In January of 2012, when PPP did their first Top 25 Under 25, Phil Kessel was number one. Since then, only three other players have held that spot, and we already know now who wins it again this year. This is a fun problem to have, but the first year without Auston Matthews will be weird. Courtesy of his September birthday, that’s not next summer, but the year after.
The summary of all the votes shows some things we all know about the Leafs. The expected numbers of players with NHL experience in the oldest lists just isn’t there — the prospect pool was terrible. That started to change before the big management shakeup. but the pace of change accelerated after 2015. The more recent years show very few players going straight into the NHL as the quality of the draft picks used waned. Competitive teams don’t have prospect lists like the 2015 one, where only three players missed getting their 10 games in the NHL, and all three of them were plausibly close to NHL level.
The first time I ever made this summary, I picked arbitrary cut-offs to mark levels of NHL achievement. This is exactly the same method used to define success for draft picks in most probability calculations, but it’s crude. Green, in the chart, is for more than nine games played. A lot of players get one or two or even five or six, but once a player hits 10, they usually stick around at least for a while. A significant number stay green forever, because blue, at 100 games, or more than a single season, is a hard number to crack. This season’s breakout surprise, Carter Verhaeghe hasn’t got there yet, but Gregg McKegg finally did, and so did Trevor Moore.
If becoming an established NHL roster player with 100 games takes time, getting to 300 is a real challenge, and made harder for recent players with two short seasons. William Nylander was the first of the current core to get there, and they’ve all joined him, but Alexander Kerfoot hasn’t made it yet, and Travis Dermott and Denis Malgin, two of the oldest players on our list this year, aren’t there yet either.
Only one name on this list went red this year. Richard Panik finally passed 500 games in the NHL, but Nylander is only at 358, and will need more than one full 82-game season to become the next player to go red. Connor Brown will likely get there first.
The full summary list of all the votes, which you can view here or on the web:
The Leafs have already removed last winter’s number eight player in an Expansion Draft trade. The strong potential exists for more to go in future trades as well. As this year’s activity has shown, a player having some NHL experience, and therefore a profile in people’s minds that’s clear, makes them seem more valuable. That shows up time and again in the voting, and you can see it here. Even negligible NHL experience makes a player rise in value, when often the reality of their performance should make them fall.
When a few more players are added (and perhaps subtracted) over the next two weeks, we’ll be ready to start planning the 2021 Top 25 Under 25. We expect the NHL season to begin close to it’s normal time, perhaps the second week of October instead of the first, so our T25 will be close to normal as well, in August into September and ending before training camp.