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2017 Toronto Maple Leafs top 25 under 25 preview

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Who are the players up for nomination this year?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Ranking the top 25 Toronto Maple Leafs players/prospects under 25 is an annual tradition here at PPP started in 2012, with a mid-season ranking. Phil Kessel dominated the #1 spot while he was with eligible, followed up by a double dose of Morgan Rielly, and now Auston Matthews looks to hold the #1 spot for seven straight seasons (if PPP lives that long, I mean, who knows what things will be like online in six years?).

This year we bid farewell to a few players from last year’s list:

Martin Marincin aged out of the list, he was 10th in 2015 and 8th last year.

Frank Corrado was traded to the Penguins, he was 14th last year.

Zach Hyman turned 25 at the beginning of June, so he’s out. He placed 15th last year (and #1 in Fulemin’s heart).

Brendan Leipsic was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. He placed 12th in 2015 and 17th in 2016.

I outlined this year’s schedule in my pre-preview post and now we’ll see who was voted on this year by our panel of “experts”. Players are listed in alphabetical order by first name so don’t try to read anything into this.

Adam Brooks (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2016 - 92nd
2016-17 Stats: WHL - 66GP - 43G - 87A - 130Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Regina Pats captain graduated from junior hockey and signed a contract with the Maple Leafs this summer. He’s Marlies bound and will look to prove he’s not just a junior hockey scorer.

Andreas Borgman (D)
Age: 22 / Free Agent: Signed spring 2016
2016-17 Stats: SHL - 45GP - 5G - 10A - 15Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

One of the signings made around the World Championships, Borgman will shore up the Marlies defence next season.

Andreas Johnsson (F)
Age: 22 / Drafted: 2013 - 202nd
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 75GP - 20G - 27A - 47Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2014 - 9th, 2015 - 11th, 2016 - 12th

A highly held prospect by some, he was good for the Marlies last season, after recovering from a concussion suffered in his North American debut in the 2016 playoffs. This season should be a big one if he develops the way he was sold to us while he was in the SHL.

Andrew Nielsen (D)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 65th
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 74GP - 14G - 25A - 39Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 22nd

Nielsen is fighting with Travis Dermott for the title of “Leafs next defenseman”. Dermott has the edge at the moment if reports are to be believed, so Nielsen will need to pick up his defensive game this year to keep up.

Auston Matthews
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 1st
2016-17 Stats: 82GP - 40G - 29A - 69Pts
T25 rankings: 2016-2022 - 1st

It’s Auston Matthews.

Calle Rosen (D)
Age: 23 / Free Agent: Signed spring 2016
2016-17 Stats: SHL - 41GP - 6G - 13A - 19Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Signed with Borgman, Rosen will help fill out the Marlies defence this year and be ready for an injury call up.

Carl Grundstrom (F)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 57th
2016-17 Stats: SHL - 45GP - 14G - 6A - 20Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 23rd

As a teenager he put up 20 points in the top Swedish league, and the Leafs are bringing him over to the AHL to get him accustomed to the smaller rink and their systems.

Connor Brown (F)
Age: 23 / Drafted: 2012 - 156th
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 20G - 16A - 36Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2013 - 21st, 2014 - 14th, 2015 - 8th, 2016 - 5th

The Leafs surprise 20 goal scorer is currently unsigned, much to the malign of many in Leafs Nation. I think he’s hit his peak at #5 on this list, and if he can repeat this year that would be great. Also I’m obligated to point out he was a -72 in his draft year with the Erie Otters.

Connor Carrick (D)
Age: 23 / Trade: With Brooks Laich, 2016 2nd round pick (Carl Grundstrom) for Daniel Winnik and 2016 5th round pick (Beck Malenstyn)
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 67GP - 2G - 8A - 10Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 7th

The Leafs defender has been playing a bottom three role for the Leafs and has done well in this role.

