Oilers deemed to have best group of prospects; Penguins worst

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The Edmonton Oilers have the best group of prospects.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have the worst.

Those were the findings of ESPN’s Corey Pronman, who ranked the “organizational prospect depth” of all 30 NHL teams and published his analysis today.

“The Oilers have two great defensive prospects in Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, but the reason for their No. 1 rank is Connor McDavid,” wrote Pronman. “Frankly, remove him and the system is average, as it’s quite thin after the few top names.”

As for the Penguins, Pronman concluded: “There really wasn’t anybody close to Pittsburgh for the 30th spot. This organization is all-in for the next two or three years, and it has more or less burned its system to the ground, through deals of top picks and prospects, to get there.”

Since the article is posted behind a paywall, we’ll give you Pronman’s full list, but you’ll have to pony up for his explanations.

  1. Oilers
  2. Maple Leafs
  3. Sabres
  4. Coyotes
  5. Islanders
  6. Jets
  7. Red Wings
  8. Blue Jackets
  9. Flames
  10. Flyers
  11. Hurricanes
  12. Predators
  13. Blues
  14. Lightning
  15. Canucks
  16. Blackhawks
  17. Canadiens
  18. Bruins
  19. Sharks
  20. Ducks
  21. Capitals
  22. Panthers
  23. Senators
  24. Stars
  25. Avalanche
  26. Devils
  27. Kings
  28. Wild
  29. Rangers
  30. Penguins

Note that Pronman’s “definition for an NHL prospect for the purposes of this ranking is one with 25 or fewer NHL games played this regular season, or 50 total career games.” So, in other words, a player like Aaron Ekblad wouldn’t count, even though he’s only 19.

Related: ‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’

Looking to make the leap: Noah Hanifin

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Carolina Hurricanes prospect Noah Hanifin is hoping to follow the footsteps of Aaron Ekblad and make the leap to the NHL after being the top defenseman selected in his draft class.

The 18-year-old, Norwood, MA native is going to get every opportunity be in the ‘Canes opening night lineup despite the crowded blue line in Carolina.

“We certainly think with his skating ability and his size, he has the potential to step in and play, but we’re certainly not going to rush him in that regard,” GM Ron Francis told the team’s website recently. “I think if you look at history, a lot of young defensemen take a little longer to develop.

“There have been more and more (defensemen) recently that have been able to step in and not only contribute, but have tremendous success.”

Carolina’s fifth overall selection in the June draft scored five goals and 23 points in 37 regular season games with Boston College last season.

His experience playing against older players while with the Eagles is one of the reasons Francis believes Hanifin will be able to make jump to the NHL this season.

“You look at what he did as a 17-year-old, he jammed in a bunch of classes to make sure he’s eligible for college and at 17 was playing against guys in that league that are 22, 23 and not only held his own, but excelled,” Francis said.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound blue liner believes with a full offseason of training he’ll be prepared for the NHL game.

“There’s a lot of good defensemen here and nothing is guaranteed. I’m going to put in a lot of good work this summer up until camp and I’m hoping I’m going to make it,” he said after signing his entry-level contract. “The pace of the game is going to be a lot higher, but with all the training I’m going to be putting in this summer, if I can continue to get better, I feel that I can go in (to camp) and do OK, do well.”

In order to make the leap, Hanifin will have to beat out some stiff competition. The ‘Canes currently have eight blue liners with NHL experience under contract for next season.

Coach Bill Peters is looking forward to watching the competition.

“What I see is there’s going to be an unbelievable competition on the back end between Hanifin, you’ve got (Haydn) Fleury, you got (Brett) Pesce you got (Jaccob) Slavin and then you’ve got all your returning guys,” Peters said following the club’s development camp. “I think the competition there is going to be very high and we’re just going to give everybody an opportunity and see who takes advantage of it.”

Seguin (knee) wants to open Stars camp sans-brace

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Given how well Tyler Seguin played with a knee brace, news of him getting rid of it is kind of a big deal.

“I want to go free,” Seguin told the Dallas Morning News this week, confirming he’s skating without a brace and hopes to open training camp the same way.

“I’m sure you can use a smaller brace or a lighter brace, but they say that once you start relying on them, you never get off. I like skating without one, and I want to keep it that way.”

Seguin missed 10 games last February/March following a hit from Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov. Originally scheduled to miss up to six weeks, he returned in three to aid Dallas in its (ultimately futile) late playoff push, admitting the knee was “definitely not anywhere near 100 percent.”

Not like it mattered an awful lot.

Seguin had eight goals and 10 assists in 16 games after his return and then, just a few weeks after the regular season ended, scored a tournament-high nine goals in 10 games to help Canada capture gold at the Worlds.

It’s easy to see why Seguin wants to go full-stop right out of training camp. He knows last year’s slow start was a big reason why Dallas missed the playoffs, something the club expects to change after an exciting offeason in which it acquired Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Antti Niemi.

“After the slow start, we spent the next 60 games trying to catch up, and we were never able to do that,” Seguin explained. “The start is important, obviously, there are too many good teams to try to fight through a bad start.”

Hurricanes won’t force Hanifin to make immediate NHL jump

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Noah Hanifin stands as the sort of defensive prospect the Carolina Hurricanes badly need, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll use him right away.

For every 18-year-old blueliner who weathers the storm of an immediate NHL jump (see: Aaron Ekblad), there are plenty of young players who benefit from more seasoning before they play at the highest level. The Canes seem comfortable taking a patient approach with Hanifin, as the Charlotte News & Observer reports.

“We don’t want to force him in there if he’s not ready,” GM Ron Francis said. “We’ll give him time to develop. I’m certainly not ruling it out, but we want to be careful and make sure we do what’s right for Noah.”

Frankly, the slow-and-steady approach might be wise for both sides. Let’s ponder a few reasons why:

  • Defensive prospects often take years to develop – Again, Ekblad is probably the exception to the rule.
  • The Hurricanes are expected to be mediocre, at best – OK, there’s always the chance that a team might make a surprise turnaround, and there is indeed talent on this roster. Still, most would probably agree that Carolina is in a “transitional” period, and probably won’t make many preseason playoff prediction lists.
  • Bang for the buck – People frequently forget that there are perils when it comes to “burning” years off of entry-level contracts. Why not take advantage of built-in cheaper years for Hanifin?

Those stand as some compelling reasons to allow Hanifin to marinate, but the Hurricanes must also consider the risk of stunting his growth at too low of a level if he is ready for the big time.

And, as you can see from this post, their defense could use all the help it can get heading into 2015-16.

PHT Morning Skate: Seguin admits Sharp dethrones him as the sexiest Star

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Tyler Seguin on the burning question in Dallas: is Patrick Sharp better looking than he is? (Dallas Morning News)

Former NHL-er (and Calder Trophy winner) Bryan Berard’s story keeps getting sadder. (National Post)

The case for signing Brad Boyes. (TSN)

Enjoy this spirited Q & A with NBC’s beloved Doc Emrick. (Sportsnet)

Update: Frederik Andersen still loves Legos. (The Hockey News)

What it was like for one fan/blogger falling in love with the Detroit Red Wings. (Winging It in Motown)

The AHL provided this handy guide of NHL affiliations, in case you’ve (understandably) had difficulty keeping track of the changes.

This seems like the perfect thing to stare at while you’re not really working on Friday morning.