Every NHL Team’s Most Underrated Prospect

The Hockey Writers

The sport of hockey has never been in a better position, with stars Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, Auston Matthews, and others leading the NHL into financial growth, bringing in fans from across the globe. In addition to the superstars, the talent among youth has never been better, with the league bringing in top prospects in recent seasons such as Jack Hughes, Owen Power, Connor Bedard, and others who have helped it take the next step in professional sports. Now, it is time to look at lesser-known prospects who could have an NHL impact in the future.

Pacific Division

Starting in the Pacific Division, these teams have had a wide mix of bottom dwellers and contenders in recent seasons. There are many top prospects among the teams, and many lesser-known names, too.

Anaheim Ducks – Rodwin Dionicio

Selected 129th overall in the 2023 Draft, left-handed defenseman Rodwin Dionicio has had a great first season in the Anaheim Ducks organization. He is not a flashy offensive defenseman that fans may look for, but he fills an important role as a projected top-four defensive defenseman. His skating and stickwork have recently earned him global recognition when he suited up for Switzerland at the World Junior Championship (WJC). For a team with many recent top draft picks, Dionicio is a name who should remembered as he hopes to join the NHL in a few seasons, likely sooner than many fans predict.

Calgary Flames – Etienne Morin

The now-retooling Calgary Flames have had a significant rush of prospects recently, acquired through the draft and trades. Hunter Brzustewicz is a name that would be a good fit for this list if he had not been acquired in a blockbuster deal. However, another defenseman with lots of promise is Etienne Morin.

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Suiting up for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Morin plays a physical, pass-first game, using his body to win big puck battles to lead to breakout passes. His skating is another quality that he utilizes well to get to the puck first and maintain possession. As a defenseman, it may take a few extra seasons to reach the NHL level, but he is very likely to become a full-time NHL defenseman.

Edmonton Oilers – Matt Copponi

The Edmonton Oilers have not had many top prospects in recent seasons, and those they had are now in the NHL. Their most underrated prospect was challenging to find, but it is Matt Copponi. The leading scoring for Merrimack College in the NCAA, he was selected 216th overall in the 2023 Draft. He is a hard-working, fast-paced center who has thrived in college. His growth as a prospect is admirable, but it will take a few more seasons to see him enter professional hockey and hopefully the NHL.

Los Angeles Kings – Koehn Ziemmer

Koehn Ziemmer was selected 78th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2023 Draft, and he had a great first season in the organization before sustaining a lower-body injury. Playing for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League (WHL) as an alternate captain, he had 11 goals and 31 points in 21 games. A small sample size, of course, but his hard-nosed play style showed a significant boost in development from the prior season.

Related: THW 2024 NHL Draft Guide

It is typically a challenge to find physical players who also have a lot of speed and scoring talent, but Ziemmer is one of them. Once he returns from injury, he is hopeful to boom as a prospect and be on the mind of fans league-wide.

San Jose Sharks – Shakir Mukhamadullin

Shakir Mukhamadullin was selected in the first round by the New Jersey Devils in the 2020 Draft but was traded in the 2022-23 season as part of the Timo Meier trade. The left-handed defenseman is more than just a fun name, he is a mobile, two-way defenseman who has developed incredibly well since being drafted.

Shakir Mukhamadullin San Jose Sharks
Shakir Mukhamadullin, San Jose Sharks (Evan Sabourin / The Hockey Writers)

He utilizes his body well, out-positioning the opposition to win key puck battles around and behind the net. He has room to improve in his offensive game, but he projects to join the NHL in a full-time role next season and will have plenty of time to grow his skills without much pressure.

Honorable mention: Mattias Havelid

Seattle Kraken – Ty Nelson

Just a few seasons into the existence of the franchise, the Seattle Kraken have not had many draft selections. However, one pick that stands out is that of right-handed defenseman Ty Nelson. The offensive defenseman has one of the strongest slapshots in Canadian junior hockey. His offensive talent is not in question, but he needs to work on his defensive game. Some more than others are skeptical, but there is most definitely room to improve for the youngster. Two seasons of coaching at the professional level could turn Nelson into an elite asset on the Kraken’s defense in just a couple of seasons. 

