Top 25 Under 25: Staff Questions

We reveal how our staff voted in the Top 25 Under 25, and then answer some questions explaining how we voted.

If you missed any part of our Top 25 Under 25 series, check out the full list of the rankings. If you were wondering how we got to those rankings, this shows how each of the staff voted:

(Click on the image for an enlarged version)

(Note that Trevor's votes did not count for the rankings as he joined the site after voting had closed)

And now for some questions on the voting:

1. Ary, you had Colin White at 11, much higher than anyone else. Why is that? Do you feel vindicated by the number of sources that have called him the Sens' best prospect recently?

Ary: I ranked Colin White 11th because I feel like he has the tools to be a really strong modern-day centreman: skill in all three zones and a high hockey IQ. Although he played a smaller role on an absolutely stacked USDP U18 team with names like Auston Matthews and Matt Tkachuk, White’s PPG pace was still pretty good. The fact that he’s all but a lock to make the US WJC team and that he’s playing with a strong Boston College team for the next few years is going to be great for his development, which is something I also considered when comparing White to some of the other, lower ceiling players in the Sens system. He can also put up the points when he needs to, and absolutely tore up the U17 WHC in 2013-14. Looking back, I had Stone, Zibanejad, Lazar, Pageau, Prince, and Paul ahead of White, but I’d probably rank him ahead of Paul if I could re-rank. It’s nice that a number of reputable sources have called White the Sens best prospect, but I’m not too surprised given that he’s always been highly thought of, and would’ve gone higher than 21st overall if not for a bout of mononucleosis this past year.

2. Peter, you seem pretty big on Ben Harpur. Are you surprised he just barely made the cut?

Peter: I like Ben Harpur, and I am surprised he barely made the list. I suspect that Harpur's slight fall down the rankings is due to a general souring on big, defensive defencemen--especially in the Silver Seven community--but I don't think the league has left them behind yet. I probably did rank him a little high at 13, but I think there's a legitimate opportunity for Harpur to impress with Binghamton this year and move up this list when we look at it again next summer.
3. Richard, you were the Chiasson apologist of the group. Why do you still rate him ahead of a lot of players? Are you surprised how low he was on some other lists?

Richard: There were a lot of things Chiasson did this year that I liked. In the second half of the season (based on’s stats) he led all forwards with more than 15 games in CF% at 54.35%, regular and high danger scoring chances at 58.31% and 61.6% respectively. He had the lowest SCA/60 among regular forwards in that time. I think he fared well in a bottom six role based on those numbers and that’s where I expect to see him continue for the future, but I think he has the capacity to fill in gaps as a top six player when necessary if there’s a slump or injury. I like his versatility and I don’t think he gets credit for how different he was as a player once Cameron came in.
5. Jeff, your list was pretty different from the average, I'm guessing because you've seen a lot of these players live in Binghamton. Two interesting picks: Wiercioch much lower than most people, and Lazar as the second-best prospect. Can you explain why you went against the grain on these picks?

Jeff: Picking Lazar so high is solely based on him coming down to Binghamton and getting quality minutes next season. It would get him to where he needs to be raising his confidence and learning what it takes to be a pro under Luke Richardson. Both Shane Prince and Chris Wideman have credited Luke for opening up their games offensively as well as defensively. It could work with Lazar and with last season under his belt in the NHL, he instantly would rise to the top as far as current prospects. But Lazar needs to come down for a significant amount of time for this to work.

I chose Wiercioch lower from the others on what I've seen in Binghamton with the occasional spots here and there for Ottawa. Not a big fan of Patty as you can tell, but you'll also see I picked Fredrik Claesson fourth while others had him picked much lower. Why? Perhaps I've seen him play more than anyone else and at the same time I've lost interest in Wiercioch. If Patty is better than my pick and I'm wrong so be it, but I'm not on the side of error when it comes to Claesson I don't think.(Of course he's yet to play a game for Ottawa so there is that factor.)

6. Ross and Ary, you both had Perron at 14 and Hogberg at 15. Is there a reason you had these players so much higher than most people?

Ary: Perron is slotted after Lindberg, who’s probably the only other junior player in the Sens system who had a better season than him, and before the lower-ceiling McCormick, Dzingel, Puempel, Robinson, etc. on my list. I don’t think people realize that Perron’s numbers are equivalent, if not better than Matt Puempel’s junior numbers - they just come more from assists than the former’s oft-mentioned goal scoring abilities. Yes, the QMJHL is historically a weaker league than the OHL - a stereotype that a lot still mention - but that gap has closed significantly. Although his even-strength production can improve, I tend to favour shot generation more than most, and Perron has done that on a consistent basis. This, to me, is the difference between a Mike Hoffman and a Bobby Ryan - one can generate his own scoring chances for the most part, whereas the other needs some work to be done for him.

