And now, we've come to the end. After an extremely close race and a last-minute twist or two, we have reached the top of the mountain.
Morgan Rielly is at the top of PPP's Top 25 Under 25.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk a little more about why.
|Birthyear:||1994-03-09||Birthplace:||West Vancouver, BC, CAN|
|Height:||184 cm / 6'0"||Weight:||88 kg / 194 lbs|
|Youth Team:||Hollyburn Huskies||Contract:||15/16|
|Drafted:||2012 round 1 #5 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs|
Rielly's first season as a pro hockey player wasn't without the occasional hiccup, There was a stretch once the season had begun to take shape, of course right after the Leafs had made the decision that Rielly would stay beyond his 9-game grace period on his contract, that Rielly started seeing his ice time dwindle, and in some cases, he was even a healthy scratch.
In the midst of a period where the Leafs won a grand total of 5 out of 33 regular-season games in regulation, it seemed the perfect cherry on top of a crap sundae, that not only were the Leafs going to waste another season, they were going to start the clock on Morgan Rielly during another shambolic year.
But while things would eventually end in disaster, mirroring the late-season collapse that cost Ron Wilson (and holy cow wouldn't he have loved Rielly on his blueline) his job, Rielly managed to solidify his spot in the lineup, and in total put forth a pretty damn good rookie year.
27 points isn't anything to sneeze at, especially on a team where with Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson, power play time on the point was scarce. And sure, Rielly made his share of defensive mistakes, something all members of a Leaf team that gave up 36 shots a game was guilty of.
What was important was that while mistakes might happen for a young professional accelerating from the WHL straight to the NHL, it was important he not appear overwhelmed. And the Leafs horribad defensive zone play aside, Rielly never really appeared to be in over his head. His zone entry and exist numbers, at least the ones draglikepull had access to, were off the charts good compared to his teammates.
|Name||birky||BowerPower||Burtch||Chemmy||clrkaitken||Nikota||PPP||SkinnyFish||67 Sound||FINAL RANK|
And ultimately, I think that's the fact that seals Rielly's position at the top of this year's list. Jake Gardiner is 24 years old, and Nazem Kadri turns 24 just before the season begins. Rielly's 20. And for a 20 year old to step into all the insanity around this Maple Leafs team, including a toxic media and fanbase, an oblivious front office, and a bunch of cameras following you around for a month, Rielly was a revelation, immediately the best young defenceman the Leafs have drafted and developed since the man we should all hope Rielly can one day emulate; the great Tomas Kaberle.
Consistency is key in these top rankings; a bunch of high votes are great and represent a great deal of faith from the voters, but if those are offset by a number of lower votes, it takes away the value of those high votes quickly. Rielly did not actually garner the most 1st place votes; he had 3 compared to 4 for Jake Gardiner and 2 for Nazem Kadri. But Rielly also had the most 2nd place votes, with 4 compared to 2 for Gardiner and Kadri (and 1 for William Nylander), and he was the only one of our top 3 to not see his rankings dip to 4th place at one point. Last year everyone had Rielly in the second tier, all votes coming in 4th or 5th.. This year, everyone moved him up into the top three, including a massive (for this stage of the competition) move from 5th all the way to 1st from JP Nikota.
No way this guy isn't anything but the Leafs best player under the age of 25. JP NIkota
Every team salivates over a young, mobile defenceman that knows how to generate offence. Rielly is that defenceman. Bower Power
Gardiner's slightly better right now, but he's also 4 years older. Chemmy
Congratulations to Morgan Rielly.
This concludes the 4th edition of the Top 25 Under 25 series. I'd say that it is probably our most successful ever. I have a great time putting it together each year, and I really appreciate how much you all enjoy it and talk about it, both here and on Twitter.
I want to thank all the other members of this great site that participate in the voting process. It's not always easy to try and come up with a way to rank a guy playing in Sweden vs. a guy playing in Kootenay vs. a guy playing in Fargo when we're not scouts or searching for streams of Swiss U20 leagues in our spare time, but it's fun nonetheless.
This year, I also have to thank a number of guest stars, who helped provide invaluable information on those players we haven't seen much of, and took a lot of the research burden off of my shoulders as I cranked out five articles a week for five straight weeks. A great thank you to Jeff Veillette, Kyle Ciccerella, Corey Pronman, Gus Katsaros, and Mattias Ek, for providing comments that helped make the series so great this year, and Neate Sager and Jeff Cox for providing great resources on some of the lesser known prospects.