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Found 29 results

  1. It is looking like the Flames will probably finish the season in the Top 5 or at least the Top 10 overall. IF Calgary does NOT trade their first round pick prior to the draft, whom do you think that they should/will choose? Here are a few players that may be available when the Flames make their pick: Spencer Knight - Goalie, 6'3", 195 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Spencer-Knight Moritz Seider - RHRD, 6'4", 185 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Moritz-Seider Matthew Robertson - LHLD, 6'3", 195 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Matthew-Robertson Phillip Tomasino - C, 5'11", 170 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Phillip-Tomasino Jakob Pelletier - C/LW, 5'9", 160 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Jakob-Pelletier Raphael Lavoie - C/RW, 6'4", 190 lbs. http://www.mynhldraft.com/2019-nhl-draft/player-profiles/Raphael-Lavoie Do any of the above players interest you? Who else do you think might be available when Calgary's turn comes up? Would you choose BPA or try to fill a specific future need?
  2. Part 11 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Already a third of the way through! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #20: Tampa Bay Lightning Top Fws: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier Top Ds: Victor Hedman, Matt Carle Top G: Mathieu Garon Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Steven Stamkos (22) 2. D Victor Hedman (21) 3. F Dana Tyrell (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Vladislav Namestnikov (19) 2. F Richard Panik (21) 3. G Andrei Vasilevski (18) 4. D Mark Barberio (22) 5. D Slater Koekkoek (18) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: C Overall: C Organizational Strengths: Quite simply, the teams is run on Steven Stamkos. With him in the folds the team has a chance to win every night just based on his offensive abilities alone; no one in the league is a more deadly player at the hash marks and in the slot. Lecavalier is a good insurance policy behind Stamkos, St. Louis is still one of the premier wingers in the league and the team has depth at the wing with Ryan Malone, Brett Connolly and Teddy Purcell. Organizational Weaknesses: Obviously the largest area of concern is the lack of a number 1 goalie at the NHL level. Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon are serviceable to be sure, but they shouldn't be relied upon as a goaltending tandem for a playoff team. Victor Hedman is surrounded by a cast of average defenders, and the Lightning in general lack a true top pairing defenseman. Their depth on offense is also pretty thin. Prospect Strengths: The Bolts have a lot of depth in goal and with the drafting of top prospect Andrei Vasilevski, they finally have a bluechip goaltending prospect to round out the position. There are a few interesting Russian pieces up front in Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, and Nikita Gusev, to go along with a couple of small-but-highly skilled forwards in Cory Conacher, Matthew Peca and Tyler Johnson. Prospect Weaknesses: Overall depth in the organization's prospect pool is thin. Besides the goaltending position, the team has a few players with potential at every position, but it doesn't go much deeper than 1 or 2. Most of the organization's best forward prospects are 6 feet or lower; only Richard Panik can be considered big at 6'2". but he's also enigmatic in his play. Koekkoek, Barberio and Radko Gudas look like potential NHLers but the talent level on defense drops off after them. Outlook: The Lightning, coming a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals, looked to build on that success by taking another step forward. The hockey gods, however, had other plans. There were a lot of risks associated with the Bolts' team blueprints, none larger than having the Chelios of his position, Dwayne Roloson, as their starting netminder. And make no mistakes about it; the decision was a disaster and the Lightning flopped their way to 21st place in the NHL. That being said, there is reason for optimism. Steven Stamkos is the kind of franchise cornerstone a team builds around, Victor Hedman is still developing and has the potential to be that number 1 defender, and names like Brett Connolly and Dana Tyrell will be among the future stars of the Florida franchise. However, they don't have a lot of time to develop into bigtime players; Lecavalier and St. Louis, the two remaining guards of the Lightning's championship run, aren't getting any younger and will need to be replaced eventually. It's unlikely with their current personnel that the Bolts have what it takes to be a contender now, but with the continued development of their prospects the Bolts will be looking at potential long-term success.
  3. Part 30 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Finishing up the individual team pages.... Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 1. Edmonton 2. St. Louis 3. Florida 4. NY Islanders 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #1: Edmonton Oilers Top Fws: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle Top Ds: Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney Top G: Devan Dubnyk Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Jordan Eberle (22) 2. F Taylor Hall (20) 3. F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (19) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Nail Yakupov (18) 2. D Justin Schultz (22) 3. D Oscar Klefbom (19) 4. D David Musil (19) 5. D Martin Marincin (20) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: A Diversity: C Overall: B Organizational Strengths: Edmonton's years of being at the bottom of the well has allowed them to build an outstanding young group of forwards. Their best players are all 23 or younger, and they've got some support around the top lines up front with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner providing secondary scoring while Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff bring veteran stability to a youthful core. Organizational Weaknesses: Namely on the backend, of course. Ryan Whitney is a top pairing guy when in the lineup, but he's only healthy for 2/3s of a season. The Oilers lack a go-to player on the backend as well as reliable depth down the defensive pairings. Goaltending is a question mark; Devan Dubnyk has yet to put together a consistent effort in any season and Nikolai Khabibulin is quickly falling off the cliff in terms of performance. Most of their young players have already missed significant time due to injury, which could be a sign of poor luck and an inability to handle the rigors of the NHL game. Prospect Strengths: When you draft as high as the Oilers have for the last three years, you're bound to have a lot of quality prospects. Nail Yakupov is the gem in a group of solid but unspectacular forwards, but their biggest strength is on the backend; the Oilers have both high-quality bluechip talent and a strong amount of depth throughout the defensive pool led by top prospects Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz. Names like Musil, Gernat, and Simpson are sprinkled throughout all levels of Edmonton's developmental system. Prospect Weaknesses: Beyond Nail Yakupov, the Oilers lack in talented forwards and potential NHL forwards in general (although this weakness is mitigated by the players already in their NHL lineup). The best prospects they have up front, while skilled, are all small and will face uphill battles just to crack the NHL roster and some (like Toni Rajala) are longshots to ever return to North American ice. In goal, while they have a couple of decent prospects, the pool of goalies itself is rather limited. Outlook: When you've been the worst team in hockey for three years running, there's nowhere to go but up. The Oilers, bolstered by 1st overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, came out of the gates running and looked like they could fight for a playoff spot as late as December. Then the wheels completely fell off the bus and the Oilers limped to 29th in the NHL before lucking out in the lottery and being awarded the 1st overall pick for the record-tying 3rd straight season. Despite strong seasons from a number of players, the Oilers didn't have the horses to compete in the tight Western Conference and thus faced a long summer for the third straight season. There are positives to every negative, however. One was the arrival of hotshot prospect Nail Yakupov. Another was the developments of the big 3 of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Not to mention the improvements of young players such as Jeff Petry and Devan Dubnyk. Adding another couple of bigtime prospects to the prospect pool (including Anaheim defector Justin Schultz) was just icing on the cake for Steve Tambellini and his crew. The Oilers will look to refocus and aim for a playoff spot next season, although it's more likely that they finish out of the postseason for the 7th straight season. What Tambo and Co. are hoping for is that this team can take that next step within the next few years and become a contender in the future.
  4. Part 29 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Top 3! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 2. St. Louis 3. Florida 4. NY Islanders 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #2: St. Louis Blues Top Fws: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron Top Ds: Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk Top G: Jaroslav Halak Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Alex Pietrangelo (22) 2. D Kevin Shattenkirk (23) 3. D Ian Cole (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Vladimir Tarasenko (20) 2. F Jaden Schwartz (20) 3. F Ty Rattie (19) 4. G Jake Allen (22) 5. F Philip McRae (22) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Blues have built a team based on much of the same philosophies as their division-rival Nashville Predators; namely, a strong group mentality and team focus as well as a willingness to grind it out. While they don't look overwhelmingly strong at any one area, there's good depth throughout the organization and their batch of young players continue to improve year-to-year. Organizational Weaknesses: It'd be nice if their players can stay healthy; for example, Perron and Andy McDonald are arguably the Blues' two most skilled forwards, but have combined for a total of just 150 games between the two of them over the past 2 seasons. While the team can roll four lines, that plan becomes moot when players start hitting the IR. Jaro Halak and Brian Elliott were brilliant for 95% of last season, then promptly faceplanted in the wake of the Kings' multi-faceted offensive firepower. Prospect Strengths: The Blues' strengths in their system lie up front and in goal. Jake Allen leads a small-but-talented group of goaltenders, while the Blues have a multitude of prospects at center and on the wing. Vlad Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are arguably the best one-two punch in any system's forward group, and guys like Brett Sonne, Ty Rattie and Evgeny Grachev look like they could be fighting for spots in camp as early as next season. Prospect Weaknesses: While the defensive group is solid overall, the team lacks a major topnotch blueline prospect. The forwards are mostly 3rd and 4th line types and a few of their skilled prospects up front have hit snags in their development. The Blues will likely see top prospects Schwartz and Tarasenko graduate to the big club this season, but the team doesn't have anyone to replace them within the system. Outlook: The Blues got off to a rough start in 2012. Limping along in the early stages of the season, GM Doug Armstrong eventually said enough's enough and went out and got a hardass coach to prod the Blues along in Ken Hitchcock. Almost immediately, the team was transformed and they found themselves in an unfamiliar position at the end of the season; 2nd in the West and holding home-ice advantage for the first time since the Chris Pronger era in St. Louis. St. Louis has spent the last few years patiently biding their time and acquiring young assets, and that patience has been rewarding. The Blues have one of the best young cores in the league, and a strong group of prospects to boot. Names like T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron and Patrik Berglund will lead this team for the foreseeable future and they've got young prospects coming up at all positions. The Blues will look to build on their surprise 2011-12 season by following it up with an even better one. They're likely to be among the top teams in the league for a long time.
