Ranking the 30 NHL farm systems
Every day this week, theScore's hockey editors are evaluating NHL teams on a different level of management. This time, we're focusing on farm systems, ranking them based on prospect talent, affiliate stability and proximity to the parent clubs.
30. Los Angeles Kings
The Ontario Reign captured the Pacific Division last season, but their crop of high-impact prospects remains slim.
The Kings have their fingers crossed that Adrian Kempe will translate his World Juniors success to the North American game, that Erik Cernak can be molded into a steady big-bodied defender, and that Mike Amadio will keep scoring like he did last season in the OHL.
29. Ottawa Senators
It's been a tough year for the Ottawa Senators' farm system.
The Binghamton Senators finished with the fourth-worst record in the AHL and their highly-touted draftee, Thomas Chabot, failed to impress at development camp. They still have Colin White, Logan Brown, and Matt O'Connor, but the herd is thin.
28. Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are hurting. The club's AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, finished with the fourth-worst record in the West.
Only Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher, and Tyson Jost stand out in their prospect pool. The 933-mile trip from Denver to San Antonio isn't ideal either.
27. Minnesota Wild
The Iowa Wild finished last in the AHL this past season. Joel Eriksson Ek -- plucked 20th overall in 2015 -- is the team's most intriguing prospect with Alex Tuch not far behind.
Mike Reilly could still pan out, but has yet to show the same elite play in the NHL that he did in the NCAA.
26. Pittsburgh Penguins
There's a price to be paid for winning the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins' AHL club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton remains strong, but with few high-end prospects outside Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Derrick Pouliot, and Daniel Sprong, the organization might just have to settle for the Cup.
25. New York Rangers
Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei are the Rangers' best bets to jump into the lineup. The club's prospect pool is shallow, as testified by the Hartford Wolf Pack's playoff miss.
24. Washington Capitals
The Hershey Bears remain one of the strongest clubs in the AHL, but in terms of young prospects, there isn't much to choose from.
The club's 2014 first-round pick, Jakub Vrana, has shown promise. Defenseman Madison Bowey has also been a bright light, and that's a positive sign with defense being the Washington's weakest point.
23. Nashville Predators
Predators fans are still waiting for Kevin Fiala to jump into the lineup full time.
Fiala led the Milwaukee Admirals to a third-place finish in the AHL, but were swept in the first round. Vladislav Kamenev and Yakov Trenin are two other prospects to watch for, but don't expect the world from them.
22. Dallas Stars
Devin Shore, Brett Ritchie, and Radek Faksa are just a sample of the youngsters likely to be regulars for the Stars before long. The Texas Stars are in close proximity to their NHL club and just three years removed from a Calder Cup championship.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning's prospect pool isn't what it used to be and if you're unsure as to why, just take a look at their current NHL roster.
Eleven Lightning players have come up from the Syracuse Crunch since the 2012-13 season. Slater Koekkoek and Brayden Point are among those who could follow suit, but for now the majority of the organization's young talent can already be found within the big club.
20. Florida Panthers
Lawson Crouse might have been be a steal with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft, having put up 62 points in 49 games in the OHL last season.
However, the remainder of the club's young talent is lacking outside of Jayce Hawryluk, and with 2,682 miles between Portland and Sunrise, call-ups are making quite the trek.
19. Chicago Blackhawks
Three Stanley Cups over the last seven seasons mean the Blackhawks haven't acquired many high-end prospects.
However, Ville Pokka -- a steal in the second round in 2012 -- and Nick Schmaltz, who was signed out of college in 2014, are two outstanding prospects that should complement the club perfectly when their time comes.
18. Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks need help, and fast.
They have Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi, and Brock Boeser coming, but their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, are 2,295 miles away from Vancouver. That's a problem.
17. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres could've been much higher here if they'd already inked Jimmy Vesey to a deal, but his destination won't likely be known for a couple more weeks.
In the meantime, Hudson Fasching, Casey Nelson, Nick Baptiste, and the ever-so-flashy Alex Nylander give them a decent prospect pool to go along with a very close AHL affiliate in Rochester.
16. Anaheim Ducks
The San Diego Gulls enjoyed a fairly successful first season, finishing second in the Pacific Division and making it to the second round of the playoffs.
The Ducks own some high-quality talent in Shea Theodore and Nick Ritchie, who before long should become full-timers on the NHL roster.
