With the Leafs off this week, we decided it was the perfect time to look at some prospects, so to get that going, we’ll begin by looking into our own hearts to see how badly we did at the T25 this year.
2019 PPP Top 25 Under 25 Final Rankings
To see how each of us voted, you can go to this post:
Who do you think you were most wrong about, either too high or too low and why?
Fulemin: Pierre Engvall (I had him 15th). Unlike some of my previous misses, I don’t think this one was too awful. Translating AHL performance to the NHL isn’t a linear equation, like NHLe and other stats make it seem. Some players have games that translate well, and some don’t. Engvall has shown in this season that his game is translating magnificently, as a player with size, reach, and very respectable skating who looks likely to take NHL penalty kill shifts for the foreseeable future. You get ‘em, Giraffe.
Brigstew: Mikhail Abramov. I ranked him 22nd, and mostly just because I wanted to get more of their newer picks into the top 25. Boy did I undersell him. He’s had a simply fantastic year on a terrible team in Victoriaville, where he has more than a point per game, more goals than assists, more than 4 shots per game, and he has as many goals as his next closest teammate has in total points... and that teammate is a defenseman! But it’s not just ranking him too low and being wrong that way, it’s about him as a player. I bought into the idea that he was an SDA-like playmaker who didn’t shoot enough and wouldn’t be much of a goal scorer. Turns out it’s because he just has to do it all himself!
Arvind: Ilya Mikheyev (14th on my ranking). The spotty record of KHL imports made me more bearish on Mikheyev, as I thought there was a reasonable chance that he was nothing more than a 4th line NHLer or possibly an NHL washout. While his unfortunate (and grisly) injury has cut his rookie season short, prior to then, he was showing himself to be a strong complementary player — the type of guy who can be the third best player on an elite line. His tenacity and motor help create opportunities for his more skilled linemates to flex their muscles, and Mikheyev has the added bonus of being able to convert a little bit himself too. He does get tunnel vision, and he’s certainly not a playmaker for others in the traditional sense, but he’s absolutely an NHL player, and an average one at that. That type of player should be ranked in the low single digits, not around 15.
Hardev: I think I carried a bias towards players who were in the NHL conversation when looking at my rankings, which meant Nick Robertson ended up 18th (behind the likes of Adam Brooks, Egor Korshkov, and Mac Hollowell). One of those guys I ranked ahead of him might turn out to be something, but I don’t think they’ll carry any kind of the same upside Robertson has shown this year with competent linemates. I was high on Robertson as I learned about him over the summer, I should’ve been bolder on my pick with him.
Katya: Wrong? No one! But seriously, I had Ilya Mikheyev way, way, way too low, and that’s just lack of ability to extrapolate KHL play to the NHL. In terms of too high, I hate to say it, but Travis Dermott likely should be well below Alexander Kerfoot and Nick Robertson, and Mikheyev, of course.
seldo: I had Frederik Gauthier on my list and I stand by having the 4th line centre at #25. All those doubters can DM me their apologies. I put Jeremy Bracco at 10 and hoo boy, was I too optimistic on him. Bracco and Woll I think I had too high on the list for sure. I also never saw Pierre Engvall coming to the NHL, and maybe I should start reading up on the Marlies more. Can anyone recommend a good Toronto Marlies blog?
Kevin: Pierre Engvall at 19. I liked his defensive game with the Marlies, and I thought he could be the fourth line centre of the future, but his offensive game has taken a major step forward. There was a ton of competition on the wing, but he’s made it clear he’s ahead of the pack, and his ability to shift over to centre is valuable. Mikheyev’s also been better than I expected, and Bracco has taken a step backwards, rather than a step forwards. I was too also too low on Abramov here, but I loved that pick at the draft, and just had no idea how to rank an 18-year old up against established AHL contributors.
Who did you rank high who has failed to live up to your expectations and have you given up hope?
Fulemin: Jeremy Bracco. I put him 11th because his production was absurd, but even at the time I had concerns about him plateauing as an AAAA player (see the article), and it would seem the organization has similar fears; everybody and their dog got at least a game or two on the fourth line in the last few months, except Bracco. The only reason I’m not confidently predicting he’s traded is that 22-year-old AHL players with no NHL track record don’t tend to draw huge returns. So he might stay just because trading him doesn’t achieve much. But I would not be at all be surprised to see him thrown into one of those oft-rumoured deals for a defenceman or a 1B goalie. Maybe there’s another team in the NHL that can give him top-unit power play usage, because I bet he could put up points doing that. The question is whether a team will put up with his other limitations in order to get him that opportunity.
