If you want to be one of the best teams in the NHL in the Salary Cap Era, you have to draft and develop your own prospects so you can build for the future with young contributors on cheap contracts. When you look at top teams in the league like the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs, you see teams that have developed through the draft and that continue to build their prospect systems for the future.
Some of the top teams on this list like the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks continue to develop and compete for the future, while other teams like the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild are competing for the playoffs while also having great prospect pools. Having a deep farm system can go a long way toward a team’s long-term success. Without further ado, here are the mid-season farm system rankings for the 2022-23 season.
Much like the top 100 prospects, this ranking is going to be based on the quality and potential of each team’s prospect pool. Players are listed in no particular order. I will be using Corey Pronman’s definition of “prospect” for this, so if you’re confused about why players like Dylan Guenther or Quinton Byfield aren’t on the list, this is why. “A skater no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 25 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 50 games total; or reaches age 25 by Sept. 15. A goalie no longer qualifies as an NHL prospect if he has played 10 games in the NHL in any campaign, regular season and playoffs combined, or 25 games total; or reaches age 25 by Sept. 15.” (From: “Pronman: 2019-20 NHL Farm System Rankings”).
32. Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous Ranking: 28
Top Five Prospects: Jack Thompson, Isaac Howard, Hugo Alnefelt, Dylan Duke, Niko Huuhtanen
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been to the Stanley Cup Final for three consecutive seasons, winning the Stanley Cup twice in that span. They have gone all in for several years now, and that won’t end anytime soon considering they’ve already traded away their 2023 and 2024 1st round picks in the trade that landed them Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks. I doubt they regret it though since a poor prospect pool is temporary and Championship banners are forever.
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Despite only using two of their own first-round picks between 2018 and 2024, the Lightning have a handful of solid prospects including 2022 first-rounder Isaac Howard who had a slow start this year as a college freshman playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth but has started to show some improvements on offense especially. Tampa also has Jack Thompson waiting for his shot in the NHL. Thompson was electric in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last year and has adapted well to the AHL this year. He’s exactly the kind of young, affordable depth piece that the Lightning have found so much success with recently so expect to see him crack the lineup in the next year or so.
31. Colorado Avalanche
Previous Ranking: 31
Top Five Prospects: Oskar Olausson, Jean-Luc Foudy, Sean Behrens, Justus Annunen, Alex Beaucage
Colorado’s prospect pool looked a lot better about a year ago when Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook hadn’t broken out as full-time NHLers quite yet. Now that they have, the Avalanche’s prospects cupboards are looking pretty bare, especially considering how many of their prospects and draft picks they traded on their way to the Stanley Cup last year.
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Oskar Olausson and Jean-Luc Foudy both play for the Colorado Eagles of the AHL and Foudy even earned a nine-game tryout at the NHL level this year when the Avs were experiencing some of the worst injury luck any team has seen this year. I’m impressed with Olausson’s skating and I think he will be a wizard when it comes to zone entries in the NHL someday because of his shiftiness and agility.
30. Vancouver Canucks
Previous Ranking: 26
Top Five Prospects: Linus Karlsson, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Jack Rathbone, Jacob Truscott, Danila Klimovich
The only team in the bottom five to not compete in the Stanley Cup Final over the last six years is the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, Vancouver hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since their 2011 run to the Cup Final. Typically teams are motivated by a real chance at winning hockey’s most important trophy and that’s why they trade top draft picks and prospects, so I guess the Canucks have been motivated by . . . almost making the playoffs.
To be fair, they did draft Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes who are two of their best players on a nightly basis, but the cupboards are rather empty these days with little help on the way. Linus Karlsson should be a good addition in the near future after being the Swedish Hockey League’s (SHL) rookie of the year in 2021-22, and Danila Klimovich has shown some real improvement in the AHL lately. The biggest wildcard right now is Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who has been nothing but frustrating since being selected 15th overall in the 2022 Draft. He has struggled to produce and was even benched for significant portions of the 2023 World Junior Championship.
29. Boston Bruins
Previous Ranking: 29
Top Five Prospects: Fabian Lysell, Matthew Poitras, Mason Lohrei, John Beecher, Jakub Lauko
Boston is another team that is suffering from success when it comes to its prospect pool. They’ve used just two of their first-round picks in the last five years, trading the rest to build the juggernaut of a team that they currently are. They haven’t had the most luck of late with turning draft picks into roster players, but their NHL core (David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, etc.) has been so good for so long that it hasn’t prevented them from winning.
