Last year, at the conclusion of my first Top 25 Under 25 (T25U25) with PPP, I broke down my ranking relative to the consensus ranking to explain the decisions I made and the criteria I used.
The T25U25 is unique in that age is the only requirement that every player must meet -- the rest goes -- and our panelists are given no direction on what they should value or how much weight they should put into certain factors when evaluating the entirety of the available talent.
And while last year's ranking was more contentious, with five players receiving first place votes, there was still a considerable degree of variance between each individual ranking and the ultimate end result.
Here's an updated version of my criteria, which I broke down almost verbatim minute some different names, from last year's explainer.
There were several ways in which I approached the ranking, but due to the age and established nature of some of the players, it was a decidedly different approach than the one I take when evaluating a draft class or pool of non-NHL prospects.
Not all voters used the organization's status as a criterion. I did. The Leafs' rebuild factors into the value each player has to the organization moving forward. The present isn't nearly as important to the future, and that gives huge value value to the youth that will be at its best when or if the Leafs enter a window where they can compete. Future star power will make or break the end result of this Leafs rebuild, and some of the older talent may well factor into it as key players, but it's some of the talented current youth that will define the franchise.
I didn't approach the ranking as one that was strictly a meritocracy. As evidenced through my lower ranking of 24-year-olds Martin Marincin (I had him 12th while he finished eighth) and Zach Hyman (I had him 20th while he finished 14th), a player's NHL status doesn't guarantee him value. Zach Hyman is replaceable. The Marlies roster this season will include several players who could play a fourth line role in the NHL.
The lottery ticket that the players I ranked higher in the T25U25 represent hold more value than a Zach Hyman does. The chance that the lower-in-the-consensus but higher-in-mine Jeremy Bracco, Carl Grundstrom and Travis Dermott can be more than a marginal NHLer (both forwards have top-nine upside and the value of a regular defender exceeds a fourth line forward) holds considerable value. Nothing plagues NHL franchises more than the idea that picks are expendable.
All three of the aforementioned players have translatable skills alone that can make you an impact player. From Grundstrom's skating and shot, to Bracco's footwork and puck handling, to Dermott's ability as a distributor, there are real, identifiable stylistic traits.
And there's a chance none of the three become NHLers, but the value in acquiring them is worth more than any value a replacement level player like Hyman provides, at least for a rebuilding team.
Find my full ranking, side-by-side this year's consensus list, below.
|25||Rinat Valiev||Martins Dzierkals|
|24||Yegor Korshkov||Yegor Korshkov|
|23||Andrew Nielsen||Carl Grundstrom|
|22||Martins Dzierkals||Andrew Nielsen|
|21||Tobias Lindberg||Rinat Valiev|
|20||Zach Hyman||Tobias Lindberg|
|19||Nikita Soshnikov||Travis Dermott|
|18||Josh Leivo||Josh Leivo|
|17||Carl Grundstrom||Brendan Leipsic|
|16||Brendan Leipsic||Jeremy Bracco|
|15||Travis Dermott||Frank Corrado|
|14||Jeremy Bracco||Zach Hyman|
|13||Frank Corrado||Dmytro Timashov|
|12||Martin Marincin||Andreas Johnson|
|11||Dmytro Timashov||Kerby Rychel|
|10||Andreas Johnson||Nikita Soshnikov|
|9||Kerby Rychel||Kasperi Kapanen|
|8||Connor Carrick||Martin Marincin|
|7||Connor Brown||Connor Carrick|
|6||Kasperi Kapanen||Nikita Zaitsev|
|5||Nikita Zaitsev||Connor Brown|
|4||Morgan Rielly||Morgan Rielly|
|3||Mitch Marner||Mitch Marner|
|2||William Nylander||William Nylander|
|1||Auston Matthews||Auston Matthews|
You'll notice immediately that while all 25 players I ranked ended up being the 25 players in the consensus (unlike last year when I ranked Jesper Lindgren and Nikita Korostelev instead of Chris Gibson and Taylor Beck), and while the top-four were ranked identically, that there were a number of major disparities between the two lists.
Beyond the aforementioned decision to rank Hyman and Marincin relatively lowly, I also ranked Nikita Soshnikov nine spots lower than the consensus at 19th.
I explained my thought process on Soshnikov in his T25U25 profile:
Much like with Hyman, I had Soshnikov lower than the Leipsics of the world because they still have more room to grow, a wider range, and ultimately a higher upside. I like what Soshnikov brings as a skater and forechecker, but I'm not in love with his upside offensively. I would argue he tops out as a bottom six forward, and doesn't have the tools to play, or at least make an impact, higher in the lineup.
Others, like Carl Grundstrom and Kasperi Kapenen were ranked higher than the consensus primarily due to their abilities as skaters. Kapanen may be the most fluid skater in the organization, and he has only just turned 20, while Grundstrom is a powerful teenager who is already finding his way as a professional in the SHL.
As always, if you have any questions about any of the prospects I had ranked (or unranked), feel free to leave a question in the comments section or on Twitter at @scottcwheeler.