It has been an extremely weird year for NHL prospects, with many playing shortened seasons and/or taking long hiatuses between competitive gameplay. That takes a toll on player development. But while it is a bit more difficult to do so than in normal years, we’re ranking every pool and identifying each franchise’s top 10 prospects, a potential breakout candidate for this season and those who might make an NHL-level impact in the next year.
I’ve broken down prospects for each club into three categories, noted in parentheses in the team prospect rankings:
A prospects have a high likelihood of becoming NHL high-impact players (i.e. a top-six forward, top-four defenseman or long-term starting goaltender)
B prospects have a higher likelihood of becoming NHL regulars and contributors.
C prospects showcase the upside to make the NHL, but either need more development time or are more likely to fill out depth roles.
Systems are most often graded on the backs of their top three or four prospects, but I also place a good deal of value on the depth of systems. While there is often fluidity in these organizational rankings, with players graduating quickly and changing the face of the system sometimes dramatically on a year-to-year basis, this is how the NHL prospect pools stack up as we gear up for the 2020-21 season.
Note: To maintain prospect eligibility, a player must still have rookie status. Players who appeared in 26 or more NHL regular-season games last season are not eligible, nor are players with at least 50 career NHL contests. And players are only considered for prospect status if they are 25 or younger.
No team has stockpiled prospects in as great a number as the Kings. And adding a crown jewel in 2020 No. 2 overall pick Quinton Byfield took a great system and turned it into the class of the league.
The Los Angeles system is forward heavy, with the vast majority of their best prospects being natural centers. Not all of them will be playing center at the next level, but if you’re going to be heavy at one position, that’s certainly not a bad area to focus.
In addition to Byfield, the team has five other A-rated prospects and 10 B-rated prospects, both coming in as high-water marks for our entire ranking. Eight Kings prospects are in our most recent top 100, as well. The only thing the system is lacking is a bonafide No. 1 goalie prospect, but they do have some intriguing players in Lukas Parik and Jacob Ingham, among a few others who could develop.
Landing the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft supercharged a prospect pool that was dealing with some high-profile prospect graduations, including Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox. Alexis Lafreniere joins the fray as the No. 1 prospect in hockey and one of the most complete wings to enter the league immediately following his draft in some years.
On top of adding a new No. 1 prospect, the Rangers can also still consider Igor Shesterkin a prospect, and he very well could be a Calder Trophy favorite this year given his brief audition last season. He’s the No. 2 goaltending prospect in hockey behind the recently-drafted Yaroslav Askarov and is a foundational piece for the Rangers going forward. So, too, should be Vitali Kravtsov, who has been lighting up the KHL on loan this season. Meanwhile, the Rangers still have to get Nils Lundkvist under contract after he put together one of the greatest U20 seasons by a defenseman in SHL history in 2019-20.
With a great high end of the pool, the Rangers also boast pool depth with a number of players who should figure into their near future. That’s especially true on the blue line, as the club can look to K’Andre Miller, Braden Schneider, Zach Jones and Matt Robertson.
Breakout candidate for 2020-21: Brett Berard
Potential NHL impact in 2020-21: Alexis Lafreniere, Igor Shesterkin, Morgan Barron