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"Don't hate me PPP. I promise I'll do better next year!"
Hello PPP and welcome to our third entry of the Top 25 under 25 countdown for players ranked 11-15. First off I would like to thank clrkaitken and his "official" PPP version for inspiring us and second I would like to thank nhlcheapshot and Ben Schnell for helping me bring the community version to you! Please have a look at nhlcheapshot's 21-25 and Ben Schnell's 16-20 for great reads!
A recap of who we have seen thus far:
|Rank||Player||Position||League in 2011/2012|
As we get lower in our list we (shockingly) come onto better players. In nhlcheapshot's first post we were dealing with either very raw players or players with questionable upside. As we entered 16-20 the players started to improve into guys who were more likely to be NHLers but we weren't yet sure how good (ie Biggs and Ross), or guys with reasonably high upside but for who we just didn't know the likelihood of reaching that potential (ie Owuya). Looking at players 11-15 we are going to see another reasonably large jump. These are guys who are either on the cusp of the NHL or who are getting close but have higher upside than those seen previously. Without further adieu please join me over the jump for the Community's Top 25 under 25!
For numbers 14 and 15 we actually see our first (and is it our last? Follow this series to find out...) tie in points. Fortunately clrkaitken was prepared for ties when he listed out the rules and had tie breakers in place....
# 15 Matthew Finn
|Born Feb 24, 1994|
|6'00" 197 lbs|
Matt Finn lost the tie breaker because someone didn't rank him. My guess was that this ranker simply didn't know who Finn was. Coming in at #15 on our countdown Matt Finn is a pretty damn good prospect. Following in the footsteps of recent late first and second round draft picks, Burke has drafted another D-man known for his all around game. Pegged as having strong leadership, good two-way play, and strong (but not ground breaking) offence, he reminds me a lot of 2011 first round pick Stuart Percy and 2010 second round pick Jesse Blacker (with perhaps more offence than Blacker).
Finn will not wow you with any part of his game. He won't be the most physical guy on the ice, the best skater, or have the best shot. In fact his biggest flaw may be that he doesn't have any side of his game that could be considered "elite". All that being said, at pick number 35 Matt Finn was a steal. Finn came in at # 18 on the ISS June 2012 rankings, which (unlike the NHL central scoutings) includes every eligible player (regardless of league of origin). Most predraft rankings had him going in the mid-late first, getting him in the second was a steal. In Finn we are hopefully drafting one of my favourite types of players: the quiet, defensively strong, 2-way defenders, with moderate offensive upside. These are the guys that mouth-breathers who don't watch much hockey will complain are "soft" or "suck at hockey". They'll glance at his box scores and see he puts up less than 30 points and use it as proof that he sucks. However, those that actually know a thing or two about hockey will realize that these defenders (think Carl Gunnarsson or Bryan Allen) are actually key to building a deep blue line. I also may have been underselling his offence some. He actually scored the 6th most points by a D-man in the OHL and second most by a draft-eligible D-man. Hopefully, he continues to develop it and can turn into a true two-way force. Regardless, I am reasonably confident in his two-way play.
After reading the last paragraph you may be asking "Why should I be excited about Matt Finn? He sounds solid, but BCapp is selling him as a kind of boring player..." Well TSN Leafs Beat Reporter had a conversation with Leafs Head Scout Dave Morrison about Matt Finn and there is plenty of optimism here (he also has some more faith in his offensive upside!):
Ceiling: #2 all around defenseman.
Reasonable expectation: 2nd pairing 2-way defender (think Gunnarsson)
Reasonable Floor: #6 defenseman who you are not afraid to put on the ice, but won't do anything spectacular
Interesting fact: Second cousin of the original Splodey Bones, ol' Coliacavo himself.
(Please note that for "reasonable floor" I am ignoring the obvious "floor" of expectations that he never makes the NHL. Fortunately the lower we get in the list the less likely this becomes. As Finn is the rawest of the prospect in 11-15 he probably has the highest chance of not making the NHL simply because he is the furthest away and most difficult to predict).