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Fabian Lysell is the best prospect in the Bruins’ prospect pool by a good margin, scoring just below a point-per-game rate in the AHL this year as a 19-year-old. He had an incredibly disappointing showing at the 2023 World Juniors where he scored zero points in seven games before being ejected in the bronze medal game, but he has shaken that off quickly and looks great in the AHL again. Lysell is a brilliant skater and should be a valuable piece of depth offense for the Bruins as soon as next season if they need some help in that department.
28. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous Ranking: 32
Top Five Prospects: Samuel Poulin, Owen Pickering, Joel Blomqvist, Ty Smith, Filip Hallander
The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded away all but two of their last eight first-round picks, and both of those players are on the above list (Samuel Poulin and Owen Pickering). Each season people like myself think that “this will be the year the Penguins finally miss the playoffs”, and each year they prove us wrong. They haven’t had a great top prospect in many years as a result of trading plenty of draft picks as well as their top-notch AHL program which churns out solid pro players like no other American League team, leaving little need for top drafted talent.
It feels like Samuel Poulin has been talked about as the Penguins’ top prospect for several years now, and that’s because he has. After being drafted in the first round of the 2019 Draft, Poulin has been the top dog in Pittsburgh’s prospect pool with no real competition. He has that now in Pickering who has an intriguing playmaking game for a defenseman to go with his size (6-foot-4), strength, and heavy slapshot.
27. New York Islanders
Previous Ranking: 30
Top Five Prospects: Aatu Räty, William Dufour, Calle Odelius, Simon Holmstrom, Matthew Maggio
Despite not having a first-round pick in the last three drafts, the Islanders have come away from each draft with at least one prospect who has begun to earn more respect and could look like a steal someday soon. In 2020 that was William Dufour who has already surpassed all expectations as a fifth-round pick. In 2021 they snagged Aatu Räty in the second round and then Calle Odelius in the second round of the 2022 Draft.
While none of these prospects are true blue-chip prospects, they each have a chance to make a real impact in the NHL, even if that ends up being in the middle of the lineup. After scoring nearly two points per game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last year, Dufour made the jump to pro hockey this year and has adjusted with ease. He has scored 25 points in his first 37 professional games and his shot paired with his tenacity should give him a real chance in the NHL soon.
26. Florida Panthers
Previous Ranking: 25
Top Five Prospects: Mackie Samoskevich, Justin Sourdif, Grigori Denisenko, Kasper Puutio, Michael Benning
The Panthers’ prospect pool has looked a whole lot leaner since Spencer Knight and Anton Lundell (first-round picks in 2019 and 2020 respectively) broke into the NHL full-time during the 2021-22 season. That’s not even mentioning the fact that they have traded away their next three first-round picks and are not in a playoff spot at the halfway point of the 2022-23 season. The Panthers don’t have a ton of depth in their prospect pool, so they’ll need one or two of their prospects to really break out at the NHL level soon in order to stay competitive.
Luckily, I think there’s a good chance Mackie Samoskevich can be that for them in a year or two. Samoskevich was good as a freshman for the University of Michigan last year despite playing most of his minutes as a middle six forward. This year, the team’s top four scoring forwards have all moved on to pro hockey and Samoskevich has filled that hole incredibly well. He is incredibly skilled and could crack the NHL roster as early as the Panthers’ 2023-24 training camp.
25. Vegas Golden Knights
Previous Ranking: 27
Top Five Prospects: Lukas Cormier, Brendan Brisson, Zach Dean, Matyas Sapovaliv, Carl Lindbom
After stockpiling prospects and picks during their expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights have leveraged the vast majority of their draft capital and prospect pool depth to become the consistent juggernaut that they are today. Vegas still possesses all of their future first-round picks and has very little cap space so a trade before this year’s draft seems unlikely which bodes well for their prospect pool.
Lukas Cormier has made the transition to the pro game this year with the Henderson Silver Knights, and he has managed it well. He has a great shot, which he can use to produce rebounds for his teammates, and his playmaking vision is advanced. Brendan Brisson (Vegas’ first-rounder in 2020) is also a valuable prospect, with the skating and hands to attack through pressure and make smart passes or cuts to the net. Neither is far from the NHL and could be huge additions to the Golden Knights considering the value they could provide on their entry-level contracts.
24. Philadelphia Flyers
Previous Ranking: 22
Top Five Prospects: Cutter Gauthier, Tyson Foerster, Emil Andrae, Bobby Brink, Elliot Desnoyers
The Philadelphia Flyers seemed to finally be committed to a proper rebuild when they traded away long-time captain Claude Giroux at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. While they didn’t add any high-end prospects in return, they did receive the Florida Panthers’ first-round pick in the 2024 Draft which will be a real bonus for their prospect pool. The Flyers haven’t had a ton of luck in the draft recently, but Cutter Gauthier is looking like a solid choice at fifth overall in the 2022 Draft and is clearly their top prospect.