  5. Part 28 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Top 3! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 3. Florida 4. NY Islanders 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #3: Florida Panthers Top Fws: Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg Top Ds: Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov Top G: Jose Theodore Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Dmitry Kulikov (21) 2. D Erik Gudbranson (20) 3. D Keaton Ellerby (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Jonathan Huberdeau (19) 2. F Nick Bjugstad (20) 3. G Jacob Markstrom (22) 4. D Alexander Petrovic (20) 5. F Quinton Howden (20) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: A Diversity: C Overall: A Organizational Strengths: The Panthers have built a strong group of defensemen. Brian Campbell bounced back in a big way, Kulikov emerged as a top-3 defender, and veterans Filip Kuba and Ed Jovanovski will be around to help mentor young guys Erik Gudbranson and Keaton Ellerby, as well as provide some offense from the backend. The defense is aggressive, mobile and solid defensively in front of Theodore and Co. Organizational Weaknesses: The team's top line is solid, but there isn't any proven scoring depth behind them. Tomas Kopecky, Mike Santorelli and Scottie Upshall were all inconsistent last season, and will need to have bounce-back years for the Panthers. New acquisition Peter Mueller and rookie Huberdeau are potential scoring threats, but Huberdeau hasn't played an NHL game yet and Mueller is coming off two consecutive major injuries. Prospect Strengths: There's a lot of high-end skill in the Panther's system. Up the middle the Panthers have accumulated a lot of skilled players such as Drew Shore, Nick Bjugstad, Vince Trocheck, John McFarland and Rocco Grimaldi. While the Panthers lack a true high-caliber defensive prospect, the group is deep and skilled with Colby Robak, Alex Petrovic, Rasmus Bengtsson and newly-drafted Michael Matheson. Jacob Markstrom is one of the top goalie prospects in the world. Prospect Weaknesses: The team's development system is heavy on centers and defenders, but weak everywhere else. Quinton Howden and Huberdeau are two highly skilled wingers, but the team lacks any skill or depth behind them. The goalie pool is relatively shallow behind Markstrom. There's a lot of boom-or-bust prospects in the organization at every skating position. A large portion of their skilled prospects are in the NCAA and are at least a few years away. Outlook: Dale Tallon did a masterful job (and got a lot of luck) in hsi first season as Panthers GM. The team rode a hot start and managed to fend off charges from the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets en route to its first-ever division title. A group of what amounted to mostly misfits and scrubs managed to push the Cup finalist New Jersey Devils to a 7th game (the hardest series faced by the Devils in their postseason run) before losing in heartbreaking fashion in double overtime. A lot of credit goes to the Panthers for their most successful season in 12 years. However, the team itself is far from perfect and still has some big holes to fill. Luckily for the Panthers, all their years of suck gave them one of the best prospect pools in the NHL and thus Dale Tallon has some great assets with which to work. There are young burgeoning superstars at all levels of their organization, and Florida hopes that the combination of these young centerpieces and a bunch of castoffs from other teams can bring about a return to prominence not seen in Florida since 1996. The Panthers are going to be in the playoff bubble once again, and with the group of core players they have built, could be a playoff team for the foreseeable future.
  6. Part 27 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Frozen 4! (Yes, that was a college reference. Get over it.) Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 4. NY Islanders 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #4: New York Islanders Top Fws: John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson Top Ds: Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky Top G: Evgeni Nabokov Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F John Tavares (21) 2. D Travis Hamonic (22) 3. F Josh Bailey (22) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Ryan Strome (19) 2. D Griffin Reinhart (18) 3. F Brock Nelson (20) 4. D Matt Donovan (22) 5. D Calvin de Haan (21) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: Simply put, John Tavares IS the Islanders organization. As long as they have the lacrosse player, the Isles can put up a few Ws. The Isles have the makings of an above average forward corps; Moulson, Okposo, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter and newly acquired Brad Boyes will be fighting for spots on the top 2 forward lines. They also have two certified high-caliber puckmovers on defense in Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky. Organizational Weaknesses: Defensive depth and toughness on the backend are the Isles' biggest holes. Mark Streit is a decent two-way player, and Hamonic is a burgeoning young two-way blueliner, but the rest of the defense is merely passable-below average. They lack a big, clear-the-crease defensive defender who can play a regular shift; in general, the defense is soft. Nabokov/DiPietro looks like a decent tandem if this were 2007, but Nabokov is 37 and DiPietro has appeared in just 47 games in 4 seasons, including just 8 last year. Prospect Strengths: With all 7 of the new prospects from the recent draft defensemen, it's easy to see where their strengths lie; the Islanders boast a deep, skilled group of defensemen. Griffin Reinhart takes over as the top dog, but the group of players with NHL potential run deep after him with guys like Scott Mayfield, Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, Ville Pokka and Matt Donovan. The Isles also have a decent group of goaltending prospects. Prospect Weaknesses: The Islanders, with the graduation of Niederreiter, utterly lack depth on the wings and overall skill up front. Ryan Strome is a bluechip prospect and there's some potential up front in Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas, but in general the team's forwards are underwhelming at best. While the Isles have a couple of potential goalies, none of them project as starting netminders. Most of the Isles' prospects have a boom-or-bust feel to them, with a few (Koskinen, Trivino, Petrov, Joensuu) already looking like they won't be panning out as originally expected. Outlook: The Chicago Blackhawks are a great example of how to rebuild a professional hockey team from scorched earth. The Islanders are a great example of how NOT to rebuild a professional hockey team. The perennially shoddy team has consistently shown that they don't know how to turn high picks into a winning formula. Another below-average season (despite some great performances from Tavares, Moulson, the now-departed Parenteau, and Evgeni Nabokov) gave the Isles another lottery selection with which to work with. That being said, the Isles have managed to build a good group of prospects (through years of draft picks and failures). There are a number of potential difference-makers in the system, and the team has already begun to see some of its best young talent break through into the NHL. The Isles already have a promising, if small, group of young NHL talent within its nucleus; if the team can push the winning buttons with regards to its prospects and acquisitions, the Isles may have what it takes to pull themselves out of the abyss. It'll be extremely unlikely for the Islanders' current roster to make the postseason. However, with a little bit of luck, Long Island may find itself a competitive team sooner rather than later.
  7. Part 26 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Final 5! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #5: Chicago Blackhawks Top Fws: Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane Top Ds: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook Top G: Corey Crawford Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Patrick Kane (23) 2. D Nick Leddy (21) 3. F Marcus Kruger (22) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Teuvo Teravainen (17) 2. F Brandon Saad (19) 3. F Jeremy Morin (21) 4. F Mark McNeill (19) 5. F Brandon Pirri (21) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Blackhawks are blessed with some of the best players in the NHL at the front of their team. The forward corps consist of such luminaries such as Toews, Kane, Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland. Not to be outdone, the backend also has some top talent with Keith, Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya. With a core that's as good as any, the Hawks are a highly skilled and speedy team that scores a lot of goals on the transition. Organizational Weaknesses: Depth throughout the pro system is thin. The offense is extremely top-heavy; after the aforementioned Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Viktor Stalberg, the rest of the forwards have been marginal in terms of production. On the backend, Duncan Keith has been merely ordinary since his glory year in 2010, while names like Leddy and Hjalmarsson have been on and off in their own ends (a fact only compounded by a goalie who is merely "good"). The team lacks a capable number 2 center up front. Prospect Strengths: The Hawks have a potent group of forward prospects. Some, like Morin and Pirri, are already top contributors at the AHL level and look to be NHL-ready, if not now then sometime soon. At the wings, names like Teravainen, Philip Danault, Jimmy and Kevin Hayes and Ben Smith all look like potential NHL players. Overall, it's a very well-balanced and deep development system that should churn out some assets for the Hawks. Prospect Weaknesses: While they have a good number of goalie prospects, none of them can be considered high-end (unless one comes out of nowhere and surprises). Similarly, while they have a good group of defenders (Dylan Olsen, Adam Clendening, Dillon Fournier, Stephen Johns), none of them look to be top quality prospects. In general, beyond a small group of forwards, none of the Blackhawks' prospects can be considered high-end players or bluechip talents. Outlook: The Hawks are coming off a second straight 1st-round ousting in the playoffs. Just two years removed from a Stanley Cup victory, the team has had to weather just about everything from management miscommunication to injuries to inconsistency over the last two years. To be fair, the Blackhawks had to gut their championship-winning support almost immediately after that win; while their star-studded core remains the same, the oh-so-important role players (guys like Ladd and Versteeg) were shipped off, leaving the team with a group of 6-7 really good players and a whole bunch of less-effective-than-thou players. The Blackhawks have found a silver lining in those trades though, as it allowed them to rebuild their prospect pool. The Hawks, a prime example of a team that built itself through strong drafts and young players, have seemingly found a new group of young guns. While it's unlikely there's another Kane or Toews among the group, the prospects should eventually be able to provide the secondary contributions that the Hawks have lacked. Combine that with the aforementioned Kane and Toews, as well as names like Hossa, Keith, and Seabrook, and the Hawks have all the pieces required to remain contenders for a long time. Unless their team defense implodes on itself (unlikely in its own right considering Seabrook, Keith, Toews and Hossa remain on the team) the Blackhawks can be counted as a postseason team again next season and for what they hope will be a long time.