Brigstew: It’s a bit unfair because he hasn’t actually played a game since we did the initial rankings due to a significant injury, but I’d say Ian Scott. Part of it is probably me over- ranking him based on his WHL numbers to begin with but also I can’t help but see that injury and his lengthy recovery time and think that he won’t even be the same as he was.
Arvind: Nic Petan (12th on my list). Honestly, I still do sort of think that my instinct was right on Petan. He’s been good when called into action for the Leafs. He has a surprisingly strong shot rate and individual expected goal rate, suggesting that he’s not a passenger when he does get on the ice. His possession numbers are good, even when adjusted for usage. I still do prefer him over Dmytro Timashov, though the latter does have some points, and even he barely plays now. But the reality is, Petan has failed to imprint enough on two separate Leafs coaches that they actually play him. Hard to justify this ranking when he hasn’t gotten on the ice. I hope he does get his chance somewhere, because I think there’s an NHL player in there.
Hardev: I don’t think I’ll rank Trevor Moore ever again (because he’s aging out :P). I think it’s unfair to dock Moore this season as he hasn’t had the same chance to play under Keefe’s NHL roster, but my opinion of him becoming anything more than a fourth liner is pretty much gone after seeing what the likes of Mikheyev and Engvall can do. They have more upside than what I think Moore can bring. I kinda hope I’m wrong and he comes back from the Bye Week with a flourish. Other than him, I’m starting to wane on Egor Korshkov, who can’t seem to drive his own line and has somewhat of a lost season under a mediocre Marlies team. I have to be fair if I’m docking Bracco for the same things.
Katya: I did a lot of goosing of rankings based on age, and I think I overstated things with Mikko Kokkonen at 16. He’s had a hard to evaluate season, and he’s a player you play the long game with, but still, he’s not likely better than SDA. I also put Semyon Kizimov in there high, and he’s just slammed into a ceiling, maybe permanently, meanwhile Vladislav Kara, who I’d sort of given up on, has had a great year, and maybe should have been in that bottom five of the rankings instead.
seldo: Jeremy. Bracco. He’s not even a good trade piece now. I spent a week in Windsor to watch you Jeremy! WINDSOR!
Kevin: Bracco. He’s an amazing passer, but just didn’t get any better this season. He doesn’t have much trade value as a 5’9” winger, and they barely play PP2, so it’s going to be tough for him to showcase his skill set on a team with Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Nylander on their top unit. I’m still rooting for him, and I haven’t completely given up on him yet, but his skill set doesn’t fit all that well on the Leafs right now.
Who did you rank too low?
Fulemin: Aside from Engvall, probably Ilya Mikheyev (who I had 13th.) Every year the Leafs bring over a couple of European or KHL players and projecting them into the NHL is a goddamn nightmare. Aside from maybe Nikita Zaitsev, who whatever you think of him was clearly a cut above the usual KHL FA crossing the ocean at 24, Mikheyev looks like the cream of that recent crop. I’m hoping for a full recovery and several more years of him playing as Russian Zach Hyman. Mickey has won me over completely.
Brigstew: Aside from Abramov, I’ll ditto Fulemin and say Mikheyev. Part of that is simple ignorance, and I just didn’t know much about him. I could have trusted more of what some writers who did watch him and factor in the idea that he’d at least be a capable NHLer. But boy do his skills fit perfectly with the Leafs.
Arvind: I mentioned Mikheyev in an earlier section. Putting him aside, I’d say Engvall, who I had 22nd. Fulemin has already talked about him, and basically everything he said applies to my ranking of him. The other guy I’d say I was too low on was Nick Robertson (I had him 13th). 13th isn’t a bad ranking for a second round pick, but Robertson has taken a developmental path that suggests he has a high likelihood to be better than his draft slot. Some of the other panelists put him on the edges of the top 10, and that’s probably where he should be, especially for those who value upside over everything else. I don’t mind the thought process that led to me putting him 13th - I generally am pretty cautious about non-elite prospects (the only non-NHL players I’ve ranked above good NHL players are Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Rasmus Sandin). But next year, I expect I’ll think hard over having Robertson over capable NHL players like Kasperi Kapanen.
