The beauty -- and perhaps the curse -- of ranking NHL prospect systems is the massive amount of fluctuation even just one year can cause. It has a lot to do with players reaching the NHL very quickly more regularly, with the rising talent and the affordable cap hits making too easy a combination for NHL teams to pass up.
When ranking teams' systems, there are a number of things I look at. First is the number of potential A-level prospects they have -- players with the best chance to play a significant role, be it as a top-six forward, top-four defenseman or starting goaltender. Next I look at that second tier, thinking of players who have at least a good shot of becoming everyday NHLers but project less comfortably as a major-impact prospect. Lastly, on teams that I view as close in the first two categories, overall prospect depth plays a big role.
Along with the rankings below, be sure to check out of the division-by-division pipeline reports for further team breakdowns.
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific
Top prospect: Rasmus Dahlin, D
Having the No. 1 prospect in hockey with Dahlin and another top-five talent in Casey Mittelstadt gives the Sabres a head start on most other franchises, but there is also decent depth with potential NHL talent at every position. When a team goes into rebuild mode, this is the kind of prospect pool it'd hope to have. Read more