  8. Part 25 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #6: Montréal Canadiens Top Fws: Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta Top Ds: Andrei Markov*, P.K. Subban Top G: Carey Price Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Max Pacioretty (23) 2. D P.K. Subban (23) 3. F Lars Eller (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Alex Galchenyuk (18) 2. D Nathan Beaulieu (19) 3. D Jarred Tinordi (20) 4. F Danny Kristo (22) 5. F Sebastian Collberg (18) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Canadiens have, on paper, a deep and talented group of defensemen. While none of them can be considered "true" top-pairing defenders (except for oft-injured Andrei Markov) the depth goes 8-deep and they have a good mix of both offensive and defensive punch. The team's scoring wingers have good size (except for Gionta) and the team looks like it has two solid scoring lines. Carey Price will be the number 1 in net for a long time, and the team's core players are all 25 and under. Organizational Weaknesses: Size up the middle is lacking; the team's top 2 centers (Plekanec and David Desharnais) are both under 6 feet tall. The team is weak in terms of depth players up front, although this isn't as big an issue with the signings of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong. The team has struggled with injuries and inconsistency from their top players over the last few years; a healthy Markov and bounceback years from guys like Tomas Kaberle would go a long way in making this team a playoff contender. Prospect Strengths: The Habs have quietly built an impressive group of young players. They have some depth at every skating position, and their best prospects have varied skillsets. Beaulieu headlines a solid defensive group that includes massive bruiser Tinordi and hard-hitting sparkplug Dalton Thrower. Up front, Alex Galchenyuk is the new big man on campus, and he may get to line up with a deep and talented group of wingers in Kristo, Colberg, Brendan Gallagher, Aaron Palushaj, Tim Bozon, and Charles Hudon. Prospect Weaknesses: The team's goaltending pipeline is utterly barren, although with Carey Price being only 24, that need is negated somewhat. While they have good depth throughout the forward ranks, the only top notch talent up front is Galchenyuk; the rest of the players all project to being second and third line players at best. Up the middle, beyond the aforementioned Galchenyuk, the team is weak in terms of potential scoring centers. Outlook: Coming off a successful 2010-11 season, the Canadiens entered the regular season looking to improve upon their 6th place standing in the East. What they got instead was an absolute disaster of a season. The Habs wound up 15th in the East, well short of a playoff berth, and would end up receiving their highest first round pick in years. A team that has perennially faced inner pressure from the Francophone community saw some bad luck with injuries and inconsistency and really never was able to get back on its horse. The Habs have thus refurnished their front office and bench, bringing in a new coach and a new GM, and the two will have some pieces to work with. The team has been able to find some elite talents despite regularly drafting in mediocre positions, and finds itself with a burgeoning group of young players at the NHL level such as Louis Leblanc. The system itself is well-stocked with young potential as well; Montreal has done very well for itself through the draft, leaving the team with soem hope that they can turn around an ailing franchise quickly, if not immediately. While it's unlikely that the Habs will implode on itself the way last year's team did, it'll take an uphill battle for the team to climb into postseason contention. They'll be looking to improve their team over the next few years, however, as they gradually phase in their young talent.
  9. Part 24 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #7: New York Rangers Top Fws: Marian Gaborik*, Brad Richards, Rick Nash Top Ds: Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh Top G: Henrik Lundqvist Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Ryan McDonagh (23) 2. D Michael Del Zotto (22) 3. F Derek Stepan (22) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Chris Kreider (21) 2. F J.T. Miller (19) 3. D Dylan McIlrath (20) 4. F Michael St. Croix (19) 5. D Brady Skjei (18) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: B Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The biggest organizational strength lies in net, plain and simple. Henrik Lundqvist is going to win them 35+ games a year guaranteed (more than a few of them by himself). With the recent acquisition of Rick Nash, the team has created a potentially lethal Big 3 up front in power forward Nash, skilled sniper Gaborik and reliable playmaker Brad Richards (imagine that line put together?). The team has a strong top 6 forward unit, as well as a young and stable top 4 on defense. Organizational Weaknesses: The depth at both forward and defense drops off after the top 3 lines and top 2 defense pairings. The defense in particular is filled with young, relatively inexperienced players (with the oldest man being Dan Girardi at 28) and while names like McDonagh and Staal can hold their own defensively, guys like Michael Sauer, Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto are still works in progress in the defensive zone. Prospect Strengths: The Rangers have a varied group of prospects. Though lacking in true bluechippers, the team has some interesting pieces in place at every position excluding goal. Dylan McIlrath is a big crease clearing defender, Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen are three small-but-skilled forwards, Brady Skjei is a smooth-skating two-way blueliner, and Andrew Yogan is a big powerful forward with goalscoring abilities. Prospect Weaknesses: The team utterly lacks any goaltending skill and depth. With the recent trade of Tim Erixon, the team's defensive depth and skill has taken a big hit. Most of the team's best prospects are already making waves at the NHL level (Stepan, Hagelin, Del Zotto etc.), leaving the prospect pool relatively short on high-end talent. Most of the remaining prospects have question marks all over them, whether it be related to size, speed or overall upside. Outlook: The New York Rangers, who made a big splash last summer in signing FA Brad Richards to a big money deal, came into the season looking to secure a playoff berth. They got what they wanted and more: after a stellar season by Henrik Lundqvist, a bounceback year from Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto, and steps forward by young players such as Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan, the team wound up in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the constellation of star studded rosters such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and went all the way to the Conference finals before bowing out of the postseason. All in all, it was a highly successful, if a little surprising, season for the Rangers considering the makeup of their roster. With a group of extremely young talent, the Rangers were able to beat out every other team in the East in the regular season, no small feat given that their number 1 defenseman for the season was Ryan McDonagh out of necessity. The Rangers have assembled a highly potent group of young core players through some good drafting and have a few more coming up this year as well. The team, for so long considered a wasteland in terms of young players, has managed to combine homegrown talent and big money free agents into a team that should be major players in the NHL for a long time. Barring a significant case of bad luck, the Rangers should be a competitive team both now and in the future.
  10. Part 23 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #8: Anaheim Ducks Top Fws: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan Top Ds: Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler Top G: Jonas Hiller Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Cam Fowler (20) 2. D Luca Sbisa (22) 3. F Devante Smith-Pelly (20) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Kyle Palmieri (21) 2. F Emerson Etem (20) 3. F Peter Holland (21) 4. D Sami Vatanen (21) 5. G John Gibson (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: A Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Anaheim Ducks have key core pieces at every position. Getzlaf is a top-line center, Perry and Ryan are top-line wingmen (although Ryan has generated plenty of trade rumours). Hiller is a number 1 goalie when he isn't facing bouts of vertigo. Fowler and Sbisa are the future of the franchise on the backend. This core is also surrounded with experienced veteran talents, such as ageless Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin, and a solid defense in terms of depth. Organizational Weaknesses: The team's forwards remains very top-heavy at the NHL level. The team lacks proven scoring talent on the wings after the big three of Perry, Ryan and Selanne. Koivu and Cogliano are the 2nd/3rd line pivots, but Koivu is aging and Cogliano doesn't bring enough offense to fill the scoring void behind the top line. The depth players up front lack size, aggression and intimidation beyond Devante Smith-Pelly. Prospect Strengths: The Ducks, despite the loss of top prospect Justin Schultz, have built a solid group of prospects, each projected to fill a different role at the NHL level. Overall, the pool has depth at every position behind the big name prospects such as Etem, Holland, Palmieri, Gibson, Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. The pool is well-rounded with offensive scorers (such as Max Friberg), defensive specialists (such as Andy Welinski), and two-way players (such as Rickard Rakell). Prospect Weaknesses: You'd have to nitpick pretty hard to find any weaknesses in Anaheim's development system. They lack a bluechip talent on the left wing, although they have some intriguing pieces there in Friberg and newcomer Nicolas Kerdiles. The defense is a little thin, given the departure of one of the best prospects in all of hockey. In net, beyond Igor Bobkov and Gibson, the team could use a few more pro-caliber prospects. Outlook: The Ducks had arguably the worst puck luck in the league last season. On paper, they were a team with some real high-end scorers, puckmoving defensemen, and an All-Star goalie. But when you're an offensive team and your best players fail to score, you get the 2011-12 Anaheim Ducks. The entire group took a step back and while the team got a little better as the year went on, the team only finished 25th in the NHL, a disappointment for a team that had playoff aspirations to start the season. There is reason for optimism in Disneyland however. The Ducks, despite regularly drafting in the mid-teens (or even later) have built an impressive prospect pool. While none of the players have "Nail Yakupov" projections or hype, it's a deep group that should churn out more than just a few NHLers, and for a team that already suffers from depth issues (and the loss of some key veterans such as Scott Niedermayer) the youth movement can only be considered a blessing. GM Bob Murray has built his team with the belief that they can contend in the near future if not right now. They'll likely be among the bubble teams in the West next season. After that, it's anyone's guess.
