step forward this past year. He even suited up for two NHL games and scored his first NHL goal. He makes for great depth. He is a guy who has the skill to handle a top-six role for a short period of time if necessary.