Top 25 Under 25: Staff Questions

A look into why some players got certain rankings

Our Top 25 Under 25 countdown has ended (you can find the full list here), so now it’s time to reveal how the staff voted and how we got here. First off, here are everyone’s rankings, courtesy of a great image made by Colin:

And just for fun, here’s a look at everyone’s similarity scores (again, by Colin):

And because the staff always do odd things, here are some answers to the questions that may be on your mind.

1. NKB, you were the only one not to put Thomas Chabot at no. 1. Why did you rank Pageau ahead?

NKB: One of the most challenging things about pulling together my list for this feature every year is that I'm forever unsure about how to balance potential against achievement in NHL play. Thomas Chabot is the best prospect the Ottawa Senators have had in a long time, but he's still just a prospect; he hasn't even played meaningful minutes in the AHL, much less the NHL  At this point it seems likely that he'll be an NHL defenseman in some capacity, but the range of potential outcomes is still large. Meanwhile, Pageau has firmly established himself as something of a 2/3C. He's a good NHL player. It seems quite possible I'll look foolish for this in a year's time, but until I've got at least some information about how Chabot will handle pro hockey I have to give the edge to Pageau.

2. Ross and Callum, you two didn't put Pageau in the top-2. Why did you rank him lower than the rest?

Callum: Pageau's performance in the playoffs was incredible. To the point where, at times, I caught myself thinking, "yeah, a statue right outside the Parliament Buildings wouldn't be overkill." Having said that, his regular season was underwhelming in my eyes. I know he was getting a great deal of Selke praise, but I felt it was simply because he was playing difficult minutes, not that he was playing them well. I understand, here and there, Pageau was getting weighed down by teammates, but his possession numbers didn't dictate a player that was consistently thwarting the offensively gifted opponents Boucher lined him up against; quite the opposite. I have big expectations of him this year, though.

Ross: Outside of a handful of playoff games, Pageau hasn’t been outstanding. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player and I love having him on the team. I just think that the potential to be a first-pairing defenceman or a top-line centre puts you ahead of a first-rate third-liner. Maybe I’m underselling Pageau, I just like the potential of the other guys.

3. Colin, you had Logan Brown lower than everyone else. Have you soured on him after his draft+1 season?

Colin: Logan Brown is a rare prospect. His acumen in the once he's in the offensive zone is definitely top tier, and his size makes him an intimidating opponent. That said, although his points-per-game only dropped by only 0.1 (still a red flag), most of his points came on the power play. It was so overwhelming, in fact, that nearly half of his 40 points came with the man advantage (45%). At even strength, Brown's 1.21 primary points per 60 minutes ranked 160th in the league, which would seem extremely concerning for a prospect that was expected to dominate. Don't get me wrong, I think his PP abilities are fantastic, but having the power play as his only strength won't get him to the NHL. Hopefully we can see better results this coming season.

4. Peter, you were the only one to rank Vincent Dunn, and you had him as high as 13th. Do you think he deserves to be in the Top 25?

Peter: This was an admitted mistake on my part. I don't really have an explanation... I had a mistaken belief that Dunn was somehow good, and ranked him based on that, when it's clearly not the case. I'm just glad he didn't actually get into the overall top 25. After realizing my mistake, I looked back and have overrated him in the past few years, too... I will not do that again (although I might not get the chance, anyway, since I doubt he's re-signed).

5. NKB, you didn't rank Max Lajoie at all even though he finished 15th. Do you think people are overrating him?

NKB: Truthfully I probably was too harsh on Lajoie, though I do think people are overrating him. If I had to re-do the rankings I would have slotted in around 22 or 23, but I also don't expect him to spend much time in the NHL. He profiles as an AHL defenseman to me, which while needed in any organization is not what I'm looking for in a ranking of the best prospects in the organization under 25

6. NKB and Colin, you had Ben Harpur very low at 17. What about his NHL stint this year failed to impress you?

Colin: Ben Harpur reminds me a lot of Nick Paul in 2015-16, in that he oddly enough played his best games of the season in the NHL. Like many I was surprised to see Harpur play competently in his first few games, although he really came back down to earth afterwards. He improved this past season without a doubt, although I still don't see him having the skillset where he can play consistent NHL minutes in the future.

NKB: I know there are large segments of the fan base, and the commentators here, that will strongly disagree with me on this one but I've just never seen it with Harpur. Everything he does well always comes with the caveat "for his size". He skates well, for his size. He handles the puck well, for his size. I don't give anyone points for being big, and once you take that way from Harpur he looks every bit an AHL defenseman to me. That's fine, every organization needs AHL defesemen, but I don't think he helps an NHL team.

