Another year and another Top 25 Under 25 countdown is complete. But it wouldn't be the Top 25 Under 25 without a peak at how the Silver Seven Staff voted and a chance to ask some questions about the process.
1) One of the more controversial omissions was Nick Paul. Many readers not only expected Paul to be on the list but to place in the teens. He tied for 25th but was left off the list because Marcus Hogberg had a better average score. Adnan, Ary, B_T, Ross, and Mrs. O didn't rank Paul and Amelia, Ian, and nkb ranked him 25th. Why was Paul rated so low?
Sheer Craziness: I think my biggest regret of ranking was my pinpointing of Nick Paul vs. Alex Guptill. I definitely thought that Paul was the third man in that trade, on par with Ludwig Karlsson. The more I looked into it, the more it looks like Guptill is worse than I thought, and Paul is better than I thought. I think I would've ranked Paul in Guptill's spot, and dropped Guptill a bit in my rankings. So the main reason is that I made my vote before I knew everything I should've.
Adnan: I look up a few stats for the non-NHL guys aside from the top prospects, but basically my rankings for the last 10 guys are almost random. That is the honest answer, I don't know enough about them.
Mrs. O: For me, I didn't know enough about Paul at the time of ranking and didn't have time to do a lot of checking up on him. I had only read a few things about him and fell guilty to some groupthink I saw on Twitter about him being a lacklustre acquisition. In hindsight, I should have done some more fishing on my own and formed my own opinion - which I have now. I'd actually rate him higher that Guptill now and I'm optimistic that Paul will develop into a decent player.
B_T: Not really sure, to be honest. Probably a victim of not being that familiar with the lower depths of the list.
Ary: I think my ranking of Paul, and the group's ranking of him, was mainly due to a lack of information on our part. He has decent numbers in the OHL, but really starts to stand out after you realize how he was used (faced tough competition), hence his invite to Team Canada's development camp. Looking back on it now though, I may have ranked him from 23-25, but not any more than that, as the players I ranked ahead of him are more established and also pretty accomplished players. This season is big for him, and I definitely see him making the next edition of this series.
Ian: The main reason for Nick Paul's low ranking was the lack of familiarity with him. Being a fourth round pick and just over 0.5 points per game player in the OHL, it's hard to tell where he'll end up. Another reason for his low ranking could be that he was originally a Dallas draft pick, and would be under-valued in comparison to our own picks.
2) A lot of Sens fans are excited for Fredrik Claesson after his recent season in Binghamton. Everyone ranked Claesson between 12th and 15th except Peter, who ranked him 22nd. Why did you go against the grain and rank him so low, Peter?
Peter: There are a couple of reasons I ranked Claesson lower than anyone else, one of them being my reluctance to really place high expectations on a guy who projects as a defensive defenceman... it's always hard to know what to expect of those guys when they're trying to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL. Is Fredrik Claesson going to be like Eric Gryba and find a roster spot on the team after some good years in Binghamton? Or is he going to be like Mattias Karlsson, the former fourth-round pick who is bigger than Claesson and who, despite a 51-point rookie season with Binghamton, left to play in the Swedish league? I simply haven't seen enough of him to know what to expect. The other issue is situational, because given the number of defensive prospects in the Ottawa system right now; I don't know where he gets his break. For similar reasons, I ranked Mikael Wikstrand lower than nearly everyone else.
3) There was a wide range of perspectives on Curtis Lazar. Mrs. O was the most optimistic, ranking him second overall. Ian and Michaela were the least impressed, ranking him 10th. Can you explain why you felt so highly about Lazar, Mrs. O, and why you had reservations Ian and Michaela?
Mrs. O: Well, to be honest, I did some of my ranking pretty quickly and had "top 25 prospects" in mind. I think Lazar is our best "prospect" per se, or at least he has the most upside, I believe. If everything written about him is true and he keeps impressing me, I think in the future he'll be a staple here in Ottawa. Once again, in hindsight and taking more time, I would have ranked him a little lower, probably around where he actually landed.
