We’re one week and six players into this summer’s Top 25 26 Under 25 list. Here’s everything you may have missed from the past week.
#25—Rinat Valiev and Joseph Woll
Two players, one spot.
Valiev managed to squeak into the last spot on the strength of two high votes. Woll, on the other hand, was ranked by all but two voters. Despite tying on the list, the two prospects seem to be trending in opposite directions.
This time last year, Valiev made his debut on the T25U25 at #21. Our story on him included Mark Rackham (from MLHS) calling him the Leafs’ “best defensive prospect on the Marlies.”
This year? Prolific commenter and voter JaredFromLondon said that “Valiev is just such an un-interesting dime a dozen type guy to me.”
Goaltender Woll wasn’t ranked by a single voter last year, just months after he was drafted in the third round. After the snub, Woll went off to Boston College, put up some decent numbers, and established himself as a starter in the NCAA.
Obviously, we need some way to break the tie here (since seldo didn’t bother when making this list). Fulemin has me leaning toward Woll:
Joseph Woll’s surname sounds like "wall", which is a word for a lateral barrier blocking passage. A "wall" in front of the net would stop any pucks from going in—which is Joseph Woll’s role in his job! I guess you could nickname him Joseph "Wall" Woll.
Not convinced that Woll is the true #25? Valiev owns a camo Canada goose vest. For that fashion choice alone, we should start calling him Rinat “#26” Valiev.
Mr. Sparkles makes his third appearance on this list—and his first since 2014.
So what did he do last year to propel himself back? He had another good year in the AHL before getting injured in the playoffs. However, lots of voters and commenters were worried about whether he can be a regular NHL-er after his less than stellar performance with the Leafs two seasons ago.
Here’s what commenter Back in Black had to say about him:
I was one who held on too long to the idea that we needed to see more of Gustavsson before giving up on him. But 17 games at age 22? Surely that’s too small.
The only other argument against him, really, is that management doesn’t seem to like him. But I can’t tell whether that’s a personal beef with Keefe (heh) or that the organization as a whole sees fundamental flaws in his play.
What I am sure of is that while I would not be happy to have him as the NHL starter for an extended period of time this season, it still sounds better than McElhinney. I’m concerned about this team’s goaltending.
I, too, am concerned.
Normally I’d try to cap this off with a fun social media post but I think I’ll just skip that for Sparks...
Rasanen was drafted in the second round this summer. Call me biased, but I think Eemeli has a great name. Also he’s tall. But that’s not all he is! Here’s Fulemin talking about what else he can do:
Rasanen has some genuinely exciting tools: obviously he’s big, he’s fit, he can shoot, and his defensive instincts are improving all the time. Prospects as new and raw as Rasanen are mostly about dreaming of what could happen, so let’s dream a little: the best case scenario has Rasanen as an absolute terror of a shutdown defenceman. And not for nothing, but remember—he shoots right.
Here’s what Jared had to say about him:
I’m higher on Rasanen than most, maybe due to bias of getting to watch him. His skating isn’t near as bad as is reported, though he has a clumsy look to him as he moves around the rink. He improved at a pretty crazy pace over the season too, totally different player at the end of the year than the start. Very raw prospect. All of the potential though.
One big gap in his game, however, is that his Instagram is locked—which makes it very difficult for us to evaluate his fashion choices. Like the profile says, he’s a project.
Despite unfortunate injury troubles (more on that in the article), Korshkov moved up a couple spots on the list, from 24th to 22nd. Here’s some of what Arvind had to say about him:
First, the vitals. Korshkov is long and lean, a right-winger measuring at a towering 6’4”, but only 193 lb. For reference, Tyler Bozak is listed at around the same weight but at just 6’1”. And no one will mistake Bozak for a physical presence anytime soon. So despite his size, don’t think of Korshkov as a hulking power forward. He’s willing to throw around his body (at least if you look at his hit totals), but his playmaking skills seem to be his main method of generating offense. Qualitatively, he has a reputation as a player who positions himself well, using his smooth stride to get him from point A to B.
Commenter metalthrashindad watched some KHL games and likes Korshkov’s play:
First off, I’m not a scout, and I’m a huge Leafs homer, so my opinion is biased.
Skates well, has good vision and passing skill. The thing I noticed most about Korshkov is his puck protection skills, down low he is very difficult to pin/control. His line seemed to play more time in the o-zone than the d-zone, but I don’t have numbers to back that up.
The only "negative" thing I have to say is that at times he doesn’t look confident carrying the puck, almost like he’s scared to make a mistake.
For U25 leafs/ prospects I had him 11th in NHLe adjusted points per game, ahead of guys like Rychel and Grundstrom.
Like Rasanen, he’s going to have to work on his social media game. He has no tweets (only retweets) and no Instagram to speak of. I’m sure if he works hard and tries his best he can improve in time for next year’s T25U25.
Aaltonen joined the Leafs organization this summer as a free-agent. He makes his debut on this list at #21. This will also be his last appearance on the list, as he’ll turn 25 next summer. Here’s some of what Katya had to say about him:
Aaltonen is not Nikita Soshnikov, who plays like Matt Martin’s more talented Russian brother. He’s got a quiet, physically bland game that relies on positioning and passing to score goals. He does not, in my very, very limited chances to see him on the Finnish national team this spring, seem to stand up well to pressure.
Some, like cagedmercury, were puzzled that Aaltonen ended up ahead of Korshkov—especially given how little any of us know about the former. I think the answer is clear, though: Aaltonen’s Instagram game gives him an undeniable edge over everyone else profiled this week.
What do you think of the players ranked this week? Is someone too high? Too low? Let us know.