It’s time once again to put on the hindsight goggles and laugh at our former selves. Or brag, there might be some bragging too. In what has become a part of the Top 25 Under 25 ranking of Maple Leafs prospects tradition, we’re going to go back and see what we got wrong, what we got right, and see if we can learn better for next time.
To refresh our memory, this is the official voting list from the 2022 T25:
2022 Top 25 Under 25 Official Rankings
And for our individual votes, you can find them preserved here:
That post also has the community vote in it too, so if you want to see if the bigger crowd was more on the money than the official voters, you can. Now onto the fun of second guessing ourselves.
Looking back, what’s the biggest mistake on the official vote? Not your own votes, the final tally.
Brigstew: On the positive side, it’s gotta be Grebyonkin not getting enough votes. Hard to call it a ‘mistake’ because no one really knew anything about an un-hyped, D+1 prospect playing in Russia’s junior league. But he was a definite miss and a real pleasant surprise this year. On the negative side, I’ll pick on a fellow Russian in Ovchinnikov. Boy he just hasn’t been it this year. He’s a mostly skilled player whose skill hasn’t been good enough, and he has shown nothing else to fall back on.
Katya: If you look at the section below the top picks, we have four guys who were going to be in the AHL this year: Nick Abruzzese, Pontus Holmberg, Joey Anderson, and Alex Steeves. And one of those guys is likely a roster player for the entire season, the rest are not. This is so hard to predict, and maybe the differences in those guys are minor, but maybe we should have seen Holmberg coming.
Hardev: Is Nick Robertson a top-five prospect in the T25? He hasn’t taken his chances in multiple years now and his usefulness is dropping. I don’t see him part of the equation this spring, and unless the cap is flat (it won’t be) he’ll struggle to find a job next year, too. I am now starting to wonder if Hirvonen is more playable than Robertson. Or maybe this summer or next fall I can talk about how wrong I was in this analysis.
Catch-67: I will second Katya’s note about Holmberg being clearly best player out of his AHL depth guy class of Steeves, Abruzzese, and Anderson. Abruzzese’s ranking looks particularly high in comparison to this group, as he seems to have had a pretty mediocre season in the AHL so far this year, whereas the others have all either made the NHL or made strong cases to be helpful depth call-ups. Alongside this class, SDA’s ranking at 21 seems notably low — he’s younger than all of these players, has scored at a point-per game pace in the AHL, and did reasonably well in his one NHL game. I’ll also note that Kokkonen over Král and, to a lesser extent, Hollowell (who probably should’ve made the list) seems like a miss at this point.
Now, your own mistakes? What stands out to you, and why do you think you made that vote?
Brigstew: I’ll own overhyping Ovchinnikov. I liked what I saw from him in the brief spurts he had in the KHL of real ice time last year, and thought he could take a bigger step this year. But he finally got actual, regular playing time and if anything I’d say I’ve seen fewer of those same flashes as last year with less opportunity — let alone more and better flashes.
Katya: Even I put Abruzzese ahead of Holmberg, and I should have known better. I think the Olympics warped my perceptions.
Hardev: I have to admit to not ranking Mete at all. But in my defense I tried to predict waivers. William Villeneuve was really low on my list (24th), but by all accounts he’s having a strong rookie season in the AHL.
Species: I still want more data, but Joseph Woll has certainly made a great impression since his return from injury. He’s started seven games and won all seven (potentially 8/8 at time of writing). That alone isn’t enough to make me consider I ranked him incorrectly, but I look at those I had above him and think he should have been ahead of several of them.
Catch-67: I didn’t vote in the official rankings, and I don’t remember my own rankings in the fan vote. That said, I think I was likely a little bit too high on Abramov and Ovchinnikov. Regrettably, I’m also starting to think I’ve been too high on Robertson, but I continue to hold onto the hope that one of these days he’ll turn good at the NHL level.
Bragging time: what were you oh so right about?
Brigstew: Minten at #8 was pretty aggressive and I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from him this year. Voit at #10 was a good call considering the monster year he’s had. Betting that Tverberg would be even better this season after his breakout last year has panned out, and arguably I should have been even more aggressive than 15th — but we’ll want to see him do it in the AHL, I think Having Grebyonkin at 18 is perhaps the biggest feather in my cap, even though I hadn’t really watched him at all when I voted — I was relying mostly on the positive things I heard Will Scouch say about him.
Katya: I think there might be stuff I was right about, I can’t know for years yet. Dropping Nick Robertson out of the Sandin level seems valid. We’ll see in time if my Matt Knies at third was correct, and that’s really the only vote I care about.