  11. Part 22 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Getting into the single digits! Sorry I've been taking so long, the other ones were prewritten on Word Docs before I posted them which meant all I had to do was post em. Now I have to find time to write up the remaining ones, as well as edit previous blog psots to fit the offseason changes (i.e. Rick Nash). Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #9: |Pittsburgh Penguins Top Fws: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal Top Ds: Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik Top G: Marc-Andre Fleury Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Brandon Sutter (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Joe Morrow (19) 2. D Simon Despres (21) 3. F Beau Bennett (20) 4. D Derrick Pouliot (18) 5. D Olli Maatta (18) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: C Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Penguins have two superstar centers occupying their top 6, plain and simple. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby give the team a chance to win every night. They also have depth behind the two with Brandon Sutter, Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale filling out the rest of the spots. The team has two capable NHL starting goalies in Fleury and Tomas Vokoun, and the backend possess a good blend of aggression and mobility. Organizational Weaknesses: The team, beyond the trio of Crosby, Malkin and James Neal, really lacks in high-caliber offensive players up front. While Malkin has basically marked down his wingers with Neal and Chris Kunitz as his flankers, the ever-present search for a true scoring winger to play with Sidney Crosby continues. The biggest issue is team health; most of their best players have spent significant time in the trainer's room over the past three seasons, including their 3 best players in Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. Prospect Strengths: With the trade of Jordan Staal to Carolina, the team managed to acquire three more high-end defensive prospects, giving them arguably the strongest and deepest defensive pool in the NHL. From two-way defenders such as Brian Dumoulin and Simon Despres to offensive juggernauts such as Joe Morrow and Derrick Pouliot to no-nonsense shutdown blueliners like Scott Harrington, the team looks like it's going to be set for the foreseeable future on the backend. The team also has some depth at each of the forward positions. Prospect Weaknesses: Beyond Beau Bennett and potentially Eric Tangradi, the team lacks potential top 6 wingers and scoring forwards in general. While they have a couple of players at the C position, the players currently occupying that position in their system are depth forwards at best. The team lacks a high-end goalie, and depth in general at the goaltending position. Although the team recently tried to patch up these hoels via the 2012 draft, the selected players are likely a few years away from the pro level. Outlook: The Penguins have been one of the best teams in the league in the regular season for a number of years now. That wasn't any different this past season, as Pittsburgh rode a rejuvenated Evgeni Malkin to a playoff berth against Enemy Number 1 in the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Crosby was back, Letang was back, Malkin was on; the Pens had all the ingredients they needed to make waves in the psotseason. Instead, a horrid defensive effort coupled with less-than-stellar goaltending led to the Pens flaming out in the first round for the second straight season. Pittsburgh still has all the key pieces of a championship caliber team. They have depth and high-end skill up the middle. They have a number one goalie capable of stealing games, and a backup who can relive him without a major drop in capabilities. They have a number 1 defender and a big-time puckmoving defenseman, as well as a physical shutdown defender. The team's best players still have plenty of years ahead of them and their prospect pool is full of potential NHLers. The Pens, despite having lost a few key pieces this offseason, will again be looking to clinching a playoff berth in the upcoming season. They should remain competitive for a long time, as long as the core of the team remains intact.
  12. Part 21 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #10: Buffalo Sabres Top Fws: Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford Top Ds: Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff Top G: Ryan Miller Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Tyler Myers (22) 2. F Tyler Ennis (22) 3. F Cody Hodgson (22) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Mikhail Grigorenko (18) 2. F Joel Armia (19) 3. D Mark Pysyk (20) 4. F Zemgus Girgensons (18) 5. F Marcus Foligno (21) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Sabres have a glut of scoring wingers on their NHL roster. Thomas Vanek has been inconsistent through his tenure in Buffalo, but he's a top line winger, and guys like Pominville, Leino, Stafford, Ennis, and Hodgson have all spent some time on the flanks. Ryan Miller and Johnas Enroth offer stability in between the pipes. The Sabres also have a deep group of NHL defensemen, Tyler Myers chief among them. Organizational Weaknesses: With the trade of longtime stalwart Derek Roy, the Sabres lack a proven high-caliber scoring center up the middle. While the defense is deep, the team lacks a number 1 defenseman (as well as top 4 defenders in general), and while Tyler Myers has shown glimpses of potentially being one, he has not yet put it all together on a consistent basis. The team's two big acquisitions of last summer, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr, underachieved and they were joined by a lot of last season's Sabres roster in that regard. Prospect Strengths: Buffalo has managed to obtain a few high-caliber prospects in their system. The Sabres, courtesy of a terrible start, managed to nab offensive dynamo Mikhail Grigorenko in the 2012 draft. He's joined by fellow 2012 draftee Zemgus Girgensons in forming a strong 1-2 punch up the middle of the pool. Joel Armia is another bluechipper on the wing, and defender Mark Pysyk has accomplished just about everything possible at the junior levels. Prospect Weaknesses: The team's overall prospect pool is shallow in terms of depth. While they have some of that at the center and defensive positions, the dearth of NHL-caliber talent on the wings and in goal negate any advantage the Sabres might have. The team has been bringing up many of their best prospects to the NHL squad in recent years, and because of that the players remaining are either newly acquired, too young to make an impact at the professional level or have seen their development stall in the minor leagues. Outlook: The Sabres went through a rollercoaster of a 2011-2012 season. With new owner Terry Pegula and some high-profile acquisitions over the summer, the team headed into the season optimistic of a potential playoff berth. That hope was dashed as the team got off to a horrid start. With Ryan Miller underachieving and injured for the majority of the season, it seemed like the Sabres would be among the lottery teams. But a late season surge gave them new life and the Sabres would end up pushing for a playoff spot right up until the last week of the regular season before finishing 9th in the East. The Sabres have been retooling their roster for some time now. With a smaller budget, GM Darcy Regier has had to let go of some key players, such as Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell, and replace them with young, homegrown talent. That has given young players such as Tyler Ennis, Luke Adam, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber a chance at an NHL role, which the majority have run with, giving the Sabres a young, improving team coupled with some veteran talents such as Jason Pomiville and Ryan Miller. Now that Terry Pegula is on board (and more importantly has a year under his belt to get his feet wet), the Sabres will look to contend for a playoff spot again this year.
