The official voting has closed for the 2021 Top 25 Under 25, and as everyone who has had a go at the Community Vote knows, this year is a challenge at the bottom of the list. There’s always more and more guessing involved once you get away from the players with substantial records in pro hockey, but this year seems particularly difficult with a large number of players in consideration who would not have been close two or three years ago. The Maple Leafs prospect pool has changed, and the gap between NHLer of note, or a player who could become that, at the top and everyone else comes earlier this year.
Some things haven’t changed, however. There are still a clutch of players on the eligibility list who are older Russians with indefinite rights, and who we can all see have peaked at a level too low to be ranked on the list. There’s a few more recently drafted prospects who were taken deep in the late rounds who seem like the longest of long shots, and got passed over again this year.
And then there’s the goalies. One of the biggest differences between the Official Vote (no matter who does it) and the Community Vote each year is how goalies are ranked. The community is much more likely to vote for goalies, particularly those on NHL contracts, and to vote them higher, while the official voters are much more likely to not rank them at all. This year we have a bit of a mix of approaches, and that left two goalies, both under contract, unranked.
There are 13 unranked players this time. Last winter, with the same number of eligible players, there were 15. Twelve of the unranked were on the winter unranked list as well, and they are:
- Vladimir Bobylev
- Nikolai Chebykin
- Vladislav Kara
- Joseph Woll
- Ian Scott
- Ryan O’Connell
- Semyon Kizimov
- Kalle Loponen
- John Fusco
- Ryan Tverberg
- Wyatt Schingoethe
- Joe Miller
The only new name on the unranked this year is the Artur Akhtyamov’s backup, Vyacheslav Peksa, a big surprise at this year’s draft, Three of the five goalies on the eligibility list went unranked by anyone. That’s only surprising in that Ian Scott and Joe Woll couldn’t get any votes in this depleted field. Woll, at least, played last year and has a record to go on, while Scott only saw limited action recovering from surgery in the ECHL.
I think it’s fair to say that no one sees the Leafs as having even a mid-quality goalie prospect at this time, but it’s also fair to say we might be tending to downgrade Woll a little more than he deserves.
Kalle Loponen will have some supporters, and it’s valid to say he was underplayed last year in a deep organization in Finland, but the fact he’s Mikko Kokkonen’s age and can’t force anyone’s hand to play him outside of junior hockey is cause voters to leave him off their lists.
We’ll have the honourable mentions up soon — those players ranked by someone, but who failed to crack the top 25, and it’s very interesting this year.