# 14 Korbinian Holzer
|Born Feb 16, 1988|
|6'03" 206 lbs|
Korbinian Holzer has one of my favourite names of all time. Say it with me: Korbinian. Korbinian. I could do this all day... Wait, do you see those box score numbers? A 23 year old in the AHL putting up about a 1/3 of a PPG and we should be excited? Did BCapp fudge the numbers just so he could talk about the awesomeness of Korbinian's name? (note: I would have strongly considered doing this) Alas, no I did not. Korbinian Holzer is a little unique in this ranking to be ranked so high at 24 years of age, but to not yet be an NHL regular. I have seen many argue that he does not deserve to be ranked high as he is already 24 and to be an impact defenseman you basically have to make the NHL younger than that. In other words, because he hasn't he is probably a #6/7 Dman so why do we care? To see an analysis with this angle check out Hockey Analysis' David Johnson comment on the official Korbinian Holzer Top 25 Under 25 post.
Here is him getting Burtch'd in reply (with Frag attempting to squeeze a reply in (doesn't he know its dangerous to get in the middle of a Burtch-ing?)):
I think these two explain well the gulf in people's opinion on Holzer. Some (like Hockey Analysis) see him as a defender who has been in North America for 2 years, is already 24 and hasn't even made it to the NHL. They see this as proof that he'll likely never be more than a replacement level player, thus no matter how close he is to the NHL, it really doesn't matter because he will never have a large impact there. Others see a guy who is basically NHL ready. He may be older at 24 years old, but it is not unheard of that defensive defenders don't make the show until a little later. Later in that official thread when comparing Gunnarsson (and his making the NHL quickly) to Holzer (and his 2 years in North America in the AHL), Burtch points out that Gunnar came in behind Beauchemin and Kaberle (both of whom were shipped out), while the right side has always had Phaneuf, Schenn, and Komisarek plus Franson was brought in making it a lot more difficult to make the team.
For me? I have seen a handful of Marlies games (2 live and a bunch on TV) and I can say that Holzer has always impressed me. I realize this is totally anecdotal, but when he is on the ice I always feel comfortable that the blue and white's blue line is safe. While he isn't the meanest player on the ice he is pretty physical and he patrols the blue line great. He uses his size and reach very well while defending the rush and looks good moving the puck up the ice. He also (to my non-expert eyes) appears to do an excellent job in defending against streaking wingers. He was absolutely dominant in the Marlies run to the Calder Cup finals being the keystone of their defence. Korbinian (I needed to type it again so I could say it in my head), has had a bit of a unique route coming over from the DEL (German Elite League) which is only just starting to get more respect as a development league. He thus came to NA and still had to prove himself. With a large number of NHL defenders ahead of him on the right side he has had a little more difficulty finding NHL ice time but he is now definitely ready. He has forced the issue and appears set to fight for time on the Leafs blue line this year.
Ceiling: 2nd pairing shutdown defender
Reasonable Expecation: #4 shutdown defender (think a less physical but better skating Hal Gill)
Reasonable Floor: #7 defender, replacement level
Interesting fact: Holzer has already played at the highest level 3 times for a total of 19 games (15 at world championships at 21 and and 22 and 4 at the Olympics at 21).