  13. Part 20 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #11: Ottawa Senators Top Fws: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek Top Ds: Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar Top G: Craig Anderson Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Erik Karlsson (22) 2. F Kyle Turris (23) 3. D Jared Cowen (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Mika Zibanejad (19) 2. F Jakob Silfverberg (20) 3. G Robin Lehner (21) 4. D Cody Ceci (18) 5. F Stefan Noesen (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Sens have built a diverse group of skilled blueliners. Even with the loss of Filip Kuba (who led the team in +/- and was third on the team in points by a defenseman) they have an offensive dynamo in Erik Karlsson, a veteran offensive leader in Sergei Gonchar, a veteran shutdown defender in Chris Phillips, and a burgeoning two-way blueliner in Jared Cowen. Jason Spezza is a true number 1 up the middle and Craig Anderson is a competent, if unspectacular, option between the pipes. Organizational Weaknesses: There is a lack of proven top 6 scoring wingers and scoring forwards in general. Milan Michalek can be counted on for at least 20 goals a season, but Daniel Alfredsson isn't getting any younger, Guillaume Latendresse has played 27 games in two seasons, Colin Greening is still young and the rest of the players on the flanks are depth and role players. Depth up the middle is lacking; Kyle Turris is pencilled in as the number 2 pivot but he hasn't shook off questions about his consistency and his overall game. Prospect Strengths: Ottawa's prospect pool strength lies in a few high-quality prospects. Mika Zibanejad looks like he'll be a force up front as early as next season. Robin Lehner has been knocking on the door to the NHL. Jakob Silfverberg was one of, if not THE, best player in the SEL last season. They have at least one highly skilled prospect at all positions; new arrival Cody Ceci on defense, Silfverberg on TW, Lehner in net and Zibanejad and Stefan Noesen can play all forward positions. Prospect Weaknesses: The organization lacks depth in goal and on the wing. Lehner is the only goalie prospect in Ottawa's professional system, and recent draftees Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard are still a few years away. While they have a good number of defenders in the system, most of them (besides Ceci) pan out as depth defenders at best. The center position is deep, but many of the forward prospects are boom-or-bust, including Matt Puempel, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Nikita Filatov. Outlook: Easily one of the biggest surprise stories of the 2012 NHL season, Ottawa, a team many had thought of to be in full-on rebuilding mode, forced its way into a playoff spot and pushed the top-seeded New York Rangers to a 7th game before bowing out of the postseason. The Senators rode a hot start to start the season and looked to be right up against the Bruins' rear bumper before letting up a bit and sneaking in as an 8th seed. The team got valuable contributions from all over the roster: JAson Spezza returned to form, Erik Karlsson followed up a breakout season with an even better one, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson managed to remain healthy for the most part and they got a wave of contributions from both rookies and veterans alike. Optimism runs high in the nation's capital, and for good reason. The team still has captain Daniel Alfredsson and star center Jason Spezza. Erik Karlsson is just 22. Jared Cowen is just 21. The future faces of the franchise are all in for the long haul and still have plenty of room to improve, and they'll be supplemented over the next few years by incoming prospects such as Swedes Mika Zibanejad, Robin Lehner, and Jakob Silfverberg. The Sens will again look to compete for a playoff spot come next season. and with Bryan Murray's eye for the future, the team will look to contend in the playoffs in the near future.
  14. Part 19 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #12: Minnesota Wild Top Fws: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Dany Heatley Top Ds: Ryan Suter, Tom Gilbert Top G: Niklas Backstrom Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Marco Scandella (22) 2. D Jared Spurgeon (22) 3. D Justin Falk (23) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Mikael Granlund (20) 2. F Charlie Coyle (20) 3. D Jonas Brodin (19) 4. D Mathew Dumba (18) 5. F Zack Phillips (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: A Diversity: B Overall: A Organizational Strengths: The Wild, as always seem to be the case, have great goaltending in their professional system. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are about as steady a 2 man tandem as you can get, and Matt Hackett is also knocking on the door. They also have something they haven't had in a while; offensive depth. With the addition of Parise to a team that already has Koivu, Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, all of a sudden the Wild's offense actually looks dangerous if left alone. Organizational Weaknesses: In comparison though, the team's defensive depth is lacking. Ryan Suter is a true blue top pairing defender and Tom Gilbert is a good second pairing option, but Falk, Spurgeon, Scandella, Steven Kampfer and Clayton Stoner make for a very inexperienced bunch. While all 5 have talent, they also make plenty of mistakes from the backend and will be focused on and exploited by other teams. Prospect Strengths: There is a case to be made that the Wild have the league's best prospect pool. Not only do they have depth throughout every skating position, they have bluechip prospects at all of them. Names like Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Erik Haula, and Cody Almond offer depth and leadership up front, while John Draeger, Tyler Cuma and Nate Prosser offer depth at defense. Matt Hackett leads a solid, if unspectacular, group of goalies. Prospect Weaknesses: The goalies lack a true top flight prospect, although names like Hackett and Kuemper are not bad at all. Charlie Coyle is a bluechipper, but the Wild are somewhat thin behind him with Brett Bulmer and Carson MacMillan being the only other players of interest at his position. While Brodin, Dumba and Cuma offer strength at the top of their defense pool, the talent behind them is only borderline NHL caliber. Outlook: Minnesota got off to the hottest start in the league last year, only to fall off a cliff after injuries hit and tumble to 12th in the Western conference. The league's lowest scoring offense (you know you're screwed when Warren Peters is your second line center, no offense to him) was hit by injuries to key players such as Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi, and the team ended the year on the worst 40 game stretch in the league. It was bad; even the fans had started turning apathetic towards the Wild. Then the coup occurred. When Parise and Suter joined "flyover country", it changed the team overnight. A potent group of young prospects suddenly looks even better when none of them have to immediately step up and be the star on a bad team. And just 1 and a half years ago, this pool didn't even have much in it; the Wild clearly have the most improved developmental system in the NHL after trading shrewdly, drafting well and watching their older prospects develop into potential NHL players. At the NHL level, the team finally got a hometown Minnesotan to be the face of their franchise, and he's joined by some pretty darn good players as well. For the first time in a long time, Minnesota every reason to be positive about their team's upcoming season. And they'll have a ton of reason to be optimistic about their franchise's future as well. Count the Wild among the teams who will be in the playoff mix next season.
  15. Part 18 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #13: Colorado Avalanche Top Fws: Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog Top Ds: Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda Top G: Semyon Varlamov Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Matt Duchene (21) 2. F Ryan O'Reilly (21) 3. F Gabriel Landeskog (19) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Duncan Siemens (18) 2. D Tyson Barrie (21) 3. D Cameron Gaunce (22) 4. F Mark Olver (24) 5. G Sami Aittokallio (20) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: D Diversity: C Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The Avs have a glut of top-9 forwards. They have good depth and skill up the middle with highly touted Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny all able to line up in a top 6 role. Greg Sherman has surrounded that potent group of young centers with a good group of physical, feisty scoring wingers in David Jones, Landeskog, Steve Downie, Jamie McGinn, PA Parenteau and Milan Hedjuk. Semyon Varlamov has had flashes of brilliance and with JS Giguere backing him up, the team is solid in net. Organizational Weaknesses: The team lacks top pairing defenders and skill and depth on the D in general. Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda make up their top pairing, but Johnson and Hejda are both more suited to a number 3 role on a team's depth charts. Beyond Stefan Elliott and Johnson, the team lacks offensively skilled defenders and puckmovers. Beyond Elliott and Ryan Wilson, who are both very mobile, the defense is relatively slow-footed. Prospect Strengths: The defense is the strong point of the developmental system. There are a couple of players of interest on the back end, all of whom bring different qualities: Tyson Barrie is an offensive force, Cameron Gaunce is more of a smooth, two-way defender and Duncan Siemens is the one-man wrecking ball on the backend. They also have an excellent group of goaltenders; the group has both depth and skill, with Kieran Millan and Kent Patterson in the NCAA, Calvin Pickard out of the Dub and Aittokallio out of Finland. Prospect Weaknesses: The team lacks ANY skill or depth on the wing, on BOTH sides. The team's centers, while skilled, are small and their best prospect, Joey Hishon, has been unable to play in over a year due to concussion issues. While Duncan Siemens and Co. are decent prospects, none of them are bluechippers. The Avs have been bringing up their top prospects over the last few years and thus the majority in the system are either not ready for the NHL or are only going to be role players at best. Outlook: The Avalanche were one of the busier teams in the NHL last year. After bringing in Landeskog and young goalie Semyon Varlamov in the offseason, they then acquired Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn during trade deadline day. The two combined for 26 points in Avs sweaters in 37 combined games, but it wasn't enough and Colorado missed the postseason for the 3rd time in 4 years. And their first round pick, 11th overall, didn't even belong to them as aresult of acquiring Varlamov. GM Greg Sherman has some tools to work with however. He's got some great young pieces up front in Matt Duchene (who looked like he was going to be an elite scorer in the NHL just a year ago), Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and "veteran" Paul Stastny. Erik Johnson has struggled with inconsistency issues, but he has all the tools to be a top pairing defender in the future, if not right now. Varlamov is a young star in the making in goal. And they have more players coming up who will be a part of what Colorado hopes will be a winning team in the next few years. If everything pans out great for Colorado this year, they'll be a bubble team and in the hunt for the playoffs. What's more likely to happen is that they will miss the playoffs, and hope that they will be able to ice a competitive team in a few years' time.
