With the NHL Entry Draft straight ahead, TSN.ca kicks off a full two weeks of coverage going into the big night (Friday, June 26 at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN and TSN HD). It continues here with Prospect Insider Shane Malloy's Eastern Conference preview, followed by Bob McKenzie's annual prospect rankings on Monday and Pierre McGuire's TSN Mock Draft on Tuesday.
In Boston, the winds of changes are blowing strong with a blossoming team. They almost have enough talent in the Farm System to be a perennial contender, but a few more skilled bodies will make all the difference. Getting Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic rolling was the first step and a drafting centres Zach Hamill and Joe Colborne helped. The Bruins know that if defence wins championships, they are right on track with goaltender Tuukka Rask and Andrew Bodnarchuk and Tommy Cross leading the blueline. It would not hurt to add another couple of skilled defencemen since they traded Matt Lashoff and Jonathan Sigalet.
Top Draft Pick: 25th overall
Key Prospects: (C) Zach Hamill (D) Tommy Cross, (G) Tuukka Rask, (C) Joe Colborne, (C) Brad Marchand
Strengths: Goaltending and Centre
Draft Needs: Offensive Defence, Skilled Winger
Since Trevor Timmins joined the club as Director of Player Recruitment and Development in 2001, the Canadiens' farm system has done a complete 180 compared to previous drafts. Do not discount the talent they have collected up front, as the Habs have plenty of potential. While they have a good variety of talent up front in Max Pacioretty, Ben Maxwell, Kyle Chipchura, Danny Kristo and Ryan White, so the future has promise. They could, however, could use a couple more bodies at forward depending on how many prospects find full time duty next season. They are stacked on defence with Ryan McDonagh, Yannick Weber, P.K. Subban, David Fischer and Mathieu Carle showing lots of potential. The talented Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak have impressed many with their pro success, especially being so young. The Habs could get need another goaltender to groom for the long term - just in case.
Key Prospects: (D) Ryan McDonagh, (C) Kyle Chipchura, (D) David Fischer, (LW) Max Pacioretty, (D) Yannick Weber, (D) P.K. Subban, (C-W) Ben Maxwell
Strengths: Talented depth at defense gives them the opportunity to focus in other areas.
Draft Needs: Offensive skilled centre
The Senators have had a strong history of drafting and developing prospects. They no longer have the depth of elite talent they once had, but do have some potential NHL players ready to go. Up front, they have Ilya Zubov, Jim O'Brien, Cody Bass, Shawn Weller, Kaspars Daugavins, Zack Smith and Louie Caporusso, but none of them are considered first line players. The strength is on the blueline, where things look bright with Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Eric Gryba, and Tomas Kudelka. For the long term, the Senators must focus on obtaining offensively skilled forwards over the next few drafts.
Top Draft Pick: 9th overall
Key Prospects: (D) Erik Karlsson, (D) Patrick Wiercioch, (D) Brian Lee, (C) Jim O'Brien, (C) Ilya Zubov
Strengths: Solid two-way forwards.
Needs: Skilled Forward, Goaltender
Toronto Maple Leafs
When you trade away your first round picks and prospects for immediate help, it will come back to haunt you sooner or later. Now they do have a few potential NHL players in the mix, but the overall depth and offensive talent is not considered elite. Only Jiri Tlusty, Nikolai Kulemin and Jimmy Hayes are projected as top nine forwards at their peak. The remaining group of Dale Mitchell, Chad Rau, Ben Winnett, Matt Frattin and Chris DiDomenico are projected to be anywhere from third liners to journeymen players in the minors. The only defencemen they have in the system of note is Phil Oreskovic, so the Leafs need a serious upgrade on the blueline as well. If they can continue to sign prospects out of the NCAA ranks, it will hasten the rebuilding process and put less pressure on other youngsters.
Top Draft Pick: 7th
Key Prospects: (RW) Jimmy Hayes, (LW) Jiri Tlusty, (D) Phil Oreskovic, (RW) Nikolai Kulemin, (RW) Dale Mitchell
Strengths: Role players
The Sabres have been quietly assembling a fine group of prospects with character and the ability to play a two-way game. On the offensive side, the future is Tyler Ennis and Nate Gerbe - with the offensive talent waning after that. It will be interesting to see if their new philosophy of using more video than scouts in the rinks goes in the future. Their defence has some underrated talent with Dennis Persson, Chris Butler, Mike Weber, T.J. Brennan, Michael Funk and Chris Butler. They have Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth in the mix, but they could use another high-end goaltender.
