It was about three and a half years ago, that the first iteration of the Top 25 Under 25 appeared on Pension Plan Puppets. Having been influenced by sites like Coppernblue, who had been performing their own list, and looking for an avenue by which to get into occasionally blogging about the Maple Leafs, that I brought the idea to the site.
Now a staple of the site's summer coverage, at the time it was not really meant to be much more than it is now; a method by which the people who write for the site to take the temperature of the team's young players.
Relying on the wisdom of crowds and as much research as our schedules and limited ability to watch some of these prospects, we didn't set out to create a definitive list of who would be the future of the team (as you'll soon see, we were often well off the mark).
Instead, what ended up happening was that we created a snapshot in time of where we were in terms of building a team with young talent (as you'll see through much of this list; not very far), and it's evolved into a method of educating ourselves of things to look for, or red flags to be aware of, when monitoring a prospect's development.
Every year, at the end of the countdown, I've promised a full listing of the results so that people can compare and contrast many of the different voting styles, and
complain about how the consensus votes didn't match up with the commenters. But usually after writing near 30 articles in a span of five-six weeks, it's fallen by the wayside. This week, in the leadup to this year's edition, we'll right that wrong, and lay bare all our previous results.
The first edition of the countdown was always going to result in a Phil Kessel victory. Having established himself as a young, dynamic scorer, on a 2011-12 team still starved for young talent, Kessel was far and away the best player the Leafs possessed under the age of 25, and he won unanimously, receiving all seven 1st place votes.
At the timing of the first countdown, the Leafs had begun to accumulate some promising young pieces, and a few homegrown talents were beginning to lay their claim to prominent positions in the NHL.
Talented young defenceman Jake Gardiner edged out the newest goalie of the future James Reimer to earn the number 2 spot, followed closely by three young players seen as future cornerstones; Luke Schenn, Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri.
Obviously, the list includes a large number of prospects who would eventually fail to mark their mark at the NHL level, but down at the bottom of the countdown, sat a 24-year old playing in the KHL, drafted five years previous, and who didn't appear to have any plans to travel to North America. And so, because of his age and the uncertainty of his future in the NHL, Leo Komarov was largely ignored in our first list.