In what is a Top 25 Under 25 first, we now profile somebody who, as of this writing, is still just 17 years old.
Carter Verhaeghe of the Niagara IceDogs was the Leafs' 3rd round selection, 82nd overall, in the 2013 Entry Draft. Verhaeghe just completed his second season with the IceDogs, where he registered 44 points in 67 games, and added 4 assists in 7 games with Team Canada en route to a gold medal win at this spring's Under 18 championships.
At first blush, Verhaeghe's 0.66 ppg production doesn't seem overly impressive, especially considering that most scouting reports on Verhaeghe tout his offensive abilities, noting his high level of skill and offensive creativity.
However, it's important to remember that unlike most draft-eligible players that turn 18 at some point during their draft season, Verhaeghe just turned 17 before the start of his draft season. In terms of development, especially for a young player still filling out, that matters.
It's also worth noting that Verhaeghe's role has slowly grown with the IceDogs. As a 16-year old rookie on a deep IceDogs team looking for a Memorial Cup run, he was a bit player who scored just 16 points. This year, with more responsibilities, he improved to 44 points. The IceDogs are transitioning from their window where they were led by Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton; now 18 years old, Verhaeghe will be viewed as one of the key offensive contributors to ensure success. That means Verhaeghe should expect to see greater opportunities than he has to date in his OHL career.
For our purposes, Verhaeghe is a kid that certainly possesses offensive upside that hasn't necessarily translated into results yet. At not even 18 years old yet, it's impossible to get an accurate read on just what to expect of him yet. #22 seems like a solid entry point, ahead of players without the top-end offensive skill and players that don't have much of a future as an NHL prospect.
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Verhaeghe doesn't overwhelm me with middling offensive numbers. However, he just turned 18 so his development track is still long. A big year will do wonders for stock.
Verhaeghe makes a solid debut by receiving votes from all 9 panelists - the first person on our countdown to do so - with 6 of 9 voters placing him in their top 25.