The Maple Leafs have a pretty good history turning late round picks into useful NHL depth. Leo Komarov (6th round), Carl Gunnarsson (7th round), Connor Brown (6th round), Andreas Johnsson (7th round), and Pierre Engvall (7th round) are the noteworthy picks from a previous era.
But it’s been a few years since we’ve seen any of their later picks look like they could be the next one. Pontus Holmberg as a 6th round pick could be that, but after him we have Ryan Tverberg — the local Richmond Hill boy playing in the NCAA, who had a huge breakout season that caught everyone by surprise.
Tverberg wasn’t just a late pick, he was the fifth last pick in the entire draft. And Toronto actually “traded up” to take him. At the time, he was coming off of a 51 point season in 47 games in the OJHL. That’s not a great point total for a top prospect for a lesser league. By comparison, in that same season Ayrton Martino, who is a year younger, had 79 points in 48 games. And he became a third round pick. So it’s not really surprising that Tverberg was such a late pick.
After committing to Harvard, where he would have played with Nick Abruzzese, he switched to UConn after the pandemic caused Harvard to cancel their season. His freshman season was unspectacular, and he had 7 points in 14 games. But this past season, Tverberg had a breakout with 32 points in 36 games. He was even an invite to Team Canada’s first World Junior Camp, and was reportedly one of the final cuts. That’s how far he came.
Now, those points look nice but he also had a pretty high sh% spike. He scored a lot of goals off the rush, and some that definitely that seemed kinda lucky. However, to me the points don’t matter as much. Skill wise, there are some things I really liked about him when I saw him last year, and I watched him a lot.
He’s a very good skater, especially in a straight line. That makes him a dangerous offensive threat off the rush. He has a good shot, and decent hands in tight although I wouldn’t call him a dynamic puck handler in tight. His skating combines well with a relentless motor, and he plays a very aggressive and physical style. Given his forechecking and play style I can see him becoming a fan favourite. If he makes the NHL, I do think that’s a possibility, he’s likely to be a fourth line energy guy who can play with speed, a physical style, forecheck hard, and help generate rush chances.
UConn graduated a lot of their top players last season, so Tverberg will likely play a bigger role in all situations and with more ice time. He may not improve his point totals, but what we should want to see from him is similar or better production that looks more sustainable because he makes improvements to the other areas of his game.
Ryan Tverberg Votes
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I am surprised by how low Tverberg was ranked, including by a few people who didn’t rank him at all. Six of nine voters ranked him in their top 25, including myself. I was the highest on him, ranking him 15th. His lowest rank within the top 25 was 22nd.
On the one hand, I kind of get it. He’s not the most skilled, he’s already 20 years old before he had his breakout, and even then with a shooting percentage spike he didn’t quite have a point per game. So he wasn’t a dominant force in the NCAA, which he’d have to be in his D+2 season to seem like a legit top prospect.
But there are two important things to note that you may not know. First, he played on the third line so he didn’t get the most minutes, and despite that he was one of the better point producers at even strength in the entire NCAA. Second, his team’s powerplay was awful and he only had five PP points. On a better powerplay, he could have padded his points to look even better. But that’s why I don’t care as much about his points. He has projectable skills that could make him a safer bet to be a depth NHLer some day, which is a huge win for such a late pick.
Here’s what the other voters think:
dhammm: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” This is a player where various prospect cohort success models like Byron Bader’s and Patrick Bacon’s are pessimistic yet scouts and journalists are high. If Tverberg can ramp his production in his junior year, it would do a lot to win me over.
Hardev: Everything I can see shows a good, strong, productive year for a second-year student in the NCAA. Made the second All-Star team in his conference, got league MVP votes, led his team in goals. I like his speed, I like his intensity. I think if he was on a pathway where we were able to see that more (obviously the AHL, but also international tournaments) then I think he would be ranked in the teens on this list. He did get an invite in his last year of eligibility to the U20 team, but that’s it for him. An intriguing seventh round pick.
TomK421: Honestly, I have no thoughts on Tverberg. His name has good pun thread potential though so hopefully he shows up eventually.
Katya: Shooting %. I think I fell for a shooting % spike. Or else this is just who is on the bottom of the list now.
What do you think? Did you hop on the Tverberg bandwagon after last season, or are you skeptical of his shooting percentage spike and lack of dynamic skill?
Would you have Tverberg in your top 25 under 25 ranking?