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PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #10 Carter Verhaeghe

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The IceDogs forward takes a big step up our list and becomes a player worth keeping an eye on.

When putting together this list, sometimes it's easiest to separate the players into smaller, more manageable groups, and figure it out from there. If you have a number of players that are fairly comparable, it helps to put them all into an appopriate order when you are comparing 5 or 6 people and not a dozen or more.

Last week, the group moved out of a group of players that we didn't have a tremendous amount of faith in their future (from about 19 on down), and into more of a group of players that we could see a future career for. They seemed to fall in some sort of fashion from closest to the NHL (with Carter Ashton (11th) and Petter Granberg (12th)) on top, and those still a ways away from the NHL (with Frederik Gauthier (16th) and Garret Sparks (18th) near the bottom).

Now that we've reached the Top 10, we basically have two groups of players left; the first one, the one that will make up most of the next positions, are the prospects that we have reasonably high expectations for, to become something of substance in the NHL.

Carter Verhaeghe is, with the exception of one, the youngest player left to be introduced in the countdown. He is also the farthest away from an NHL roster spot at the moment. For those reasons, he leads off our Top 10.

Birthyear: 1995-08-14 Birthplace: Waterdown, ON, CAN
Age: 19 Nation: Canada
Position: C Shoots: L
Height: 185 cm / 6'1" Weight: 82 kg / 181 lbs
Youth Team: North Wentworth MHA Contract: 17/18
Drafted: 2013 round 3 #82 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs

Verhaeghe took a major step up from his draft season totals, registering 82 points in 65 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Ice Dogs, moving forward in a youth movement last season, installed Verhaeghe and 1st round pick Brandon Perlini as the focal points of their offence and the two delivered, leading a rebuilding Dogs team to a near first-round upset over eventual Eastern Conference champions North Bay, before losing in 7.

The key thing with Verhaeghe has been consistent improvement. He was a bit player in 2012 on a deep team aiming for a league championship, and the lockout in 2013 left Verhaeghe stuck behind Ryan Strome on the depth chart for the first half of the season. This season, Verhaeghe got the opportunity to be "the guy", and he handled himself well.

The difference between Verhaeghe's season and many other prospects we look at in their first post-draft season is age. Most prospects turn 19 years old during that season and become one of the elder voices on their team; because of his birthday that just comes in shortly before the NHL draft cut-off, Verhaeghe was 18 the entire OHL season, just barely older than some players gearing up for their first shot at being drafted in 2014. That can work to your advantage to get that sort of opportunity in your development at a younger age, and so far Verhaeghe looks like he's taken advantage of it.

What comes next for the 3rd round pick is a bit of a year in purgatory. Yes, Verhaeghe returns to the Ice Dogs for a draft +2 year, because having just turned 19 years old last month, he cannot play in the AHL until next season. This means, like we've discussed with other prospects who have (Connor Brown) and haven't (Tyler Biggs) managed to blow away the competition in that year, it can speak volumes about their future prospects.

However the IceDogs appear ready to move back into the upper crust of the OHL and Verhaeghe will be a critical piece to that. One extra wrinkle to watch, the IceDogs move into a new arena this season and their previous home was slightly smaller than a standard NHL rink. There was always some concern about Verhaeghe's skating, though many scouts seem to believe it made major improvements over last season, and some people felt Verhaeghe took advantage of the smaller dimensions to score more points at home. Now that he's playing in a regulation-size arena, we'll see if there was any merit to that idea.

Name birky BowerPower Burtch Chemmy clrkaitken Nikota PPP SkinnyFish 67 Sound FINAL RANK
Carter Verhaeghe 15 9 16 13 16 10 11 8 7 10
Previous Ranking 15 21 - 22 - 25 - 16 22 22

I may be putting too much stock in one year, ranking him this high, but that one year demonstrates a higher ceiling to me than any of the players below him on this list. - 67 Sound

I like the idea of drafting a guy so young for his draft class. His junior numbers were fairly good this year and I hope he keeps scoring. - Chemmy

Verhaeghe just missed finishing 9th on our list by two points, but also just stayed ahead of Carter Ashton (by three points) for the final spot in our Top 10. The result is a 12 place improvement over last year.