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Maple Leafs' Top 25 Under 25: Looking back at last year's results

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One final look back at our previous versions of the countdown before we begin this year's list.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In our last look back at the recent history of our Top 25 Under 25 series, we've arrived at last year's results. Looking at this edition, we find a bit of a shift in philosophy in how we approached the rankings, and while the top tier of the countdown began to show a bit more promise, we still find that overall there isn't a lot of quality past a point that was very high on the countdown.

LINK TO FULL RESULTS HERE

One thing I noticed quite clearly when compiling last year's edition of the countdown, is that offensive potential took on a much more prominent role. After a few years of watching players struggle to translate success from the lower levels, and players have to settle for lesser roles in the organization because of inabilities to contribute offensively, it began to create something of a glass ceiling on certain players in the organization.

In the original list, a player like Petter Granberg (and Korbinian Holzer before him) worked their way up towards the middle of the countdown through sheer dependability and proximity to the NHL, but without any real indication that they would be able to contribute meaningfully to the offensive side of the game, this represented the high water mark the panel was willing to move them past.

The other thing that was interesting is that two groups appeared to emerge and seemingly alternated where individuals fell in the rankings; the first valued the potential that some players possessed to contribute at the NHL level, even where the odds may be fairly significantly against that happening. Others began to be attracted to those that had shown an ability to be NHL players, which is how Teemu Hartikainen - a KHL player whose rights had been acquired - and Brandon Kozun - an AHL veteran who'd end up playing his way in camp onto the Leafs that season - found their way onto our list.

Certain players, whom we had seen on multiple iterations of the list, began to slide. Some of that was that new and developing prospects (such as Andreas Johnson, William Nylander and Carter Verhaeghe) passed them in our minds on the team's depth chart, and another was that having watched their progress for some time, and having not seen the necessary breakthrough, we began to question whether they were ever going to make it.

The list also produced our closest finish to date, as Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri battled down to the final vote to determine who would be crowned the Top Maple Leaf under the age of 25. Rielly eventually won in a very close vote.

And so that leads us to where we sit now. With the team embarking on a rebuilding project, several new young players were injected into the lineup, and a significant number of new draft picks. The pool of players we had to choose from was among the most we've ever had available, and the influx of young skilled players acquired, including several new voices contributing to the voting, should make this an extremely interesting and unpredictable list.

In the past, many incumbents have simply maintained their positions on the list and moved up through attrition above them (either through players turning 25 or leaving the organization). Yet, in articles that we've published this week you've already seen two individuals who were ranked last year that found themselves on the outside this time around. (And a 3rd one will come tomorrow). This is a brand new list for a brand new organization, and the shift will hopefully mirror a promising new direction for the team.

Next week, we'll begin the official countdown.