Ranking every NHL team’s prospect pipeline: Why the Sabres are No. 1


The 2023-24 NHL season is winding down, and lots of attention is turning to the draft. Teams will be adding to their prospect pipelines in June, but some teams added to their pipelines at the deadline and through college free agency. Tomas Hertl, Jake Guentzel, Chris Tanev and Elias Lindholm all returned good prospects to the teams that traded them away.

To qualify as a “prospect” for the purposes of this list, the player must be under 23 years old, not a full-time NHL player — to allow for players bouncing between levels (Brendan Brisson, Thomas Bordeleau) — selected in the entry draft, and have his rights owned or signed an entry-level contract as a free agent (Collin Graf). Players who were undrafted and signed to AHL contracts are excluded.

The rankings are based on the sum total value of the prospects in each pool, meaning that some pools with many B- or C-level prospects will be ranked higher than a team with one or two A-level prospects.

After graduating Matthew Poitras and Mason Lohrei this season, the Bruins are the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air standing in an empty room meme; Fabian Lysell plays the part of Will Smith in this iteration. Lysell took another positive step the AHL this season, notching a near point-per-game pace. He has a chance to be a skilled player in the middle six for the Bruins and should get a look out of camp next season.

Jonathan Myrenberg took a positive step, playing regular minutes in the SHL this season, but is a long shot to play NHL minutes. Notably, Jaxon Nelson isn’t officially part of the ranking because he is 24, but the recently signed NCAA free agent has a chance to play a bottom-six role in the NHL as a physical, forechecking presence.

The Islanders’ pipeline lacks impact players, which is largely related to their lack of a first-round selection since 2019.

The Islanders have done fairly well with the players they’ve selected, with Calle Odelius and Danny Nelson representing good value and projectable NHL qualities as a middle-pair defenseman and middle-six winger.

William Dufour, Matthew Maggio and Alex Jefferies all have a chance to be bottom-six, complementary players in the NHL. Given their age, that could happen as soon as next season. Isaiah George has been a victim of circumstance this season, and has all the tools to be a serviceable defenseman that provides depth to a team in a 7D/call-up role.

The Isles need to hit on their first- and second rounders in 2024 to inject some high-end talent into the pipeline.

When you are consistently playing into late May and early June, you’re unlikely to have a deep prospect pool. The Lightning haven’t drafted much in the last five seasons, and it shows.

Isaac Howard and Ethan Gauthier represent the best chance for the Lightning to produce NHL top-six players out of their pipeline. Howard’s offensive production doubled after transferring to Michigan State, a positive sign for his long-term prospects at the NHL level.

Gabriel Szturc and Dylan Duke had productive seasons for their respective teams, and have bottom-six NHL projections. The Lightning lack high-end prospects and prospect depth, understandable given their run of success over the last handful of seasons. They have one fifth-round pick in 2024, along with one sixth and three sevenths.

For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a while, the Senators ought to have more in the cupboards. The Sens have a young roster, and the pool has graduated Shane Pinto, Jake Sanderson and Ridly Greig in the past few years.

Tyler Kleven and Zack Ostapchuk are the only two skaters in the pipeline with confident NHL projections. Kleven’s development, particularly his skating, has improved his projection to be a serviceable bottom-pair defenseman. Ostapchuk projects to be a Swiss army knife in the bottom six who can handle spot duty on the second line when needed.

Tyler Boucher continues to be perplexing and is likely to top out in a bottom-six role as a physical, forechecking presence. Leevi Merilainen represents a projectible future in goal and could see a backup role as soon as next season. Theo Wallberg, Tomas Hamara and Jorian Donovan have NHL projections as depth defensemen and could improve their stock with continued development next season.

When your consistently trade away draft picks and don’t hit home runs on the ones you keep, you end up with bare cupboards. The Oilers’ pipeline lacks a standout prospect, but has a few players with reasonable NHL projections to complement their offensive weapons at the NHL level.

