Through the Top 25 Under 25 series, I've noticed a recurring theme in the comments. As we continue to push up higher, more and more voices start to rise up, wondering how Matt Frattin has continued to rise above name after name. Yesterday, we revealed James Reimer as our choice for #6, and a number of people voiced their opinion that we were wrong; that there was no way Frattin should have appeared above Reimer, much less in the top 5.
Please allow me to provide a defence in three parts.
First, as we touched on yesterday, the margin of difference between 5 and 6 in our countdown was razor-thin. We have seen throughout the countdown that certain people have very different views on where certain prospects rank in the Leafs system; birky's view of Reimer being considerably lower than the rest of the panel (whereas Frattin's rankings were reasonably consistent across the board) allowed the former 4th rounder to slip by by a single point and claim the #5 spot on our countdown, a rise of three spots for Frattin.
The second reason is that Frattin, while one of the older players on our list, established himself as an NHL player this past season, and should be able to hold down a spot on the third line next season (assuming full recovery from the knee injury he sustained during the playoffs, and there being a season). physically Frattin is capable of competing in the NHL, and even when given hard assignments alongside Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur, he didn't look out of place but simply couldn't score enough to stay in that role (15 points in 56 games). However, in a few stints at the AHL, he was electric, scoring 14 goals in 23 games in the regular season, and adding 10 goals in 13 playoff games before a knee injury ended his season.
The final reason comes from a purely philosophical point. While potential is important, being a legitimate NHLer should (and based on results, does) carry more weight. When looking at two prospects with reasonably close ceilings, the one who is closer to actually reaching that point should be given higher rankings (at least in theory). While I think the Leafs possess a number of prospects whose best-case scenario is to be a second-line forward or second-pairing defender, many of them are still several years away from reaching that goal.
In terms of our list, the top seven positions were all taken by players who we fully expect to be part of the Maple Leafs roster next season (Frattin, Reimer, Franson, and the four still to be revealed). Franson was penalized due to uncertainty over his place in the roster, and age. Reimer was penalized due to uncertainty over his future as an NHL-calibre goaltender. Frattin was beat out by four others who we expect to have a bigger impact on the Leafs next season.
There are two competing beliefs regarding Frattin's progress next season. The optimist believes that going into his second pro season, Frattin can make strides in his game, while the pessimist may feel that coming up on his 25th birthday, Frattin is either in or very close to his physical peak and what we are seeing is likely very close to his peak. The answer likely falls somewhere in the middle.
|Prior Rank||JP Nikota||PPP||Chemmy||SkinnyFish||birky||Plea From A Cat Named Felix||clrkaitken||Rank|
Frattin's rankings were fairly consistent across the board, without the huge swing between high and low votes that we've seen from previous entries. I'm sure there will be complaints that Frattin lands in the top 5 of the countdown while only actually receiving one vote in the top 5, but well, tough.
This high in the countdown we don't see a ton of movement unless something happened to really influence their decision. PPP saw something he liked enough to move Frattin up from #7 to #4.
On the other hand, Plea From A Cat Named Felix was perfectly happy to maintain his ranking, holding Frattin steady at #7.
I kept Matt Frattin right where he was because he's exactly where I expected him to be. He is an NHL player, and that's great, but he doesn't have the upside of the players I ranked ahead of him so he stayed put.
With Frattin we all know more or less what we're getting.
He plays hard, is almost impossible to knock over, has a hell of a shot when he can find time and space, and is more or less ok defensively. He's also 24, if he were a few years younger I might be inclined to rank him higher, but he's not. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that he'll probably score 20 goals in a season sometime thanks to a favourable shooting percentage, but he's probably going to be a 15 goal guy who can provide some energy, which is great.
He's what people wanted Colby Armstrong to be at a fraction of the price. He's a great story, and I enjoy watching him play, but he didn't show me anything I wasn't expecting to see. His performance in the AHL playoffs was great to see but the kid should be tearing up the AHL at his age if he hopes to make the NHL. If anything I might have
ranked him too high, but I'm okay with where I had him because I think he'll be a regular contributor to the Leafs for a few years, which is more than I can say about a lot of the players below him. Finally with Frattin, keep in mind he's only like 4 months younger than Kessel.