  16. Part 17 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #14: Phoenix Coyotes Top Fws: Shane Doan*, Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal Top Ds: Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson Top G: Mike Smith Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (21) 2. F Mikkel Boedker (22) 3. D David Rundblad (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Brandon Gormley (20) 2. D Connor Murphy (19) 3. F Andy Miele (24) 4. G Mark Visentin (20) 5. D Chris Summers (24) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: C Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The biggest key to the team's success is the defensive core. The Coyotes own a group of highly skilled and diverse defenders, led by a young group of still-improving defensemen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Rundblad. Keith Yandle is one of the best puckmoving defenders in the game; overall, their defenders boast a solid mix of speed, skill, grit and toughness. Mike Smith had a breakout year last season and will look to improve again this year. Organizational Weaknesses: The team lack a true high-caliber offensive player. The group of centers, while not bad overall, is not very skilled and lacks a player who can put up points on a regular basis. With the departure of Ray Whitney (and potentially Shane Doan as well), the Yotes look very weak in terms of scoring wingers beyond Radim Vrbata. Mike Smith is a good goaltender but he isn't elite, although with the kind of game Phoenix plays they don't need him to be. Prospect Strengths: Even with the graduation of two highly skilled defensemen in the aforementioned Larsson and Rundblad, the pool still has one of the best group of defenders in any team's developmental system. Adding the group of new draftees such as James Melindy to a group already composed of names like Brandon Gormley, Connor Murphy and Michael Stone can only be a positive for the Coyotes. They also have an intriguing group of goalies, with Canadian WJC candidates in Louis Domingue and Mark Visentin. Prospect Weaknesses: Just like their professional team, the Coyotes' system lacks potential top caliber point-producers up front. Andy Miele is a good prospect, but he's part of not even a handful of center prospects, let alone NHL-caliber centers. While Phoenix has depth on the wings, none of the prospects there can be considered high-quality either. Most of the highly skilled players, such as Brendan Shinnimin, are small while the prospects with size, such as Phil Lane, are lacking in skill. Outlook: Phoenix was able to do something this past season that even its previous incarnation hadn't been able to manage: piece together a deep playoff run. While the run ended with a crushing loss to the Kings, who were on a run for the ages themselves, the season can be considered a major success and could be the breaking point where the team establishes itself as a player in the hotly contested Western Conference. It's hard to find fault in the team thanks to one of the best coaching staffs in the league. The team lacks that sexy scoring type player and don't have a true centerpiece to their team, but what it lacks in appeal it more than makes up for in terms of productivity. With Dave Tippett running the show, the team doesn't need a star to put together a team. With a group of prospects that will offer even more assets for Don Maloney and Tippett to work with, there is a lot of promise for the team. The Coyotes will likely be on the bubble again this year. Walking across the playoff line is where the team usually finds itself, but they have a lot of potential moving forwards.
  17. Part 16 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #15: Detroit Red Wings Top Fws: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula Top Ds: Niklas Kronwall, Ian White Top G: Jimmy Howard Top 3 Under-23s: N/A Top 5 Prospects 1. D Brendan Smith (23) 2. F Gustav Nyquist (22) 3. F Calle Jarnkrok (20) 4. F Tomas Tatar (21) 5. F Tomas Jurco (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Wings boast a group of highly skilled and versatile forwards. Datsyuk and Zetterberg provide a real strong one-two punch up the middle, and they're flanked by the likes of Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and Dan Cleary. Jimmy Howard is at the forefront of their defense; after what seems like forever, he's developed into a bona fide starting goalie. Organizational Weaknesses: The defense, an area of strength not so long ago, now looks pretty thin. The Wings, who've lost Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, and Nicklas Lidstrom from the core of their championship defense, are relying on a top 6 of Kronwall, White, Kyle Quincey, star rookie Brendan Smith, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl. Not the most inspiring of groups; Quincey has been dogged by consistency issues, Kindl has been disappointing in his professional career to date, Ericsson took a step back in his play last year and Smith is still learning the NHL game. Prospect Strengths: The Detroit Red Wings have one of the deepest groups of forward prospects, if not THE deepest, in the league. With names like Tatar, Nyquist, Pulkkinen, Jurco, Jarnkrok and Frk, the Wings can take their time and develop these prospects to their full potential. Smith leads a decent group of defenders in Detroit, with Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and Adam Almqvist all figuring to be a part of future Red Wings incarnations. Prospect Weaknesses: If there's a single area of concern, it's that the goaltending lacks a top tier prospect, although there is some depth with Petr Mrazek, Jake Paterson, Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum. The defense and center positions aren't quite as stacked with strong prospects as the wing position, although as a whole the depth is just fine. Some center prospects like Landon Ferraro have tailed off and that has left Jarnkrok as the only skilled center in the system. Outlook: The Red Wings are entering uncharted territory. For years, the Wings were blessed with the likes of leaders and star players such as Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Dominik Hasek, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larianov, and Nicklas Lidstrom. That era officially came to an end after Lidstrom's retirement, and that has left the Wings with one of the largest holes they've ever had to fill in the history of their franchise. With him, the Wings were always capable to being a contending team, but that security blanket is gone. The Wings aren't trying to make up for that loss without some key assets, however. The team, as per usual, has built a prosperous farm system full of mid-to-late round picks. They also have something they haven't had in a long time; plenty of cap space. While free agency hasn't worked out for them yet, the Wings are capable of making moves to shore up their team, and the prospects that will be making the jump to the NHL in the near future will be NHL-ripe and ready to contribute. The Wings will likely find themselves in an unusual situation next year: that of a bubble team among the group of 6 or 7 in the playoff dogfight. While it may take a bit of time for the Wings to build up their team into a powerhouse again, the future looks promising, if somewhat foggy.
  18. Part 15 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Halfway through! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #16: Toronto Maple Leafs Top Fws: Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski Top Ds: Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles Top G: James Reimer Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F James van Riemsdyk (23) 2. D Jake Gardiner (22) 3. F Nazem Kadri (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Morgan Rielly (18) 2. F Joe Colborne (22) 3. F Carter Ashton (21) 4. D Stuart Percy (19) 5. D Matt Finn (18) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: C Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The Leafs have a promising group of forwards, led by wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. They're joined by players who offer some depth behind them in Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, and Matt Frattin. The defense, while lacking in top pairing, high-caliber players, has 6 NHL caliber blueliners, including young stud Jake Gardiner. Organizational Weaknesses: While the team has depth down the middle, none of the centermen are true number 1s. The defense is either slow, soft or makes poor on-ice decisions, sometimes on the same night. The Leafs are currently relying on James Reimer in net, but he isn't a sure thing and is not yet of starting quality. Inconsistency among all players is a major issue. Prospect Strengths: The Leafs have amassed a decent group of young prospects. The defense has a couple of high-quality blueliners in Rielly, 2011 first rounder Stuart Percy, and 2012 second rounder Matt Finn. Up front, the team has a few wingers of note in Biggs, Brad Ross and Carter Ashton. The goaltending prospect pool is deep. The Leafs overall have a few prospects at every position that possess good pro potential. Prospect Weaknesses: Morgan Rielly looks like a potential diamond in the rough, but beyond him none of the prospects are likely to become top-line players anytime soon. The team's goaltending prospects do not figure to be high quality players and are unlikely to amount to anything more than a backup netminder. Most of the high-quality prospects have become NHL regulars and the ones that aren't seemed to have hit snags in their development. Outlook: The Leafs are the only team to have not made the playoffs in any year after the NHL's work stoppage. Despite the best interests and attempts of Brian Burke, many believe that his head may be on the chopping blocks if his team cannot find a way to make the playoffs next season. A combination of poor goaltending, brash words and seemingly insurmountable mountains of bad luck have conspired to relegate his team to the NHL's doormats. That isn't to say that he hasn't done anything right. The team has a bona fide scorer in Phil Kessel (whether he's a franchise forward or not is another story), an apparent linchpin in Dion Phaneuf on defense (if Phaneuf can ever fix his habit of on-ice brain cramps) and he's surrounded them with a cast of players that, while not fantastic, should help keep the team competitive. The prospect pool has been rebuilt and the team has seen young players such as Carl Gunnarsson come up and flourish in a Leafs sweater. The Leafs, for whatever reason, have been unable to coax a winning season out of its team. Even though they'll be in the playoff mix next season, it's going to take a lot of things going right for the team to make the playoffs, whether it be next year or even beyond that.
  19. Part 14 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #17: Boston Bruins Top Fws: Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron Top Ds: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg Top G: Tuukka Rask Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Tyler Seguin (20) 2. F Jordan Caron (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Doug Hamilton (19) 2. F Alex Khokhlachev (19) 3. F Jared Knight (20) 4. F Ryan Spooner (20) 5. F Max Sauve (22) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: D Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The team has a glut of depth up front. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly make up what is arguably the deepest group of NHL centermen in the league; guys like Tyler Seguin and Greg Campbell are natural centers as well and fill in whenever they can. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton round out what is on paper a strong group of wingers. Zdeno Chara is still a Norris Trophy contender at 35. Organizational Weaknesses: Not much. The defense lacks a high caliber player to fill in some of Chara's minutes; the backend is mostly a group of role players led by one elite, and large, superstar defenseman. While Ference, Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk are serviceable players to be sure, none of them are top pairing defenders. Beyond Chara, the defense lacks a puckmoving player capable of putting up offensive numbers. Prospect Strengths: Doug Hamilton is the best defensive prospect in the world right now and offers potentially a jolt of energy and offense along the Bs' blueline next season. He's follwed by a solid, if unspectacular, group of defenders that have the potential to develop into NHL contributors. The Bruins also have a couple of promising forward prospects in Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner and Alex Khokhlachev. Prospect Weaknesses: The Bruins lack depth at the wing positions. While Malcolm Subban is a top notch goaltending prospect, the rest of the goalies in the pool are average at best and there is no real depth behind Subban. The center position lacks skill and depth after Max Sauve. Alex Khokhlachev has let it be known that he'll return to Europe if he doesn't make the NHL team, and there's no guarantee he's coming back. Beyond Dougie Hamilton, there isn't another elite prospect in the organization. Outlook: The Bruins were the best team in the league up until February. The reigning Cup champs seemed to hit a snag after the big game against Vancouver and were never really able to regain their groove, and ended up dropping out of the postseason in the first round to the Washington Capitals. During that amazing run however, they demonstrated what made them the Cup winners of 2011; they were big, fast, skilled, and absolutely dominated in the corners and on the cycle. The Bruins clearly have what it takes to win another Cup. Most of the cast of players during their Cup run remain on the team. Tyler Seguin looks like he's gong to be an elite forward sooner rather than later. Tuukka Rask will get a chance to prove himself after Tim Thomas decided to take a year off from playing hockey. With most of the core players signed beyond this season, they don't really need much help from their prospect pool at this point. Boston will be looking to improve on their focus in anticipation of the playoffs and will be competing for one of the top 4 slots in the Eastern conference playoff race. They should remain among the elite teams for at least the coming season.
