We are one month into the Top 25 and we’ve seen a lot of players make their T25 debuts, some others come back after a long absence, and some takes that make a lot of mothers mad. Let’s get right into the recap, shall we?
#11 - Nicholas Robertson
Top 25 Under 25: Nick Robertson is #11
Born on 9-11 premature, he barely survived. Then when it came time for hockey, he hit the road to Michigan ... insert the vignette about trick-or-treating at Mike Babcock’s house ... then he moved to Toronto ... cut to the scene about the sacrifices of his mother, giving him his chance at a hockey career ... eventually he chose the OHL like his older brother did. Passed over in the first round of the draft, where some scouts had him ranked, he was taken by the team that showed interest in him at the combine, the team he had hoped would take him.
Something irrespective of this young man’s talent that I think is super cool, is that he’s of Filipino descent. Because I’m not of West Asian descent, I don’t think I realized how much Naz meant to that community in this city until after he left, and there was an outpouring of folks talking about how influential Naz was to their hockey journey. There are a whole number of people who got into the game simply because someone who looked like them was a major part of their hometown team.
I want Robertson to make it because he both seems like a hard working kid, and because he’d invigorate all sorts of passion for the sport amongst prominent communities in this city. There are zero of Southeast Asian descent even close to the NHL right now outside of the Robertson brothers. That, coupled with the fact that it’s a miracle he’s alive at all, has me being all kinds of irrational in my hopes for this kid.
#10 - Trevor Moore
Top 25 Under 25: Trevor Moore defies the odds at #10
Another thing about Moore that gives him more value than the rest is his work ethic and competency on the penalty kill. We didn’t see this on the Maple Leafs as he only played two shifts for a grand total of 46 seconds, but on the Marlies, he and Brooks were a beast of a pair. Moore was never one to laze around, hustling all around the ice, forcing the power play to make something happen or make a mistake. And it’s not like he was reckless with this either, he was very vocal on the kill, calling out plays and assignments and switches from in front. He was a leader on and off the ice and I think that confidence has only grown in his time with the Leafs.
Moore is in a weird spot where he could end up being a useful third line winger this year, but he could also end up spending the year in the pressbox. It sounds like Mikheyev is expected to make the team, which would leave Moore, Aberg, Agostino, Shore, and Petan (and to a lesser extent Gauthier and Marchment) competing for the final two forward spots once Hyman is back. Maybe Moore has the edge based on familiarity, but it isn’t difficult to imagine two of those other guys getting in ahead of him.
- m piedlourde
#9 - Timothy Liljegren
Top 25 Under 25: Timothy Liljegren Slides to #9
Zooming out a little bit on that point: power play defencemen are a good and useful thing in the NHL. The Leafs have an extremely fine one in Morgan Rielly. But it seems to be a little under-emphasized that the recent trend in the NHL towards 4F-1D power play units has essentially halved the number of jobs for those kind of players. To be a regular NHL defender and get steady PP1 time, you have to be the best option on your team or you’re probably out of luck.
If Liljegren isn’t going to be that kind of NHL player—and even if we’re more optimistic than Scott on that point, he’d have a hell of a time swiping the job in the foreseeable future—it becomes all the more critical that he diversify his skill set. This is something that the Leafs did with some of their forward prospects in Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, training them for penalty kill duty in the AHL before sending them up to the majors as developed two-way players. Everything they’ve done with Liljegren seems consistent to me with that style of development.
#8 - Travis Dermott
Top 25 Under 25: Travis Dermott joins the party at #8
Dermott is a smooth-skating and agile defenseman who is comfortable with the puck on his stick. He plays an aggressive defensive style, particularly in the neutral zone, where he gets right up into the sweater of opposing forwards to disrupt them as they attempt to cross the Leafs’ blue line. Despite this, he’s been a positive penalty differential player throughout his career, which is a relative rarity for a defenseman (that said, this is a trait that is aided by the fact that he rarely faces high end forwards). He’s an active defenseman in the offensive zone, ranking 43rd among regular NHL defensemen last year in shot rate. To me, his calling card is his edgework, which is the core of his game both offensively and defensively. It’s what allows him to play so tight to opposing forwards, as well as create space for his own and his team’s offense.
