Welcome back to PPP's Top 25 Under 25.
Anyone who's been around the SBN community for a period of time should be familiar with the Top 25 Under 25 (the Edmonton blog Copper & Blue has just recently started its summer edition); in this feature, we examine all the players that are part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and rank them in terms of their importance to the club. Each member of the panel will have their own definition of what makes one young player higher valued than another, so the rankings can be extremely subjective and lead to a veyr fun source of debate. And the debate is really the whole point of the exercise
So who are the people that will be voting? Well, last year we had 7 people who participated back in the winter, and all have returned to take part in our second instalment. The panel is made up of:
PPP, Chemmy, SkinnyPPPhish, birky, JPNikota, PleaFromACatNamedFelix, and myself. Over the past few weeks we cast our votes, and we will count down the very best young players the Leafs have to offer during the remainder of the summer.
Follow me over the jump to take a quick look back at our first rankings from the winter, a brief explanation of the process, and a brief word on the individuals who won't be returning to the list this year.
Before we dive into this year's list, let's take a quick look back at last year's list (because I got busy and forgot to post the final rankings last winter, and then the Leafs season went to hell, and well, you know...).
Quick explanation on how to read that table; each of the voters ranked their choices for the top 30 players the Leafs held the rights to, 1 being the highest ranking. We awarded 30 points for a #1 ranking, 29 points for a #2 rankings, all the way down to 1 point for a #30 ranking and no points for players who weren't ranked. The Top 25 list was compiled by the aggregate score for each player, from highest to lowest. We used the following to settle ties;
- total number of rankings (a player with 4 rankings was given priority over a player with 3 rankings)
- if still tied, the highest individual ranking
Last year's list contained 45 possible options; 31 different players received at least a single vote in somebody's top 25, and at least 38 different players received at least a single vote in somebody's top 30, meaning 7 players didn't receive a single vote.
At this time, let's take a moment to acknowledge those players who for various reasons will not be returning to the list this season.
Luke Schenn (previous ranking - #4) Schenn was having a rough season even when we conducted the rankings in the winter, so his ranking at #4 was more about what we thought he could eventually be. Unfortunately, Schenn was one of the worst Leaf defenders last season and was traded at this summer's draft for James Van Riemsdyk, who we would expect to be extremely high on the list this time around.
Keith Aulie (previous - #10) Among the top five reasons Ron Wilson deserved to be fired last season has to be his complete inability to properly utilize Aulie. Aulie seemed to be only given opportunities at the NHL level playing on the top pair alongside Dion Phaneuf against top competition, where he was routinely overrun. Aulie was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline in exchange for former first round pick Carter Ashton, where he's finally getting the lesser responsibility in the NHL he required at this stage in his development.
Marcel Mueller (previous - #12) In Brian Burke's great search for a power forward, Mueller was a wild card signed from his native Germany. In two seasons with the Toronto Marlies, Mueller acquitted himself well by scoring 80 points in 129 games; while Mueller probably lacked the offensive upside to become a prolific NHL scorer, it seemed as if he had enough of a well-rounded game that he could have thrived as a bottom six forward. Alas, Mueller caught many of us off guard by signing with MoDo in the Swedish Elitserien this summer.
Sondre Olden (previous - #19) Here's the downside to the strategy of drafting extremely young players; you're forced to make difficult decisions on prospects' futures with your organization at a much younger point in their development. Olden was about three weeks short of being a 2011 draftee when the Leafs took him in 2010, and after an okay first post-draft season he jumped to Erie in the OHL, a completely awful club that was the worst in the OHL by a significant margin. Olden's 32 points in 48 games made for an okay transition from the Swedish under 20 league, but he did not do enough to convince the Leafs to sign him to an entry-level deal. The 20 year old is apparently staying in Erie this season, so who knows if we've heard the last of the lanky Norwegian centre.
Josh Nicholls (previous - #20) When your team melts down in the second half of the season in the fashion that the Leafs did, more pressing questions need to be answered. But "Why wasn't Josh Nicholls signed?" is a question without an obvious answer. Nicholls grew leaps and bounds after being taken in the 7th round of the 2010 draft, scoring better than a point a game both years for the Saskatoon Blades. He re-entered the draft but wasn't taken, even though several players in the draft for the second or third time were selected with similar or worse stats than Nicholls. Time will tell on this one, and the odds are probably in Toronto's favour of this being right, but it's still curious.