Gauthier has made the transition from the wing to center for Boston College in the NCAA this year where he has scored 11 goals in his first 15 college games. He just turned 19 but already possesses the strength, size, and skating ability of a pro player. Gauthier is also very smart defensively (hence the move to center) and is very good in battles along the boards. Tyson Foerster has also been very good in the AHL this year for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, making the transition from the OHL to the AHL look like a mild inconvenience.
23. Washington Capitals
Previous Ranking: 18
Top Five Prospects: Ryan Chesley, Ivan Miroshnichenko, Hendrix Lapierre, Alexander Suzdalev, Ludwig Persson
The Washington Capitals are in a similar spot to the Penguins where they’ve been competitive for so long that their prospect pool has lost some of its “oomph”. They made up for that pretty well in the 2022 Draft where they added Ryan Chesley, Ivan Miroshnichenko, and more. Washington is currently sitting in a playoff spot but the wild card race could get quite competitive in the second half with the Penguins, New York Islanders, and possibly even the Florida Panthers hoping to punch their ticket. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Caps cashed in on one of their prospects or future picks to bolster their lineup a bit further.
The biggest change the Caps’ prospect pool saw this year was the addition of Ivan Miroshnichenko in the most recent draft. Coming into his draft season, Miroshnichenko was seen as a no-doubt top-10 prospect with a chance of going in the top five, but he fell on draft day due to “The Russian Factor” as well as his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis. He has returned to league play this year and appears to be right back on track toward becoming a legit top-six NHL forward which would be a massive development for Washington. Hendrix Lapierre is also a great prospect with excellent puck skills who has been quite successful in the AHL this year as a 20-year-old.
22. Ottawa Senators
Previous Ranking: 14
Top Five Prospects: Ridly Greig, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Zack Ostapchuk, Tyler Boucher, Roby Jarventie
Ottawa is the biggest faller since the last edition of this article, but that’s actually a good thing. The reason they’ve fallen is that Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto have earned full-time spots on their NHL roster, improving the NHL squad while decreasing the overall talent of the prospect group. The Senators hold the eighth-worst points percentage in the league at the time of writing giving them a great shot at a top-10 pick in the loaded 2023 Draft, and they also hold seven picks in the first two rounds of the next three drafts so their prospect pool is set to level back up again in the near future.
Even after watching Sanderson and Pinto graduate to the NHL, there are still quite a few prospects to be excited about here. Ridly Greig is every head coach’s dream as a two-way center with a limitless motor and a physical play style. As a 20-year-old rookie in the AHL this year Greig has managed to score at just under a point-per-game pace. Greig isn’t long for the AHL and the Sens’ prospect pool will likely take another hit soon when he cracks the NHL roster. Zach Ostapchuk is also trending in the right direction, taking a massive step forward in his production in the WHL this year.
21. New York Rangers
Previous Ranking: 19
Top Five Prospects: Brennan Othmann, Dylan Garand, Adam Sykora, Bryce McConnell-Barker, Zac Jones
The New York Rangers have gone from having one of the best prospect pools in the NHL several years in a row to having one of the best young cores in the NHL as those players (Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, etc.) have established themselves as key contributors at the game’s highest level. The Rangers took a step forward as a team last year, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the Lightning. Despite making such a huge jump toward becoming an annual contender, the Rangers still hold all their future first-rounders and also have the 2023 first-round pick from the Dallas Stars so their prospect pool is likely to continue growing and might just rise back up this list a bit after the 2023 Draft.
Brennan Othmann is undoubtedly the Rangers’ top prospect these days. He plays a direct offensive game and scores a ton of goals while getting under his opponent’s skin, sometimes playing the role of agitator in a similar way to Matthew Tkachuk. Othmann is a great net-front winger on the powerplay, reminding me of current Ranger Chris Kreider at times. The Rangers also have some great variety in their prospect pool with goalie Dylan Garand and Adam Sykora who is a two-way forward that seems to never run out of energy or effort to give.
20. Edmonton Oilers
Previous Ranking: 20
Top Five Prospects: Reid Schaefer, Philip Broberg, Xavier Bourgault, Matvei Petrov, Maxim Beryozkin
With Dylan Holloway earning a full-time spot in the NHL, the Oilers’ prospect pool has lost another first-round pick, but the play of the remaining prospects has been promising enough that they haven’t fallen at all from the last edition of this article. Edmonton still holds all its future first-round picks and although they will likely trade at least one of them soon as they try to capitalize on the historic stretch of play that Connor McDavid has been on over the last few seasons.
