When Phil Kessel turned 25 in October, vacating the title of Toronto's Top Under 25 player for two editions and over a year, the man to replace naturally was presumed to another American; either a 24-year old former 2nd overall pick who had estbalished himself to be a top-six forward, or a 23-year old former 1st round pick who skates like the wind and has in bits and pieces established his credentials as a top four defenceman. When the lockout scuttled a January 2013 edition, I fully expected it to be a decision between James van Riemsdyk and Jake Gardiner.
Then the shortened season happened, and Nazem Kadri blew the doors off, and suddenly we had a third pretender for the throne.
The result was an incredibly close vote that saw three players split all top three votes between them. In the end, JVR managed to sway the most voters into placing him on top, and majority would indeed rule.
James van Riemsdyk moves up one spot to claim the 1st overall placing on our Top 25 under 25.
I've mentioned many times that one of the ways to try and separate the minute differences between players of different ages. Generally, when looking at players further down the list, where NHL success is less of a certainty, being younger works to their advantage, as if we can see better production at a lower level we can project better production when they reach the higher level.
At this high a level, it almost seems to work in reverse. van Riemsdyk, by virtue of being a little over a year older than both Gardiner and Kadri, has the benefit of additonal time in the NHL, which he's used effectively.
Throw in the consideration that Kadri and Gardiner have, to date, struggled to earn the trust of their coach to earn a full-time NHL position, and it's not hard to see why the consensus was to place JVR at the top.
EDITION 2 - 2/41
EDITION 1 - N/A
JVR's total of 264 points, compared to 261 for Gardiner and 258 for Kadri, lacks the definitive agreement of a unanimous conclusion of Kessel. But the flipside to certainty is drama, and the legitimate question of who deserved the #1 spot made this edition the most fun to vote on and prepare, even if the overall pool of prospects was likely the weakest of all three editions.
Great goal scorer, bonafide first line winger.
One could make a good argument for him at #1. He's a first line winger. But I don't see him as an elite one and I value Cs and top pair D more.
Congratulations to James van Riemsdyk, and a great thanks to all our participants. Also thanks to all of you for following along, and commenting on (some of) the articles.
Tomorrow, we'll publish the full list of rankings, and then on Friday we'll have some fun with the list.