Hey Maple Leafs fans! We are 15 players down on the 2017 Top 25 Under 25 list and coming up are the big ones, the top ten. That’s on Monday though. Today we’ll go over numbers 15 to 11.
#15 - Adam Brooks
After lighting up the WHL in Regina, Adam Brooks debuted on the T25 at number 15, an impressive showing for a first timer not taken in the first round.
Janik was sold after last season:
Brooks obviously took major strides after his disappointing first year of draft eligibility. But we also know that production heavily correlates with age in junior hockey. Therefore, it would be foolish to look solely at his production and expect him to become an NHL superstar. In fact, it would be foolish to expect a guaranteed NHL player at all.
That said, Brooks certainly has some tools that could allow him to have a successful professional career. He has no major standout puck skills and is not known for his skating either. However, he has very high hockey IQ, a well-rounded offensive toolkit, and solid two-way capability.
Katya wasn’t as impressed when she ranked him 21st:
I essentially ignored his most recent year of junior results. I don't think overage scoring means much. I based my feeling that he's good but maybe not really good enough to move beyond the AHL on his play last year with the Marlies in pre-season. He's got a big hill to climb to go from owning the junior game to playing meaningfully as a centre in the AHL, and his first crack at it showed me why he went back to junior. I was not on team 'he's ready now' last summer. I thought he looked like a very small player who had gotten by on his offensive skills and had too little else to offer. He says he's worked on that. Well, let's see it.
Brooks celebrated signing his contract by going fishing and making out well:
#14 - Nikita Soshnikov
Sosh fell four spots from his 2016 ranking, on the edge of the top 10. After spending the season in the NHL most people came away with two words “Nine points”.
"Nine points they say," in that tone. "But he played with Martin," is the retort. Neither tells you who the player is, and the reality is somewhere in between his exciting turn as a fun player on a bad team, and a fourth liner who shot from stupid places.
He is capable of putting in NHL minutes. He can ride along and even add some verve to a higher line. He's got more points in him than nine, he's not the man who will play top six like we might have thought at one time. He might start the season on the Marlies, but he's a man who can play the game in the NHL. - Katya
Species also brought up the waiver conumdrum:
Could Soshnikov have a season like Rychel? Stuck in the AHL, hoping for a call-up as an injury replacement, but possibly never getting that call? And what about his own injuries? He missed a lot of games last season, and you could say he plays a style which at times seems reckless. Is that a part of the problem with Soshnikov too?
Soshnikov has been training hard in the off season:
#13 - Jeremy Bracco
After winning the two biggest awards in the junior hockey season, Bracco also signed his contract with the Maple Leafs, and is now almost certainly heading to the Toronto Marlies. Kevin described Bracco as such:
Jeremy Bracco is a small forward, so he’s learned to play the puck well and has skating skill like very few. He’s often praised for his edge work and ability to avoid players. Earlier this summer, Kevin excellently broke down the two scoring forwards in the Leafs system, Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco, and said this about our subject today:
Trying to defend Jeremy Bracco feels like you are trapped in a scary movie. You can hear Bracco skating with his incredible edge-work, but the opposing defender is left frantically searching for the elusive scorer. All of the sudden, he pops out of nowhere, and he winds up in the middle of the slot with no one around him. He is highly creative and a top-end passer, plus his heel-to-heel move helps him to gain the offensive zone with ease.
Gunnar however, liked him but didn’t think he was top 20 material:
I like Bracco's tools a lot--he's highly skilled and a great skater--and I was really high on him when he was drafted. I mostly ranked him so low for a few reasons. I had him in a tier with players who, by and large, have proven they can play well in the AHL, something that he has yet to do. He started off last season really strong but cooled off a lot after the trade to Windsor. For someone his age, I would have liked to see more from a player in his D+2 year on the eventual Memorial Cup winning team. He ended up in the bottom end of that tier because his performance in Windsor (and, to a certain extent, in his D+1 year in Kitchener) makes me question if he can be a better performer in the AHL than the players I had ahead of him. That said, he's tremendously skilled and has a killer highlight reel--so if he can take a step forward with the Marlies next year I'll definitely have him a lot higher next time.
Bracco had a day with the Memorial Cup, and took it to a Jimmy Buffet concert.
#12 - Carl Grundstrom
When I see this name, I think of one thing:
The Swedish forward might not be coming to North American next season, but he’s liked enough by PPP to almost make it to the top 10. Fulemin described him so:
For much of the past year, Grundstrom has been compared to Zach Hyman. Grundstrom has a very particular set of skills: he will look for the puck, he will find it, and he will kill you.
Er, I mean, he’ll dig it out of the corners. Almost everyone speaks highly of Grundstrom’s bowling-ball physicality in the offensive zone, where he’s willing to contest every inch of ice in order to get what he wants. He crashes the net at every opportunity and can chip in offence doing so. One line his fellow Swedes have said about him, if you’ll forgive some national stereotyping, is that he’s “more Canadian than the Canadians.”
Katya described him so:
Being an early bloomer still doesn't guarantee future growth. He's not suddenly going to score goals. He's not suddenly going to be the best puck carrier. The thing about the Leafs is they seem more willing to roll with who a player is, not get stuck angry they aren't who they wish they'd been.
Grundstrom had coffee with some seniors recently, and shared some of those great Swedish buns:
#11 - Andreas Johnsson
Johnsson has been slowly climbing the T25 charts since he was drafted and is now on the cusp of the Top 10.
Fulemin kicked things off like this:
You know how every draft, some fans want to spend all the late-round picks on zippy little scoring forwards? Andreas Johnsson is the kind of guy they’re hoping for. Toronto picked him up in 202nd overall (!) in 2013, and he now looks to be the best pick of an otherwise very poor Leafs draft.
AJ, as I will call him in this paragraph and then never again, is 5’10”, and struggled with asthma at times as a teenager; these were factors in him falling as far as he did. He’s since addressed his asthma with medication, and he’s addressed his height by being a good hockey player in the 21st century. He can play either wing (he’s a left-hand shot.) Most striking: he’s outperformed his faint-hope draft position every season since we got him.
Kevin had this to say:
I carried high expectations for Andreas Johnsson last season, but he was a major disappointment in the early going. Despite his status as a former top goal scorer in the SHL, he scored just 18 points in his first 41 games. All of the sudden, something just seemed to click, and he was a point per game player for much of the second half.
Johnsson’s calling card is his wrist shot, and he looks ready to become a triggerman on an NHL powerplay. He can receive a pass and fire his shot in one motion, and this ability to score off a one-timer beats opposing goaltenders before they have time to set up and react. He also boasts above average speed, and he should have no problem keeping up at the NHL’s pace of play.
Andreas isn’t very active online, but did come down to my neck of the woods in the winter:
The top 10 starts Monday. We’re almost done!