It’s August, hockey fans, and that means one thing! Okay, this year, it also means the Women’s World Championship is coming up soon, but it means it’s time for the Top 25 Under 25.
Last year was a confusing and strange offseason, split into two parts, and we compensated with the entertainment of two T25 lists — a summer one before the draft and a winter one after free agency was over and rosters were mostly set. This year, as the world tries to get back on schedule, we’re having one T25 event at more or less the usual time.
Very soon the community vote post will go up, the official voters will get the final countdown to put in their last tweaks on their votes, and before you know it, we’ll be talking about who didn’t make the list before we begin counting down to our mystery number one player under 25. That should kick off next week.
The eligibility rules are very straightforward: All players either under NHL contract for the current year or for whom the Maple Leafs have signing rights who were under 25 on July 1 are eligible. If that player you like is not on this list below the possible reasons are: he’s older than you think; he’s not actually a member of the Leafs; his signing rights have expired or we missed him on the list. Feel free to check on that and tell us if we made a mistake.
2021 Top 25 Under 25: How we got here
This exercise is an old one, with the first list dating to 2012. That means that some of the things that were true about the NHL at that time, or about the Leafs, aren’t so true now. One major change in hockey is that younger players make the NHL earlier and play more games at younger ages. They either become the stars of the team or they’re known quantities by the time their waiver exemption expires.
If we were doing a pure prospects list, the age limit would be lower than 25, and then we’d have an argument about who is and is not a prospect. We’ve changed some things about how we tabulate votes, and how we do community voting over the years, but leaving the eligibility age the same gives a continuity to the lists that shows how the team itself has changed over the years.
This year’s list is 45 names, which is exactly the same number as in the Winter 2020 T25. Not exactly the same people, but the numbers of exits and entrances lined up. Here they are:
2021 T25 Eligible Players
|Player||Winter 2020 Rank||Birth Date||Age in Days on July 1, 2021||Nationality||Position||Career NHL Games Played|
|Erik Källgren||N/A||October 14, 1996||9,026||Sweden||G|
|Travis Dermott||9||December 22, 1996||8,957||Canada||LD||208|
|Denis Malgin||20||January 18, 1997||8,930||Switzerland||W||192|
|Vladimir Bobylev||NR||April 18, 1997||8,840||Russia||W|
|Mitch Marner||2||May 5, 1997||8,823||Canada||W||355|
|Brennan Menell||N/A||May 24, 1997||8,804||USA||D||5|
|Joseph Duszak||NR||July 22, 1997||8,745||USA||RD|
|Nikolai Chebykin||NR||August 1, 1997||8,735||Russia||W|
|Auston Matthews||1||September 17, 1997||8,688||USA||C||334|
|Kristians Rubins||NR||December 11, 1997||8,603||Latvia||LD|
|Vladislav Kara||NR||April 20, 1998||8,473||Russia||C|
|Joey Anderson||14||June 19, 1998||8,413||USA||RW||53|
|Joseph Woll||NR||July 12, 1998||8,390||USA||G||1|
|Mac Hollowell||24||September 26, 1998||8,314||Canada||RD|
|Ian Scott||NR||January 11, 1999||8,207||Canada||G|
|Pontus Holmberg||25||March 9, 1999||8,150||Sweden||C/W|
|Ryan O’Connell||NR||April 25, 1999||8,103||Canada||LD|
|Timothy Liljegren||7||April 30, 1999||8,098||Sweden||RD||13|
|Nicholas Abruzzese||16||June 4, 1999||8,063||USA||C|
|Filip Král||23||October 20, 1999||7,925||Czech Republic||LD|
|Alex Steeves||N/A||December 10, 1999||7,874||USA||C|
|Semyon Kizimov||NR||January 19, 2000||7,834||Russia||C/W|
|Pavel Gogolev||N/A||February 19, 2000||7,803||Russia||LW|
|Rasmus Sandin||4||March 7, 2000||7,786||Sweden||LD||37|
|Axel Rindell||NR||April 23, 2000||7,739||Finland||RD|
|Semyon Der-Arguchintsev||18||September 15, 2000||7,594||Russia||C/W|
|Mikko Kokkonen||13||January 18, 2001||7,469||Finland||LD|
|Kalle Loponen||NR||March 13, 2001||7,415||Finland||RD|
|Mikhail Abramov||10||March 26, 2001||7,402||Russia||C|
|Michael Koster||NR||April 13, 2001||7,384||USA||LD|
|John Fusco||NR||June 12, 2001||7,324||USA||LD|
|Nicholas Robertson||5||September 11, 2001||7,233||USA||W||6|
|Veeti Miettinen||22||September 20, 2001||7,224||Finland||RW|
|Rodion Amirov||6||October 2, 2001||7,212||Russia||LW|
|Artur Akhtyamov||21||October 31, 2001||7,183||Russia||G|
|Roni Hirvonen||11||January 10, 2002||7,112||Finland||C|
|Ryan Tverberg||NR||January 30, 2002||7,092||Canada||C|
|William Villeneuve||NR||March 20, 2002||7,043||Canada||RD|
|Topi Niemelä||12||May 25, 2002||6,977||Finland||RD|
|Wyatt Schingoethe||NR||August 3, 2002||6,907||USA||C|
|Dmitri Ovchinnikov||19||August 19, 2002||6,891||Russia||F|
|Vyacheslav Peksa||N/A||August 27, 2002||6,883||Russia||G|
|Joe Miller||NR||September 15, 2002||6,864||USA||F|
|Matthew Knies||N/A||October 17, 2002||6,832||USA||LW|
|Ty Voit||N/A||June 10, 2003||6,596||USA||LW|
The most notable graduation off the list is William Nylander. Also gone from the winter top 10 is Filip Hållander, traded back to Pittsburgh. Notable additions are the three players drafted this summer: Matthew Knies, Ty Voit and Vyacheslav Peksa.
Brennan Menell, acquired via trade, just makes the age cut, and free agent Erik Källgren becomes the oldest player on the list in what will be his only appearance. Joining him as the only players born in 1996 is Travis Dermott, and Voit is the youngest player, and only one born in 2003.
The split between full time NHLer or not there at all is very stark this year. There are not a lot of players being eased in at this stage of the Maple Leafs post-rebuild. And the clock is ticking on a lot of players who are off in the Europe or the AHL and who we sometimes forget have gotten older along with the rest of us.
Joe Duszak and new defender Menell are two months apart in age. Joey Anderson and Joe Woll are both considerably older than Rasmus Sandin. Newly signed Pavel Gogolev, is also a little older.
Two late round picks in 2020, Wyatt Schinigoethe and Dmitri Ovchinnikov, are almost the same age as this year’s second-round pick Knies.
Nick Robertson is way, way down this list by age, in the bottom third, so maybe the fact he hasn’t lit up the NHL yet isn’t quite the problem we sometimes think it is. The most famous late-round pick from the NCAA, Veeti Miettinen, is the same age. So is Rodion Amirov.
Next year, the six oldest players on this list graduate, which means this is the last Mitch Marner year, but not the last Auston Matthews year. Given that, our hope as fans of the Leafs has to be that someone on this list grabs an NHL roster spot and keeps it, or else the NHL experience on next year’s T25 will be very limited.
That’s Kyle Dubas’s problem for the next season, our focus right now should be on arguing about which of these young players is going to take a big leap this year, and which of them is yesterday’s dream.