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Top 25 Under 25: Could Trevor Moore be better than we all think?

Trevor Moore, undrafted NCAA prospect, was signed by the Leafs on July 26, when most of the T25U25 rankings were done. We all left him off our lists.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Did we all make a mistake leaving Trevor Moore off of our T25U25 rankings this year?

To answer that question, to look deeper at Moore's performance so far, means digging into NCAA hockey.

Moore in his Conference

Division I hockey in the NCAA is a complicated beast. There are 60 teams in 6 groups or conferences, so right away it's double the size of the NHL or AHL.

Each conference is of various sizes and they play regular seasons mostly within their own conference, while also playing games with other conference teams. This all leads up to the regional playoffs and ultimately the Frozen Four.

Moore's team, the University of Denver Pioneers, is in the NCHC, which has seven other teams. They finished the regular season last year second in their division, but won through to the Frozen Four for their region. The team is ranked around fifth or sixth overall by most sources.

Within the Conference (stats kept for games played by NCHC conference teams against each other only), we can look at Trevor Moore's most recent season:

He is tied for third in points, with 1.25 points per game (PPG), heavily weighted towards assists, which is similar, but slightly better than Tony Cameranesi of Minnesota-Duluth, who is also on the Marlies roster for the coming year. Cameranesi was drafted by the Leafs in 2011, 130th overall, and he is about to turn 23 to Moore's 21.

Scouting reports are out there on Moore, of course, but they tell you little more than what we saw at the Leafs development camp: he's very small, plays a playmaking role as a winger, and he had good chemistry with Mitch Marner and Adam Brooks, who are both speedy high-level hockey thinkers.

Moore in all of Division I

In the Division I rankings as a whole for last season:

Moore is 25th in points with a PPG of 1.10 (good for 32nd), still heavily weighted to assists but not as extreme as his in-conference production.

I took all the players in Division I with a PPG of at least 1 last year, which is 55 skaters, and looked at the only data available: standard boxcars.

If you look at goals only, Moore is very near the bottom of the list, tied with Cameranesi and several other players with 11. NCAA players only play about 40 games, so the first hurdle to imagining what their scoring means is the small sample of games. Four full years of college might toss up only 150 or so games to go by.

I cherry-picked a group of players out of the list of 55 by the tried and true method of picking names I'd heard of. I wanted to see where Moore fits versus his peers we may have a larger context for. Included is their place on the April, 2016 SBNation College Hockey top 100 NCAA prospects list and their ranking by total points.

Rank by TP Name SBNation Rank Team Age GP G A TP PPG PIM +/-
1 Kyle Connor (LW/C) 1 Univ. of Michigan 19 38 35 36 71 1.87 6 34
2 J.T. Compher (W/C) 23 Univ. of Michigan 21 38 16 47 63 1.66 28 35
3 Tyler Motte (C/LW) 33 Univ. of Michigan 21 38 32 24 56 1.47 36 28
5 Brock Boeser (RW/C) 2 Univ. of North Dakota 19 42 27 33 60 1.43 26 45
8 Jimmy Vesey (LW) 6 Harvard Univ. 23 33 24 22 46 1.39 6 11
12 Drake Caggiula (LW/C) 100 Univ. of North Dakota 22 39 25 26 51 1.31 60 46
13 Nick Schmaltz (C/RW) 8 Univ. of North Dakota 20 37 11 35 46 1.24 6 44
16 Shane Conacher (RW) unranked Canisius College 22 39 20 26 46 1.18 18 12
25 Travis St. Denis (RW) unranked Quinnipiac Univ. 23 43 22 27 49 1.14 52 14
32 Trevor Moore (LW/C) unranked Univ. of Denver 21 40 11 33 44 1.1 8 16
36 Nick Lappin (RW) 93 Brown Univ. 23 31 17 16 33 1.06 12 -6
45 Hudson Fasching (RW) 24 Univ. of Minnesota 21 37 20 18 38 1.03 16 12
47 Tony Cameranesi (C) 99 Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth 22 38 11 28 39 1.03 14 24
52 Tyson Spink (LW/RW) unranked Colgate Univ. 23 37 14 23 37 1 20 -10
55 Anders Bjork (LW/C) 35 Univ. of Notre Dame 19 35 12 23 35 1 8 28
54 Zach Werenski (D) 7 Univ. of Michigan 19 36 11 25 36 1 20 5