15. Philadelphia Flyers
Shayne Gostisbehere is proof that the Flyers' farm system is producing elite talent.
In addition, the Flyers have Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins awaiting for their chance to make the jump to the big club.
14. St. Louis Blues
Vince Dunn and Jordan Schmaltz's numbers are solid at first glance, but extremely impressive when you consider they're both defensemen.
Ty Rattie also remains one of the club's most high-profile prospects, but he's failed to translate his scoring touch to the NHL. The Blues' roster has very few openings, but that only gives their prospects more time to grow.
13. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have a goal-scoring machine waiting in the on-deck circle.
Timo Meier was plucked ninth overall in 2015, and with 87 points in 52 games over the last two years, he's certainly proving his worth. San Jose also has another handful of skillful players including Nikolay Goldobin, who's already been given a small taste of NHL experience.
Factor in the same-city AHL club and the Sharks are in good standing with their system.
12. Calgary Flames
The 1,294-mile distance between Calgary and Stockton is better than when the Flames' AHL affiliate was in Adirondack, and they have some solid prospects.
Daniel Pribyl was the first of a pair of impressive acquisitions this offseason, with the other being the selection of Matthew Tkachuk in the draft. Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane, and Tyler Wotherspoon certainly don't hurt either.
11. New Jersey Devils
Evidence of the strength of the Devils' farm system is written all over the big club.
New Jersey's biggest surprises this year also came from the AHL. Joseph Blandisi and Scott Wedgewood showed promise in their short stints, all while Pavel Zacha sat waiting in the wings.
10. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings' prospect pool might not be what it once was, but it's still quite mighty.
Anthony Mantha has yet to prove himself in the NHL but remains an outstanding prospect. Factor in Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Evgeny Svechnikov and it appears Detroit has players ready to replace its aging core.
9. Montreal Canadiens
In a season defined by injuries, many of Montreal's top prospects were thrust into full-time positions.
Sven Andrighetto, Jacob de la Rose, and Daniel Carr played significant time, and with Charlie Lindgren, the OHL's top defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, Michael McCarron, and Charles Hudon, the Canadiens have a notable prospect pool moving forward.
8. Boston Bruins
The Bruins made some questionable moves at the past few drafts, but they still boast some promising young talent.
Frank Vatrano, Seth Griffith and Malcolm Subban give hope to a team whose years as a perennial contender are seemingly in the rear-view mirror.
7. Edmonton Oilers
Of course the Oilers have solid young talent, because ... well, you know.
Their AHL club isn't strong because the team has been forced to push draft picks straight to the NHL for years. However, they still have Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev, and Jesse Puljujarvi.
6. New York Islanders
The Islanders don't have many openings on their NHL roster, so the club is in turn loading up on talented prospects.
Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, and Anthony Beauviller are arguably the club's most intriguing options, and despite questions about his attitude, Josh Ho-Sang is an incredible talent who shouldn't be ignored, especially if he can get his act together.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have had their ups and their downs in recent seasons. Veterans once held in high esteem have dropped the ball.
Luckily, with Zach Werenski, Sonny Milano, AHL playoff scoring sensation Oliver Bjorkstrand and third overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois, they have the pieces to right the wrongs.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes improved this past season without calling upon many of their top prospects.
Sebastian Aho, Sergey Tolchinsky, Haydn Fleury, and 2016 pickups Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier wait in the wings to join an already youthful NHL club.
3. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have star prospects at every position with Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey and Connor Hellebuyck. Through drafting and college free agency, Winnipeg has built a prospect pool that should develop as the team continues to push for playoff success.
The Manitoba Moose also play out of Winnipeg, which certainly helps with immediate call-ups.
2. Arizona Coyotes
While the NHL franchise has been in a state of uncertainty, the Coyotes' farm system is in good standing.
The team has a strong nucleus of young players including Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Anthony DeAngelo, Ryan MacInnis, and Conor Garland, and relocating their AHL club to Tucson will benefit the franchise.
New general manager John Chayka has quickly made smart moves, further cementing the desert dogs as a team to be feared very soon.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Some tough seasons are finally starting to pay dividends for the Maple Leafs. They've landed William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and potential No. 1 center Auston Matthews in the last three drafts.
Consider that the AHL affiliate also calls Toronto home - boasting two consecutive conference finals appearances - and you have a farm system firing on all cylinders.
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