Back when Högberg was drafted in 2013, the Sens European scouts said that they got the best goaltending prospect in Sweden that year, and I think they may be right. He had the best save percentage among U22 goaltenders in the SHL last year (.917 in 27 starts), which is higher than InGoal Magazine’s 32nd ranked goaltending prospect Linus Ullmark by .13, although Ullmark started 8 more games. Högberg was listed as an honourable mention on the aforementioned list, but I really think his NHL-size and strong career numbers are good indicators of his worth as a prospect. I did rank Matt O’Connor higher (by two spots), mainly due to O’Connor’s terrific NCAA season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I flip them next year.

Ross: Looking back, I think I had Perron a little high. I still think he deserves to be in the Top 25, but 14th puts him ahead of where I had some guys like Colin White. Still, like Ary said, his junior numbers are impressive, and I think it's weird he gets almost no press. I have no issues with where I put Hogberg. In my mind, Hogberg could very well be the team's goalie of the future. He's only 20, and already has a lot of experience playing against men. This year he's going to be an undisputed starting goalie in the SHL. O'Connor has played very well, but at the college level against players his age or younger. I think Hogberg's size, age, and experience make him every bit as good a goaltending prospect as O'Connor. Now all the Sens have to do is actually sign him to an ELC.

7. NKB:, you had Chlapik really high, even ahead of first-rounder Colin White. Why is that?

NKB: I'll start by saying I'm not an expert on the subject of prospects, so you can dismiss my opinion if you want. I spend 95% of my hockey viewing time on NHL games, but I do try to read as much as I can about the Sens prospects when I can. I'm high on Chlapik because he's described as a skilled centre and he had a very good season scoring-wise in the QMJHL. When I rank players for this exercise, I gravitate towards those that have the greatest potential to be impact players in the NHL. Specifically as it pertains to Colin White, he played this past season for the US junior national program but had middling results there. Part of that might be due to a variety of injuries and ailments, but even Pronman, who is high on him, has written White fell a bit because of a weaker than expected season. White might be a better bet to make the NHL but I see Chlapik as having a better chance to be an impact player.

8. Ary, you didn't even rank Jared Cowen. Do you really think the Sens have 25 players more valuable than a guy with more than 200 games of NHL experience?

Ary: Short answer? Yes. As mentioned multiple times already, I really value decision making/hockey IQ when identifying *good* hockey players. Jared Cowen doesn’t have that. As a defenseman when I played, and a person that’s really interested in defensive systems and tactics, I really don’t see any growth in Cowen from his rookie year to now. Yes, injuries have a part in this, and yes, Cowen was a highly rated 1st round pick, but to me, he never dominated junior except in his final age-20 year (when he’s supposed to!) and he struggled or was a healthy scratch in his world junior performances. His one Good Thing appears to be his PK ability when I look at the underlying numbers, but I’d rather pay a player ~$1.5M for that than the $3.1M that Cowen is getting. I rank 25 players ahead of him because I think this is it, and for the record, I’ve given Cowen plenty of chances before (I wrote the T25U25 article on him last year, and the Last Chance: Jared Cowen article last offseason). I really hope I’m wrong.
9. Some readers were questioning why second-round picks Filip Chlapik and Gabriel Gagne didn't make our rankings. Only Ary, Callum, NKB, and Peter ranked Gagne, while only B_T, Callum, Michaela, NKB, and Ross ranked Chlapik. Do you think those two should have made it over some of the lower ceiling players bound for Binghamton?

Trevor: I had both Filip Chlapik and Gabriel Gagne in my top 25, and I put them there because I think they have more potential than players like Buddy Robinson, Ben Harpur, and Max McCormick. At 22nd and 23rd respectively, I don’t think I was reaching on their rankings at all.

Ary: Dunno why the other’s didn’t rank Gagne ;) I think he’s a great player and has the speed that most power forwards lack to be effective in the NHL. His weakness is his game-to-game consistency, which is something the Sens development staff really stress, which is why players who have had that weakness also (Prince, Puempel) have worked on that in the AHL to become legitimate NHL prospects. I’m confident that it’ll happen for Gagne as well. I really wanted to rank Chlapik, who I put as 26, but am wary of how much of his offence is generated by fellow second-rounder Daniel Sprong. Until I see them apart, I’m not too sure of his NHL potential, which is why some of the lower-ceiling but more projectable players ended up being ranked ahead of him. I think he’ll be on my list next year.