I've marked the three Marlies/Leafs players in blue, and Tyson Spink, you may recall was around last year on an ATO very briefly. A few of these players were also signed by NHL/AHL teams: Drake Caggiula, Travis St. Denis and notably Nick Lappin.

Lappin was the feisty fellow that wrecked havoc on the Marlies in the playoffs last year for the Albany Devils. He didn't look like a recent college kid on a tryout, and the Devils obviously agreed, signing him to an NHL deal that spring.

A lot of these players have been drafted by NHL teams, notably those hot properties at the top of the list. Some of them stood out in the WJC or World Championships, where the USA went to the college well for players. Hudson Fasching, Tyler Motte and Kyle Connor were all players on that better-than-they-should-have-been Team USA, led by Auston Matthews.

Moore seems to fit in with these players well, as a playmaker, not a goal scorer. He's not on the level of the prodigies at the top of the list, tearing up the league at 19, but he's not Jimmy Vessey's age yet either.

He's had a fair level of consistency over his NCAA years:

2013-14 Univ. of Denver 42 14 18 32 14 15 0.76
2014-15 Univ. of Denver 39 22 22 44 7 19 1.13
2015-16 Univ. of Denver 40 11 33 44 8 16 1.10

Edited to add: Thanks to The Norris, I have his shooting percentage for those three years wich is 14%, 21%, 8%.  Shooting percentage trends high in the NCAA compared to the NHL, it seems, so his recent year seems to be the anomaly. He shot at a very high rate last year, giving him a very Nazem Kadri-esque season, so no wonder the Leafs took him on.

The fluctuation in goal scoring could be usage or normal variance or an indication this past year undersells his scoring. It's just really hard to tell with players like him. He was 18th in Division I by PPG in 2014-2015, the year Jimmy Vesey was second only to Jack Eichel by all measures.

What were we all missing?

So the obvious question is: why wasn't he drafted? And the obvious answer is: he's short and not very muscular. He talked at the Leafs development camp about putting on muscle mass like some of the guys he was on the ice with, and several of those guys were not tall men either. He seems to see a way to compete at least at the AHL level by taking Dmytro Timashov, Mitch Marner and some other not so tall prospects as role models. (Wait until he meets Rich Clune.)

Both he and Shane Conacher could well have been passed up at the draft, along with the higher potential Caggiula, because of size bias—valid or otherwise. All of these guys are in the Mark Arcobello range of not as tall as some sources say they are, but not Nathan Gerbe sized either.

Did we miss ranking this player because of a bias against undrafted players? Did we miss him due to unfamiliarity with the NCAA, or the difficulty in comparing across leagues? Do we overvalue Canadian junior hockey just because it's more familiar to most of us? Maybe. Probably.

Moore's scoring rate is better than Tyler Bozak's was at the University of Denver. He was better last year than all but Alex Killorn's senior year.

Should Trevor Moore have been last year's Adam Brooks in the draft, only no one had the wit to see beyond his height? Maybe, but he still seems a higher-risk pick to me.

The Leafs signed him to a maximum ELC, with maximum allowed A bonuses, the same deal they gave Nikita Zaitsev and fellow undrafted college find Kasimir Kaskisuo. Drafted players Andrew Nielsen and Andreas Johnson are on lower salary deals (they all make $70,000 in the AHL, so this is largely symbolic), and Tony Cameranesi is on an AHL contract (which could pay him much more than $70,000, so might not be the slight we automatically see it as).

If salary or contract type is an indication of value, then the Leafs see something in Moore we may have all overlooked. The fun part is, it's easy to find out how he really ranks, as he'll be on the Marlies this year, right alongside their top drafted prospects.