Philip Broberg hasn’t had the best injury luck of late, with a few minor things keeping him out of more NHL games this year. Although the offense hasn’t shown on the scoresheet much at all for Broberg in the NHL yet, I think he’s an NHL quality defender and has the potential to be a great two-way defender in Edmonton’s top-four. With McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins all being capable of playing center in the top-six, the Oilers are in need of wingers who can produce next to any of their centers and I believe they have that in both Xavier Bourgault and Reid Schaefer who could seriously bolster Edmonton’s forward depth in the next year and a half.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous Ranking: 16
Top Five Prospects: Matthew Knies, Topi Niemela, Nick Robertson, Nicholas Moldenhauer, Fraser Minten
The Toronto Maple Leafs have only used one first-round pick in the last four drafts, but have managed to mine some really valuable selections in the second and third rounds in recent years. In fact, each member of their “Top Five Prospects” list above was selected in the second or third rounds. If they decide to trade any of their future first-round picks, it will likely be to get them over the hump this year, “the hump” being the Lightning who are by far the most likely team that will be standing between Toronto and the second round of the playoffs.
Matthew Knies is the crowning jewel of the Maple Leafs’ prospect pool. The 57th overall pick in the 2021 Draft has quickly made each and every NHL team regret passing on him, scoring 33 points in 33 NCAA games as a freshman in the 2021-22 season. Knies looks the part of a big, strong top-six winger and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fill that role for Toronto in the NHL at some point in the 2024-25 season. Nick Robertson is so close to graduating from lists like this. I’ve really liked him in the NHL this year, but the unfortunate news of his season-ending surgery ensures that you will almost certainly find him in the off-season edition of this article once again.
18. St. Louis Blues
Previous Ranking: 24
Top Five Prospects: Jimmy Snuggerud, Jake Neighbours, Zachary Bolduc, Joel Hofer, Simon Robertsson
Each of the top three prospects in the St. Louis Blues organization (Jimmy Snuggerud, Jake Neighbours, and Zachary Bolduc) was selected with the team’s own first-round selections in the three most recent drafts. The Blues haven’t had a single second-round selection in that time, but they’ve made some great picks in the first round and sometimes quality is more important than quantity.
Jimmy Snuggerud has played so well since being selected 23rd overall in the 2022 Draft that I’m confident he would be chosen much higher if that draft was re-done. He has scored 29 points in his first 24 NCAA games for the University of Minnesota as one-third of their uber-talented top line of Snuggerud, Knies (Maple Leafs), and Logan Cooley (Coyotes). Snuggerud also impressed at the 2023 World Juniors with 13 points in seven games, helping Team USA win bronze. I’d also like to mention Bolduc who narrowly missed the cut for Team USA at the same tournament which clearly lit a fire under him. In his first 10 games after returning to the QMJHL, Bolduc scored 13 goals and 20 points.
17. San Jose Sharks
Previous Ranking: 21
Top Five Prospects: William Eklund, Filip Bystedt, Thomas Bordeleau, Cameron Lund, Alexander Chmelevski
After trading Josh Norris and a 2020 first-rounder that ended up being Tim Stützle (among other pieces) for Erik Karlsson from the Senators, the San Jose Sharks have been on the path towards mid-term mediocrity and long-term suffering. Their prospect pool has rebounded quite well since then, with prospects like Thomas Bordeleau and Brandon Coe being selected in the 2020 Draft, making it a positive day regardless of the status of their first-rounder that ended up being third overall.
The Sharks held the 11th overall pick on draft day in 2022, but rather than adding a top prospect like Conor Geekie (who Arizona selected with that pick) they flipped 11 for picks 27, 34, and 45, turning one asset into three. I think they did quite well for themselves considering the talent they landed at 27, Filip Bystedt, would be selected before Geekie by many NHL GMs if the 2022 Draft were to be re-done tomorrow. Bystedt plays like an NHLer (makes quick decisions that are consistently smart) and has a shot that should be a serious asset for him in the NHL in the near future.
16. Seattle Kraken
Previous Ranking: 9
Top Five Prospects: Shane Wright, Ryker Evans, Jagger Firkus, David Goyette, Ty Nelson
Matty Beniers has been a revelation in the NHL for the Seattle Kraken this year, quickly working his way out of their prospect pool and establishing himself as an emerging star in the league. The Kraken have done a great job of developing their prospect pool early on in their existence, and have also taken a huge step forward this year, becoming a dangerous playoff team in just their second-ever season. They are unlikely to trade many prospects or picks soon in my opinion, unless they trade for a goalie because they’ve got solid depth throughout their lineup.