Peter: One of the most difficult aspects of rankings like these, at least in my mind, is in assessing the junior-age players and those with pro (and NHL) experience in the same grouping. Every year I have to ask myself how heavily I should rank the existing NHL or even AHL experience of certain players versus the ceiling of an 18-year-old second-round draft pick, and it's not easy. To me, that's how players like Chlapik and Gagne--who have high offensive potential, but still a few years to go before they play AHL or NHL--are ranked lower than players like Buddy Robinson and Cole Schneider, who may never play more than a few NHL games. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes, and Chlapik and Gagne still have lots to prove.

Ross: Probably? I didn't rank Englund last year because I have a hard time putting stock in non-first-rounders a month after they were picked. That being said, this was a deep draft, and many pundits had Chlapik going to Ottawa 18th-overall, which is why he made my rankings. Gagne is intriguing, and his combination of size and skating should get him a good long look from the organization. He was in my top 25 as well, until I realized I'd forgot Chiasson. In the end, the difference between spots 28 to 20 is very small, and probably varies widely depending on whose list you're using.

Michaela: I'll be honest in that I don't know much about either player, so my assessment was primarily based on stats and prospect profiles written by others. I liked Chlapik's point production in Charlottetown last season, although I understand he has quite the supporting cast around him. That's not to downplay Gagne's production, which was also impressive. I wanted to rank him, but just found that there were too many players, who I knew more about/had seen play, and who deserved to be ranked in the Top 25. I'm sure I'll have him in the Top 25 next year.

NKB: Given my answer in 7, I'd obviously go with yes. I think the biggest thing that held Chlapik back in these rankings is a lack of visibility; he wasn't a first round pick and he hasn't spent any time in the Sens' system. By this time next year I expect him to have made a big jump up our rankings

Callum: To be honest, it was hard for me to rank some of the draft picks because of the minimal amount of accessible footage and stats from their junior years. But with Chlapik and Gagne, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Ian: I left Chlapik and Gagne out of my rankings mainly because in the near future I don't think they will have an impact at the NHL level. For new draft picks, I feel that there are more unknowns than there are for the prospects we have down in AHL or junior hockey graduates.
10. There were a lot of questions in the comments about whether this was ranking the player currently or taking into account their potential. What were your criteria in coming up with your rankings?

Trevor: For my rankings I have to balance between current and future value. I think that players like Andreas England and Filip Chlapik could be much better than Jared Cowen and Alex Chiasson, but I have to take into account players that are actually in the NHL. Chiasson isn’t that great, but at least he’s in the NHL. However, most other times I base my rankings on potential.

Ary: I weigh as many factors as I can! Given my list, the *good* players who are already in the NHL were ranked ahead of the others because making the NHL and performing well is the GOAL of these players, hence: Stone, Zibanejad, Lazar, Ceci, Wiercioch. Next is the tier of players who either are a) the closest to becoming GOOD NHL players, or b) the high-ceiling prospects (the ones with potential), hence: Wikstrand, Pageau (who’s already a full-time NHLer by contract), Prince, Paul, Chabot, White. In there, you have the highest potential D (Wikstrand, Chabot), and forwards (Prince, Paul, White). After that, I tended to favour players who had the projectable skills that I liked (O’Connor, Perron, Högberg) before rating some of the newer players who I haven’t seen much of, or the lower ceiling Binghamton-Bound players. Hope that makes sense!

Peter: My response to this is related to that of question nine; essentially, I tried to balance existing pro experience with potential, and especially the likelihood of reaching that potential. That's how we end up with guys like Mikael Wikstrand and Thomas Chabot, two players with no North American pro experience, ahead of Jared Cowen and his 212 NHL games played: It's looking less and less like Cowen will become more than a third-pairing NHL defender, while both Wikstrand and Chabot still have the potential to become top-four blueliners.

Ross: It's a mix of experience and potential. Cowen beats out guy like Englund on my list because Cowen has shown he can play bottom-pairing minutes in the NHL, while we're not even sure if Englund while make it that far. It's why Nick Paul wasn't in my top 10, for example, because we haven't seen what he can do outside of major junior. His potential is high, but I'm hedging my bets until I see him against NHL competition. And fair or not, I value experience in the AHL or SHL (or KHL if Ottawa had a single Russian) more than junior or college, because the level of competition is increased playing against full-grown men. However, the balance of potential vs. demonstrated ability put Ceci ahead of Wiercioch on my list, an opinion that most of the other writers didn't seem to sure.