7. Ary, as per usual you were right on average. The only player who really sticks out in your rankings is Christian Wolanin who you had much higher than most at 14th. What do you like about Wolanin's game?

Ary: Woo! Average! I ranked Wolanin higher than some of the forwards (Ahl, Gagne, Formenton) and defencemen (Englund, Lajoie) because of his (imo) higher ceiling. His school, North Dakota, won the NCAA Championship a couple years back and produce a number of high quality NHL players. Getting T4 minutes and PP1 time on that team is a feat, and Wolanin has been up to the task so far. In addition, he seems to have the puck moving ability to potentially give him second-pair potential, which is more than I see Englund/Lajoie at. Wolanin is entering his third collegiate season, and since he was drafted as an overager, expect this to be his last as he transitions over to Belleville next year.

8. What ranking surprised you the most? Is there any player you see as too high or too low?

Colin: I expected Ben Harpur to place higher than my rank, but I didn't expect to see Gabriel Gagné ranked 18th, and tied in points for 16th. He played at an ECHL level last season, and he didn't seem to show any signs of having a ceiling much higher. The most underrated players were Filip Chlapik and Christian Jaros, who could both potentially challenge for roster spots in training camp.

Ary: I'm pretty close to average so it's hard to be surprised at any of the rankings in the top-15. Although I had Englund and Harpur a few spots lower than the rest of the group, I'm not surprised that they're ranked high because of how the organization talks about them and because they both played in Binghamton (and a bit in Ottawa last year), which means that more of us (and fans) have seen them play! In the bottom half, it's interesting how the S7 team as a whole seemed not-so-optimistic with the 2017 draftees, even though the prospect pool is pretty small (only 32 players eligible). Again, we see the same trend: known commodities (Ahl, Driedger) were ranked higher than players like Batherson and Formenton despite potentially lower ceilings.

Trevor: I'm pretty surprised that Ben Harpur moved up 19 spots in the rankings, which is incredible. I'm not sure he's that great of a defenseman, but he changed a lot of people's minds over the course of the past year. It's not like the 10-20 range is that great anyway, so Harpur certainly deserves to be in that spot.

Peter: I was surprised by how low Bowers was ranked, to be honest. Obviously, my vote was based on his pedigree as a first-rounder, but I think that gives him a very good chance of being a solid NHLer at least. I thought he'd be a bit higher.

B_T: Not too much in the way of surprises. Maybe Perron cracking the top 10, though that's still not too far off where I had him.

Callum: A few rankings with the readers were a bit lower than I expected, but nothing drastic.

NKB: Bowers' relatively low position was the most surprising to me. The Sens' prospect pool is pretty shallow right now, so seeing him at 14 despite being a first round pick this year was unexpected

Ross: I was surprised to see Filip Chlapik so high. Playing well in his draft+2 year doesn’t excite me enough to make him a top-10 prospect. I also think Chris Driedger was a little high for a guy we weren’t sure would be qualified and might be loaned to the ECHL all year. I’m surprised Joel Daccord didn’t make the list. He normally gets enough praise in the comment section that I expected he’d still get into the top 25.

9. If you could re-rank, would you change any of your rankings?

Colin: I'd move down Filip Ahl a couple spots, but besides that, I'm pretty content with my rankings.

Ary: I'm pretty satisfied with my rankings! The middle group (10 - 18) is interesting. I'd probably move Bowers up to 10 (I had him at 12) due to his great USHL production at EV and my faith in BU as a development program, which would mean that Jaros and Paul would shift down a spot, but that's about it.

Trevor: After writing about Alex Formenton, I'd put him a few spots higher. I'm quite excited to see what he can do with a bigger role in London.

Peter: I would completely leave Dunn off my list. He doesn't belong anywhere near it. Apart from that, I'd give a bit more credit to some of the other 2017 draft picks.

B_T: Nothing major - maybe a player up or down a spot here or there. The only notable one would be that I might bump Pageau up to 1st and Chabot down to 2nd.

Callum: I have no regrets.

NKB: I mentioned it earlier, but I was a bit too harsh on Lajoie. He should have snuck into the low 20's.

Ross: I don’t think I’d change anything. It’s all for fun anyway, right?

And now it’s the chance for you, the readers, to also share you thoughts. Who was too high or too low? Who would you change in your own rankings after reading other opinions?

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