Honorable mention: Zeb Forsfjall

Vancouver Canucks – Arshdeep Bains

Arshdeep Bains joined the Vancouver Canucks for a short stint earlier this season but has spent the majority of the past two seasons with the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League (AHL). Going undrafted, he has developed very well as a prospect in the Canucks’ organization, especially as a pass-first winger who utilizes his speed and body to win puck battles. His upside as a 23-year-old may be limited, but his production as a professional shows he is likely to be a prominent middle-six scorer who can join the special teams when needed. For a team with so much talent at the NHL level and as prospects, Bains is a player who is likely to become an NHL regular next season so fans should get used to hearing his name.

Vegas Golden Knights – Carl Lindblom

For the young Vegas Golden Knights franchise, they have had a fair share of elite goaltending. From Marc Andre Fleury to Robin Lehner, and now arguably the best goaltending tandem in hockey of Adin Hill and Logan Thompson, they have proven they know how to get the most from their goaltending. That will not change with the 2021 222nd overall pick, Carl Lindblom. At just 20 years old, he is utterly dominating the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for Färjestad BK. He plays bigger than his frame, staying composed in the net, forcing opponents to make a great play to score. With minimal mistakes and no major weakness in his game, he will translate his game well to North American hockey.

Honorable Mention: Arttu Karki

Central Division

The Central Division has two teams in the process of a rebuild, the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes, but six teams with groups looking more in the short term. This has resulted in most top prospects being either in the NHL or nonexistent, but leaving a lot of mid-round draft picks to be made, resulting in some high-value steals.

Arizona Coyotes – Noel Nordh

A team with an abundance of selections in recent drafts, the Coyotes have had a lot of prospects to follow. One who has fallen through the cracks thus far is Noel Nordh, the team’s 72nd overall selection in the 2023 Draft. He is a hardworking, fast-paced winger who is strong at both ends of the ice. His offensive production for Brynäs IF of HockeyAllsvenskan was not the best, but he is young and playing a full-time role in a major professional men’s league. He will not be seeing the NHL anytime soon but is hopeful to come to North America in the next three to four seasons.

Chicago Blackhawks – Roman Kantserov

Another draft, another undersized, highly skilled prospect who fell in the ranks. Roman Kantserov was selected 44th overall by the Blackhawks in 2023, and he has shown great promise this season for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He is just 5-foot-9 but has found success in the major Russian league, being a regular in the lineup as a right-winger. His speed and hands are his best qualities, but he struggles in the physical and defensive aspects of the game. Luckily for Kantserov, he was drafted by a team that will not be contending for a few more seasons so he can have patience in his development as he aims to become a top-nine player for the Blackhawks in the future.

Honorable mention: Nick Lardis

Colorado Avalanche – Ivan Ivan

Ivan Ivan is a fun name to say, and also a fun player to watch. Going undrafted, he recently signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche. He is a two-way center who is a relentless forechecker and an opponent’s worst enemy. He has done great in his first season as a hockey professional with the Colorado Eagles of the AHL, having 12 goals and 30 points in 59 games. Being just 21 years old, he has time to continue developing, but he is far more likely than most fans realize to become an NHL player. He may not be the exciting, point-per-game forward most fans hope to get at the NHL level, but he will be a great candidate to fill in the Avalanche’s bottom six for seasons to come.

Dallas Stars – Aram Minnetian

A member of the gold-winning United States WJC team, Aram Minnetian has had a great season so far. On the younger side of 2023 draftees, the right-handed defenseman has taken a prominent role for the best team in the NCAA this past season, the Boston College Eagles. He is a pass-first, defensive-minded defenseman that any coach would want to have.

Aram Minnetian Boston College
Aram Minnetian, Boston College (Brody Hannon/BC Athletics)

His skating and positioning are second to none in college hockey, so he is poised to continue his success in his development. He may not be an exciting prospect, but for a team needing help on the right side of their defense, the Dallas Stars are potentially a couple of seasons away from seeing Minnetian suit up in green.

Minnesota Wild – Vladislav Firstov

The Minnesota Wild have an elite, under-the-radar winger prospect in the KHL who is poised to have a lengthy NHL career. No, not Danila Yurov, but Vladislav Firstov. Yes, Yurov is an incredible talent, but everyone knows about him. Firstov was a 2019 second-round selection for the Wild, but he has recently boomed into an elite offensive winger. He had 11 goals and 26 points in 47 games last season for Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and followed it up with 17 goals and 35 points in 67 games this season. While he turns 23 years old in June, he is still primed to have an impactful NHL career. 

