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

PlayerWinter 2020 RankBirth DateAge in Days on July 1, 2021NationalityPositionCareer NHL Games Played
Erik KällgrenN/AOctober 14, 19969,026SwedenG
Travis Dermott9December 22, 19968,957CanadaLD208
Denis Malgin20January 18, 19978,930SwitzerlandW192
Vladimir BobylevNRApril 18, 19978,840RussiaW
Mitch Marner2May 5, 19978,823CanadaW355
Brennan MenellN/AMay 24, 19978,804USAD5
Joseph DuszakNRJuly 22, 19978,745USARD
Nikolai ChebykinNRAugust 1, 19978,735RussiaW
Auston Matthews1September 17, 19978,688USAC334
Kristians RubinsNRDecember 11, 19978,603LatviaLD
Vladislav KaraNRApril 20, 19988,473RussiaC
Joey Anderson14June 19, 19988,413USARW53
Joseph WollNRJuly 12, 19988,390USAG1
Mac Hollowell24September 26, 19988,314CanadaRD
Ian ScottNRJanuary 11, 19998,207CanadaG
Pontus Holmberg25March 9, 19998,150SwedenC/W
Ryan O’ConnellNRApril 25, 19998,103CanadaLD
Timothy Liljegren7April 30, 19998,098SwedenRD13
Nicholas Abruzzese 16June 4, 19998,063USAC
Filip Král23October 20, 19997,925Czech RepublicLD
Alex SteevesN/ADecember 10, 19997,874USAC
Semyon KizimovNRJanuary 19, 20007,834RussiaC/W
Pavel GogolevN/AFebruary 19, 20007,803RussiaLW
Rasmus Sandin4March 7, 20007,786SwedenLD37
Axel RindellNRApril 23, 20007,739FinlandRD
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev18September 15, 20007,594RussiaC/W
Mikko Kokkonen13January 18, 20017,469FinlandLD
Kalle LoponenNRMarch 13, 20017,415FinlandRD
Mikhail Abramov10March 26, 20017,402RussiaC
Michael KosterNRApril 13, 20017,384USALD
John FuscoNRJune 12, 20017,324USALD
Nicholas Robertson5September 11, 20017,233USAW6
Veeti Miettinen22September 20, 20017,224FinlandRW
Rodion Amirov6October 2, 20017,212RussiaLW
Artur Akhtyamov 21October 31, 20017,183RussiaG
Roni Hirvonen11January 10, 20027,112FinlandC
Ryan TverbergNRJanuary 30, 20027,092CanadaC
William VilleneuveNRMarch 20, 20027,043CanadaRD
Topi Niemelä12May 25, 20026,977FinlandRD
Wyatt SchingoetheNRAugust 3, 20026,907USAC
Dmitri Ovchinnikov19August 19, 20026,891RussiaF
Vyacheslav Peksa N/AAugust 27, 20026,883RussiaG
Joe MillerNRSeptember 15, 20026,864USAF
Matthew KniesN/AOctober 17, 20026,832USALW
Ty VoitN/AJune 10, 20036,596USALW

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.