Monday, March 10, 2008

THN's Future Watch

Lowetide took a look at The Hockey News' latest Future Watch issue from an Oilers perspective last week, but for a fan of any team, it's pretty good reading material.

Given there's no longer a major junior team in town, I don't get a chance to watch all that many non-NHL prospects these days — and especially when it comes to those in the NCAA — and having a comprehensive guide to the top 10 prospects of all 30 teams is invaluable.

Here's how THN has the rankings shake out this year (these include a team's top 10 prospects and 21-and-under NHLers):
  1. Pittsburgh
  2. Chicago
  3. Phoenix
  4. St. Louis
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Columbus
  7. Montreal
  8. Boston
  9. Edmonton
  10. Philadelphia
  11. N.Y. Rangers
  12. Washington
  13. San Jose
  14. Detroit
  15. Nashville
  16. Colorado
  17. Dallas
  18. Vancouver
  19. Minnesota
  20. Florida
  21. Anaheim
  22. Ottawa
  23. Atlanta
  24. N.Y. Islanders
  25. Calgary
  26. Buffalo
  27. Carolina
  28. Toronto
  29. New Jersey
  30. Tampa Bay
Taking the last place spot two years in a row, the Lightning is dead in the water when it comes to drafting and development. Their spot in the standings has as much to do with their lack of young talent as overpaying any three players.

One team I expected to be right up in the top three is Columbus, which has some incredible goal-scoring talent on the way in with the likes of Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard.

I'm also surprised to see Vancouver ranked as high as it is given the dearth of talent coming out of its development system.

The other thing THN looks at is how high teams have picked over the past four years, something that would obviously impact the prospect pool. Chicago's had the highest average pick over this time period, followed by Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Phoenix.

Teams on the bottom end include Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas and New Jersey.

According to where they've had to pick when weighed against the Future Watch rankings, the teams that have fared the best are St. Louis, Boston, Edmonton and Nashville.

Next up, I'll take a look at a few of the more intriguing prospects in the issue.

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At 1:02 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I still haven't figured out how they define a prospect exactly, so it's hard for me to judge. What makes Gilbert Brule (134 NHL games) a prospect (and ranked 14th) and Kyle Chipchura (36 NHL games) a NHL regular baffles me. And apparently Halak wasn't a prospect (or wasn't considered top 10 for Montreal, I suppose, which I'd definitely question) but Carey Price was the #1 in all of the NHL, despite at the time both playing pretty much the exact same number of NHL games also had me puzzled.

There's no logic to their definition of prospect, so while I agree it's a handy guide, the overall rankings are random as a result. There's no consistency.

At 1:14 p.m., March 10, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I guess everyone is now going to stop touting how the New Jersey Devils (29th) and Ottawa Senators (22nd) are such great drafting organizations.

At 1:55 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Although, the Devils' position in the standings is at odds with that. I guess the players they've drafted like Parise and Zajac are all no longer considered prospects.

They've certainly continued to come up with some nice talent despite picking at the bottom of the list almost every year.

At 5:26 p.m., March 10, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

The Devils only have 2 players on their roster (Parise and Zajac) that they drafted in 2001 or later. Toronto, who most consider a poor drafting team, has Stajan, Steen, Colaiacovo, White, Stralman, Wellwood, Williams, and Tlusty. Parise is better than any of those Leafs but Zajac isn't any better than Steen or Stajan or a healthy Colaiacovo.

The truth is, when you have the best goaltender in the world on your team you mask a lot of other problems on the roster.

At 5:46 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Oh, I think Zajac's a terrific player; he just needs another year or so of seasoning and he'll put something together.

The Devils' real strength has been finding undrafted free agents who can play at the NHL level.

At 6:01 p.m., March 10, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Well, technically you're correct in pointing the completely random date of 2001, David. Of course, they also have David Clarkson, Andy Greene, Johnny Oduya, and Rod Pelley on their team as regulars. None were drafted by the Devils, but all signed their first NA pro contracts with the team. Clarkson, Greene, and Pelley were all undrafted, Oduya was a Washington pick that they didn't sign.

To go with guys the Devils have drafted or developed over the years, well past that random 2001 date... Paul Martin, Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Sergei Brylin, Colin White, Michael Rupp, and of course, Martin Brodeur. As a general rule, keeping your own talent is cheaper than finding it on the open market.

Also it's noteworthy that just because some guys are playing for Toronto doesn't mean they're further along than NJ picks. Would Strahlman, Tlusty, and Williams make the roster of a first place team? Making the NHL on a 12th place team is a lot different than on a 1st place squad. I don't think Niklas Bergfors or Barry Tallackson should be considered "worse" than those 3 because they haven't made the Devils this year.

One last thing about the THN issue... they could properly identify their cover boy in photos. Yann Danis and Carey Price aren't clones, although apparently THN can't tell the difference.

At 10:48 p.m., March 10, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

So far Zajac's numbers almost mirror Steens numbers in his first 2 seasons in the NHL. He may end up being better, he may not. It is still a toss up really.

I could go back a few more years and add Antropov (1998), Ponikarovsky (1998), Kaberle (1996). The Devils drafted Martin and Rupp in 2000, no one of substance in 1999 and Van Ryn, Gomez and Gionta in 1998 which was probably their last really good draft year in which they got more than one regular player capable of playing on their top 3 lines.

Yes, they have been successful picking up non-drafted free agents and deserve credit for that. Part of the reason might be because few teams look to undrafted players as a source of talent.

At 1:30 a.m., March 11, 2008, Anonymous Hockey Jersey Over the Head said...

Saskhab, I was wondering a bit myself about the criteria. If it were me choosing, it would be based on players who have not played the 25 game minimum to qualify as an NHL rookie. That way they've set objective criteria that's difficult to argue.

It looks to me like Future Watch was done more on pure upside for players who have yet to assert themselves in the role that they could/should be playing in their prime?

Re New Jersey, I wouldn't get too down on them just yet. They've been able to avoid a few down years specifically because of their ability to find upper-echelon talent with picks outside of the top 15. In today's NHL where a team with 2 star players might only be able to keep those 2 stars on their roster for a handful of years, that's a very important thing to be able to do.

At 4:25 p.m., March 11, 2008, Blogger Mike said...

I haven't read the linked article yet, but the reason vancouver may be ranked so high is because of the likes of guys like mason raymond, ryan shannon, alex edler, et al.

I'm not sure if any of those guys still qualify as prospects for THN, but they all have less than a season of games and so would be in my book.

Washington at 12 seems a little low to me though, but that may be my fanhood winning out over reality.


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