Nashville Predators – Aiden Fink

The Nashville Predators may be the most fun team to follow in the NHL right now. Their prospect pool is loaded top-to-bottom, with elite talents all over. This has made it challenging to find a truly underrated prospect, but Aiden Fink is a great candidate. Selected 218th overall in the 2023 Draft, he dominated college hockey for Penn State University, scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 34 games. His skating and shot are the best parts of his skill set, but he lacks nowhere. His offensive talent is not in question, but defensively he struggles at times. Luckily, he has plenty of time to hash out those struggles in his development.

Honorable mention: Fedor Svechkov

St. Louis Blues – Jimmy Snuggerud / Michael Buchinger

Before the WJC, Jimmy Snuggerud was the ideal candidate for this list. The Minnesota native has had a great two seasons for the University of Minnesota, but his five goals in eight games at the WJC for the United States put him even more in the national spotlight. The biggest winner of the 2024 WJC was the St. Louis Blues because along with Snuggerud, top prospects Theo Lindstein and Otto Stenberg dominated in Sweden. This took the spotlight that should have been on Snuggerud elsewhere. Now, while he is not as underrated, he still does not get the recognition he should in the great prospect pool in St. Louis.

Jimmy Snuggerud University of Minnesota
Jimmy Snuggerud, University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Athletics)

A lesser-known prospect is defenseman Michael Buchinger. An alternate captain for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, he plays like an NHL veteran. He is strong with and without the puck, winning puck battles in the corners and keeping the opposition out of his goaltender’s vision. He plays bigger than his size, a key trait when translating success from juniors to professional hockey. Offensively, he has good vision, using it to make smart passes at even strength and special teams.

Winnipeg Jets – Brad Lambert

The Winnipeg Jets have made quite a few first-round selections in recent drafts, yet somehow Brad Lambert, the 30th selection in the 2022 Draft, never gets talked about. He was one of the most polarizing prospects in his draft class, and almost fell out of the first round. Yet today, despite proving many of the doubters wrong by having a great rookie season in the AHL, he does not get talked about as an elite prospect. At just 20 years old, he has 19 goals and 49 points in 56 games for the Manitoba Moose. He has shown great strides in his skating and defensive game while maintaining his high hockey IQ and offensive creation. If his development continues this well, he will grow into a top-six center in just another season or two.

Honorable mention: Dmitri Rashevsky

Metropolitan Division

The Metropolitan Divison had all eight teams expecting to make the playoffs this season, and things did not work out that way. It was expected to be the most contentious division in the NHL and now a handful of the fanbases are scouting out who they want their team to select with their lottery draft pick this June.

Carolina Hurricanes – Jackson Blake

The Carolina Hurricanes seem to have a never-ending prospect pool that sits at the top of the NHL. Their most notable current prospects are Bradly Nadeau, Scott Morrow, and Alexander Nikishin. This has left 2021 109th overall pick Jackson Blake lost in the minds of many hockey fans. He is an offensive machine who had an incredible season for the University of North Dakota. His 22 goals and 60 points in just 40 games should be enough to warrant national recognition for the 20-year-old. However, his name is hard to find in the media. His biggest strengths are his vision, stick handling, passing, and hockey instincts. In the most simple terms, he is a dog. He works hard, makes plays, and is likely a future top-six forward in the NHL.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Oiva Keskinen

Oiva Keskinen is a 20-year-old center taken 194th overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, and he has developed very well. Playing for Tappara of the Liiga in Finland, he has developed into a strong two-way, playmaking center with elite vision and hockey IQ. His stick may be the best part of his game, as he utilizes it to create space and opportunity, as well as mitigate the opposition. His NHL projection is intriguing since he was an older draftee, being about 19 and a half years old when drafted, but his production looks great, even though he went undrafted in 2022. He will need to adjust to North American hockey when he comes over, but he is likely to be a strong middle-six center who can play on the penalty kill. 

Honorable mention: Sergei Ivanov

New Jersey Devils – Lenni Hameenaho

An underwhelming season for the New Jersey Devils left them as sellers, looking towards the future. While most of their youth is now in the NHL, one future NHLer, Lenni Hameenaho, is not. Selected 58th overall in the 2023 Draft, he has had a great season for Ässät of Liiga, scoring 14 goals and 31 points in 46 games in the low-scoring league. His hockey IQ and instinct drive his production, and he has all the talent needed to take advantage of his skillset. He is also strong defensively, leaving him as a complete player. Moving forward, it would not be outrageous to see him in the NHL by the second half of the 2024-25 season, depending on the Devils’ decisions this offseason.