Marshmallows are incredibly resilient.
#7 - Andreas Johnsson
Top 25 Under 25: Andreas Johnsson scored his way to #7
Johnsson is not a star, and while he does have a good shot and his heat maps show that he’s not afraid to go to dirty areas to get chances, he’s probably not going to keep shooting 15% at 5v5 for the rest of his career. For comparison, of the non-star players who shot 15% or more in 2017-18, most of them saw their shooting percentages drop between 2-5% the following season. In the extreme cases like Nick Schmaltz and our friendly neighbourhood Kerfoot, they saw their sh% drop from the low-20s to the single digits. Yikes.
When I was at Marlies games, my brother and I (as season ticket holders) would take the over/under in gaffes Sandin would make with the puck. The going rate was 4.5.
Granted he was a good 7-8y younger than the average D-Man in the AHL – and that he set a new points record for an 18y old in the League is an impressive – but he is definitely going to need another full year of seasoning before he gets a taste of the NHL. Those who are suggesting otherwise either don’t watch enough Marlies games or know something I don’t (which is entirely possible LOL).
He has undeniable skills and the potential to be worked into a legitimate pro D-Man with Top-4+PP1 upside (so equivalent maybe higher than Dermott) but there’s a lot of work to be done wrt improving his “hockey sense” and decision-making.
I believe he’s going to be a core piece on the Leafs blueline come 2020/21 and thru the entire decade. But it will take another year til he reaches the show and likely another 3 or 4 (as is the case with most D-Men) til he reaches his full potential.
- BexAtTheEx (Yes, this was in the Johnsson comments)
Now, it’s time to see what players you all picked for your numbers 11-7!
#11 - Jeremy Bracco, RW, Toronto Marlies/AHL
Highest Rank: 6 (1 vote)
Lowest Rank: 25 (1)
Number of Votes: 361/424
2018 Community vote: #15
Bracco is a very popular player among Leafs fans (except Hardev) and placed one spot higher in the community vote then he did in the PPP Top 25. A four place jump, but still not cracking the top 10.
#10 - Trevor Moore, C/W, Toronto Marlies/AHL / Toronto Maple Leafs/NHL
Highest Rank: 4 (1 vote)
Lowest Rank: 25 (4)
Number of Votes: 361/424
2018 Community vote: #18
A very slim margin between Bracco and Moore for the first spot in the top 10. They both had the same number of votes, but Moore got a few more higher placed votes than Bracco. He’s closer to an NHL spot than young Jeremy, which put him over the edge.
#9 - Alex Kerfoot, C/W, Colorado Avalanche/NHL
Highest Rank: 2 (1 vote)
Lowest Rank: 22 (3)
Number of Votes: 367/424
2018 Community vote: Not Ranked
The new Nazem Kadri was your first player ranked in the single digits. and possibly the first player ranked to not get a 25th place vote. Someone was reaching when they selected him 2nd, but it’s nice to know the new guy is fitting in.
#8 - Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto Marlies/AHL
Highest Rank: 3 (2 votes)
Lowest Rank: 25 (1)
Number of Votes: 386/424
2018 Community vote: 9
A 25th place vote for Timmy! This must have been someone just randomly selecting players. If not, show yourself!
#7 - Rasmus Sandin, D, Toronto Marlies/AHL
Highest Rank: 2 (1 vote)
Lowest Rank: 24 (1)
Number of Votes: 397/424
2018 Community vote: 13
Sandin almost got 400 votes, if not for three people who clearly had never heard of him. In the battle for top Leafs defensive prospect, Sandin certainly has a hand up over Liljegren.
He’s right handed.
See you next week!