Hardev: I had Holmberg ahead of the AHLers, so I’ll do a dance for that. You can read mine and Katya’s quotes on him here. I thought Král was good when he played and it’s a shame he got injured right when the Leafs needed more call-ups. I debated putting Minten above Niemelä on my list, but I’m glad I didn’t. Minten has been a power play fiend, but that doesn’t mean much in junior. I expected more.
Species: Mason Mar... Oh, wait, I’m a year too late for bragging rights about saying he was way better than any of you thought. OK then, I won’t bring up that particular hockey-scouting-genius level ranking I made, instead, how about Joey Anderson? Of all the prospects I’ve seen come and go, he fits that Marchement-like category of players the Leafs are probably going to lose but which I really don’t want them the lose. Seeing him once again just last Saturday on the Marlies was a treat. He is so situationally aware of what’s going on to setup goals, which was a strength of Marchment, and also JvR, by the way.
JOEY ON THE SPOT 🚨 pic.twitter.com/cLRfRaG6Mk— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) January 7, 2023
They certainly aren’t the most defensively aware players, but when goal scoring is about to happen, those three are always there to facilitate it. and they do so with a kind of grace that’s like they have used Klingon Time Crystals to see into the future and know exactly where they need to be and position themselves such. Anderson averaged #11 in our Top 25, though I ranked him at #9. but I look back on that now and I think I should have had him at #6.
Catch-67: I feel like I still held out more hope than the average voter about SDA, and he’s been quite good this year. Though I don’t expect that he’ll end up having a career anywhere above an occasional depth, good AHLer type. Brooks the 2nd?
Is there anyone not in the T25 you think should have been? Did you think that in the summer or is this new?
Brigstew: Honestly, looking through the final list there’s only two guys who seem like misses, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight. Grebyonkin I mentioned, but Akhtyamov has had a pretty great year so far in the VHL. The problem with calling him a miss is he was pretty meh in the VHL last year, and while he’s been great at the same level this year, most Russian goalies who actually become NHLers are already in the KHL or AHL at the age he is now.
Katya: I don’t believe in junior hockey points or KHL save %, so no, not really. Okay, Mac Hollowell is not absolutely unplayable. I’ll cop to that.
Hardev: Hollowell and Woll were not ranked by me, and they probably could have been in hindsight. In my defense some of the college players put up surprising results, and I’m curious to see what they come up with in the future.
The Leafs added Conor Timmins, who would have been eligible had they done that in the offseason. Do you think you would have ranked him then? Where would you put him now?
Brigstew: A former high pick who had a bit of NHL experience but a long injury history? I think I’d have had him in the same tier that I had Liljegren before his breakout season. Looking at my rankings, I’d say anywhere between 6th and 9th. If I thought he was better than Toronto’s second tier of prospects with no AHL/NHL experience (Niemelä, Hirvonen, Minten, etc) I’d probably have put him 6th. If I was worried about his meh NHL performance and injuries, I would have put him no worse than 9th — one spot after Minten.
Katya: This is really tough. Draft position aside, he was really bad on the Avalanche, and there was nothing at all in his post-junior record to say he could skate onto the Leafs and be an everyday defenceman. I think I would have ranked him around the Joey Anderson zone. I think he’s very much better. Now.. eh maybe ninth? I don’t think I’d put him above Niemelä and Hirvonen.
Hardev: I was skeptical of Timmins when he came here based on his priors, lack of playing time, and the initial accounts of him practicing. If I were to be honest back then I’d have him around Král and Kokkonen on my list, somewhere in the low teens. Now, he’d be right behind Holmberg in 10th.
Catch-67: I think he would’ve ended somewhere between Mete (who I think I had around 18) and 10th (the Joey Anderson zone) on my list. Now I’d probably put him somewhere between 6 and 10 — Hirvonen and Niemelä haven’t done anything all that exciting this year, so he’d maybe be above them — but realistically probably closer to 10.
The Leafs had to sign Keith Petruzzelli in an emergency goalie situation. He would also have been eligible, so same questions as above, would you have ranked him then, and what about now?
Brigstew: I really liked Petruzzelli after his prior season, but I also didn’t rank any other goalie on my top 25. I think I may have snuck him in at 25th, but while I liked him he did his damage in the ECHL, with an okay and short stint in the AHL. I don’t think that would have been enough for me to consider him in my top 25.
Katya: I would not have ranked him then, and I wouldn’t now.
Hardev: I don’t see what his case is for either. Both before the season and now. I’m sure if someone paid me off I’d be happy to put him ahead of Mike Koster, or something.
Catch-67: I tend to avoid goalies as much as possible, so I don’t think so in either case.