Top Draft Pick: 13th
Key Prospects: (D) Chris Butler (D) Tyler Myers, (D) Marc-Andre Gragnani, (RW) Tyler Ennis (G) Jhonas Enroth
Strengths: Good depth and talent at defence
Draft Needs: Skilled Forwards, Goaltender
The Hurricanes know that if you don't protect your own end of the ice you have no chance of winning a championship, let alone games. They have been fortunate in the last few years to take Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk in the first round, adding talent and character. Defencemen Brett Carson, Casey Borer and Jamie McBain are all in different stages of development and have potential, but the Canes could use an elite player on the blueline. Things are a little rosier when it comes to depth at forward, where they have Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Chris Terry and Bobby Hughes. They have one goaltending prospect of note in Justin Peters, so the Canes need to re-stock this area over the next couple of drafts.
Top Draft Pick: 27th overall
Key Prospects: (C) Brandon Sutter, (LW) Drayson Bowman, (C) Zach Boychuk, (D) Brett Carson, (D) Casey Borer, (G) Justin Peters
Strengths: Talent and depth on forward.
Draft Needs: Defence and Goaltending.
When you are building an organization, nothing is more vital to your long-term success than the entry draft. That said, it will be up to Dan Marr and his crew to keep the farm system moving in the right direction. They have some NHL-ready defencemen and depth with Zach Bogosian, Boris Valabik, Scott Lehman, Chad Denny, Paul Postma and Nathan Oystrick. Up front, they have a group of potential role players led by Daulton Leveille, Angelo Esposito, Riley Holzapfel, Nicklas Lasu, Danick Paquette and Andrew Kozek. Between the pipes, the Thrashers have one elite prospect in Ondrej Pavelec, who has the capacity to play in the NHL. It never hurts to have depth and talent in net, so the Thrashers will need to draft another netminder soon.
Top Draft Pick: 4th overall
Key Prospects: (D) Boris Valabik, (RW) Spencer Machacek, (C) Riley Holzapfel, (G) Ondrej Pavelec, (C) Angelo Esposito, (D) Zach Bogosian
Strengths: Depth Forwards and Defencemen
Draft Needs: Elite Skilled Forwards, Goaltending depth
The Panthers have had a wealth of talent in their Farm System over the past couple of years. With the graduation of Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, Rostislav Olesz, Michael Frolik and Greg Campbell up front, a new group of prospects have taken their place. Their top three forward prospects - Shawn Matthias, Michal Repik and Michael Frolik - all have the potential to be front line players in the NHL one day. In goal, David Shantz and the talented Jacob Markstrom give them a bright future. With only defencemen Keaton Ellerby and Colby Robak of note, the Panthers will need to add some additional talent on the blueline.
Top Draft Pick: 14th overall
Key Prospects: (RW) Shawn Matthias, (G) Jacob Markstrom, (RW) Anthony Stewart, (G) Tyler Plante, (RW) Michal Repik, (D) Keaton Ellerby
Strengths: Elite Talent in Goal, Nice depth and talent at forward.
Draft Needs: Defence
In a decade, people will look back at the 2004 through 2008 drafts as the catalyst for a potential Cup-winning team in Washington. They have a few forwards with offensive potential with the likes of Francois Bouchard, Chris Bourque and Anton Gustafsson. They have excellent possibilities on defence with Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto, Joe Finley and Josh Godfrey. This group will need another few years before they become a threat for roster spots, but the franchise is on the right path. Goaltenders Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are both capable of being No. 1 goaltenders in the NHL.
Top Draft Pick: 24th overall
Key Prospects: (D) Karl Alzner, (C) Anton Gustafsson, (D) Sami Lepisto, (G) Simeon Varlamov, (G) Michal Neuvirth, (D) John Carlson
Strengths: Elite Goaltending, Defensive Depth and Talent
Draft Needs: Skilled Forwards
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa's farm system is in need of offensive talent since their current crop of forwards are not developing as expected. The Lightning are far removed from their 2004 Stanley Cup victory and the lustre has worn off - they will need prospects to develop and replace their veterans. They have one gem to begin to build around in Steven Stamkos, but his talent will not be enough to help turn things around. The Lightning have some potential role players in Dana Tyrell, Mitch Fadden, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and James Wright - who might have a chance to play on the third or fourth lines on a regular basis. With acquisition of Ty Wishart - San Jose's first round pick in 2006 - they have a fine piece to a blueline that could include Vladimir Mihalik, Kevin Quick and Matt Smaby. Fortunately, the Lightning drafted two goaltenders of the future in Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski, who both have the potential to be NHLers. They could use a couple of offensive defencemen in the mix, along with offensive forwards over the next couple of drafts.
Top Draft Pick: 2nd overall
Key Prospects: Key Prospects: (G) Riku Helenius, (D) Vladimir Mihalik, (G) Dustin Tokarski, (D) Ty Wishart, (C-W) Dana Tyrell,
Strengths: Goaltending, Depth and size on defence.