Dakota Joshua (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2014 - 128th
2016-17 Stats: NCAA - 33GP - 12G - 23A - 35Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Ohio State sophomore put up excellent numbers for a player his age in the NCAA last year. Historically it’s hard for college players to crack the list, but if he improves at the same rate he did last year, he’ll be in the running for a spot on next years list.

Dmytro Timashov (F)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 125th
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 63GP - 11G - 13A - 24Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 21st

Timashov had a bit of a disappointing season for the Marlies, or perhaps our expectations were too high for him coming into his first pro year.

Eemeli Rasanen (D)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 59th
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 66GP - 6G - 33A - 39Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Could the giant defender appear on the list with his first chance? He will be really interesting to watch this year, as the Leafs saw him plenty while scouting teammate Stephen Desrocher (whom they declined to keep around).

Frederik Gauthier (F)
Age: 22 / Drafted: 2013 - 21st
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 46GP - 4G - 9A - 13Pts / NHL 21GP - 2G - 1A - 3Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2013 - 12th, 2014 - 16th, 2015 - 19th

In his second full year as a pro, he kinda stopped scoring. The Leafs liked him enough to call him up for a quarter of the season, but the projected bottom 6 player couldn’t get more than 4 goals with Kapanen on his wing. He missed the cut last year, will he miss it again?

Fedor Gordeev (D)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 141st
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 64GP - 4G - 10A - 14Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

An OHL defender without a lot of points makes a lot of people scared, but I’ll wait and see where he goes from here.

Garret Sparks (G)
Age: 24 / Drafted: 2011 - 190th
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 31GP - 2.16GAA - .922sv%
Past T25 rankings: 2013 - 18th, 2014 - 18th

Did Sparks peak when he got a shutout in his Maple Leafs debut? At 24 he’s sharing minor league duties, though last year was also filled with injuries and suspensions. With a new two year deal, this is most likely his final one unless he can make the jump to full time back up with the Leafs.

Ian Scott (G)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 110th
2016-17 Stats: WHL - 50GP - 3.69GAA - .895sv%
Past T25 rankings: N/A

A CHL goalie’s stats will always look bad, and Scott played for the Prince Albert Raiders last season, who sat at the bottom of the WHL. There’s a lot of potential here and we’ll see how he does the next few seasons.

JD Greenway (D)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 72nd
2016-17 Stats: NCAA - 34GP - 1G - 6A - 7Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The NCAA defender played his freshman season for Wisconsin and no freshman defender gets the big chances. Three more years to become someone worth signing.

Jeremy Bracco (F)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 61st
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 57GP - 25G - 58A - 83Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 14th, 2016 - 16th

The 2017 Memorial Cup champion has signed an ELC with the Maple Leafs and will be a Marlie next season. It’s a big jump from juniors to the pros so we’ll see how well he does in his first year with players much older than him.

Jesper Lindgren (D)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 95th
2016-17 Stats: Allsvenskan - 50GP - 3G - 21A - 24Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Swedish tier-2 defender has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to come over to North America. He’s moving to the Finnish Liiga this season.

J.J. Piccinich (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2014 - 103rd
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 66GP - 26G - 46A - 72Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The London Knights captain had two years to go with the Leafs retaining his rights so he signed an AHL deal after aging out of the OHL.

Joseph Woll (G)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 62nd
2016-17 Stats: NCAA - 34GP - 2.64GAA - .913sv%
T25 rankings: N/A

Woll put up good numbers in his first year at Boston College. As CHL goalies generally put up bad numbers, the opposite is true with NCAA netminders.

Josh Leivo (F)
Age: 24 / Drafted: 2011 - 86th
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 13GP - 2G - 8A - 10Pts
Past T25 rankings: Winter 2012 - 21st, summer 2012 - 18th, 2013 - 9th, 2014 - 8th, 2015 - 15th, 2016 - 18th

The longest serving member of the Top 25, Leivo has a roller coaster of a ranking. Where will he end up in his final year of eligibility?