Shane Wright is a great pro prospect, it’s a shame that he didn’t get a larger role on the Kraken this year. They shot out of the gate and were quite successful which makes it harder to justify giving serious minutes to a teenager who has some work to do before he is a no-doubt NHL player. Wright looked great in the AHL during his brief conditioning stint and was a responsible two-way player for Team Canada at the 2023 World Juniors. He has returned to the OHL for the second half of the year in hopes that he can apply some of the lessons he learned in Seattle and be ready to make an impact next season.
15. Carolina Hurricanes
Previous Ranking: 12
Top Five Prospects: Alexander Nikishin, Scott Morrow, Ville Koivunen, Aleksi Heimosalmi, Dominik Bokk
The Carolina Hurricanes have had a great track record when it comes to the draft as well as developing their drafted prospects, which is why they land so high on the list despite being one of the very best teams in the NHL over the last several years. They have a large number of prospects who look like future NHL players and several who could play in the middle or upper half of the lineup.
Alexander Nikishin isn’t the most well-known NHL prospect, and that’s because he has played in Russia ever since being drafted 69th overall by the Hurricanes in 2020. He is a big defender (6-foot-4) who is incredibly mobile and has shown a lot more offense in the KHL this year than ever before. Although he is still signed with his KHL team for another two full seasons, he is already one of the best defenders in the entire league at just 21, so it goes without saying that he will be an incredibly impactful NHL player in a few years assuming Carolina can convince him to move to North America.
14. Los Angeles Kings
Previous Ranking: 10
Top Five Prospects: Brandt Clarke, Francesco Pinelli, Kenny Connors, Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte
The Los Angeles Kings have authored one of the most impressive re-tools/re-builds in recent years. After narrowly making the playoffs in 2018, they decided it was time to give their roster a makeover, adding three top-10 picks over the following three drafts. Their roster is now split between some of the stars of their 2010s juggernaut teams (Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar) and the new wave of youngsters that they’ve added through the draft. In 2022, the Kings jumped back into the playoffs after missing out for just three years. Most of their best prospects have made the NHL, weakening their prospect pool, but they still have some solid young players who will be important in their pursuit of another Stanley Cup.
Brandt Clarke dominated the OHL in his first year after being drafted eighth overall, scoring 59 points in 55 games as the captain of the Barrie Colts. Clarke is a dynamic offensive defenseman who loves to join in on offense whether that’s on the rush or the cycle. He made the Kings out of training camp at the beginning of the season, but didn’t earn a full-time spot and was sent back to the OHL following Team Canada’s gold medal-winning run at the 2023 World Juniors. He has scored nine points in his first four games back in junior, proving that he’s too smart and strong for the OHL and that he needs a greater challenge. Here’s to hoping he earns a full-time spot with the Kings next season.
13. Nashville Predators
Previous Ranking: 15
Top Five Prospects: Joakim Kemell, Yaroslav Askarov, Ryan Ufko, Luke Evangelista, Jack Matier
The Nashville Predators have been in the NHL’s “mushy middle” for several years now, good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to do much damage once they’re in. That’s why it’s a bit of a surprise that they have such a solid prospect pool, they haven’t had the premium draft picks to select the most franchise-changing prospects, yet they’ve still built a solid foundation of young players. Yaroslav Askarov was selected 11th overall in the 2020 Draft, and that’s the highest they’ve drafted anyone since 2013.
Speaking of Askarov, he made his North American debut this year and has already established himself as one of the best goalies in the entire AHL. He is fourth in wins among all AHL goalies at the time of writing and has earned the fourth most ice time as well. In fact, Askarov has been so impressive that he was called up to the NHL and made his first start against the Montreal Canadiens. Even though he lost, it was an impressive showing from the 20-year-old. The Predators also have Joakim Kemell in their pipeline, a great offensive winger with the potential to absolutely fill up the scoresheet in the NHL someday.
12. Montreal Canadiens
Previous Ranking: 7
Top Five Prospects: Lane Hutson, Filip Mesar, Owen Beck, Joshua Roy, Sean Farrell
The Canadiens are another team that has slid down this list a bit this time around simply because some of their best prospects have broken out into the NHL this year. For Montreal, those players are 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky and two-way defender Kaiden Guhle. Despite losing these two great players, the Habs’ prospect pool is still incredibly deep and is set to experience a boost like none other in the 2023 Draft where they could possibly have two top-16 picks in an incredibly deep draft class.
Lane Hutson is a dynamic offensive defenseman with a brilliant offensive mind and pristine skating mechanics. The only reason he fell to the Canadiens in the second round of the 2022 Draft was his size. Standing at 5-foot-8, Hutson isn’t your grandfather’s NHL defender, however, he is very well suited for the modern game and has the shiftiness and agility to stay upright even when opposing players try to take him out. Filip Mesar is also a great pro prospect with the hands and power to someday become an elite provider of transition offense.
