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Friday’s FTB: how I made my Top 25 Under 25 Ballot

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I show my work and explain my reasoning.

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The top 25 Under 25 is my favourite series we do here (lord knows we don’t get many series in the playoffs, heyo!). It’s a good excuse to evaluate prospects, rank them in our own ways, and argue over methodology. This year, for some reason, the arguing over methodology and voting systems seems to have overtaken the actual arguing over prospects. Maybe we needed to do a hit piece on Veeti Miettinen or something.

As the arguments over rankings rage on, I thought I would throw my hat in the ring and explain how I got the ranking I did. For all voters, we have always had to balance a range of different attributes and ideologies on what value means. How do we judge between high-end talent and low-end grit? Is there more value in proximity to the NHL, or potential when said player hopefully makes the NHL? Everyone has a different point of view, and when we put together the views of the writers and our guests, we end up with a pretty reasonable list. It’s not a statistically rigorous list, but we never promised that.

How I make my list

Letter Grades

The first thing I do when I make my list is go through every player and give them a letter grade. As a teacher I couldn’t think of anything more on brand for myself. The letter grade, from A to D, indicates the players level of skill and encompases what I believe is their most reasonable maximum potential. For example, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner both get As because they’re both first line NHLers. You may laugh because Marner might be the butt of all my jokes but I’m not stupid.

I ended up with a lot of players in my B column because there’s a lot of prospects in the Leafs system that could possibly crack a top-six or top-four in a complimentary role or even be a driver of some kind. Amirov, Robertson, Sandin, Knies, all the top-ish picks are in there. I’m not expecting star calibre out of anyone so they get a B. Lower down in my B column I included the likes of Gogolev, Ovchinnikov, and Abramov because they have that same upside, but it’s less likely they’ll get there. How I accounted for that will be below.

The C column mostly had generally older prospects and players who had peaked in the bottom six or third pair, or prospects with low ceilings. Dermott, Liljegren, Kokkonen, Anderson, Holmberg, they’re all here. These guys aren’t going to be difference-makers in the NHL, but they’re in the league, close to it, or have the skills to be there without much tinkering with their games.

The D column is all the guys I don’t care about. All the players I know were going to be unranked along with some guys I just didn’t have any belief in. Menell, Malgin, and Duszak are here. I don’t like their games, I think Menell and Duszak are both very flawed defensemen who are more of a hindrance than a help, and I don’t see the Leafs playing Malgin at all in his final year of eligibility.

Number Grades

After going through an initial sort, I went back through the list and gave everyone a number grade, from 1 to 4, denoting how likely they are to reach their peak. All the NHLers got a 1, no exceptions, along with the prospects I’ve considered to have peaked. Most of the AHLers were in the 2 and 3 column, along with some of the high-end prospects who are still quite young. And finally, the long shots like Miettinen, Ovchinnikov, Abruzzese, and the ones I don’t care about all got 4s.

I used this second criteria as a way to separate low-end players who were close to the NHL, with high risk prospects that could become a steal but would more likely than not fail to get there. Adam Brooks, were he still on this list, would be a C1 because he is what he is at this point, and what he is is a fourth liner/tweener. Meanwhile, Miettinen is an A4 because he has a chance to turn all his skill into a great player, but the likelihood he just turns into a junior scorer without the pro game is screaming very loudly. Ty Voit is also in the same play because we just don’t know what he is because he hasn’t played since he was 16.

Combining Letters and Numbers

The next important step is taking these semi-quantitative lists and turning them into something more concrete. I did this by sorting all the prospects into tiers. The A1s (Matthews and Marner) went in Tier 1. B1s and A2s got mixed together into Tier 2. C1, B2, and A3 went into the Tier 3. I think you get the pattern. Every letter down and every number up puts you in the next tier.

After doing this, I ended up with seven tiers, with the first five having about 30 players in it. Once I had each group, I then went through the subjective process of ranking the players within them. In fact, tiers 3 and 4 were still so large I had to split them up into two sub-groups.

This is where I picked who I liked and who I believed in as prospects and measured their potential skills, likelihood of making it, and their ages and positions. When two prospects were nearly indistinguishable, I ended up asking myself who I would prefer to have in a head-to-head battle. Amirov vs. Robertson, SDA vs. Abramov, Hirvonen vs. Knies, Kral vs. Rindell, Holmberg vs. Gogolev.

At this point, I pretty much had my list. I made adjustments as I discussed with the other voters what they think of their rankings and their thoughts on each prospect. I also broke the tiers and kicked players out of the list or squeezed people in based on how much I actually bought into a player’s path to the NHL. For example, Rubins was in Tier 4 because of his age, but I bumped him down around the 20s instead because I thought he should be in the same group as Kral and Rindell. I pushed Holmberg higher to near Gogolev because despite being a boring complementary player, I could see Holmberg in the NHL within a year because any coach would love to play him.

So after all that deliberating, I had my list. I’m sure most people do what I did in their heads, weighing the pros and cons of each prospects and putting them up against each other, I just needed to lay out all my parameters on the page because that’s how I like to sort things. By the way, I may use this method but I didn’t invent it. Will Scouch came up with the letter and number system for his prospect videos and I liked it so much I stole it for myself. I also took to the idea of tiers years ago thanks to Steve Dangle’s prospect pyramids (which I will be doing after the T25).

I don’t know if this article was interesting or insightful, but it was requested I do this in the comments so I’m sure someone’s going to like it. This is my way of evaluating hockey players, both in the NHL and not. I am curious to see the feedback on this.


Various Leafs and Branches

Auston Matthews is on the cover of NHL 22, his second time on the cover. My thoughts on this are that the game hasn’t changed in years, they went after the most marketable young star in the game (sorry Connor, your weird haunted house is the only thing we know about you).

The Leafs also hired Greg Harden as a coach on the staff to work with the players. Harden has a glowing resume from Michigan as the life coach for many top athletes. Lots of players, not just the biggest names, have gushed about Harden and his ability to help players mentally. “Control the controllables.” - Greg Harden

The Arizona Coyotes are not having their lease at Gila River Arena renewed, sparking shouts for relocation to Quebec city (or Houston). After a statement from the owner and some further reporting, the most likely scenario is a new arena will be built in a different city in Arizona and this is a negotiation tactic by the city of Glendale to force a higher fee for the Coyotes to stay while their new arena gets built. The team is a year out from being homeless so they better get a move on if they’re going to do something. If not, a city that’s 28 times bigger in population (Houston, 250k vs 7.1 million) will become a new home too good to pass up.

The IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships start today with Canada playing Finland at 6pm ET. Games will be on TSN, cable and streaming. Check out our article with a breakdown on what to expect.