Nick Abruzzese moves up to #13 on our Maple Leafs Top 25 Under 25. That’s also where he was on our list two iterations in the past. He’s one of only a few players to wind up in the same spot as back then, with almost all the others that didn’t move rank either near or at the very top of our list (spoilers!)

Abruzzese was previously at #13 in our summer 2020 ranking, and it’s quite something to stay put there given the large churn of players we had going in and out and aging off the list, but even more so when considering that he has the widest spread of any of the 25 players we ranked. Our voters had him from a low of #20, to a high of #7.

You could say our voters were quite confused, and the driver of that confusion was undoubtedly that he didn’t play hockey last season. Harvard and it’s NCAA conference cancelled the whole season because of COVID. Interestingly, the other player with a similarly large spread of votes in our ranking was Ty Voit of the Sarnia Sting, who also didn’t play last season after the OHL cancelled their season.


What do you make of a college player going into has draft+3 year wh once had great looking upward trajectory, but now has a giant gap in his record? It’s a bit of an unprecedented situation, though it’s happened occasionally to players with major injuries to sit out a whole year, this is a more widespread problem now which I can’t say I have a great solution. I essentially did keep Abruzesse about the same in rank, but that was not too difficult as some big names that were added above him were only off-setting the ones who left, like William Nylander who aged off of our list.

We did get one little bit of positive news on him from Harvard last month when they named him co-captain of the team.

Abruzzese Voting

PlayerNicholas Abruzzese
Weighted Average14.6
Highest Rank7
Lowest Rank20
Spread in Votes13

Captain of the Harvard hockey team is certainly a feather in your cap, and some good pedigree for a future career in the game, on or off the ice (on Wall Street).

While it’s clear he has the confidence of his college team, this is a list about the Maple Leafs and where all of these prospects fit in that organisation, and for a player like Abruzzese to go through all the churn of the list in the past year only to wind up where he started raises a lot of questions, which are going to be largely answered only with “you’ll have to wait and see,” if you want anything answered with certainty.

Hardev: He didn’t play last year so it’s the status quo for me. He’s well liked on his NCAA team based on the community around the team. That’s about all we can really say at this point.

Brigstew is in the block of voters that reluctantly kept him in place, but now needs to see a really big improvement after this gap year to validate his status as among the upper-tier of prospects.

Brigstew: I like Abruzzese, I like his style and his story. He had good NCAA numbers in one season, but he was also older as a freshman than other legit prospects and missed all of last season. For me to really buy into him as a legit prospect, he’s going to have to be one of, if not THE best player in the NCAA next season since he’s already 22. SDA and Abramov, by comparison, are both 20. Sandin is 21 and he’s been in the Leafs system for approximately 10,000 years, if you round up.

Katya seems like she has already moved on, regardless of what happens this season.

Katya: I don’t respect the NCAA as harder than junior hockey, so for me, Abruzzese staying in junior when he is AHL eligible for his education is at once, likely a good idea for him, and also, likely going to stall his hockey career even more. At his age — the same as Liljegren and Holmberg, he should be fully understood, but he’s not so he’s on the line between the knowable and the mostly potential players, but I shoved him over into the first category with Hollowell et al based on age. Maybe he’s Kerfoot 2.0, but I’m not convinced.

Abruzzese has wound up as one of the most volatile rankings for this coming season. His position on the next list could either go up a little more, or go way, way down (all things being equal—and there are no massive trades of prospects.) He’s in an unenviable position where this one season could be defining of his whole hockey future.

The Harvard Crimson season starts on October 29, though they have what I think is a friendly exhibition match booked on October 16th hosting the University of Ottawa.

If you want to see some highlights, you can, but you have to go back to 2019 to start to find a reel on Abruzzese.

How difficult is it to rank Abruzzese?

I think #13 is about right. 48
I would have him even higher.26
I would have him lower.91
This guy is too difficult to rank properly right now because of the lost season. I guess #13 is fine, but I really don’t know.155