We revisit our Top 25 Under 25 list from last summer, and give a bit of thought as to which direction they are trending, based on this season's performances.
We're completing the update of our Top 25 Under 25 Toronto Maple Leafs prospect rankings. The lockout threw us off and we'll have a new ranking in the summer but for now you can see our first two installments in the Top 25 Under 25 Hub. You can read the first update on the players that just missed the full rankings here.
Andrew Crescenzi (25) - trending: stable
We poked a lot of fun at the unusual circumstances by which the undrafted free agent found his way into the Top 25 in the last edition, but in his first professional season, the big 20-year old has been a pleasant surprise. He had 14 points in 23 game with San Francisco of the ECHL, and now thanks to the mass roster reductions on the Toronto Marlies, has earned a promotion to the AHL. It seems reasonable to me Crescenzi remains a bubble Top 25 guy.
Greg Scott (24) - trending: down
The influx of talent into the Marlies lineup during the lockout pushed Scott further down the depth chart, relegating him to a purely energy/PK role. It's unfortunate because he had been one of Dallas Eakins' preferred two-way players, capable of contributing offensively and being responsible defensively. Scott may still get a shot at some 4th line spot duty for the Leafs, but he turns 25 shortly which for our purposes is not good.
Spencer Abbott (23) - trending: stable
After initially struggling to get into the lineup, the college free agent has had a strong rookie campaign, with 22 points in 35 games. His game-by-game stats seem to indicate he's still struggling to find consistency, but the Hamilton native has proven in his first pro season that he can handle the step up in competition. Abbott's also turning 25 this year so remember that his development timeline is a lot shorter than others on the list.
Petter Granberg (22) - trending: stable
More of an "incomplete" grade instead of a "stable", Granberg was hurt early on in the Swedish Elitserien season (2 games for Skelleftea) and hasn't returned. Granberg probably would have made a move past a largely disappointing crop of forwards in the list, and may still just through attrition, but he'll probably have to wait until he debuts for the Marlies next season to get true traction on our list.
Tyler Biggs (21) - trending: down
Enough words have been typed and fought over about Tyler Biggs' production with Oshawa in the OHL to last a lifetime, so I'll simply add two thoughts. First, I'm convinced Biggs has the necessary skills to become an NHLer, but I can't see it being in much more than a grinder role. Second, he's barely outscoring (on a ppg basis) David Broll, another 20 year old. Nobody's waiting for Broll to turn into Milan Lucic.
Brad Ross (20) - trending: down
Not sure which of Dallas Eakins' daughter, dog, or car (Author's note: I don't actually know if Dallas has any of these things) Brad Ross defiled, but it seems insane to think that a 20 year old who was good enough to play with the likes of Ty Rattie, Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, and Sven Baertschi in Portland, now finds himself as nothing more than a healthy scratch in the AHL. Ross was recently assigned to the ECHL (...finally) and he already has 3 points in 2 games. Just a puzzling development decision.
Nicolas Deschamps (19) - trending: down
The scouting report on Deschamps is basically he does one thing well; put the puck in the net. He did it in his rookie pro season for Syracuse, then he took half his sophomore season off and got traded to the Marlies. Then he put the puck in the net again for half a season. Now he's essentially taken another half a season off. Deschamps lost a lot of plum ice time to Kadri and Frattin, but 16 points in 46 games in your third pro season isn't good if you plan on making it to the NHL in a scoring role, and you don't play a "gritty" enough game to thrive as a checker. It's basically down to AHL career or Joey Crabb Memorial Award for the Player Least Deserving of a Top 6 Role in the NHL as far as Deschamps' career trajectory.
Josh Leivo (18) - trending: up
I think where you see Leivo going on this list depends on where you see his future role. As with Biggs and Broll, he's in his draft +2 season in the OHL, so on the surface his 66 points in 55 games (1.2 ppg) shouldn't be considered evidence of his future as a pro scoring machine. Having said that, Leivo's numbers are significantly more impressive than Biggs or Broll's, and Leivo's two-way game is certainly the most polished. Leivo's projection, to me, was always a Nikolai Kulemin type; a two-way player that will chip in some offence, play solid defence without being a significant physical force. Not bad for a third-rounder.
Jerry D`Amigo (17) - trending: stable
D`Amigo had 10 points in 29 games prior to the beginning of the NHL camps, when he was forced into an energy/PK role on a deep Marlies team. D'Amigo forechecks like a buzzsaw and gets under the skin of everyone he plays against, and is a PK ace. D'Amigo's just 22 so he still has time to round out the offensive side of his game (if it's there), but he's also played 3 seasons in the AHL, so if he's going to make the jump, it should probably be happening pretty soon.
Mark Owuya (16) - trending: down
I'm not sure what happened to the Mark Owuya we saw last season, who put up a 930 across both the ECHL and AHL, and who stole the opportunity to be Marlies starter when Scrivens was called up away from Jussi Rynnas. But that guy hasn't been around at all this year; he's barely played thanks to the Marlies having 3 goalies deserving of time in the AHL, and when he has, it's been ugly. Goaltending continues to mystify me.
Carter Ashton (15) - trending: down
The Carter Ashton Leaf fans have been treated to hasn't exactly scored much; in limited time with the Marlies he didn't score a lot last season, in a 15 game tryout with the Leafs during Tankapalooza he didn't score at all, and his offence lagged this season during the lockout, pushed down by the likes of Kadri and Frattin. Like D'Amigo, he needs to show that he's capable of scoring at a much higher rate in the AHL to be seen as a legitimate NHL prospect.