Michaela: It's not that I wasn't optimistic about Lazar (because I am), it was more out of patience that I ranked him where I did. Part of it was the fact that he is still very young, and I don't want to get too optimistic too soon about someone who we (realistically) won't see in the league for at least a year or two. That being said, I have read a lot more about him in the past few weeks, and am certainly feeling better about his chances of playing on this team, but I want to keep my hopes at bay, and let him develop a little more before I get too excited.
Ian: I definitely think that Lazar is going to be a top quality NHLer. In my rankings, I had listed Lazar as the top player who doesn't have NHL experience. I am pretty confident that Lazar will climb the ranks in the next couple years and likely take hold of a top-3 spot. For the purpose of the Top 25 Under 25, I added a lot more value to players with solid NHL experience than players without.
4) Now that the whole process is finished, is there anyone you would rank higher? Anyone you would rank lower?
Sheer Craziness: Like I said before, I think I'd rank Guptill lower (22nd maybe?) and Paul in Guptill's spot. I might drop Grant a bit to counteract the fact that I think he ended up too high on our rankings. (Mostly kidding on that.) I also might drop Dunn a bit - I think I was overrating his performance in last year's rookie tournament, and not looking as much at his play in junior.
Peter: I might rank Claesson, Wikstrand, and Andreas Englund higher because nearly everyone else had higher expectations of them than I did, but then again, maybe I'd leave them as-is because it's quite hard to know what to expect (and sometimes I think we collectively might have a bias that has us ranking Swedish prospects higher than would be expected for completely unknowable reasons). I'd probably rank Derek Grant and Buddy Robinson lower because there aren't big opportunities for them and their ceilings are quite limited. Finally, I'd reconsider my vote for Ben Harpur, who I ranked well below anyone else; I think it was a fair vote considering the waves he's been making this summer, but at the same time there remains a lot separating him from his NHL debut.
Adnan: I guess Paul because apparently he is rather good? :-)
Mrs. O: I would obviously rank Paul higher and Lazar a little lower. I might rank Vince Dunn and Marcus Hogberg lower and Wikstrand a bit higher. It was tough to rank some of the players that I haven't heard much about. Reading the articles definitely helped me get a better grasp on some of those players.
B_T: I might shuffle around the 6-10 guys a bit since those are the ones I had the toughest time ranking, but I'm not really sure who I would switch.
Michaela: I would move Jared Cowen up a few spots from 14. As much as I worry about his future, I think there is still plenty of time for him to become a productive defenceman. To make room, I would move Jean-Gabriel Pageau down a bit. Like many other fans, I often mistakenly base my opinion of him on his performance in the 2013 playoffs.
Ary: This sounds conceited (I promise I'm not!) but I really like my rankings! The most I'd probably do is to maybe rank Paul over Shore, drop Guptill, and increase Englund, but that's about it. Before ranking, I tried to read up as much as I could about each prospects (I like stuff like that), so I don't think I had any big "wows" on my list.
5) Which player do you expect to make the biggest leap between now and next year's rankings?
Sheer Craziness: It's hard to say. Of note is the fact that Karlsson will be vacating the #1 spot. Z'bad and Lehner may be the odds-on favourites to take over that spot, but if they have a good year, we could say Stone or Lazar or even Pageau jumping up near the top. My gut feeling says that next year we'll see Pageau in the top 5.
Peter: Probably Curtis Lazar, who may replace Erik Karlsson as the top-ranked youngster; even if he doesn't, he'll likely be in the top three. Shane Prince, Nick Paul, Vincent Dunn, and Alex Chiasson may also make big leaps up the rankings. And the dark horse here is Jared Cowen, who could reclaim his spot in the top five young players with a solid 2014-15 season.
Mrs. O: I think Matt Puempel or Fredrik Claesson may be sleepers to make big leaps. It's tough to say, but both those players are strong up and comers.