  20. Part 12 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #19: Winnipeg Jets Top Fws: Evander Kane*, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd Top Ds: Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien Top G: Ondrej Pavelec Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Evander Kane (21) 2. D Zach Bogosian (22) 3. F Alexander Burmistrov (20) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Mark Scheifele (19) 2. F Carl Klingberg (21) 3. D Jacob Trouba (18) 4. D Paul Postma (23) 5. D Zach Yuen (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: C Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The core of the team is young and talented with most of its best players all well within their best-before dates. The team boasts a group of forwards that can get the job done; Kane and Wheeler are the key cogs but names like Olli Jokinen, Bryan Little, Nik Antropov, and Burmistrov add depth and skill to the top 3 lines. Byfuglien, Enstrom and Zach Bogosian form a potent 1-2-3 on the backend and Ondrej Pavelec looks like he's just getting started with his ascension into elite status. Organizational Weaknesses: While the Jets have 3 solid anchors at the top of their defense, the trade of top 4 defender Johnny Oduya has left the team a little thin behind them; the defense could overall use a little more grit and toughness. Up front, the Jets lack a go-to-player (although Kane and Wheeler have both shown promise). Ondrej Pavelec is solid but he has no proven backup behind him. Prospect Strengths: The defense position has a couple of notable prospects, each with different attributes: Jacob Trouba is a hard-nosed defender, Paul Postma is a PP QB, and Zach Yuen is a smooth-skating two-way blueliner. Mark Scheifele is a top-quality prospect; he's part of a group of forwards that mixes size with various levels of skill, with Klingberg, Brassard and Lowry chief among them. The forwards group in general has quite a bit of overall grit. Prospect Weaknesses: Beyond Mark Scheifele, there isn't any player in the system you would consider to be a top-notch prospect. There's also a lack in potential top 9 skilled forwards in general, which is compounded by the number of players that have hit a wall in the former Thrashers' organization. On the back end, they lack a true high-caliber player and depth behind the top 3 or 4 prospects. The goaltending prospects in the organization are not high-quality. Outlook: There's a case to be made that the Jets' previous incarnation was arguably the worst-run franchise in the NHL since the turn of the new millennium. And the Jets followed a similar seasonal path as the Thrashers did, looking as if they could be a playoff team right up until gut-check time, where they bowed out of the postseason race and ended up finishing 11th in the East. The team, playing in front of the best home crowds in the league, ended up losing out on the postseason race due to inconsistency among depth names such as Nik Antropov and Ron Hainsey. But there is reason to be optimistic again this season. Evander Kane looks like he'll be an NHL star for a long time, Blake Wheeler broke out despite just 17 goals, Zach Bogosian seemed to finally be living up to the hype of his 3rd overall selection, and Ondrej Pavelec was one of the few things keeping the team competitive. And with the annual "Our young guns will improve" in Alexander Burmistrov, Paul Postma and Mark Scheifele, the Jets look like they could be a player in the East if everything works out alright in Winnipeg. The Jets will hope to build off of a box office success in their first season with playoff success in the second. While nothing is a sure bet in the NHL, the Jets look to be near the top of the teams fighting for the last few playoff berths in the East.
  21. Part 10 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Already a third of the way through! Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #21: Carolina Hurricanes Top Fws: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner Top Ds: Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain Top G: Cam Ward Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Jeff Skinner (20) 2. F Jordan Staal (23)*(This one is kinda unfair, but he really doesn't turn 24 3. D Justin Faulk (20) until September and that's still 2 months away) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Ryan Murphy (19) 2. F Zac Dalpe (22) 3. F Victor Rask (19) 4. D Danny Biega (20) 5. D Bobby Sanguinetti (24) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: D Overall: D Organizational Strengths: They have accrued some highly skilled players up front. Eric and Jordan Staal make for a strong 1-2 punch up the middle while Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen and Alex Semin fill out what is on paper a very capable top 6. The Canes also have a solid group of defensemen and Cam Ward is a top goalie in the NHL. Organizational Weaknesses: Up front, the team lacks depth on its bottom 6 forward lines. While the Canes have two solid scoring lines, that benefit is mitigated somewhat by the uneven seasons they all had last year, and beyond Eric Staal none of the otehr forwards can be relied upon as a true top flight scorer. Joni Pitkanen is a solid top pairing defender but the rest of the cast is more suited to a 2nd pairing role (or lower). Prospect Strengths: Quite simply, Ryan Murphy is the jewel of the whole pool. An offensive dynamo not seen in the OHL since Ryan Ellis, Murphy leads a group of talented defenders in the Canes' development system. They have a few high-caliber players at the center position; Victor Rask made a seamless adjustment to North American hockey and Zac Dalpe has been plying his trade in the AHL. Prospect Weaknesses: They are weak in net in terms of both talent and depth, even with the two new prospects from this year's draft. The Hurricanes also lack in skilled players at the wing positions, particularly on the right side. While they have a few defenders who look like they'll be NHL caliber players, they don't really have a lot of depth at the position either. Outlook: Carolina has been middling beyond a surprise run to the Conference finals in 2009. Even though they've got two franchise cornerstones in Eric Staal and Cam Ward, the team has not been able to find any lasting success in the post-lockout era. Despite this, they've done very well with the development of many of their prospects, with names like McBain, Skinner, Faulk and the now-departed Brandon Sutter all playing key roles on their NHL squad. In an attempt to find some support up the middle, the Canes managed to acquire Jordan Staal. While Jordan Staal, a former second overall pick, is a skilled player, it's unlikely he'll turn around what ails the Canes. And for a team that has missed the playoffs each of the past 3 seasons, and 5 of the last 7, the team's prospect pool isn't as strong as it could be. The Canes will likely be among the teams fighting in the East for a playoff spot. However, their future remains cloudy at the moment.
  22. Part 9 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #22: Los Angeles Kings Top Fws: Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards Top Ds: Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell Top G: Jonathan Quick Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Drew Doughty (22) 2. D Slava Voynov (22) 3. F Kyle Clifford (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Tyler Toffoli (20) 2. D Derek Forbort (20) 3. F Nick Shore (19) 4. D Jake Muzzin (23) 5. D Nicolas Deslauriers (21) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: D Diversity: C Overall: D Organizational Strengths: The Kings possess a group of forwards that perfectly blend grit and toughness with high-end skill. Kopitar has grown into one of the premier players at his position and he is followed by one of the toughest group of centers in the league with Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser lining up behind him. Jonathan Quick is developing into a franchise tender and Drew Doughty is one of the top defensemen in the world, meaning the Kings have one of the best players at each respective position. Organizational Weaknesses: Behind Doughty, the defense is a little thin (albeit serviceable). They lack another major puckmoving blueliner on the backend after the trade of Jack Johnson (although Slava Voynov looks to be growing into the role). Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi are not getting any younger. Prospect Strengths: The goaltending pipeline remains as deep as ever with Chris Gibson leading the charge. The Kings also have some depth up front with Tyler Toffoli leading a skilled group of somewhat diminutive scorers in Brandon Kozun, Jordan Weal and Linden Vey. The defense position has some decent prospects as well, and they've got a couple of players with potential at the NCAA level in Nick Shore and Derek Forbort. Prospect Weaknesses: Most of the high quality prospects in the Kings' system have already graduated to the big club, and even some of the lesser prospects as well. Andrei Loktionov, Slava Voynov, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan look to be in for the long haul and the Kings have not yet been able to replace the players in the system. Due to trades and postseason runs the Kings lack bluechip prospects in the system. Outlook: The reigning Stanley Cup Champions crushed just about everybody on their way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup. The Kings relied on a core of four homegrown talents in Kopitar, Doughty, captain Dustin Brown, and all-world goalie Jonathan Quick, supplemented by some key acquisitions through trade and free agency in Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Willie Mitchell, Justin Williams and Dustin Penner to bring the Cup to LA. While the franchise's prospect cupboards are thin, they have a group of young players at the NHL level which minimizes the need for young players in their development system. Dean Lombardi has shown an ability to find key complementary pieces for his team's pillars in Kopitar, Doughty and Quick. Given the fact that the Kings have locked up all of their players for at least the upcoming season, though, it doesn't seem like he'll need to make many moves to retain his team's status as a top team in the NHL. The Kings look like they've been built to win for the next few years and possibly the future as well. The Kings should remain among the top 8 in the West and will get a chance to show this season whether that dominating postseason run was an aberration or a sign of things to come.