Dylan Holloway is the best prospect in the system, and should pan out as a middle-six winger that scores about 45-50 points every season. Xavier Bourgault projects as a third-line winger at the NHL level who can play a shut-down, penalty-killing role with the ability to chip in around 15 goals.

Beau Akey and Philip Broberg have depth NHL projections, though Akey has a chance to be a middle-pair, transition defenseman with his mobility and ability to read the game.

Given how the Golden Knights use their prospect pipeline, it is somewhat shocking that it isn’t ranked dead last. The defending Stanley Cup champs use their top prospects to bring in immediate help via trade, and it is hard to argue against that strategy given their success.

After trading David Edstrom, the prospect pipeline is rather thin. Brendan Brisson and Lukas Cormier represent the best chances for impact players at the NHL level. Matyas Sapovaliv projects as a middle-six winger with modest confidence, but is most likely a third-line player in the NHL.

Two goaltending prospects, Carl Lindbom and Jiri Patera, have modest NHL projections and provide depth value to the prospect pool. There’s not a lot in the pipeline, but they won the Stanley Cup, which is the goal, after all.

The Panthers have one player projected to be a top-six forward in the NHL, and a few players with a chance to play depth roles. Mackie Samoskevich is most likely to be a second-line winger that creates and produces on the power play. He’s got fantastic skill and ability to read the game, and could make an impact as early as next season.

Justin Sourdif and Jack Devine are both projected to be serviceable, bottom-six players and Gracyn Sawchyn has a less confident projection as a middle-six player.

On the blue line, Mike Benning and Evan Nause have the potential to be more than bottom-pair defenders, but more than likely top out there.

The Devils’ prospect pipeline has thinned out over the last couple of seasons with graduations to the NHL lineup and players aging out.

Simon Nemec graduated from the pool this season, dropping the Devils down the list as their pipeline lacks players projected to be NHL difference makers.

Seamus Casey represents the best chance of a top-4 defenseman in the system, but is more likely to be a solid No. 5 type, who can handle spot duty in a bigger role and run a secondary power-play unit.

Arseni Gritsyuk and Lenni Hameenaho have solid NHL projections as third-line contributors who can chip in offensively. Gritsyuk’s game has continued to evolve and could provide secondary scoring in the 15-goal range. Hameenaho projects to be an NHL winger with reasonable confidence, as he plays a well-rounded game that complements a play driver well.

The Devils are a young team with exciting players who made the jump recently, and their fall in the rankings is more a function of graduations than anything else.

The Penguins have two prospects with legitimate upside, but Owen Pickering’s development plateau is cause for concern. Brayden Yager is the jewel of the prospect pipeline, and represents the real possibility of a top-six winger who can score and distribute the puck. Pickering is projected to play NHL games, though the projection is less confident than it was last season. He’ll need to take a step forward next season to remain a top prospect after his development plateaued this season.

Tristan Broz took another positive step this season and could be a middle-six, offensive contributor. Vasily Ponomaryov and Ville Koivunen — acquired in the Guentzel trade — provide a boost to the pipeline as both have legitimate shots to be NHL players in bottom-six roles.

Joel Blomqvist offers a good option in goal as soon as next season, and projects to be an average NHL starter over his career.

The Leafs jumped a few spots based on the breakout season of Easton Cowan, whose stock is akin to the GameStop meme of a few years ago. Setting point streak records, dominating and being a general nuisance to play against, Cowan has become a blue-chip prospect who’s expected to play a second line role in the NHL.

Artur Akhtyamov represents a real possibility as a starter in goal for the Leafs future. Dennis Hildeby has been solid in his first season with the AHL’s Marlies, giving them depth at the goaltender position.

Fraser Minten and Topi Niemala have NHL projections, and could contribute as soon as next season. Toronto also has some long-shot players with modest NHL projections in Nikita Grebyonkin, Ryan Tverberg, Nicholas Moldenhauer and Jacob Quillan.