11. Dallas Stars
Previous Ranking: 6
Top Five Prospects: Logan Stankoven, Mavrik Bourque, Lian Bichsel, Connor Roulette, Francesco Arcuri
The Dallas Stars’ amateur scouting staff has been on fire over the last handful of years, from selecting three franchise cornerstones in the 2017 Draft (Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen, and Jake Oettinger) to nabbing Logan Stankoven in the second round of the 2021 Draft. This is a remarkable prospect pool for a team that is already being led by its best young players in the NHL. If they can continue to mine great prospects outside of the first round as they have in recent years, the Stars will be in a great position for years to come.
Logan Stankoven is one of my very favourite prospects in all of hockey. He had the skill of a top-10 pick but was passed on in the draft because NHL general managers were worried that his size (or lack thereof) wouldn’t make him an impactful pro player. Stankoven’s skill, skating, and work ethic are all remarkable which leads me to believe he will be an excellent top-six forward at the next level someday. Lian Bichsel is another intriguing prospect who is on the exact opposite end of the size spectrum, standing at 6-foot-5. Bichsel has already played over 50 total games in the SHL and has a reliable defensive game that leads me to believe he could anchor a top-four d-pairing in Dallas someday as the shut-down, stay-at-home type of defender.
10. Chicago Blackhawks
Previous Ranking: 17
Top Five Prospects: Lukas Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, Ryan Greene, Frank Nazar, Ethan Del Mastro
Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks clearly believed they had a chance at leaping back into the conversation as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. They added future hall-of-fame goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and made a blockbuster trade to add Seth Jones, giving up multiple picks and prospects. Unfortunately, they were wrong and that pick ended up being 12th overall in the 2021 Draft. After a shockingly bad 2021-22 season, the Blackhawks took full advantage of their position as a team with aging stars (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) and went into full-blown tank mode. In the 2022 Draft alone they improved the outlook of the team dramatically, adding three prospects who I believe easily fit into the team’s top five list.
Lukas Reichel was selected 17th overall in the 2020 Draft and has been Chicago’s top prospect ever since. He played one more post-draft season in the DEL (Germany’s top professional league) where he excelled, and then he arrived in North America for the 2021-22 season where he was borderline dominant in the AHL. He has kept up the AHL production this year, giving him a total of 94 points in 90 games in about a season and a half. Reichel is an excellent offensive player, and I would argue that the only reason he isn’t in the NHL is that he could damage Chicago’s chances at winning the Bedard sweepstakes in this year’s draft lottery.
9. Winnipeg Jets
Previous Ranking: 11
Top Five Prospects: Chaz Lucius, Brad Lambert, Ville Heinola, Rutger McGroarty, Elias Salomonsson
The Winnipeg Jets have had five first-round picks in the last four drafts, all landing between 10 and 30. Their ability to find solid NHL talents in that range has been impressive, with four of those picks landing in their top five and the other (Cole Perfetti) already establishing himself as an excellent NHL player. Some teams have a tough time finding future contributors in the later half of the first round, which makes it difficult to keep contending in the NHL where contributions from young players on entry-level contracts are vital. It feels like the Jets are going to be able to remain competitive for years with the passing of the guard from guys like Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler to Kyle Connor, Rutger McGroarty, and more on the horizon.
McGroarty is my favourite Jets prospect and I was happy to see he didn’t stay on the board for long in the 2022 Draft, being selected 14th overall. He is a centerman who plays a very direct game, attacking the middle of the ice whenever possible to create the best chance. He’s a very capable playmaker with an NHL shot, but his best asset is his work ethic. McGroarty really boosted his draft stock at the NHL Scouting Combine during the interview period. His work ethic, mindset, and leadership qualities stand out already as a teenager, and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he found himself with a “C” on his chest in the NHL.
8. Arizona Coyotes
Previous Ranking: 13
Top Five Prospects: Logan Cooley, Conor Geekie, Victor Söderstrom, Maveric Lamoureux, Josh Doan
The Arizona Coyotes feel like a team that has been at the bottom of the league for a decade solely because of the intense lows they’ve experienced recently. The 2021 offseason seems to be the time that management decided to take a new path. They managed to get out from under the mammoth contract they had signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson to, receiving Vancouver’s ninth overall pick in return. Not bad. They tore the team to shreds and have been tanking ever since. They landed the third overall pick in the 2022 Draft as well as two additional first-round picks in that draft, boosting their prospect pool significantly.