B_T: I think Chiasson could make a big jump. He may have been undervalued this time due to unfamiliarity.
Michaela: Because we didn't know much about him, I think Chiasson could make a big jump as we all get a little more familiar with him.
Ary: Wikstrand, Prince, Pageau, Hogberg, Harpur, Paul, and Dzingel all seem primed for big seasons.
Wikstrand will have his second full year in the SHL and hopes to make the jump over to North America. Prince has to have a big year, and will shoulder a lot of offensive burden for the BSens with Hoffman and Stone (presumably) in the NHL; ditto for Pageau and Ryan Dzingel, who will be counted on to replace Stephane Da Costa's minutes after being nominated for the Hobey Baker last year. Puempel is already fairly high, which is why he's not included in this grouping. If Harpur and Paul make team Canada, I can see them moving up a bunch as well, though the former is less likely than the latter.
Ian: I am optimistically thinking and hoping that Cowen could have make the biggest leap in next year's rankings. If Cowen has a bounce-back year and plays up to his potential, he could jump into the top 5.
6) While there are a few differences of opinion, on the whole we all voted in a similar fashion. Why do you think that is? Does it negate the exercise in any way?
Sheer Craziness: Maybe a little bit? I mean, we're all flawed, and different blogs are going to think different things. I'd say that on the whole, our blog values size less and skill a little more than the average. And so when we vote, we probably all tend to vote that way. Lots of Sens fans would be shocked to see Wiercioch so high, and yet we were all pretty much on the same page. There is probably an element of groupthink too, of not wanting to be the person who stands out from the rest. But also, the exercise is for fun. We're adding together rankings, which is a flawed way of determining an average ranking anyway. I think people enjoy it and it starts a lot of discussion, even if our rankings probably aren't the best possible list you could ever find.
Peter: I think we're mostly bringing a similar base of information to this discussion, and that impacts out voting pretty significantly. We mostly read the same articles and see the same reports, while very few (if any) of us actually see first-hand information about these prospects on which to base our rankings. The only difference between our votes, in all likelihood, are our personal hunches and positional biases. But I don't think that negates the exercise: This list isn't designed to be a definitive ranking, it's an entirely subjective one, and the whole point is to serve as a jumping-off point for discussions across the community. (Plus maybe bragging rights if a certain played [Ben Harpur, say] turns out to be an excellent prospect who everyone else misjudged.)
Adnan: I think for most people, they have never seen the non-NHL players play. Or if they have, it has been very little. I am guessing people are just basing their rankings based on HockeyDb or scouting reports.
Mrs. O: I think we all voted in a similar fashion because we've all probably read similar things about each other the players. Obviously the lesser known players or those without a big "wow" factor will get rated lower and players with a high upside and lots of hype will get rated higher. We all have a pretty good grasp on hockey, so I don't think it's surprising we were relatively homogenous. In that sense, I don't think the exercise is negated. Perhaps less disagreement is more exciting, but I think that having similar results across the board gives readers a good idea of how we think in terms on prospect evaluation.
B_T: I think we're mostly using the same sources of information. It would be interesting to see what difference blind voting would have though.
Michaela: The system makes sense to me. With so many players to rank, I think the more input we have the better. If we want an idea of where these players rank in Sens fans' eyes, a bigger sample size is helpful when trying to speak for an entire population (yes, I remember my university statistics class!).
Ary: I think part of it is Groupthink, as we can all see how we rank the players, but there is a benefit in this type of exercise for both us and the readers, as it gives us an opportunity to learn about the players we have in the system.
Ian: I think the main reason for our similar rankings is that most of the top 10 players have all seen NHL action. With that, we've seen how they stack up while playing at the same level and can more easily compare them. It seems as though we had split everyone up into 4 groups based on where they play right now; full-time NHL players, some NHL experience, AHL players, and junior/college players. Within those groupings, our ranks varied but the groups seemed to stay in that order.