# 13 Carter Ashton
|Born Apr 1, 1991|
|6'03" 215 lbs|
|Right Wing||Regular Season||Playoffs|
|2011-12||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||20||15||0||0||0||-10||--||--||--||--|
Anyway Ashton is an interesting prospect. Way back in the summer of 2010 there was a lot of talk of trading 'ol Rosey Cheeks, Tomas Kaberle, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. When looking over there roster they had one top end prospect in just drafted Brett Connolly (who was recovering from a serious back injury). But when I was looking at the organization the name that jumped out at me as a trade target was Carter Ashton. One year after being drafted late late in the first round the huge winger had started to fill out his frame. He still hadn't put it all together yet, but all of the reviews I was reading of him were that he could be the real deal at power forward. I didn't want him to be the main piece of Kaberle trade, but he was an intriguing prospect to me, so I kept an eye on him. Almost 2 years later he is brought to the *true* blue and white in a trade for Keith Aulie. In the mean time he had taken a big step up in his game in the WHL and scored at over a PPG in his 19 year old season. He then played 2/3rds of a season for the Norfolk admirals putting up good rookie numbers but nothing to right home about. By the end of the season he had put up 22 goals and 41 points in 69 regular season and playoff games in his AHL rookie season for the Marlies and Admirals. That is good for 0.32 GPG and 0.59 PPG or 26 goals and 49 points over an 82 GP schedule. Again this is nothing incredible, but is solid enough for a rookie. However, he was also brought up to the NHL for 15 games near the end of the season. In the NHL he was tried on basically every line you can imagine and frankly looked out of place. In the 15 GP he had zero points and was a -10. To my eyes he simply didn't look physically ready. While he had his moments of using his body to make some room and got a nice chance or two he just didn't seem ready to play against NHL players. While this isn't the end of the world for a 6'03" winger at 20 years old (as "power forwards" tend to take longer to develop), it is a bad sign that he looked completely out of place. At this point Ashton is hopefully using his lack of success at the NHL level as motivation to work hard this summer. Coming into 2012/2013 Ashton should be looking to build on a solid but not spectacular AHL rookie season. Hopefully he is over his late season concussion and come into next year as the physically dominant forward he was projected as back when he was drafted. If he has a great year and the Leafs move a lot of bodies he could be looking forward to another cup of coffee at the NHL level near the end of the year, but with the glut of forwards ahead of him, my guess is this will be a development year for his sake he better make the most of it.
Ceiling: 2nd line power forward winger
Reasonable Expectation: 2nd-3rd line tweener physical forward (think Raffi Torres without being a terrible human being)
Reasonable Floor: 4th line physical forward
Interesting Fact: Ashton played for Canada at the WJC 2 years ago at 19. Here is a pretty sweet goal by him in the gold medal game:
IIHF Gold Medal - Carter Ashton - Canada 2-0 Goal vs. Russia (01.05.2011) (via TheDylanVEVO)
# 12 Jesse Blacker
|Born Apr 19, 1991|
|6'01" 190 lbs|
Drafted almost an exact round (29 spots to be specific) after Carter Ashton, Jesse Blacker is coming into his own as a two-way defender in the ranks of professional hockey defenders. In his draft year Blacker was a physical defenseman who was still coming into his own offensively. In his first year post-draft he requested a trade off of the power-house Windsor Spitfires to a team where he could be higher in the depth chart. His wish was granted and he was traded to the Owen Sound Attack after 9 games. From there we saw his offensive game grow as well as reports of strong leadership.
In Blacker's draft season on the Spitfires he had 0.06 GPG which improved to 0.125 and 0.161 over the next two years on the Attack (note I dropped his 9 GP with Windsor in his first year post draft to look at his play after being given a larger opportunity). Similar to his goal scoring rate, his point scoring rate improved post trade from 0.31 in his draft year on the Spitfires to 0.62 and 0.87 his next two years on the Attack. He played so well in his 2nd year on the Attack (and final OHL year) that Hockey's future rated him the "2nd best drafted defenseman in the OHL) in February of 2011 behind only Ryan Ellis. That put him ahead of recent first round picks Tinordi (22nd overall in 2010), Gudbranson (3rd overall in 2010), and De Haan (12th overall in 2009)! Through that season Blacker emerged as the leader on the blue line (with Joey Hishon being the leader up front) of the team that eventually finished as the Memorial Cup runner up (losing to the Sea Dogs). He QB'ed their PP and was used by his coaches in a shutdown role. Here is a good interview with Blacker by Mike Ulmer before the Memorial Cup game, in it Blacker explains how focussing on the defensive side of his game first can help him and his team improve in all matters:
Mike Ulmer: Tell me about your play this year.
Jesse Blacker: This year has been a big year in terms of playing a shut-down role, but in doing so I got more points than I have in other years. I learned a lot this year from our coaches. I’ve learned defence first and offence when you can.