The only reason the Coyotes aren’t higher on this list is that Dylan Guenther has graduated to the NHL and has been excellent there. Despite its prospect pool losing its best player, Arizona has quickly built one of the best prospect pools in the league, owing largely to a very successful 2022 Draft class led by third overall pick Logan Cooley. Cooley is a remarkable offensive driver who was the first center selected in the draft, taken one pick before Shane Wright. Few prospects in the world have the dynamic skill and hockey IQ that Cooley possesses and he will be a top-line NHL player if all goes well.
7. Calgary Flames
Previous Ranking: 23
Top Five Prospects: Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Matthew Phillips, Dustin Wolf
The Calgary Flames have been a great team for the last decade or so, but that hasn’t stopped them from building one of the very best prospect pools in the NHL. They had the 13th overall pick in the 2021 Draft which was the highest they’ve selected in the most recent six drafts. Calgary has made a few excellent choices toward the end of the first round that give them a very positive outlook despite the disappointing season they are experiencing at the moment.
Matt Coronato is an incredibly talented offensive player who has been tearing up the NCAA ever since being drafted in 2021 where he has scored 56 points in 51 games at the time of writing. He’s not the only Flames prospect who has been impressive recently. The other four prospects on my top-five list above have been excellent in the AHL this year with Matthew Phillips leading the league in points earlier this year before earning an NHL call-up, Dustin Wolf leading the league in wins and goals against average, and Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary being third and second respectively in AHL scoring among U22 players. The future is bright in Calgary.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous Ranking: 5
Top Five Prospects: David Jiricek, Kirill Marchenko, Corson Ceulemans, Stanislav Svozil, Jordan Dumais
The Columbus Blue Jackets tried to hold on for a few years after losing Artemi Panarin in free agency, but they decided to tear it down and do a proper rebuild at the perfect time. The return from the Blackhawks in the Seth Jones trade has set this team up quite well, adding an offensive defender with some potential in Adam Boqvist, as well as a first-round pick that became Cole Sillinger. Since then, the Blue Jackets have continued to bolster their prospect pool while also landing one of the biggest free agents of the last decade in Johnny Gaudreau. This isn’t the deepest prospect pool when it comes to star power, with Kent Johnson becoming an NHL player this year, but the number of solid prospects coupled with my increasingly high expectations for David Jiricek go a long way.
Kirill Marchenko played in the KHL for the first few years after being drafted back in 2018 where he gradually earned more ice time as the seasons wore on. This has been his first year in North America, and he has already proven that he is too good for the AHL, where he scored 19 points in his first 16 games. Marchenko’s offensive ability has been on display in his first NHL games as well, with nine goals (including a hat-trick) in just 22 games. However, the cream of the crop here is clearly Jiricek, who has transitioned perfectly to North America and could easily be in the Blue Jackets’ top four if only they weren’t tanking the rest of this season away for a chance at adding one more difference maker. Jiricek currently leads all U20 players in points-per-game with 20 points in 22 games and he’s looking more and more like a number-one defenseman in the NHL.
5. Buffalo Sabres
Previous Ranking: 1
Top Five Prospects: Jiri Kulich, Noah Östlund, Matthew Savoie, Devon Levi, Isak Rosen
The Buffalo Sabres had one of the most productive days in recent franchise memory on day one of the 2022 Draft. They added Matthew Savoie, Noah Östlund, and Jiri Kulich to their prospect pool all in the span of a few hours. Their prospect pool has taken a bit of a hit recently with excellent prospects like Owen Power, John-Jason Peterka, and Jack Quinn establishing themselves as great NHL players this year. The rest of their recent first-round picks, Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens, have taken massive steps forward this year as well, giving Buffalo one of the brightest young cores in the NHL with much more help on the way.
Related: Early Look at the 2024 NHL Draft
Jiri Kulich was selected with the last of the Sabres’ first-round picks in 2022, but he might just be the best player they landed. He is a powerful winger with the strength and shot of someone far older. Kulich was also incredible at the 2023 World Juniors where he helped lead Czechia to a silver medal. Östlund is a bit less flashy and dynamic than Kulich but is an intelligent player who has an advanced playmaking ability. He is currently tied for the most points in the Swedish Allsvenskan (second-tier pro league) among U19 players because his smarts, skill, and work ethic make him a force to be reckoned with. Savoie has had a bit of a quiet year production-wise in the WHL, but he is still an incredibly skilled, quick, and crafty forward who projects as a good top-six winger in my eyes.
4. Detroit Red Wings
Previous Ranking: 3
Top Five Prospects: Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper, William Wallinder, Carter Mazur, Sebastian Cossa
The Detroit Red Wings have been going through one of the most patient rebuilds in NHL history, with a large portion of the fanbase being fully on board with some more short-term pain in exchange for a return to glory someday soon. Although this season will not be the year that Detroit turns their luck around, one look at the top-five list above tells you that it’s not far off either. Despite Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Söderblom showing that they can handle the NHL quite well this year, Detroit still has several blue-chip prospects on the way that project to be real difference makers in the NHL.