Jussi Rynnas (previous - #22) One of Burke's European free agent goalie signins, Rynnas has had mixed results. He played out of his mind very early into his stint in the AHL, but injuries, inconsistency, and competition from the other young goaltenders in the system have held him back. He was passed on the depth chart by Ben Scrivens last season when Reimer got his call-up to the NHL, and when Scrivens received his ticket this year, he may well have been passed yet again by Mark Owuya. His save percentage in the AHL over two seasons has hovered around .910, which isn't nearly good enough to expect much more than an AHL backup. Rynnas turned 25 so he's spared what likely would have been a steep fall off the top 25.
Juraj Mikus (previous - #24) As a late-round selection, Mikus probably would have had a long road to the NHL. But in three seasons in the AHL you could see definite improvement in his defensive game (-13 to even to +21; even for a flawed stat that is an impressive turnaround) but it appeared to have come at the expense of his offensive contrbutions (23 points to 16 to 12). With Jeff Finger and Matt Lashoff leaving the Marlies and Korbinian Holzer likely in line for a promotion to the NHL, Mikus was a good candidate to be the beneficiary of an increased role next season with the Marlies. Unfortunately, he signed with Lev Praha, a Czech-based team that will play in the KHL, in the offseason.
Luca Caputi (previous - #25) Literally as I wrote about Luca Caputi, he was traded to Anaheim for another underachieving forward prospect in Nicolas Deschamps. Caputi was qualified by the Ducks and will likely return to their AHL affiliate next season. Not much more to say since we basically said goodbye in last winter's post, which also featured a rec-to-comment ratio that will never ever be approached.
Dale Mitchell (previous - #29) A prospect on the fringe of the Maple Leafs system, he bounced between the AHL and ECHL for two seasons before being traded to Anaheim for Mark Fraser. Mitchell was not qualified by the Ducks, and signed in Finland for the upcoming season.
Simon Gysbers (previous - #33) Gysbers has carved himself out a nice little career in the AHL since being signed from Lake Superior State. In two seasons and change in the AHL, Gysbers established himself this season in the Marlies top four (although I thought he got trounced competition-wise in the playoffs). He provides a good level of offence from the blueline, but with young D like Jesse Blacker already there he needs to make a big push next season to keep hold of his place on the depth chart. Gysbers will get the opportunity with the exodus from the Marlies blue line, but he turned 25 so he's graduated from the list.
Daniel Brodin (previous - #T39) A low-scoring winger in the Swedish league who hasn't progressed much and whose rights were not retained along with Olden and Nicholls. 2010's draft could quickly make a case for its being one of the worst in Maple Leafs history, as the team surrendered the chance to pick 2nd and 32nd, and has already released 3 of the 7 players it drafted.
Richard Greenop (previous - #T39) Greenop was not qualified this summer after not playing at all the previous season due to a concussion which has forced him to retire. Now it's not as if Greenop was in serious jeopardy of breaking through on this list, but given what we've seen happen to so many other pro athletes in the last year, it's scary to think a kid who was primarily a fighter had to retire due to concussions at 23.
Leo Komarov (previous - #T39) Had we known at the time that this shit-disturbing winger had any intention of leaving to join the Leafs, he might have warranted discussion towards the bottom of the top 25. His ongoing "shit or get off the pot" game caused us to largely ignore him, because what good is a 24 year old if he's never going to come over and play for you? I'm not expecting much more out of Komarov other than he's the guy who will take over Colby Armstrong's beatings, but he turned 25 so he graduates.
Grant Rollheiser (previous - #T39) Considering Rollheiser spent all four years of his college career as a backup, and had some pretty putrid numbers, it's safe to say the Leafs aren't going to be signing him any time soon, even if the current goalteding situation could be adequately described as hot garbage.
In the next few days, we'll give you a chance to see if you're in tune with the panel. We'll look at the individuals towards the bottom of the rankings, giving you one individual who made the Top 25 along with a couple who didn't. In the meantime, we want your answer to the following question;
Who do you think will make the largest improvement compared to our first list?