Michaela: I try to rank with a mix of how a player is doing currently and their potential. Much of a player's potential is based on their current/previous play, so it kind of goes hand-in-hand. But potential is a tricky thing... thank you, Jared Cowen. When ranking players, I consider the season they just had, the circumstances in which they played, where they are likely to play next season (will there be significant change, is there room on the Binghamton/Ottawa rosters for their position, etc.) and whether or not they are consistently improving season over season.

NKB: I'll elaborate a bit on my above answer about potential. As an evaluator I place a very high premium on potential to be more than a fourth line forward or bottom pairing defenseman. Someone like Buddy Robinson, for instance, will never rank too highly with me because there's basically a zero percent chance he becomes a top six NHLer -- even if he is nominally one of the Binghamton Senators top forwards. Ultimately I'm ranking players by their value (or potential value) to the NHL club.

Richard: I use something of a mix, looking at the player’s value to the organization, which way they’re trending and how high the ceiling is vs what they’ve shown. In some cases, like with Chiasson, I think he didn’t have as great of a season as we would have liked, but I think I saw a lot of little things and some indications that he could be a decent bottom six guy with some upside. For a guy like Cowen, my frustration was a factor and his experience at the NHL level carries little weight in comparison to what I see as a rapidly diminishing reputation and a market value that could theoretically fall off a cliff at any time. I have to ask myself what the return could be for moving a player, and how realistic it is that they’re going to have a more significant or important long term impact for the team than other players on the list. It’s harder for me to say with prospects than with guys at the NHL level already, though. Guys like Cowen got big negative points for their negative associations, while others didn’t make it higher for appearing to be on a path to being readily replaceable commodities.

Callum: I rank players on their performance in the past season or two and overall potential. But the level they're playing at also comes into play. For example, if two players both had a B+ worthy season, but one was in the AHL and the other in the NHL, the one at the higher level will get ranked higher. It gets difficult with draft picks who have yet to play a game at the professional level, and that's where you have to make a few decisions on potential.

Ian: My rankings were based off of what I thought their potential impact would be at the NHL level within the next 3ish years. So NHL guys got a lot of weight just for being in the NHL, quality AHLers next in line along with players heading into their first AHL year (Paul, Lindberg, O'Connor), and then followed by the junior guys. I tried to base it on each player's potential upside, but adjusting for the uncertainty of a fresh draft pick vs an AHLer.
11. If you could re-rank, would you change where you ranked anyone? Were there any big surprises for you in the final rankings?

Trevor: I wouldn’t change my rankings just yet, but I will for sure in a few months. There weren’t many surprises for me in the final rankings, besides the fact that neither Chlapik nor Gagne were in the top 25.

Ary: I still really like my rankings! The biggest surprise I guess on my list is that Perron/Hogberg are so high and that Puempel/Cowen are so low or unranked, but otherwise, I think it’s a list that’s close to where the players were actually ranked on consensus. If I could re-rank, I’d probably flip White and Paul but that’s about it.

I don’t think there’s too many surprises for me in the final rankings, as it looks like the team just chose to favour NHL-readyness over ceiling in some cases. This difference resulted in the big gaps between my rankings and the team’s, with the consensus ranking favouring the "closer to the NHL" group of Puempel, Claesson, Chiasson, Dzingel whereas I favoured the "higher ceiling group" of White, Högberg, Wikstrand, Perron, Gagne.

Peter: As a fan of the team, I often find it difficult to see past the best-case projections of prospects, and I think I could have done a better job of that in my rankings--which would probably have moved Chiasson, Cowen, and Schneider up on my list. Related to that, I probably should have given more weight to existing pro experience and less to potential--which may have sent Chabot and O'Connor down a few spots.

Ross: I'd move Perron down, and I think I'd move Colin White up. Besides that, I'm pretty happy with my rankings. I was a little surprised Buddy Robinson made it after looking like he's had a bunch of guys pass him on the depth chart, but it's hard to find much surprising about the guys ranked 20th and lower. I'm interested to see how differently the fan ratings are.

Michaela: I honestly don't think I would change anything major in my rankings. As I got closer to the bottom, I'm sure I could substitute one of the lesser-known prospects for Gabriel Gagne. But the difference between 26th and 25th is so minute, it's not worth changing. Give me a few months, and see how I feel about my rankings then.

Callum: I wouldnt change my rankings at all, but I was surprised Ben Harpur wasnt ranked higher. I got to see him at development camp and the way he skates, carries the puck and sees the play all at once is impressive. We havent heard much about him in the past year, but I still see him as one of the young defensemen that could crack the NHL roster in a few years.

Ian: I don't think I would change anything about my rankings. I was hoping to see Max McCormick a bit higher just because he's a fun player to watch in Binghamton. Outside of that, no real surprises.

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