Kasimir Kaskisuo (G)
Age: 23 / Free Agent: 2016 from NCAA
2016-17 Stats: ECHL - 32GP - 3.45GAA - .889sv% / AHL - 7GP - 1.84GAA - .934sv%
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Marlies playoff starter usurped Antoine Bibeau’s spot behind Garret Sparks, and with Bibeau out in California now, Kaskisuo only has Sparks to fight with for playing time on the Marlies.

Kasperi Kapanen (F)
Age: 20 / Trade: From Pittsburgh with Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, 2016 1st round pick (to Ducks, Sam Steele), 2016 3rd round pick (JD Greenway) for Phil Kesselm Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, 2016 second round pick (sent back to Pittsburgh, Kasper Bjorkqvist) 2016-17 Stats: AHL - 43GP - 18G - 25A - 43Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 6th, 2016 - 9th

Kapanen is on the verge of the NHL. He’s a PPG player in the AHL when he isn’t being assaulted by Jake Dotchin, and on everyone’s lists as a player on the Leafs roster for next season. The question is if the coaches want him in a limited role, or will bump someone else down the line up to give him the ice time he needs.

Keaton Middleton (D)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 101st
2016-17 Stats: 64GP - 4G - 14A - 18Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The hulking Saginaw defender almost tripled his point output from his draft year last season.

Kerby Rychel (F)
Age: 22 / Trade: From Columbus Blue Jackets for Scott Harrington
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 73GP - 19G - 33A - 52Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 11th

The career AHLer needs a big camp this year, there’s a glut of wingers and Rychel is waiver eligible.

Martins Dzierkals (F)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 68th
2016-17 Stats: QMJHL: 47GP - 21G - 28A - 49Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 24th

Dzierkals spent a lot of last year injured and because of this there was a drop in his PPG. He could go back to junior for an overage season, but has his eyes set on a Marlies roster spot instead.

Miro Aaltonen (F)
Age: 24 / Free Agent: March 2017
2016-17 Stats: KHL - 59GP - 19G - 25A - 44Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Who? I keep forgetting the Leafs signed him. He had a great year in the KHL last season and now he challenges Dominic Moore for the 4th line centre spot.

Mitch Marner (F)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 4th
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 77GP - 19G - 42A - 61Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 5th, 2016 - 3rd

Jump right into the NHL from junior, Marner amassed more points than anyone could have seen coming for a 19 year old fresh from the OHL.

Morgan Rielly (D)
Age: 23 / Drafted: 2012 - 5th
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 76GP - 6A - 21A - 27Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2012 (Fall) - 8th, 2013 - 4th, 2014 - 1st, 2015 - 1st, 2016 - 4th

One of the longest serving members of the Top 25, Rielly was bumped down to 4th last year by Auston Matthews and friends.

Nicolas Mattinen (D)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 179th
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 66GP - 2G - 6A - 8Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Knights defender wasn’t an offensive dynamo, but he should be getting more ice time next season as older defenders move on.

Nikita Soshnikov (F)
Age: 24 / Free Agent: 2015
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 56GP - 5G - 4A - 9Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 18th, 2016 - 10th

Sohsnikov, Maple Leafs fourth line pro surfer, was ranked 10th by PPP but never got that many points last season. Will his rank outdo his point totals again?

Nikolai Chebykin (F)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2016 - 182nd
2016-17 Stats: VHL - 24GP - 5G - 3A - 8Pts / MHL: 17GP - 17G - 10A - 27Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Russian forward is without a contract for next season. Sitting in limbo about where he’ll play should help his camp. If he doesn’t get an AHL deal he’ll most likely go back to Europe

Nolan Vesey (F)
Age: 22 / Drafted: 2014 - 158th overall
2016-17 Stats: NCAA - 36GP - 13G - 10A - 23Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Vesey bounced back in his junior year to hit his freshman point totals. The Maine hockey program is a mess. We didn't sign his brother. Bye, Nolan.