  23. Part 8 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #23: Philadelphia Flyers Top Fws: Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell Top Ds: Chris Pronger*, Kimmo Timonen Top G: Ilya Bryzgalov Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Wayne Simmonds (23) 2. F Jakub Voracek (23) 3. F Sean Couturier (19) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Nick Cousins (19) 2. F Eric Wellwood (22) 3. F Scott Laughton (18) 4. D Brandon Manning (22) 5. F Ben Holmstrom (25) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: D Diversity: D Overall: D Organizational Strengths: The amount of young talent they have on their current NHL roster is outstanding. Claude Giroux looks like he’ll be a franchise cornerstone for years to come (and is still just 24), Sean Couturier was one of the best rookies to play in the NHL last year and Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek are not yet past 23. Matt Read was a surprise last year and is just turning 25, and the Flyers have seen players like Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon come up and hold their own on the backend. Organizational Weaknesses: Chris Pronger looks like he’ll be on the IR for a while, which is a devastating loss for the Flyers. Kimmo Timonen is getting up in years. When healthy the backend is one of the best from top to bottom but their best contributors are aging and they lack a true top pairing defenseman after the aforementioned Pronger and Timonen. Ilya Bryzgalov was spotty last year for the Flyers and without any help coming from within the organization the Flyers will have to hope that his next season will be much improved. Prospect Strengths: The Flyers are not lacking in grinding, two-way forwards. Tye McGinn, Scott Laughton, Eric Wellwood and Mike Testwuide all project to be bottom 6 contributors. They also have a few boom-or-bust prospects in Nick Cousins, Marcel Noebels and Brandon Manning, who all look to be potential contributors inside a team’s top 9 or top 4. Ben Holmstrom and Tom Sestito offer some sandpaper and toughness into the forward corps and there is some depth behind the D in Ricard Blidstrand, Blake Kessel and Colin Suellentrop. Prospect Weaknesses: There is no gamebreaking talent anywhere in their prospect ranks. For a team that has perennially struggled in net, they lack goaltending talent. There is also little in the way of true prospects at any of the forward positions. Their best young players have already hit the NHL ranks and because of that the cupboards are the barest in the league. Outlook: Paul Holmgren, he of the "Balls of Iron" himself, has crafted a skilled contender in Philadelphia. If there's one thing that can be said in Philly, it's that every year they are expected to contend for the Cup and if they don't, well, Holmgren is not afraid of making headlines. With their perennial playoff aspirations, the Flyers have been willing to trade high quality picks for immediate help, resulting in a depleted pool of prospects. However, that has not resulted in any problem at the NHL level. With the two big trades of last offseason, Holmgren managed to acquire 4 highly regarded young players in Simmonds, Voracek, Couturier and former top prospect Brayden Schenn. Adding these 4 players to an already potent group of 20 somethings such as Giroux, Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn and the now-departed James van Riemsdyk allowed the Flyers to remain competitive while also getting younger and faster. While names like Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell are getting up there in age, the core group of players are all still just heading into their primes. The Flyers should remain a playoff contender next season and should be well-off in the future....at least for now.
  24. Part 6 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #25: New Jersey Devils Top Fws: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique Top Ds: Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov Top G: Martin Brodeur Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Adam Henrique (22) 2. D Adam Larsson (19) 3. F Jacob Josefsson (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Jon Merrill (20) 2. D Alexander Urbom (21) 3. D Eric Gelinas (21) 4. G Scott Wedgewood (20) 5. D Reece Scarlett (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: D Diversity: D Overall: D Organizational Strengths: Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of the best players in the game, and he's joined on a forward corps that has Patrik Elias, who successfully converted to center, and rookie phenom Adam Henrique. The organization also has a solid group of young players both on the roster and in the system; names like Jacob Josefsson and Adam Larsson will likely be heard out of Newark for years to come. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg make for a solid, if wizened, goaltending duo. Organizational Weaknesses: The Devils lack severely on the backend. Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky are good players to be sure, but on any other squad they're number 3 or 4 guys at best. Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson are still young and prone to rookie slipups. There is no true scoring RW on the team, and even if David Clarkson is a good player he'll be hardpressed to match his career high 30 goals of this last season. Prospect Strengths: If there's one thing the Devils know, it's defense. And it's shown in their prospect pools; Jon Merrill, while controversial, is a potential top pairing defenseman, and he's joined by a cast of fellow prospects such as Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Damon Severson and Reece Scarlett that provide depth on the blueline. They've also built up their goalie pool and while none of the goalies look like franchise netminders, they have depth at the position. Prospect Weaknesses: Two words: scoring forwards. While the backend is solid, the forward prospect group is likely the worst in the NHL. Reid Boucher looks like the only potential top 6 forward, and he underwhelmed to begin his OHL career. Their latest first rounder, Stefan Matteau, projects as a very solid 3rd liner checker. Even grinding type 4th liners are few and far between. To compound that fact, there is no depth, especially on the right side. Outlook: New Jersey surprised most everyone when they elected to keep their first round pick in a year where they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Lou Lamouriello has a penchant for pulling off risky moves that pan out and his team responded with a tremendous postseason after barely holding off the Florida Panthers, one that would have been labelled remarkable for a 6th seed had the LA Kings not overshadowed them with an even more unlikely romp through the playoffs as an 8th seed. Unfortunately, a largely successful campaign was overshadowed by the loss of their captain and face of the franchise in Zach Parise. However, the Devils have lost more than a few impact players over the years and have survived each time, and this time is no exception. They have a core of young talent to build around, led by 4th overall pick Adam Larsson and clutch rookie Adam Henrique, to go along with their savvy veterans on the roster. Depending on the development of players such as the aforementioned Larsson and Henrique, 2008 1st rounder Mattias Tedenby and 2009 1st rounder Jacob Josefsson, the team will remain among the teams fighting for the playoffs next season.
  25. Part 5 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #26: Dallas Stars Top Fws: Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder Top Ds: Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas Top G: Kari Lehtonen Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Jamie Benn (23) 2. D Philip Larsen (22) 3. F Tomas Vincour (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Jamie Oleksiak (19) 2. G Jack Campbell (20) 3. F Alex Chiasson (21) 4. F Radek Faksa (18) 5. F Scott Glennie (21) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: B Overall: C Organizational Strengths: There is no shortage of scoring wingers at the pro level. Jamie Benn looks to continue his ascension towards elite forward status, Loui Eriksson already is one and there is depth behind them with Brendan Morrow, Michael Ryder, and newly acquired veterans Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney all more than capable of providing top 6 offense. Kari Lehtonen is a decent number 1 goalie and he's got talent pushing him in the pro ranks with Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany. Organizational Weaknesses: After the departures of Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro, the Stars lack size and skill up the middle with Derek Roy being the only true top 6 center (and an undersized one at that). The defense is thin behind the top 3 of Goligoski, Robidas and Trevor Daley, with a likely combination of youngsters and veterans filling out the last 4 spots. In general, the team lacks grit and snarl up and down their lineup. Prospect Strengths: The Stars have a prospect of note at every position, so there is good variability there, but the biggest strength is up front. The enigmatic Scott Glennie headlines a solid group of wingers such as Reilly Smith and Brett Ritchie who look to have NHL potential. The team has also built a solid group of defensive prospects, with Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, and Ludvig Bystrom chief among them. Prospect Weaknesses: While they have plenty of prospects at varied positions and possessing different qualities, none of them are true "bluechip" diamond-in-the-rough talents. Jack Campbell, the one player who might have been, has been on and off through his career to this point. While the forwards in general are deep, the center and left wing positions are mostly populated by minor leaguers. Outlook: The Stars are in the midst of a massive overhaul. Long gone are the days of aging megastars like Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov; now the team's foundation has been laid upon names like Eriksson and Benn. That isn't to say that the team lacks veteran savvy; newly signed forwards Whitney and Jagr offer as much of that as any other pair in the NHL today and the team still retains key veterans such as Brendan Morrow and Stephane Robidas. Dallas, which has missed the postseason each of the past four seasons, has had to deal with the hiring of a new GM in Joe Nieuwendyk and an unstable ownership situation. With both issues having time to sink in, the Stars have chosen to go the route of a rebuild, signing veteran free agents to remain competitive while using their draft picks wisely. The team has 2 solid starting pieces and a few more that look like they can be and have chosen to rebuild their team around those pieces. The team, while maybe not playoff caliber, will likely still contend for a spot next season and will likely remain competitive throughout the rebuild process.
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