With 45 eligible players this year, and 15 not ranked at all, that leaves only five as honourable mentions. This might be the year where there was the most agreement on who should be on the list, if not about exactly where they should be.
We started to see that sort of overall consistency, with very divergent votes within it, in the summer. The reason seems clear: The bottom of the list is the easy part to evaluate. The trouble spots are a few key areas within the top half of the list. We’re days away from arguing about who everyone ranked 10th or fourth, so today is our five, and your six players who didn’t make the cut.
Community Vote Honourable Mentions
I cut your unranked list off at 14 from the bottom, because your player ranked 31 got some serious votes. And I’m not surprised he did. You ranked Dmitry Ovchinnikov, star of Twitter goal highlights, at 31st, the lowest of your six honourable mentions. He had barely over 14% of the available vote points (using the survey software’s methods) and that just put him above Vladimir Bobylev, but that’s a factor of age. The original list was oldest to youngest, and that meant voters had to move Bobylev down, and Ovchinnikov up as conscious choices. Our newest late-round sure-thing likely suffered a little because of that.
The rest of the honourable mentions are:
- Kalle Loponen - 15.28%
- Vladislav Kara - 15.99%
- Artur Akhtyamov - 17.15%
- Filip Kral - 19.34%
- Kristians Rubins - 19.8%
Only a few people thought Loponen or Kara were worth ranking even above 45, so they plus Ovchinnikov are definitely not in the running for most voters.
The other three were more seriously considered. Rubins is very close to being tied with the players you ultimately ranked 25th and 24th, as is Kral. A few votes different, and those four players would be all in a different order, with different names making the cut.
PPP Honourable Mentions
Starting at 30th for the official vote, we have Kristians Rubins, maybe the player everyone agrees on the most! He got one ranking of 25 and one of 24.
Rubins, almost the same age as Auston Matthews, is one Kyle Dubas’s Marlies/Growlers projects. He’s the new Mason Marchment, and he’s a good defenceman in the AHL, held back from a bigger role by the intense depth of the defenders above him. He will find this season particularly challenging in that respect, and the biggest surprise to me of the offseason was his choice to go play in Denmark. He’s good there, but it’s not the level of pro hockey in most European countries.
Most voters are ranking Rubins as a “tops out as a good AHLer”, and I think that’s fair. He was ranked by six people in the summer list when there were fewer players to choose from:
Joseph Duszak shows up at 29th on our list, and this is a bit more of a controversial ranking. On the one hand, he’s just another Marlies defender who played in the ECHL a lot, and he’s older than Rubins. On the other, he was a highly touted free agent signing who seems to compete at a similar level to some of the prospects who were ranked. He got three votes, two at 25th and one at 23rd.
In the summer, Duszak was ranked 19th with only one voter leaving him off the list. He had rankings as high as 16 and 17 from several people. The drop here is more than can be accounted for by fresh new faces. He seems to have faded out of the public consciousness just when he’s played a meaningful pro year.
William Villeneuve comes in at 28th on our list. An 18-year-old defender playing in the QMJHL, he was taken 122nd overall this year. He was ranked by four people with one vote each at 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th.
The draft pick he was selected with in October was ranked 25th on the summer list, making this a legitimate-seeming placement as long as you consider the exits and entrances above him to equal out. They don’t really, when you add in the first-round pick and double up the second rounder while taking out Kasperi Kapanen and adding Filip Hållander. So in a real sense, enough voters considered Villeneuve to be an above average fourth-round selection to rank him up a little.
Axel Rindell is 27th on our list. A man who might be the new Adam Brooks, Rindell was selected 177th at the draft (so 55 spots below Villeneuve). He is already 20, plays defence with Mikko Kokkonen, and isn’t junior eligible anymore, so he’s not on the Finnish WJC team.
He was ranked by five voters, once at 18th, twice at 21st and twice at 25th.
Adam Brooks himself is the last honourable mention. He’s now the second-oldest eligible player, five days younger than William Nylander, and it’s his age plus his standing as a player who only just got a look at the NHL that has dropped him down the reckoning of most voters.
Only four people ranked him, but they were high enough rankings to launch him over Rindell, just not high enough to get him past our 25th choice. One person had him 19th, two 21st and one 22nd. The difference in average ranking for Rindell and Brooks is 0.1 and they are 0.5 and 0.6 below our 25th placing.
Brooks was tied with Mikko Kokkonen in 11th place in the summer list, and I think that’s significant in a lot of ways. He’s dropped like a stone, and yet he’s now virtually tied with a player it’s hard to differentiate from Kokkonen. More on that conundrum will come tomorrow.
So, that’s the honourable mentions. I don’t think we should be surprised that most of them are defencemen. If there’s one thing these lists have taught us since Dubas starting drafting defenders in bulk, it’s that they’re damn hard to evaluate.
Tomorrow I’ll examine the Kokkonen vs Rindell issue a little and then we’ll hit the bottom of our list later in the week.