Quality over quantity is what the Avalanche have in the pipeline, as Colorado has five players with NHL projections of varying degrees.

Oskar Olausson and Jean-Luc Foudy are projected to be role players in the bottom six. Both players haven’t reached their lofty ceilings, but have improved their skill sets to bring value in a depth role. Cal Ritchie is the lone exciting forward prospect, and projects to be a middle-six play driver at the NHL level.

On the blue line, the Av have two exciting prospects in Sean Behrens and Mikhail Gulyayev. Behrens is on the smaller side and lacks dynamic offense, but he’s good in transition and makes smart decisions away from the puck. Gulyayev performed well in his first KHL season and continued to develop his transition play. An elite skater, Gulyayev has a confident projection as an NHL player with a chance to be a top-four defenseman if his trajectory continues on its current path.

The Rangers’ prospect pool lacks projectible NHL players outside of their top two. Dylan Garand is on the cusp of an NHL projection as a goaltender, but the pipeline value rests with Gabe Perreault and Brennan Othmann.

Perreault had an incredible season in the NCAA and is projected to be a top-six, 70-point player at the NHL level. He will be a key piece of the Rangers offensive scheme for years to come.

Othmann has been good in his first AHL season, bringing much of his offensive game and ability to effectively forecheck, win battles and get under the skin of the opposition. He projects to be a third-line player that plays both special teams.

Dylan Roobroeck and Brett Berard have projectable NHL qualities and should provide the Rangers with depth options at forward.

The value of the pipeline rests with two high-end prospects, Tom Willander and Jonathan Lekkerimaki.

Trading Hunter Brzustewicz in the Lindholm deal hurt the system’s overall value, but Lekkerimaki and Willander are projected for a top-six scoring role and top-four minutes muncher, respectively. Both players carry tremendous value at their respective positions and are more likely to be impact players than not.

Aatu Raty has elevated his stock this season and should be a useful role player in the NHL. Depth defensive prospects Elias Pettersson and Kirill Kudryavtsev have increased their value this season. Pettersson is has a No. 4/5 projection at the NHL level, and Kudryavstev’s development has seen his projection elevate to a tweener that can fill in on the bottom pair.

The Kings’ prospects pipeline has taken a bit of a hit this season due to the graduations of Quinton Byfield, Alex Laferriere and Alex Turcotte.

Brandt Clarke is a blue-chip prospect on defense, and one of the best defensive prospects in the game. He’s got a legitimate chance to be a top-pairing defenseman at the NHL level.

Outside of Clarke, there is a drop off, but projectable depth players boost the Kings up a few spots. Koehn Zimmer, Francesco Pinelli, Kenny Connors and Samuel Helenius have depth NHL projections, with Zimmer having the ability to provide middle-six offense if he can improve his skating.

Matthew Mania and Otto Salin are projected to be bottom-pairing types if they make the jump, and Angus Booth’s season has seen his projection climb to represent the best hope outside of Clarke on the blue line.

The Stars have made it their modus operandi to extract value out of late first-rounders and middle-round picks. They lack depth in the prospect pool, but have a few players who are expected to play major roles at the NHL level.

Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque headline the pool up front, and Lian Bichsel is expected to be a minutes eater on the back end. The expectation is the two forwards will play middle-six roles, while Bichsel plays a second-pair role. Those three represent the bulk of the value in Dallas’ pipeline and there is a drop off after that.

Two defensemen have chances to play meaningful games in Christian Kyrou and Aram Minnetian, while Ayrto Martino has a chance to play in a third line role.

The Caps’ pipeline is buoyed by a few highly touted prospects, but lacks depth. Ryan Leonard is one of the best prospects outside of the NHL, and projects to be a long-term player in the top six who impacts the game at both ends of the ice. His smart passing ability and power game have him projected to be a 60-point player in the NHL.

