There’s been a meme about Kyle Dubas since he joined the Maple Leafs organization, and that was his obsession with small, skilled players. He just can’t get enough of them! By the time the 2021 NHL draft came around, Dubas had been running the draft as Toronto’s GM for a few seasons. That meme of him loving smaller players was established by him not drafting a single non-goalie who was taller than 6’0” until William Villeneuve in 2020. Most were 5’11” or smaller.

And while there is some truth to the idea that he is more willing to take a chance on players who fit that type, he has shown that it isn’t an obsession. He will take a chance of a smaller, skilled player if he thinks they’re good enough, and he will take them a bit earlier than other teams. Or, in a lot of cases, he’ll take them when it suits him.

Take Ty Voit. In 2021, Toronto got to the fifth round and selected a 5’10” American winger out of the OHL who didn’t play a single game in his draft year because of the pandemic. The season prior, he was a rookie in the OHL and had good but not spectacular numbers. But he showed a lot of skill with his skating, puck handling and especially as a playmaker. After that draft, Voit made his debut on the T25U25 list at 18th — this despite none of us having seen any game of his.

So, what about now?

The Player

Ty Voit had a pretty great season. Not exceptional, but he showed positive growth. He went from a winger to a center on a rebuilding Sarnia team. He played all situations — top line center at even strength, top penalty kill, top powerplay. And he blossomed in the role, where two seasons prior he was a sheltered, one dimensional winger, he drove much of Sarnia’s success offensively.

He finished 8th in the OHL for total primary points, and 7th in even strength primary points. He led his team in points by 21. He had a stretch at the start of the season where 42 of his first 45 points were primary assists or goals. That’s a testament to how much his team relied on Voit to drive his team’s offense when he was on the ice.

Voit definitely showed he was worth a fifth round pick. He has plenty of skill with the puck. He is shifty on his skates and difficult to check, he has great vision and anticipation to see and create passing lanes, and has underrated puck handling and goal scoring skills with a good shot.

His future with the Leafs will very likely be as a winger. I know he played center and did an admirable job this past season, but his size is a concern. His defense improved a lot — he was instrumental in helping Sarnia keep top prospect Wyatt Johnston relatively quiet in their playoff series — but to the point that I think he may be average.

I also don’t yet think he is quite skilled or good enough to become a top 6 winger. While he is deniably skilled and a good skater, it’s not really at a high enough level. He’s not a Mitch Marner or a Johnny Gaudreau. At the very best, we should be hoping he can provide similar value somewhere in the range of Tyler Ennis, Alex Kerfoot, Andreas Johnsson, Vinnie Hinostroza, and so on.

My biggest concern with Voit is that he is small and gets rocked a lot. Being small by itself is not necessarily a problem, as there are plenty of guys his height or smaller who have done well in the NHL. But they achieve it by being fearless and being tough and/or difficult to hit. Voit mostly manages the latter, but not as well as elite guys. I saw him get crushed twice in the rookie camp last year, and it caused him to miss the rest of the camp and the first game of the OHL season. I also saw him get crushed a few times in the OHL last year, and while I cannot deny he is a trooper and rarely missed much time — that amount of physical violence is something that won’t go away when he goes pro, and it will eventually take its toll.

The other issue is that while he is generally fearless and willing to go to the dirty areas where he may get hit, he is still mostly a perimeter player. He likes to get the puck on the outside and try and attack the center of the ice either through dekes, speed, or passes. That style is a fine line to walk as a smaller player when you go pro.

The hope with Voit is that his skill with the puck is enough that he can provide value on, say, a third line in the NHL one day. In an ideal world, Voit could play on the wing with players like Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten who are bigger, able to take the physical brunt of forechecking, offensive zone cycling and in the defensive zone. On the other hand, Voit can handle more of the perimeter with intelligent reads, stick checks, speed and playmaking to get those two the puck.

The Votes

Voit was ranked in the top 25 by all nine of the voters. Two voters had him 20th or higher, but the rest had him within the top 15. Three people, including myself, had him ranked as high as 10th.

Ty Voit Votes

Josh - Smaht Scouting10
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak10
Weighted Average13.22
Highest Rank10
Lowest Rank21
Spread in Votes11

The reason why I have him that high is because his “best possible outcome” is very enticing. I can see him topping out at a similar level as Alex Kerfoot. Someone who can play center even if you never really want to use him there. Someone who you can use on the penalty kill even if he’s smaller. Someone who can make his linemates better even if you probably never want him to be the best guy on his line in the NHL.

Katya likes to say of guys who are sort of skilled in junior but aren’t good enough to make it just with offence in the NHL, that the the Leafs have a history of trying to rebuild such players while with the Marlies so they can be more reliable defensively, kill penalties, and so on. I can already see some of that in Voit, especially with the strategy Toronto seems to like on the PK. He just needs to get better in those areas of the game in the next few seasons. But he also already has a better foundation of offense and skill than, say, Pontus Holmberg or Ryan Tverberg.

The odds are still against him becoming that good, but he’s a fun player to watch and that’s why I had him at the top of the “less serious” tier of players in my rankings.

Here’s what the other voters had to say:

dhammm: A great value bet for a late-round pick in a draft screwed up by COVID, Voit falls into the same category as Moldenhauer, Lisowsky, and Villeneuve for me: CHL and USHL players who demonstrate skill, play well, and produce adequately, yet I can’t rank them higher because CHL and USHL players are too hypothetical unless they’re blowing the doors off the joint. Think Connor Brown. But if Voit wants to put up 2 points-per-game next season, I wouldn’t be mad at him.

TomK421: Yeah… I had him too low. I hope he crushes the OHL this season, that would be fun.

Hardev: Ty Voit is fun. He’s fast, agile, and scores a butt-load of goals (butt-load in the academic sense). He led his team in points and was third in goals, which is everything you want and more in an 18-year-old you drafted outside the top two rounds. I think the Leafs definitely won the lottery here by getting someone with little track record in a major junior league. He’s developed into a really important player. He actually had a nearly statistically identical season to Jeremy Bracco in his age-19 year in the OHL. Same rate of scoring, same rate of power play scoring, and same shot rate. Bracco is a dirty word here now, but that is because of his alleged off-ice actions and his lack of maturation into a pro player. Bracco failed because he didn’t put in the effort, he didn’t clean his act up, and he didn’t try. Voit has the chance to be better and to realize his potential.

Katya: I don’t consider the vote I gave to Voit to be ranking him high. For me, this voting experience was a very clear top 10 and then a yawning chasm with no one else to rank who I could really imagine as anything but a very small chance of outperforming their draft probabilities. We had a very high average ranking jump from last Friday’s Villeneuve to today’s #12s, but that’s more about agreement than it is value. For me, the difference between Voit and Villeneuve is smaller than any lower portion of this list has ever been before, and the lower portion has more names on it than ever.

Where do you see Ty Voit in five years?

Third line in the NHL164
AHL all star183
Getting traded to the Belleville Senators84