Hardev: Rasmus Sandin. I thought he needed more time, and I might’ve been right if Sandin had been under a more patient organization, but the Leafs have thrown him in the deep and and he’s swimming quite well. I think he’s ahead of Dermott, whom I ranked seventh, behind the Big Three (Matthews, Marner, Nylander) and Middle Three (Kerfoot, Kapanen, Johnsson) forwards. I can already see him and Liljegren occupying the fourth and fifth (maybe sixth) spots next time around.
Oh, oh my god, I ranked SDA 25th. No, he must be much higher than that now. A shame for me to succumb to points pressure. I also didn’t rank Mikhail Abramov. That seems like a bit of a mistake as well.
Katya: Possibly Timothy Liljegren, and I had him at 7th. Mikheyev, obviously, and I had Mikhail Abramov at 14 based on virtually nothing but draft position and age, and he’s ripping up the Q this year. But most of all, I was low on Pierre Engvall. I knew he could play hockey (unlike Jeremy Bracco), but I did not expect his speed and scoring to hold up in the NHL. It has, and he looks like a cut above a depth guy.
seldo: I had Engvall at 17th, and Timashov at 21st and both made the NHL roster so I would say I had them too low since I usually take NHL readiness into account for voting.
Species: I didn’t rank Dmytro Timashov at all and that was an error. He should have easily made it over some others in the bottom five of my list.
Kevin: I mentioned Engvall and Mikheyev earlier, but Timothy Liljegren also belongs in this conversation. I ended up putting him ninth, although the 5-9 range was extremely close for me. He’s been great this year, and I always saw him as a NHL contributor, but now I’d definitely put him ahead of someone like Johnsson. I was a bit too low on Brooks as well.
Who is getting the hype now, but maybe doesn’t deserve it?
Fulemin: Dmytro Timashov (I had him 23rd, which was admittedly too low) will get a boost in these rankings because he’s going to play at least half an NHL season. And that does count for something against guys who haven’t made The Show. But I just don’t see anything there to make me think he’s more than a fourth-liner. He’s good in a lot of ways, strong on his skates for his size, works hard, occasionally flashes skill—and yet I don’t think he’s separating himself from the fourth line crowd much. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind for me. You can say that it’s hard to look good in increasingly limited minutes you share with Frederik Gauthier, which is true—but the Leafs don’t exist to give every player his best personal opportunity. Engvall, aided by a couple of injuries, has basically forced Sheldon Keefe to play him higher in the lineup. I can’t point to a shining reason or skill that’s going to let Timashov do the same. He can play an NHL shift and not embarrass himself at either end of the rink, though, and that might help him keep finding work here until he heads back overseas.
Brigstew: That’s tough, I look at the list and I don’t see a lot of overhyping really. I’d say some guys who are fringe NHLers who got any real votes would fit that bill, so I’ll pick Trevor Moore. He was great in the AHL, he looked at least good in very limited games last year and this year before his injury, but I think some people might be overthinking him a bit. He seems like a perfect fourth liner and that’s about it.
Species: Adam Brooks, though there has never been a lot of loud ‘hype’ about him there’s some people who shall not be named that are quite vocal about how great he is.
Fulemin: I’m re-entering the roundtable at this point to register my deep hurt at Species’ comment. And I was going to be nice and not say anything about his insane underrating of William Nylander! Some people, honestly.
Arvind: I agree with both Timashov and Brooks, who I both see as forgettable 4th liners. That’s certainly a win from their draft position, but they’re only marginally more useful than Gauthier in my opinion. I know both have pretty nice point rates, but neither are really shot generators (which is what I tend to look for in depth players, because it suggests to me that they’re the protagonists of what their line does when they’re on the ice), nor are they good enough playmakers to force their way into a higher spot in the lineup, where the Leafs have better talent to help them.