Simon Edvinsson is adjusting well to North America and has the potential to be an excellent two-way defenseman despite being a massive outlier size-wise. Marco Kasper was seen as a bit of a reach in the 2022 Draft at eighth overall, but he has been a revelation in the SHL this year where he has earned the responsibility of being a top-six center and is leading the league in U20 scoring. William Wallinder has also taken another step in the SHL, where he leads all U21 players in scoring despite being a defenseman, and Carter Mazur has transformed into one of the best goal-scorers in all of college hockey.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Previous Ranking: 2
Top Five Prospects: Olen Zellweger, Pavel Mintyukov, Nathan Gaucher, Sasha Pastujov, Tristan Luneau
The Anaheim Ducks have accumulated an embarrassment of riches over the past few NHL drafts, with three recently drafted players, Mason McTavish, Trevor Zegras, and Jamie Drysdale being impactful NHL players at their young ages. After looking like they had turned the page on their rebuild last year and were ready to step back into the playoff race, the Ducks have been atrocious this year, giving them another chance to add an elite prospect to their team at the top of the 2023 Draft.
Olen Zellweger was selected very early in the second round of the 2021 Draft after falling a bit due to his lack of size. His elite skating and excellent offensive ability weren’t enough for him to be drafted in the first round, and Ducks fans should rejoice that fact because Zellweger has looked like an absolute steal ever since, lighting up the WHL and making other NHL GMs regret their choice to not draft him. Pavel Mintyukov was highly sought after in the leadup to the 2022 Draft, but there was a ton of attention on the other top defenders in the draft class and he ended up going to the Ducks at 10th overall. Mintyukov has been playing on another level this year and has been one of the very best defensemen in the entire Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
2. New Jersey Devils
Previous Ranking: 4
Top Five Prospects: Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, Seamus Casey, Arseni Gritsyuk, Shakir Mukhamadullin
The New Jersey Devils have had one of the most exciting prospect pools in the NHL ever since they won the first overall pick in the 2019 Draft, earning them the chance to draft Jack Hughes. Now that Hughes has completed his transition from an underwhelming top prospect to a legitimate superstar, the Devils are finally a playoff contender again. New Jersey holds all their own future first-round picks, in part because even they didn’t expect their rebuild to take such a massive leap forward this year.
Having a prospect pool that includes Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, and Seamus Casey would be incredibly exciting for any team, but it is even more exciting when you imagine the defensive corps they’ll be able to roll out someday soon in the NHL. Defensemen like Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, and Jonas Siegenthaler are all signed for at least four seasons after the current one, so you can imagine the Devils either dealing from a position of strength and leveraging their depth in a trade, or building one of the most dominant defensive groups in modern NHL history. Either way, they’ve got some excellent talents coming down the pipeline, with Luke Hughes and Nemec both likely to earn a roster spot in the NHL at next season’s training camp.
1. Minnesota Wild
Previous Ranking: 8
Top Five Prospects: Danila Yurov, Liam Öhgren, Marco Rossi, Brock Faber, Jesper Wallstedt
When the Minnesota Wild bought out the long-term contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the Summer of 2021, it became clear that they would be in tough for the future with very little cap space because the buyout penalties are so incredibly large until the 2025-26 season. The Wild knew that they needed to find key contributors who can provide a ton of value to the team while on entry-level contracts so that they could capitalize on their most talented player in franchise history, Kirill Kaprizov. That was the reasoning behind trading away one of their top scorers in Kevin Fiala to the LA Kings for Brock Faber and a first-round pick that they used to select Liam Öhgren. The Kings certainly won the trade on a surface-level, immediate-impact scale, but the Wild added two legitimately great prospects who will be massive parts of their team going forward.
Minnesota has the best and most rounded NHL prospect pool in my opinion, with the supremely skilled Marco Rossi tearing up the AHL, the rock-solid Faber playing like one of the best defenders in the NCAA, and Jesper Wallstedt still having the pedigree and potential to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL someday. Danila Yurov and Öhgren are both high-energy forwards who bring the same intensity and effort to every shift, whether they’re playing the cycle on offense or rushing back to be a part of the defensive system. The Wild have the best prospect pool in the NHL, and that’s not even including Kaprizov or the newly-extended Matt Boldy. Their future is bright, although it will take a few more years for the dark clouds of buyout penalties to part.
What are your thoughts on your favourite team’s ranking? Leave a comment below!
Logan is the director of prospect coverage (including the World Junior Championship and NHL Draft) for The Hockey Writers, and he’s also a part of the Detroit Red Wings writing team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing.