Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2019 Organizational Prospect Rankings (31-21)
After going through the top 10 prospects of every team in the NHL and giving full scouting reports, we will now be ranking each team’s prospect pools.
Note: If you click on the team name, you will get a link to a full prospect report on that team. The snippets here are just a taste of the information available.
31.) San Jose Sharks
Top prospect Ryan Merkley has a ton of offensive talent but also has major question marks surrounding his defensive game, coachability, and attitude. Looking at the system, he is the only player who looks like he could play on a top-line or top defence pair. Players such as Dylan Gambrell, Sasha Chmelevski, and Ivan Chekhovich appear to top out as middle-six options if they reach their ceiling.
30.) Washington Capitals
In Ilya Samsonov, the Capitals have one of the top goalie prospects in the World. The system also has a talented defender in Alex Alexeyev, while 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael looks good upfront. Overall though, the system needs a real infusion of elite quality and depth.
29.) Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Lauko lead the way for the Bruins in terms of key prospects. Some strange picks over the years, including Zachary Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril, and Trent Frederic have left many scratching their heads. The Bruins hope that their most recent off-the-board first-round pick in John Beecher develops better than those previous selections.
After trading away a number of prospects and picks at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, the Blue Jackets system now shows the results of those trades. They have talented forwards in Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom, and Liam Foudy; along with a talented defender in Vladislav Gavrikov. However, the overall depth of the system has been decimated.
27.) Winnipeg Jets
Kristian Vesalainen has legitimate top-line potential. He is an offensive dynamo. The Jets hope that Sami Niku, Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, and Logan Stanley can join Josh Morrissey to form the nucleus of a rebuilt defence core over the next several seasons. Mason Appleton could fit in the middle six.
26.) Calgary Flames
An unfortunate off-season injury to Juuso Valimaki will prevent the Flames top prospect from earning a spot on the blue line out of training camp this year. It also opens the door for number two prospect Oliver Kylington to get a full-time role on the blueline. Dillon Dube also has a chance to win a role on the forward group.
25.) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins moved up the rankings by acquiring Pierre-Oliver Joseph and drafting Samuel Poulin this year. Solid seasons from Calen Addison, Filip Hallander, Justin Almeida and Jordy Bellerive also proved that Penguins’ depth is improving. There is still some improvements that can be made.
24.) Minnesota Wild
Winger Matthew Boldy was a top winger on one of the best US NTDP teams in history. Meanwhile, Kirill Kaprizov is one of the top forwards in the KHL but bringing him to North America has been an issue. Centre Alexander Khovanov missed time in his draft year and fell to the third round of the 2018 Draft. He could be a steal for the Wild. Beyond that, the depth in the system needs to be improved.
23.) Nashville Predators
Dante Fabbro looks ready to jump right in and take a top-four role with the Predators. Eeli Tolvanen is close to NHL ready and has the potential to be a top-line winger. First-round pick Philip Tomasino is a dynamic skater who had a solid rise up draft rankings last season. From here the Predators have some solid depth pieces on the blue line.
22.) Dallas Stars
Winger Jason Robertson led the entire CHL in points last season. 2018 first-round pick Ty Dellandrea had a solid season on a poor Flint Firebirds team. They will add scoring to the Stars in the near future, though perhaps not this season. Denis Gurianov took a step forward this past season. Jake Oettinger is the goalie of the future.
21.) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have a talented group of forwards at the NHL level. They now hope that defencemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren will provide the same type of talented youth on the blue line. Jeremy Bracco was one of the more dynamic forwards in the AHL last season, especially on the power play. Beyond that, the Leafs depth has taken a hit with a number of graduates in recent seasons. The rest of their prospects look like depth pieces.
LAVAL, QC – NOVEMBER 13: Look on Toronto Marlies defenceman Rasmus Sandin (8) at warm-up before the Toronto Marlies versus the Laval Rocket game on November 13, 2018, at Place Bell in Laval, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)