That quote offers a good segue for me into his AHL career. Many can look at his box car stats in the AHL and be a tad (note I say a tad) underwhelmed. As a 20 year old AHL rookie D-man he put up 0.28 PPG in the regular season. While this isn't incredible it is fine for a D-man of his age. This would have been a little disconcerting to me if it weren't for his coaches' praise and explanation of play as focussing on developing his two way play. From everything I have seen of this kid, Blacker seems like the kind of player who recognizes that while talented he doesn't have star level talent and is willing to work on anything in his game if it means success. I'm impressed
Ceiling: #2 two-way, physical, defenseman
Reasonable expectation: 2nd pairing 2-way physical defenseman (think a slightly worse Beauchemin or Jordan Leopold)
Reasonable floor: Physical depth defenseman
Interesting Fact: He has a creepy relationship with Tyler Seguin on twitter...
# 11 Greg McKegg
|Born Jun 17, 1992|
|6'00" 185 lbs|
Ol' fart face himself has had a busy year. Starting the year off in the hell-hole that was the 2011-2012 Erie Otters he saw his previous year's 1.4 PPG drop to a pedestrian PPG. Add to this his +20 dropped to an abysmal -39 and while +/- is a poor stat, a -39 is still terrible. Frankly though, that team was just so bad that we shouldn't be too concerned. At the end of the year (with McKegg gone) their leading scorer was (recent Leafs draft pick) Connor Brown with 25 G and 53 pts in 68 GP. Behind him was the (awesomely named) LEFT WINGER Stephen Harper with 35 points in 64 GP.... barely more than half a PPG for their second leading scorer... Yeah I am not concerned that McKegg couldn't do more with that bunch. When he got to London he scored 19 goals and 41 points in 30 GP for 1.37 PPG. While I would liked to have seen improvement out of him over his previous years scoring, I am okay with this production as it is still very good and he was also now playing on the second line (at least when I watched the Knights).
So where does McKegg sit today? Well his junior numbers are comparable to recent Leafs top pick Nazem Kadri. He has shown that he can produce top level offence in junior when playing with other talented players and can still put up decent offence when playing with scrubs. It should be noted however, that he is not a man without flaws. Otherwise, why would have have gone in the third round when he was well over PPG in his draft year? The answer is that his game without the puck apparently leaves some to desire. Here is an OHL blogger, Brock Otten's, comments on him over at OHL Prospects:
McKegg is a tough prospect to peg. Truthfully, I've never really been a huge fan of his as a player. I've always found him to be one of those "quiet" offensive players. Who go long stretches of being relatively invisible, before looking impressive on a couple of nice rushes or plays in the offensive end. This year was nothing different for me. McKegg never really became a huge factor away from the puck in his OHL career. I didn't see a lot of development in his ability to function as a three zone player, or as a guy willing to do the dirty work in the corners. He definitely has good offensive instincts though, something you can't underestimate.
While Otten clearly states he doesn't like McKegg, reviewers who like McKegg have also labelled some relatively serious flaws in his game. Corey Pronman at Puck Prospectus (who labelled McKegg as our fourth best prospect) had these negatives to say about him:
The Bad: McKegg's skating has shown some improvement, but I'd still say he's a tick below average. While in my viewings I thought he looked decent in his own end, scouts I've talked to have said that area needs work as well as his overall play away from the puck. His physical game also draws criticism from scouts in terms of being a little too much of a perimeter guy.
All said and done this is a big year for McKegg. At the junior level he has shown that he has a similar level of offensive skills to our top prospect, but he still has some question marks in other parts of his game. Next year he is entering the pro-ranks for good and he'll have to prove he can transition to the next level.
Ceiling: 1b offensive centre with questionable 2-way play (a centre version of Lupul if you will)
Realistic Expectations: Top 9 forward with a solid offensive game but mediocre at best 2-way play (think Sergei Kostitsyn)
Realistic Floor: Doesn't make the NHL. While I didn't include this for other players as a floor, I feel like McKegg is a bit of a boom or bust prospect. He hasn't shown much besides his offensive game, so if he can't find his way onto an NHL scoring line, I don't think he becomes an NHL regular.
Interesting Fact: Go look at a picture of him.
One thing you may have noticed is how close these guys were in ranking. Based on nhlcheapshot's drafts of voting distribution the average votes for these guys was between 12.17 and 13.83. If we look at it based on voting points:there was 30 points between 15th and 11th. Compare that to 86 points separating 16-20 and 99 points separating 6-10. So do you think any of these guys are vastly ahead of the others? Do any not belong? Should someone else be here? Please share your thoughts!