Draft Needs: Skilled Defence and Forwards
New York Rangers
For the first time in a while, the Rangers not only have good depth, but legitimate NHL potential in the system. The strength is on the back end, with Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy and Michael Sauer bringing unique skills to the table. Up front, the Rangers have Lauri Korpikoski and Artem Anisimov ready to contribute consistently in the NHL soon. Evgeni Gratchev, Tom Pyatt, Brodie Dupont, Ryan Hillier and Dane Byers could one day be NHL role players with their defensive responsibility and leadership. They have Antoine LaFleur in goal, but he has not reached elite level talent so the Rangers could use more netminders to groom.
Top Draft Pick: 19th overall
Key Prospects: (D) Michael Del Zotto, (LW) Lauri Korpikoski, (D) Bobby Sanguinetti, (C) Artem Anisimov, (D) Michael Sauer
Strengths: Good depth and talent on defence.
Draft Needs: Skilled Forwards, Goaltending
New York Islanders
The organization has talent and depth up front with the likes of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau in the NHL. They also have Corey Trivino, David Toews, Rhett Rakhshani, Kirill Petrov and Jesse Joensuu in the system. With only Dustin Kohn and Mark Katic standing out on defence, they could use some more depth and talent on the blue line. The addition of Aaron Ness, Travis Hamonic and Jiri Niemi helps, but the club needs a potential number one or two defenceman. The fact they do not have one elite prospect in goal is a major concern.
Top Draft Picks: 1st overall, 26th overall
Key Prospects: Key Prospects: (C) Corey Trivino, (C) Josh Bailey, (D) Dustin Kohn, (D) Aaron Ness, (RW) Jesse Joensuu
Strengths: Good depth
Draft Needs: Skilled forward, puck moving defenceman, goaltender
New Jersey Devils
Regardless of where they draft, the Devils always manage to unearth good talent and develop them into solid professionals. They understand the dynamics of nurturing young players, as Dave Conte's crew who always seems to find the intangibles in players that other teams do not see. They have a group of forwards that include Mattias Tedenby, Nicklas Bergfors, Matt Halischuk Nick Palmieri and Mike Hoeffel - who could play on the second or third lines. The Devils also have depth on defence with Tyler Eckford, Brandon Burlon, Matt Corrente and T.J. Miller. The goaltending situation could be addressed, with Jeff Frazee as the only prospect with NHL potential in the system. They could use a couple of more skilled forwards and another elite goaltender to groom before Martin Brodeur retires.
Top Draft Pick: 23rd overall
Key Prospects: (RW) Nicklas Bergfors, (RW) Matt Halischuk, (LW) Mattias Tedenby , (D) Tyler Eckford, (D) Brandon Burlon
Strengths: Good depth at defence
Draft Needs: Skilled Forwards, Goaltender
The Flyer's fortunes have changed quickly for the better, with Andreas Nodl, Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk ready to contribute on the top two forward lines. On the back end, Ryan Parent, Luca Sbisa, Kevin Marshall and Oskars Bartulis give them good depth. One thing the Flyers are missing is an elite goaltending prospect in the long term. The club can safely focus on overall depth and most importantly, a potential No. 1 netminder in this NHL draft.
Top Draft Pick: 21st overall
Key Prospects: (RW) Claude Giroux, (D) Ryan Parent, (D) Luca Sbisa, (RW) James Van Riemsdyk, (RW) Andreas Nodl
Strengths: Good depth and talent at defense and forward positions.
Weaknesses: Elite goaltenders to groom.
Draft Needs: Goaltending
It will take some time to renew the stocks for the Stanley Cup champions. If they wish to build a dynasty, the shrewd draft choices will have to begin now. Their system looks depleted compared to other clubs, with since three of their last four first rounders in the lineup and Angelo Esposito traded away. On the forward ranks, they are hoping Luca Caputi, Keven Veilleux, Nick Johnson, Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Nathan Moon can develop. The addition of Eric Tangradi was an added bonus to the Farm System and he can fill in the grit factor. The defence has a very promising offensive-minded blueliner in Alex Goligoski, who played a good rookie season in the NHL. Behind him are Carl Sneep, Brian Strait, Alex Grant and Robert Bortuzzo, who need additional time to learn their craft. Adding another skilled forward, a top four defenceman and a couple of goaltenders are a must for the Farm System.
Top Draft Pick: 30th overall
Key Prospects: (LW/C) Casey Pierro-Zabotel, (D) Alex Goligoski, (RW) Eric Tangradi, (LW) Luca Caputi, (RW) Nick Johnson
Strengths: Gritty hard working forwards and one potential top defenceman.
Draft Needs: Everything - Skilled Forwards, Defence, Goaltending