#8: Colin White (Reader Rank: #12, Last Year: #7)
In his last season of eligibility for our Top 25 Under 25 feature, Colin White falls to number eight. It represents his lowest ranking since he was 16th in his first year of eligibility in 2015, immediately after he was drafted. White rose as high as third in 2018 and 2019, and though part of that was owing to some rather uninspiring competition, it’s worth remembering that there was a moment in time when White was widely regarded as a good prospect. A first round pick that goes for 76 points in 72 games in their first two seasons of NCAA hockey, all before they turn 21, will get people excited. Unfortunately for the Sens and their fans, White has only delivered on that promise in his breakout 2018-19 season when he spent most of the year playing alongside Brady Tkachuk and Mark Stone. Since then, there’s been a lot of waiting for a level of offensive production that just hasn’t materialized.
It’s not that White has been bad per se, it’s just that it’s hard to get excited for a player who looks like a capable third line centre and perhaps not much more. White does many things pretty well, but very few things exceptionally well. He’s a good skater, but he doesn’t possess breakaway speed. He’s skilled enough with the puck to make some smart plays, but he won’t beat a lot of defenders one-on-one and he’s not a well of creativity off the rush. He’s defensively responsible, and he works hard, but he’s not exactly a stopper either. Colin White is a perfectly good NHLer, but unless something really clicks, that might be all that he is. If that sounds overly negative, consider that most of our collective disappointment stems from where he was drafted and the promise of those early years in the organization. He’s a capable, helpful, NHLer. Every team, even the very good ones, would employ someone like White. if he’s on your third line, there’s a good chance he’s helping you win hockey games.
As for the specifics of how he does what he does, I don’t think there’s much I can add to Owen’s magnum opus from a couple of weeks ago. The Coles Notes’ version is that the Sens get pretty good on-ice results with White when it comes to shots and chances, but his individual counting numbers haven’t been that impressive for a couple of seasons. That reads to me like the profile of a good depth forward. If the Sens hadn’t drafted him in the first round, and weren’t paying him $4.75M for this year and the three after it, there would be a lot less handwringing. But at 24, it’s becoming increasingly likely that this is his ceiling.
The obvious question that comes to mind as you read this profile then is why have White in the top ten at all? Certainly several of the Sens’ up and coming prospects have the potential to turn out better than a useful depth player. One might even point to the guy who finished 9th in our voting, Shane Pinto. As Shaan explained in his profile, Pinto’s stock is rapidly on the rise. His last season at UND was good enough to merit a Hobey Baker nomination; he’s met, and exceeded, all of the organization’s expectations. There’s at least a chance that Pinto could turn out to be the the top six centre the Sens so desperately need.
It’s useful in these instances to remember that White actually out-produced Pinto in his two years of NCAA hockey and that there was a reason he was a first round selection but Pinto was not. Prospect development is never a sure thing, and being a productive NHLer is nothing to sneeze at. This isn’t to say Pinto will turn out like White — we’re all hoping that his future is brighter than that — but nothing is given in NHL hockey. All of your weaknesses are laid bare, and some of your strengths are no longer strengths when faced with the best in the world. Outside of Crosbys and McDavids of the world, we just don’t know until we see them play in the show. White has a track record, and he isn’t a bust.
So as we conclude White’s time on our Top 25 Under 25 list, it’s worth reflecting on his arc as a player. Sometimes top prospects turn into the stars of our dreams, sometimes they bust out altogether, but a lot of them just turn into run-of-the-mill NHLers. There’s no shame in that, and if the Sens are really going to enjoy those Five Years of Unparalleled Success it’s quite likely that White will play a role. It might not be the role he and the team dreamed of back in 2015, but that doesn’t mean it won’t matter when it’s time to do some winning.