Pierre Engvall (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2014 - 188th
2016-17 Stats: Allsvenskan - 50GP - 21G - 19A - 40Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

A cult favourite prospect, Engvall has yet to play at a high level. He makes his SHL debut this season on the defending champions.

Rinat Valiev (D)
Age: 22 / Drafted: 2014 - 68th
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 47GP - 3G - 10A - 13Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 21st

The Marlies defender is fighting with Nielsen and Dermott for attention, but he’s silently working his way up the depth chart.

Ryan McGregor (F)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 172nd
2016-17 Stats: OHL - 65GP - 14G - 13A - 27Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

The Sting forward is one of the newest prospects we have, and that usually doesn’t bode well for the depth guys. New guys = no votes.

Ryan O’Connell (D)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 203rd
2016-17 Stats: CAHS (Private high school) - 47GP - 6A - 27A - 33Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

“Who?” was the first reaction to this pick, then “He players where?” was next. He’ll be in Junior A in BC next season, keeping his NCAA eligibility, then he’s off to Boston University.

Timothy Liljegren (D)
Age: 18 / Drafted: 2017 - 17th
2016-17 Stats: SHL - 19GP - 1G - 4A - 5Pts / SuperElit - 12GP - 5G - 2A - 7Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

First round picks always get ranked, so how popular is Timmy with PPP staff?

Tobias Lindberg (F)
Age: 21 / Trade: With Jared Cowan, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, and 2017 2nd round pick (Eemeli Rasanen) for Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, Cody Donaghey.
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 44GP - 6G - 10A - 16Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2016 - 20th

Lindberg was in and out of the Marlies line up, and only put up 16 points, which may hurt him this year.

Travis Dermott (D)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2015 - 34th
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 59GP - 5G - 19A - 24Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2015 - 22nd, 2016 - 19th

Dermott has been inching up the standings. Will all the talk of “he’s next in line for the NHL” influence the voters?

Trevor Moore (F)
Age: 22 / Free Agent: 2016
2016-17 Stats: AHL - 57GP - 13G - 20A - 33Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Moore was brought in as an NCAA free agent last summer, leaving Denver. He’s followed Tyler Bozak’s path so far, could he become Bozak once Bozak leaves?

Vladimir Bobylyev (F)
Age: 20 / Drafted: 2016 - 122nd
2016-17 Stats: KHL - 20GP - 1G - 2A - 3Pts / WHL 38GP - 9G - 27A - 36Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Bobylyev tried the KHL but didn’t find he was getting the ice time he should have, and went back to the WHL mid-season where he almost went a PPG.

Vladislav Kara (F)
Age: 19 / Drafted: 2017 - 124nd
2016-17 Stats: MHL - 31GP - 11G - 2A - 9Pts / VHL 34GP - 3G - 5A - 8Pts
Past T25 rankings: N/A

Picked in the fourth round and not even on the central scouting list, Kara is a potential diamond in the rough if you want to be positive or a giant risk that could have been taken later if you want to be all grumpy about it. Kara was described as a winger by Hunter, so it’s Russian development for him until we cut down the ones we have here.

William Nylander (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2014 - 8th
2016-17 Stats: NHL - 81GP - 22G - 39A - 61Pts
Past T25 rankings: 2014 - 4th, 2015 - 2nd, 2016 - 2nd

Nylander finished second two years in a row, behind Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews respectively. He’s had Mitch Marner nipping at his heels for #2 the past two years.

Yegor Korshkov (F)
Age: 21 / Drafted: 2016 - 31st
2016-17 Stats: KHL - 36GP - 6G - 13A - 19Pts
T25 rankings: 2016 - 25th

Korshkov broke his leg mid-way through last season, so we never got a proper post-draft year evaluation. He just squeaked onto the T25 last year. How did this injury effect his ranking now?


All in all, 46 players for 25 spots. The list got smaller since the end of the season with Brendan Leipsic and Jack Walker leaving the list of nominees.

The revelations start Monday with the players who received no votes.