As you may be aware, each summer PPP’s staff ranks the Top 25 players in the Toronto Maple Leafs system under 25 years of age, and profiles them.  While we won’t do a full list again until summer, we thought we’d check in and share how we thought things were developing.

For the record, our 2017 T25U25 List:

25. (tie) Rinat Valiev, D, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
25. (tie) Joseph Woll, G, Boston College (NCAA)
24. Garret Sparks, G, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
23. Eemeli Rasanen, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
22. Yegor Korhskov, RW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
21. Miro Aaltonen, C, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
20. Dmytro Timashov, LW/RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
19. Andrew Nielsen, D, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
18. Kerby Rychel, LW/RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
17. Calle Rosen, D, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
16. Andreas Borgman, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
15. Adam Brooks, C, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
14. Nikita Soshnikov, LW/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
13. Jeremy Bracco, RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
12. Carl Grundstrom, LW, Frolunda HC (SHL)
11. Andreas Johnsson, LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
10. Travis Dermott, D, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
9. Josh Leivo, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
8. Connor Carrick, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
7. Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
6. Connor Brown, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
5. Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
4. Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
3. Mitch Marner, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
2. William Nylander, C/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
1. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL

Who’s Rising, and Who’s Falling?

Fulemin: My riser is the obvious one, Andreas Borgman.  It was a tight race with Calle Rosen early in the year, and I liked Rosen quite a bit, but the reality is Borgman has earned Mike Babcock’s favour, and thus the 3LD job on merit.  He also seems to be showing more potential to one day be a real Top 4 D than the rest of his cohort.

My faller is Kerby Rychel, which may be unkind—he’s not a bad player by any stretch—but because I can no longer see a scenario where he ever plays for the Leafs.  I like the chances of every other forward on the list, including Aaltonen and Timashov, above him.  Sorry Kerby.

Brigstew: I’ll pick two risers—one NHLer and one prospect not there yet. For the NHLers, Borgman’s the obvious one because he’s served as a decent 3rd pairing defenseman who looks like he could still improve and grow his game. I had him at 16, ahead of Rosen, but now I’d probably have him ranked 7th overall which is an improvement of 9 spots. For the prospect not there yet, that’s pretty tough... but I’ll go with Johnsson. I had him at 14th, but now I might have him at 11th. There are others that increased by more, but I think improving that many spots closer to the best rankings is a lot tougher than going from something like 24th to 19th.

For my two fallers, I’ll say Carrick for the NHLers. He’s been pretty disappointing this year, and while I think he can turn it around I’m hoping that he improves enough to be at least a decent 3rd pairing RHD. In terms of actual spots in the rankings he only fell by one, from 8th to 9th, but he was ranked in the bottom of the “NHLer” tier already, with what I would consider a big gap between him and Leivo—who I considered a tweener. Now...? I’m worried Carrick will cement himself as a tweener himself if he doesn’t turn it around. For the prospects, I’ll say Brooks who fell from 11th to 16th. But I’ll add a caveat: I think having to recover from a concussion AND adjust to professional hockey is a lot, and while he hasn’t lit up the scoresheet he hasn’t completely sunk either. Right now he’s just treading water, which I think might be a good sign that when he is fully recovered from his concussion he might start to wow us again. After all, it took some months of playing again for Johnsson to become what he is in the AHL now. I think Brooks can still do the same.

Arvind: Borgman is the obvious riser, but he’s been mentioned. He might not move up in spots if I were to re-rank, but Morgan Rielly has narrowed the gap on Nylander and Marner in the competition to be Auston Matthews’ official sidekick. He’s been really phenomenal this year, in point production and possession.

If it were at all possible, Matthews has made me even happier with his development... coming into this season, the only real question about him was how close to the top of the league he could get. He’s burst into that elite class this season, which obviously bodes well for us.

On the negative side, I’d say Yegor Korshkov has played his way onto the further fringes of the list. He needed a really strong KHL season to solidify himself as a real NHL prospect of note, and he just hasn’t had it, largely thanks to a putrid start. He’s been better since then, but I’m not aware of any reason to discount that bad start as part of the deal.

Another Russian, Nikita Soshnikov seems to be falling as well, though more due to injury and inactivity than anything of his own doing. I think Sosh can definitely play a 4th line NHL shift (he showed that last year). But we have many guys who can do so, and the longer he’s out and not contributing at the NHL level, the more his star falls, as an older player on this list.

Katya: Confession, first — I can’t actually remember how I ranked most of the players below the top four, and I’m not looking it up. I do know I had Borgman tops of the three newbies (Miro Aaltonen and Calle Rosen, the other two) that we all clumped together in our minds. At this point, I’m surprised Rosen didn’t go back to the SHL in December, and I think Aaltonen has only a tiny chance of ever playing NHL hockey. It’s not just that Borgman rose for me, they fell as well.

I’d move Mitch Marner up over William Nylander at this point, and this is the first time I’ve been sure they aren’t tied.  Like Arvind, I’d raise Morgan Rielly up, not over those guys, but closer to tied with them. He took a real step this year.

I was never high on Adam Brooks, but he and Jeremy Bracco have had really stinky seasons so far, and I don’t see NHLers there.  But they are very young, and Dmytro Timashov looked horrible last year, and he’s been great this year, has absolutely taken that real step you need to see (he shoots now), and I’d have him much higher. Not sure he’s an NHLer either, but still.  Travis Dermott was either injured or in the penalty box until his most recent return to the ice, and I’m not one clamouring for him to be called up.

Yegor Korshkov looks identical to last year in person and in numbers. He could be a top line KHL winger, but he’s not showing up in a Leafs jersey, I don’t think.  I’d put Vladislav Kara on the bottom of this list if I were doing it now. He’s got more chance of being something than most of the guys in the bottom few, and his growth this year as a teenager in the VHL is impressive.

I might consider Ian Scott ahead of Joseph Woll now as well.

If I put Borgman at eighth, then the mass of middling AHLers below him trouble me. There’s no spark of excitement there and none of them look like more than potential depth players. I still think Frederik Gauthier, Garret Sparks, Andrew Nielsen and Kerby Rychel are guys we’ll notice three years from now on the waiver wire for some other team, so no change there.

My biggest concern with this list, and the prospect depth overall, is the total lack of centres of any note, so I hope I’m really wrong about Aaltonen.