The very first Top 25 Under 25 at PPP was done in January of 2012. Randy Carlyle was the coach, and Brian Burke was the GM. On January 1 of that year, the Leafs had 41 points, were 10th worst in the league, but somehow third in their division, which was not a playoff spot in those days. Things didn’t get better. The Leafs finished with 80 points, dropped another place in the division, and drafted fifth.
It might be fair to say that was the start of how we got to where we are today.
With the 35th overall pick the Leafs took Matt Finn, which is likely a contributing factor, one way and another, to how we got to where we are today. Or at least how Burke got to where he is. Finn spent last season with the Charlotte Checkers on an AHL deal, but he barely played due to injury, splitting 15 games between the AHL and the ECHL. He left the Leafs in the Michael Grabner trade, so 1/5 of all those fruitless breakaways are his fault.
The Leafs didn’t have a third-round pick because they’d swapped it for the Kings’ third rounder a couple of years earlier to take Sandre Olden. The 2012 Leafs pick ultimately became the draft pick that never happened as the Predators took Jimmy Vesey with it, and while they got something out of Buffalo for his rights, no one ever got a player from it.
The Leafs didn’t have a fourth-round pick in 2012 either, since they’d traded it for David Steckel. Steckel has played in the DEL for the last three years, where at 36, he still seems to be a good depth centre.
The Leafs also added Dominic Toninato, and we’ll get to him in a minute, but he was just a fifth-round pick.
And then in the sixth-round, they picked a local boy. You know how suspicious you all get when the Leafs draft some Toronto player late in the draft.
The very next pick belonged to the Leafs because they’d swapped the pick that became Josh Manson in a prior year, and took Ryan Rupert. He’s in the ECHL now too, sent away in the Phaneuf trade.
For their last trick, the Leafs took Viktor Lööv with a pick they got for John Mitchell. Lööv is sharing the blueline in Jokerit this year with Eemeli Räsänen.
You know this story, if it wasn’t for bad luck, the Leafs would have had no luck at all in trading away picks. But that’s the atmosphere the PPP writers of the day were in when they redid the T25 shortly after the draft in 2012.
I’ll forgive the lack of ranking for Connor Brown because no one knew what he was going to be, but I’m not sure I’ll give them a pass on ranking a fifth-overall pick eighth. And we get shit for weighting NHL readiness too high!
It’s tough to rank the new guys is the truth. After the recently drafted picks, particularly the late ones, the toughest guesses are the free agent signings from Europe and the prospects who are over 20 but not playing in the AHL, or not playing much. So I have a lot of sympathy for the voters on the oldest lists. We have too much data, so we judge them via hindsight, and laugh at Connor Brown, the wrongest of wrong guesses for many years.
I took all seven T25 lists last year and colour coded them by number of NHL games played. I updated it this summer, and learned a few things.
Here’s the list:
The only 500-game player added from last summer was Cody Franson, who just got enough NHL games in to make that mark. There are a bunch who will go red next year, Kadri, Gardiner, Reimer, but not Rielly. He needs two more seasons. He only just turned yellow.
There were a lot more new blues than new yellows as well, but the interesting thing is that a lot of the new greens were for players who drank their coffee on some other team. Dominic Toninato played a surprising 37 games for the Colorado Avalanche, who signed him as a free agent. He had two assists.
Chris Gibson, 1/5 of Grabner, played in eight games for the Islanders after playing in four two years ago. Thanks again, Islanders, for John Tavares.
Brendan Leipsic, who only ever played six games for the Leafs, played 58 games for Vegas and then Vancouver. He’s in Josh Leivo limbo — likely too good to risk on waivers, but not really much of an asset to the team, which is why Vegas dealt him to a team that would play him.
Do you want him back? Jim Benning is publicly mulling over having to “Frank Corrado” Leipsic by sending him through waivers in favour of all the sandpaper he signed. The Leafs could become the only team to have lost absolutely nothing in the expansion draft if they snatched him back.
Oh, and speaking of Corrado, he’s at 76 NHL games, and there he will likely stay. The previous press box captive everyone always forgets, Petter Granberg, is back in Sweden now, but he played enough NHL games with Nashville to get to 45, where he will remain.
But perhaps the most amazing person on this list might turn out to be Greg McKegg, traded for the second most underrated name (so far), Zach Hyman, McKegg is himself only 9 games from 100.
Or maybe Andrew Crescenzi, 25th in 2012, is the most surprising. He got in two NHL games last year. Only eight more and he gets coloured in green!
My biggest takeaway is that if you’re going to tank for a star, have as good a prospect pool as that 2015 list first. The rebuild really did start the day Rielly put on that jersey.
If you want to dig into the history of the T25, you can start with the group, which we’ll keep on the front page for the rest of the summer. You should find most of the old articles and list posts there. But if all you want is the ranked lists, then just bookmark the page above.