New York Islanders – Quinn Finley

The New York Islanders have not made a first-round selection since they took Simon Holmstrom in the 2019 Draft. This has left the team with a lack of talent in the prospect pool, but there are a few players to look forward to. Danny Nelson is the team’s top prospect, but Quinn Finley is the most underrated. It is not far-fetched to say he has one of the better shots in college hockey. The 19-year-old freshman at the University of Wisconsin has just nine goals this season, but it feels as if game after game he making great plays. He is a good two to three seasons away from being remotely considered for the NHL roster, but that is for the best. He will get an elevated role for Wisconsin as he gets older, and his talent will earn him the trust of the coaching staff he is hoping for.

Honorable mention: Danny Nelson

New York Rangers – Adam Sykora

The New York Rangers got the steal of the 2023 Draft with their selection of Gabe Perreault. To add him to the pool, along with fellow wing prospect Brennan Othmann has left Adam Sykora out of the minds of many hockey fans. Playing for the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL, he has emerged as a relentless forechecker, using his speed and stickwork to knock opponents off-balance, creating turnovers and offensive chances. His offensive abilities are evident, too, as he has produced well in his first full season in the AHL. For a franchise that likes to find cheap options in their bottom six, he is in line to get an NHL call-up if needed in the coming seasons.

Honorable mention: Drew Fortescue

Philadelphia Flyers – Matvei Michkov/Carter Sotheran

Pretty funny to name Matvei Michkov as the Philadelphia Flyers’ most underrated prospect, but he is. The reasons he dropped in the recent NHL Draft are speculative, but there should be no doubt he is a future franchise-altering player in the NHL. He has one of the best shots in professional hockey and utilizes his speed and size to play a well-rounded game. He is someone who will make an immediate, dominant impact at the NHL level. Since this nomination may not be much fun for Flyers fans, be sure to keep an eye out for Samu Tuomaala, Alex Ciernik, and especially Carter Sotheran as well. 

Matvei Michkov Philadelphia Flyers
Matvei Michkov, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sotheran was the Flyers’ 135th overall selection in the 2023 Draft and has had a strong first season with the organization. An elite two-way defenseman, he has patience and poise with the puck, perfectly timing and placing each pass with precision, creating offensive opportunities regularly. Defensively, he looks like a professional. He is the complete package, positioning himself well and using his stick to beat out the opposition. Heading into next season, expect him to boom as a prospect, turning himself into a player all Flyers fans are excited for.

Honorable mentions: Alexei Kolosov, Massimo Rizzo

Pittsburgh Penguins – Mikhail Ilyin

Mikhail Ilyin was selected 142nd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2023 Draft, and he appears to be one of the best value picks. His production of 12 goals and 29 points in 65 games in the KHL is similar to that of other highly touted Russian prospects, such as Dmitry Buchelnikov, Daniil But, and 2024 projected first-round pick Nikita Artamonov. His one season of strong production in the notoriously low-scoring Russian league is not enough to garner a top prospect nomination, but following this season with another strong year next season would be a very optimistic sign for Penguins fans who do not have many exciting prospects to follow. Whether Ilyin will make the NHL in time for Sidney Crosby’s career is unknown, but if he does, he could blossom into a great NHL player alongside an all-time legend.

Honorable mention: Sergei Murashov

Washington Capitals – Andrew Cristall

Taken in the 2023 NHL Draft, Andrew Cristall has flown under the radar since he was the team’s second selection after Ryan Leonard was taken in the top 10. He is a dynamic winger who has played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. He is a speedy sniper who can score on any goaltender from anywhere on the ice, especially at or around the slot.

Andrew Cristall Kelowna Rockets
Andrew Cristall, Kelowna Rockets (Steve Dunsmoor/Kelowna Rockets)

As well, he has strong vision and playmaking abilities. He will continue to grow strong and develop his two-way game as he becomes a professional, and likely be a 25-30 goal, 60-plus point scorer at the NHL level. 

Honorable mention: Ryan Chesley

Atlantic Division

The best division in hockey this season is no stranger to success. It is home to the best regular season team in NHL history, the Boston Bruins, the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and one of the greatest NHL dynasties, the Detroit Red Wings. These teams have all drafted well to get where they are, and that has not changed since.

Boston Bruins – Frederic Brunet

The Bruins are another team that lacks draft capital and prospects. This has left the prospect pool incredibly bare. Frederic Brunet is a defenseman for the Providence Bruins of the AHL where he has played some big minutes in his first season as a professional. His offensive talents have yet to show through at the professional level, but he will continue to learn in the AHL before earning an NHL opportunity, likely not for at least another full season.

