Week two is where the Top 25 Under 25 list gets deep into the land of maybes. It’s where we usually have the greatest spread in votes and where most, if not all, of the players were not unanimously ranked, but were ranked by more people than in the first week.
Anecdotally, our voters reported the most difficulty in ranking players in this section, and most of us consider the lower half of the list this year to be virtual ties much more so than in the past. We’ll see how you all did with consistency of votes in this area as well, but first a recap of our votes.
PPP’s Votes for Week Two
#20 Filip Kral
One of the crowd of young defenders we’re all having trouble ranking against each other.
#19 Joseph Duszak
Older than you might think he is, but still a rookie pro, Duszak also appears in the part of the list full of the wildest guesses.
#18 Pontus Holmberg
Holmberg might have gained a few places from name recognition, but he’s one of the players it seems is about to have a make or break year.
#17 Egor Korshkov
Speaking of make or break, one of the oldest players on the list is still in career limbo, and his ranking probably reflects that.
#16 Denis Malgin
The first rostered NHL player appears on the list in what might be a surprisingly low spot. But for all his games played, he’s never actually got all the way out of the press box.
Not only are your rankings at the bottom of the list in a completely different order to ours, your group cohesion on ranking frayed out really fast. We saw a flat histogram last week with Ian Scott, where there were about 10 rankings spots were 10-15 people placed him. This week, we’ll see more of the same. But this week also reveals a major philosophical difference between you and us, one that shows up every year, but is starkly vivid this time around.
#20 Mac Hollowell
Weighted Average Ranking: 19.80
Total Rankings: 214 (213)
#19 Mikko Kokkonen
Weighted Average Ranking: 18.78
Total Rankings: 223 (220)
#18 2020 2nd-round pick
Weighted Average Ranking: 18.74
Total Rankings: 182 (180)
#17 Jeremy Bracco
Weighted Average Ranking: 18.61
Total Rankings: 212 (212)
#16 Nicholas Abruzzese
Weighted Average Ranking: 17.70
Total Rankings: 214 (210)
When the masthead got to see these charts, the very first one we looked at was Jeremy Bracco. We thought that was the quintessential flat distribution that showed no consensus on where to rank him. We should have looked at the one for the second-round pick, instead.
That ranking is the real outlier for your vote in this section. Everyone else was ranked by almost all voters, and if they did rank the player, they ranked them in the top 25, not lower down. Just a note on numbers of votes: the masthead is forced to produce a vote of 25 rankings only, with nothing left out or duplicated, and you’re not. So some of you only did part of the list, generally the top part.
The second-rounder is a symbol of the great philosophical divide I mentioned above, and it’s why there’s players here we haven’t got to at all on our list like Nick Abruzzese and Mikko Kokkonen. We rank on age differently to you. I’m an extremist on this, and I intentionally adjust for age after I’ve expressed my opinions in the ranking. That is: I change my own guesses by a metric that has nothing to do with anything but how young a player is. But even without my extremism, it’s curious to see Hollowell, over two years older than the multi-year pro defencmen Kokkonen right next to him in the rankings.
The community votes have traditionally ranked NHL experience — even if the player is replacement or sub-replacement level — much heavier than potential. AHL experience counts more than all other professional play, no matter the level. And low-level Europen pro experience for older players often counts more than the junior accomplishments of just-drafted players.
That second-rounder— go pick any name at random off of TSN’s draft list — will absolutely be ranked by everyone on the masthead somewhere in the T25 when we redo our lists post-draft. I don’t think there’s any legitimate question about that. But beyond people not liking the idea of ranking an idea instead of a player with a name and a face, we can clearly see you aren’t convinced by recently drafted players, just because they’re younger than some of the old favourites like Bracco.
Now, here’s the thing: You might be right. In any one individual case there’s always a case to be made for any outcome, but we know from looking at these lists over the years that we have tended to rank young, just-drafted players way too low. That’s are most common error. We almost never overrate players by a lot, but we frequently do by a little. We push the older players of not much value a little too high and leave the younger good ones way too low. And you do that a lot more than we do. I think name recognition factors in, and we never actually expect everyone to have heard of even half of these guys. We know we’re the weirdos here.
It’s very possible that we, the various official voters, go too far in pushing up young just-drafted prospects, particularly when there are none or only one, taken in the top 100 of the draft. In the past, we’ve all just spent a fun day researching and writing about them all, and they seem very real to us, while they might be total strangers to you. That’s another reason why I wanted those picks in this game this year. I wanted to see how we reacted to a nameless, faceless prospect.
It’s interesting to consider how we all make choices. Are we more afraid of being wrong by overrating someone or by underrating them? Do we feel more comfortable with proof of ability and consistently go too high with the sorts of players like Trevor Moore or Carl Grundstrom, who we don’t miss much when they’re gone? Or are we just unsure of our ability to sort out the good young players from the bad ones?
Eventually our two lists will end in strikingly similar ways this year, like always, but we aren’t there yet. Next week looks to be the week you’ll disagree with us even more.