Ivan Miroshnichenko and Hendrix Lapierre have shown they can make an impact at the NHL level, as both are expected to become long-term middle-six NHL players. Andrew Cristall is a high-risk, high-reward player whose projection is less confident, but his ceiling is as a top-six playmaker.

Other forwards with projectable NHL qualities include Jake Karabela and Zac Funk. The Caps have two defensemen projected to play consistently at the NHL in Ryan Chesley and Vincent Iorio, but neither are expected to be needle movers.

The Flames would likely be few spots higher if Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier had not graduated from the pool. However, Samuel Honzek, Matt Coronato and Aydar Suniev have top-nine NHL projections, with Honzek and Coronato on the cusp of top-six.

There are a few interesting prospects on the blue line, with Hunter Brzustewicz, Etienne Morin, Yan Kuznetsov and Jeremie Poirier all having NHL potential. Brzustewicz and Poirier have the strongest NHL projections, as both are on the cusp of top-four projections.

The Flames lack depth in the prospect pool in terms of NHL talent, but have a few high-value players that could provide impactful NHL minutes as soon as next season.

The Jets have multiple forward prospects expected to be top-nine impact players. Colby Barlow, Chaz Lucius and Rutger McGroarty are projected to be middle-six players, with high probability.

Brad Lambert is a high-risk, high-reward player, but his ceiling is very high and his positive development has made him the projection variance a lot smaller; he could be a middle-six skilled player who provides depth offense.

Other intriguing prospects up front with long-shot NHL projections include Jacob Julien and Nikita Chibrikov.

On defense, there isn’t a prospect with a confident NHL projection, but a few with fair chances to be depth NHL players. Dmitri Kuzmin and Elias Salomonsson have projectable NHL traits, but are likely two years away from such a role.

The Blues are loaded with projectable NHL forward talent, and should be an entertaining team in the coming years.

Dalibor Dvorsky, Jimmy Snuggerud, Zach Dean and Zachary Bolduc are all expected to contribute offensively at the NHL level. The combination of those four players brings a blend on scoring, dynamic transition play, playmaking and forechecking. Add Otto Stenberg — a two-way player who controls the pace of game and looks like a superstar when he’s wearing the Swedish national sweater — and the Blues have five players projected to be impactful in top-nine roles.

The Blues lack the same level of prospects on the blue line, and graduated Joel Hofer in goal. Theo Lindstein and Michael Buchinger have baseline NHL projections, and Quinton Burns is projected to bounce between the NHL and AHL levels.

The Canes are routinely in the “winners” conversation after every draft because they pick high-ceiling players with tons of skill. The strength of their prospect pool is in the depth, with Jackson Blake, Bradly Nadeau and Gleb Trikozov expected to play top-nine roles.

The more impactful players are on defense, with Alexander Nikishin expected to be a top-four defenceman in the very near future, along with the recently signed Scott Morrow.

With five of their top prospects expected to be impactful to varying degrees, and depth in the form of Vladimir Grudinin, Felix Unger Sorum and Jayden Perron, the Canes’ prospect pool remains in good standing despite graduating Pyotr Kochetkov and trading Ponomaryov and Koivunen to the Penguins.

The Kraken have quite a few prospects that are expected to be impactful at the NHL level, led by Shane Wright, a projected top-six, two-way center.

Outside of Wright, the Kraken have Eduard Sale, Jagger Firkus, Carson Rehkopf, David Goyette and Jani Nyman, who all have NHL projections.

The back end is loaded with prospects, with Ryker Evans, Lukas Dragicevic and Caden Price projected to play consistently in the NHL. The Kraken are positioned will in every position except in goal, where they lack value outside of Niklas Kokko.

After graduating Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther this season, the Coyotes fall a few spots.

The pipeline is headlined by Dmitri Simashev and Conor Geekie, who are projected to be impactful NHL players. Josh Doan, Julian Lutz and Daniil But are three intriguing prospects, with Doan making an immediate impact in his late-season recall.