Greg McKegg (14) - trending: stable
McKegg's had a bit of a rough start to his pro career; he struggled to find consistent ice time at the start of the season, missing time due to a concussion. If you've watched much of the Marlies under Dallas Eakins, you've probably noticed that Eakins is tough on rookies, essentially making them play their way into key roles. With long-time veterans like Mike Zigomanis (and now Tim Connolly), he has safety nets to give his young pros the time they need to develop. McKegg has shown flashes of his scoring touch from the OHL, but the 20 year old is still a long ways away.
Matt Finn (13) - trending: up
Finn's been a valuable contributor to a surprising Guelph team, increasing his offensive output to 0.8 ppg (from 0.7 in his draft year) while also taking on more leadership duties and tough assignments against the OHL's best. A nasty bout of mono has derailed his momentum, but Finn continues to strong selection in the early
Korbinian Holzer (12) - trending: stable
By the time we get around to the next countdown, Holzer will be 25 years old, so he won't have the opportunity to make further gains. I think it's fair to assume that if we'd done a December countdown, he might have popped up one or two more spots, given his current position in the Maple Leaf lineup. Holzer appears to be a third-pairing guy that could be a solid, cheap option for the Leafs over the next couple of years, but he still has plenty of learning at the NHL level to do.
Joe Colborne (11) - trending: stable
If you stuck a "v" at the end of Colborne's name, the Toronto media would have about two dozen articles already prepared about how "streaky" and "enigmatic" he is. Playing through that wrist injury last season was probably among the stupidest things attempted by a young Leaf player since Jiri Tlusty's adventures in photography and Jay Rosehill's late night driving adventures. Colborne has set the offence back to "ON" since the New Year, with 20 points in 20 games. It's hard to get a good read on where Colborne lands as a prospect, because his offence comes and goes so frequently but his size and skating are certainly NHL quality.
Stuart Percy (10) - trending: stable
Percy's offensive numbers have taken a hit this season (41 points in 59 games to date compared to 25 in 34 last season), for two primary reasons. First, Mississauga sucks this season; they are current;y doing their best to give a playoff spot away to Kingston and Peterborough. Second, because of the aforementioned awfulness, Percy's playing a ton of hockey and being asked to handle a lot of the defensive responsibilities (think Dion Phaneuf so far this season). PPP, leafer1984 and I went to a Steelehads game a few weekends ago and Percy played the entire final 4 minutes of the game. The upshot is the sooner the Steelheads' season is done, the sooner Percy gets to the Marlies.
Jesse Blacker (9) - trending: stable
This is a good example of where I wish the AHL kept better stats (like TOI, for example). Blacker was shoved down the depth chart this year with Gardiner and Kostka joining the Marlies during the lockout; now with three defenceman gone, Blacker has an opportunity to grab hold of a top role on their blueline. Next year is his third full year in the AHL, so with some new blood coming Blacker should be counted on to be a key contributor.
Morgan Rielly (8) - trending: up
Rielly's put to rest any fears about his knee, producing just under a point per game. because Moose Jaw stinks he won't show up on Sportsnet's CHL coverage, but he was simply breathtaking to watch with the puck at the World Juniors. Like Percy, the sooner his WHL team bows out of the season the sooner we get to watch him on the Marlies; I'll be buying tickets to his first game.
Cody Franson (7) - graduated
We aren't really any closer to figuring out what Franson is, since he has been generating offence against the easy competition he gets to face, but then makes a boneheaded defensive play and undoes all the goodwill he just built up. The Leafs are desperate for another guy to step into the void left by Carl Gunnarsson for top 4 ice time, and it should be Franson proving he belongs there. I get the sense at some point Franson gets moved to address other needs, which would be kind of silly but you don't get to where the Leafs have been by being smart all the time.
James Reimer (6) - trending: up
The good news is James Reimer is an NHL goalie when he's not getting elbowed in the head by goons who try and start fights with Colton Orr when they're team is down 6. The bad news is Reimer seems to be a constant injury concern, and it's not just apparently concussions. If we need to use Scrivens for spare parts to keep Reimer healthy, I'm okay with that.
Matt Frattin (5) - trending: stable
Frattin continues to hit the jackpot on shooting percentages; consider that in 10 games this season he is one goal short of his rookie total over 56 games. I think the key to Frattin's success is his willingness to go in front of the net to sniff out rebounds; think back to how many of his goals so far this season have come off being in the right place to deflect a point shot or pounce on a rebound. He's found his home on the third line
Nazem Kadri (4) - trending: up
I could write about a million words about how ass-backwards Don Cherry's claim that Kadri should have been with the Leafs last season was, mainly because it ignores the reality that this current version of Nazem Kadri did not exist prior to this NHL season; his defensive game has finally started to catch up to his offensive game. Let's just bask in the knowledge that for once the Leafs successfully drafted and developed a top-six NHL centre. Kadri's not there just yet, but he will be. He's only 22, meaning we're just starting to see the best of our 2009 First Rounder. Yes, Bryan Murray. This is the kid we want.
Jake Gardiner (3) - trending: stable
Jake Gardiner's play prior to his concussion was at such a high level, while also being so completely unenthusiastic, that it led me to coin a new term to describe when someone is clearly too good to be in their current situation, and are 100% going through the motions; "Jake Gardiner in the AHL bored". Gardiner came in at 3, so the question for the next countdown becomes whether he's done enough to surpass JVR, and whether he's still good enough to hold off Kadri, Reimer, Rielly and the others just below him.
James van Riemsdyk (2) - trending: up
JVR's done a pretty good job of doing four things; one, becoming the sort of skilled top six forward the Leafs have desperately needed. Two, made Brian Burke look like a genius for getting him for Luke Schenn. Three, making me like a
Pink Kelly Clarkson song. Four, claiming the role of favourite for the vacated #1 spot on the next countdown.
Phil Kessel (1) - graduated