We’ve made it to August, and you know what that means! It’s Top 25 Under 25 season, you guys! We’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s always a lot of fun, and we’ll be digging into this summer’s ranking very soon. But we’re not there quite yet, so in the meantime, we thought we’d take a little trip down memory lane, and look at the history of our rankings in the 25 Under 25s.
So what we’ve done is amassed the last five years’ summer Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, and then threw in our most recent ranking, from this past December. The player names shaded in red have played more than 500 NHL games, those shaded blue have played more than 200, and those shaded green have played anywhere between nine and 200 games. And also we should extend a hat tip to our pals over at Pension Plan Puppets, who used this table format first and which I have borrowed. And that’s the end of our notes. On to the table!
Do you need to take a moment with that table? And all of the feelings that you may be feeling about it? I understand. Take your time.
We’ve got a couple of takeaways that we should hit on. The first of which is “holy smokes, Luke Schenn really was almost a top 5 player under the age of 25 in this organization at one point in time, huh?” And with that said, I think I need to take a moment of my own to let that sink in.
We’re kicking that off with a joke, but really, the point here is that those early lists were pretty brutal. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth in the prospect pool, and that means your list looks a little uglier, leaving you to rank not as good players (Luke Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, hello) higher than you probably would otherwise want to because, well, you don’t really have a choice. There are a good number of players on those first two lists that did get a shot in the NHL, but of those 19 players, there are only 12 that we can, at present, feel pretty comfortable saying will play in the NHL next season (some players like Anthony Stolarz and Tyrell Goulbourne aren’t included in that count, as they are on NHL contracts, but would have to win a roster spot out of camp and jump over players in front of them on the depth chart). There’s some top end talent on those early lists, but not a whole lot beyond it.
Another piece that we have no note is that we’re also not perfect! We make mistakes too! Like, we sure did think Taylor Leier was going to be good for a while there, huh? Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we can look at those old rankings and know that there are prospects who are better than him that fell towards the bottom of the list because of reasons. It happens. Sometimes we overrate prospects. We’ll do better next time.
The big takeaway from this exercise though? Look how far we’ve come! We haven’t seen too many of the players drafted over the last few years in the NHL yet because they’re either too young or for AHL season reasons or whatever, but there remains a whole lot of talent on these lists. And we really do have to thank Ron Hextall and his scouting staff for that, with their emphasis on building the prospect pipeline back up and their ability to find very skilled players in later rounds.
They wanted to build it back up, and they certainly were able to do that. I mean, spoiler alert, there are players who I had to leave off my own list who I still think are good enough to make the NHL (and even do it with this team!) purely because I ran out of space on my ballot. Somehow we went from having very few good prospects to having almost too many. it’s not a bad problem to have, but it certainly is a big turnaround from not too many years ago.
And maybe we’ve gotten a little spoiled by having All Of The Prospects. That’s okay. But it’s also worth reminding ourselves just where we came from, the state of this team’s prospect pool just a few years ago. Because it wasn’t always this pretty.
Stats via NHL.com and Capfriendly