On the back end, Maveric Lamoureux and Artem Duda are projected to be fringe NHL players, while Michael Hrabel is projected to be an NHL-caliber goalie.

The Coyotes lack a true blue-chip prospect, but have depth in the system and a few players projected to have successful NHL careers.

Montreal’s prospect pipeline is headlined by two defensemen expected to make an impact at the NHL level within the next year. Lane Hutson and David Reinbacher play contrasting styles, but both are projected to be top-four NHL defensemen.

The Canadiens have a few other prospects on the blue line that are projected to play NHL games in Sean Farrell, Adam Engstrom and Logan Mailloux.

They lack an impactful top-six forward prospect, but have quite a few players projected to play middle-six roles. Filip Mesar and Joshua Roy are on the cusp of top-six projections, but are more likely to be middle-six contributors, alongside Owen Beck.

The Flyers’ prospect pool took a big hit when they traded Cutter Gauthier to Anaheim earlier this season and Tyson Foerster became a full-time NHL player.

However, the Flyers have the best drafted prospect outside of the NHL in Matvei Michkov. He’s got all the makings of an NHL superstar in the near future. Michkov boosts the Flyers prospect pool rank significantly, as there isn’t much depth behind him.

Oliver Bonk, Emil Andrae and Carter Sotheran all represent a bright future on the Flyers’ blue line. Up front, there are potential middle-six players in Denver Barkey, Elliot Desnoyers and Massimo Rizzo. In goal, the Flyers two intriguing prospects in Alexei Kolosov and Carson Bjarnason.

Michkov is the jewel of the pool, but there are a few others who should make in impact at the NHL level in the next few years.

Minnesota has seen a significant boost to their prospect pool since Judd Brackett took over the scouting department. The Wild have signed the highest percentage of their draftees to entry-level contracts since 2020.

Nevertheless, the Wild are further down the rankings list, due to Brock Faber and Marco Rossi graduating out of the prospect pool this season. Faber is the only challenger to Bedard for the Calder and Rossi is going to get some down-ballot votes as well.

Jesper Wallstedt leads the way among prospects as he looks like Minnesota’s goalie of the future. Up front, the Wild have Liam Ohgren, Danila Yurov, Marat Khusnutdinov and Riley Heidt as potential impact players in the top nine. On the back end, Carson Lambos, Daemon Hunt and Jack Peart all have NHL potential.

The Wild have done a fantastic job drafting and despite the graduation of Faber and Rossi to impactful NHL roles, the Wild remain well positioned for the future.

The Blackhawks would likely be in the top three if Kevin Korchinski returned to junior instead of sticking in the NHL. He and Connor Bedard are no longer prospects, with the latter taking the league by storm.

Chicago has quite a few prospects expected to have an impact at the NHL level, including Frank Nazar, Oliver Moore and Lukas Reichel. On the blue line, Sam Rinzel, Wyatt Kaiser and Nolan Allan are projected be to NHL players.

Chicago’s prospect pool gets a big boost in goal with Adam Gajan, Drew Commesso and Jaxson Stauber in the system.

They have potential impact players at every position in the pool, with good depth when Landon Slaggert, Ryder Rolston, Ethan Del Mastro, and Paul Ludwinski are included in the mix. There is a lot to be excited about in Chicago, as they have the prospects to build a contender around Connor Bedard.

The Predators skyrocketed up the list when GM Barry Trotz stated they would draft players with star potential, and followed that by taking Matthew Wood and Tanner Molendyk in 2023.

The Predators also have Yaroslav Askarov in the AHL, who is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the game. Off the bat, those are three players expected to be key difference makers at all three positions. That’s quite the spot to be in.

Adding to the depth of the prospect pool are a few other prospects that are expected to play in the NHL with varying impact. Fedor Svechkov, Zachary L’Heureux and Joakim Kemell are all projected to be strong middle-six contributors at the NHL level, while Jack Matier, Ryan Ufko, and Philip Tomasino have a chance to be solid NHLers.