Hardev: I still see people touting Bracco’s points as a reason to give him a chance. No. He’ll be on waivers next fall, if he’s not already traded before then. He’ll either get a kick in the pants and try his luck somewhere else, or get a real kick in the pants and head back to the Marlies. I don’t think a player who’s been quoted by his teammates for his lack of effort is going to achieve anything under the organization that drafted him. He needs a fresh perspective at the very least.
Katya: Mikhail Abramov might well be the overhyped player. Points in junior are demanded by fans (see the arguments over SDA) but are also made of candy floss and shouldn’t be considered part of a balanced diet. The rotating depth players: Adam Brooks, Dmytro Timashov and Frederik Gauthier. They’re in the NHL, but so what? The T25 is not a probability of playing four minutes a night someday. It’s about more than that.
seldo: The only real prospect who’s getting a lot of hype is Nick Robertson, and so far it’s deserved so I don’t think there’s anyone in particular who’s being overplayed. Unless you listen to Hardev talk about Pierre Engvall.
Kevin: William Nylander. He’s a perimeter player, and all his critics were right. The Rangers would never take him for Georgiev. In all seriousness, I do wonder if Mikheyev would be a little bit too high if we re-did the voting right now, but I do like his game.
What were you totally right about, and you will be smug forever over it?
Fulemin: ADAM BROOKS Y’ALL. Now, a lot of what I said about Timashov applies to Brooks and then more so (Brooks is older and has played fewer games.) And while I’m claiming vindication here, I think there’s a pretty decent chance that Brooks, like Timashov, is just a fringe-of-the-roster guy and no more. But I have been waving the Adam Brooks flag since he went unranked in 2016’s T25 (here I am with my co-conspirator Arvind) and I am chalking up his mere presence in the NHL as a victory. He was always going to be fighting uphill to achieve much as a slightly undersized player without great speed. Still, he sounded like a Kyle Dubas Pick despite being from the Mark Hunter era: he’s a smart player, he rounded his game out in the AHL by improving his defensive play and PK, and he earned the trust of his coaches. Helpfully, the coach whose trust he earned now runs the Maple Leafs. This could be as far as it goes for Brooks, but for a kid who was passed over twice before being drafted, even getting this far is a huge achievement. I would be remiss not to note that Brigs has also been on the Adam Brooks train, by the way.
Brigstew: [Has Jeremy Clarkson-like smugface over Adam Brooks].
Species: I ranked someone that was not Matthews or Marner above Nylander and I have zero regrets.
In the Top 25 story I wrote that ranking was intended to be an exclamation point; something to signal that you really need to pay attention to this kid who looks amazing. Yes, it’s kind of a meta-ranking, but the ‘hockey present value’ (I should create a formula that defines that term, stuff it in a black box, and then sell it to Sportsnet) of Rasmus Sandin is equal to that of William Nylander right now, though with more variance and risk in Sandin’s ceiling. Whatever happens: I TOLDJA SO!
Arvind: I didn’t have any picks that look better now than they did in the summer besides putting Abramov 15th, so I’ll pass on this.
Hardev: Oh man, you already know who my answer is. The Necc Giraffe will live forever! Until Katya trades him for Georgiev, that is. But yeah, I’ll be smug about Pierre Engvall surpassing AHL expectations and going from behind his Marlies teammates in the AHL to ahead of them in the NHL for a long time.
Katya: Rasmus Sandin. There was a lot of doubt from people aimed at those of us who ranked him fourth, oh, and that one guy who had him third... And we were right. Right, I say! I also feel pretty good about my total lack of buy-in on the goalie duo that everyone ranked high because... I still don’t know why, to be honest. And this summer is going to be even harder for judging those two. If anything, somehow Nick Robertson should be higher than 10th, notwithstanding all those NHLers clogging the list this year, so I’m smug I had him at least that high.
seldo: I bravely ranked Auston Matthews as #1, and I think I can safely say my brave choice paid off.
Kevin: I think I was the highest, or at least close to the highest, on Sandin and Robertson. Mikheyev as well. I find that the lower-end NHL players tend to get overrated on these lists, and the prospects get a little bit underrated, so I tried to adjust accordingly. However, I will be totally smug if Michael Koster ever makes the NHL. I loved him on Robertson’s team at the Hlinka, and I think he could make some noise in a few years.
Your turn! Go forth and be smug!