Honorable mention: Reid Dyck

Buffalo Sabres – Vsevolod Komarov

Vsevolod Komarov was the Buffalo Sabres’ 134th overall selection in the 2022 Draft. The defenseman has split his development between the Québec Remparts and Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL and has shown great strides since being drafted. He is a pass-first, big-bodied defenseman who always has his head up and looks for the best pass. When drafted, there were many concerns about how he could handle pressure. However, he has shut those comments down, becoming a cool, calm, and collected player with the puck. His ability to grow as a player is a quality that is hard to find in the later rounds of the draft, so following his development over the next few seasons will be exciting.

Honorable mention: Tyson Kozak

Detroit Red Wings – Liam Dower Nilsson

Liam Dower Nilsson is the most underrated prospect for the Red Wings. The franchise has top prospects such as Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper, and Axel Sandin Pellikka. With these few taking the spotlight, Dower Nilsson does not get much recognition. The 2021 134th overall selection is playing in Sweden and is a strong, playmaking center. He may not be the most exciting, but he is likely to be a future member of the NHL team in the bottom six.

Honorable mention: William Wallinder

Florida Panthers – Jack Devine

A member of the University of Denver, Jack Devine is an elite offensive talent. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2022 Draft and has been incredible since, having 41 goals and 86 points in 78 games. An all-around offensive talent, he has established himself as an elite prospect in an otherwise bare prospect pool and is a bright spot for Panthers fans to look forward to in a time where they have traded away much of their other prospects and draft picks.

Montreal Canadiens – Bogdan Konyushkov

It felt as if just a year ago there was serious concern about the future of the right side of the Montreal Canadiens’ defense. Now, they have David Reinbacher, Logan Mailloux, and Bogdan Konyushkov. While Reinbacher and Mailloux have gotten their flowers for their abilities, Konyushkov is unknown among most hockey fans.

Bogden Konyushkov
Bogdan Konyushkov seen in action during the The KHL All-Star Game (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Most recently with the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL, Konyushkov has shown tremendous strides in development, specifically in his offensive game. He is one of the best passers in the KHL, controlling the powerplay where his offensive IQ and playmaking abilities shine. As well, he has a hard shot that finds the net a lot, leading to high-danger chances for his teammates. He projects to be a future second-pairing defenseman on a deep Canadiens’ blue line.

Ottawa Senators – Theo Wallberg

The Ottawa Senators unfortunately have one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL. A lack of recent top selections paired with most young players being in the NHL has led them to have very few prospects to look forward to. One exciting prospect is Theo Wallberg, a 6-foot-5 defenseman for the Ohio State University Buckeyes. The 20-year-old uses his body well, playing the physical game you want from someone so tall. His size does not take from his offensive abilities, either, as he has become a mainstay on the Buckeyes’ powerplay, being relied on in crucial offensive chances due to his strength and skating. As a 2022 sixth-round selection, he has shown promise closer to that of a second or third-round draft selection.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Niko Huuhtanen

There have not been many Lightning prospects in recent seasons given their firesale of draft capital for trade deadline acquisitions, but Niko Huuhtanen has made a name for himself. Selected 224th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, he dominated for Jukurit in the Liiga this season, scoring 19 goals and 46 points in 52 games. Turning just 21 years old in June, he is likely to see the NHL during the 2024-25 season, or the 2025-26 season at the latest. Once he gets ice time alongside some of Tampa Bay’s top stars, he will have all of the resources to grow into a great top-six winger. 

Toronto Maple Leafs – Nikita Grebyonkin

Last but not least is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nikita Grebyonkin is a left-handed winger playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. His 19 goals and 41 points in 67 games as a 21-year-old show signs of great promise offensively. He is speedy and has a good stick, navigating around defenders with ease. Defensively, he does not stick out much, which is a good and bad thing. Another season of professional hockey before reaching the NHL could be beneficial, but not a requirement. His skillset should translate well to the NHL once he comes to North America, so he will be a fun prospect to follow for Leafs fans who also have Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten as great prospects.

Honorable mentions: Artur Akhtyamov, Brandon Lisowsky

Whether your favorite team has had a surplus of recent draft picks or made just a handful of selections in recent years, there is always a prospect to look forward to. With draft season in full swing, it is the perfect time to break down your team’s prospect pool, looking at their strengths, weaknesses and hidden gems.

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