There is a lot to like about this prospect pool, from the top end to the depth.

The Ducks have been a top drafting team for over a decade, so there is no surprise that they land in the fifth spot, even without 2023 No. 2 pick Leo Carlsson in the pool.

The Ducks have prospects at every position that are high-end, and would rank higher if rookies Carlsson, Pavel Mintyukov and Lukas Dostal qualified. With a pipeline headlined by Cutter Gauthier and Olen Zelwegger, the Ducks are primed for years of success with a ton of young talent.

Along with Zelwegger, the Ducks have Tristan Luneau, Tyson Hinds and Noah Warren on the blue line to complement Mintyukov, Jackson LaCombe and Drew Helleson. Nathan Gaucher and Sasha Pastujov could be good depth pieces up front for the Ducks.

In total, the Ducks have three players projected to be impactful NHLers and a few more that should be effective depth players.

The Red Wings have collected some top talent in recent drafts, giving them the fourth most valuable prospect pool. Simon Edvinsson leads the way on the back end, but he’s not the only notable defensive prospect in the Red Wings’ pipeline.

Axel Sandin-Pellikka had a fantastic season and has the makings of an impact defenseman. William Willander and Shai Buium are two other candidates to be solid defenders at the NHL level.

The Red Wings have a few high-value prospects in Marco Kasper and Nate Danielson at center and Trey Augustine in goal.

At least four of the players in the Red Wings pool are projected to be impactful NHL players, with three more projected to be NHL-caliber. There is a lot to like about Detroit’s future with the level of prospects they have at every position.

There is quite a bit to be excited about in San Jose, and while the current team is tough to watch, help is on the way.

The Sharks’ prospect pool is valued highly due to the plethora of high-ceiling prospects, including Will Smith, Quentin Musty and Mattias Havelid. All three of those players have the potential to be difference makers at the NHL level.

Outside of that trio, the value of the pool is buoyed by the presence of Luca Cagnoni on the back end, and several potential middle-six players in Filip Bystedt, Daniil Gushchin, Cam Lund and Thomas Bordeleau.

While the strength of the pipeline is in the forwards, Luca Cagnoni and Shakir Mukhamadullin are other notable defensive prospects outside of Havelid.

A close second in the ranking, the Blue Jackets’ prospect pool has many players capable of impacting the game at the NHL level.

They lack the top-six center in their pipeline because Adam Fantilli jumped directly into the NHL and Dmitri Voronkov graduated out of the pipeline.

The strength of the prospect pool is on the blue line, with blue-chip prospects in David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk. Adding to those two are Stanislav Svozil, Corson Ceulemans and Samuel Knazko. They’ve also added quite a few skilled forwards to the pool in recent drafts by selecting Gavin Brindley, Jordan Dumais and Luca Del Bel Belluza.

The Sabres use a unique blend of analytical tools and scouting to approach the draft, and very clearly, approach every pick with the “best player available” mantra. They don’t shy away from the typical tropes of smaller players, evidenced by their selection of Zach Benson after he slipped out of the top 10 in 2023.

They’ve graduated the likes of Benson, Owen Power, JJ Peterka, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Peyton Krebs to their NHL lineup, while still having a plethora of talented players at every position.

This is a well-rounded pool that includes Devon Levi in goal, Maxim Strbak and Gavin McCarthy on defense, and a collection of high-value forwards in Jiri Kulich, Matt Savoie and Noah Ostlund. They have projectible NHL players at every position, four potential impact players, and good depth to round out the best prospect pool in the NHL.

Articles You May Like

Possible compensation payments for Infected blood scandal victims published
Oil prices bounce back from three-month lows, but still heading for weekly loss
World’s first major law for artificial intelligence gets final EU green light
Tesla could use more of Elon Musk’s focus, former board member says
Hims & Hers Health adds compounded GLP-1 injections to weight loss program