As you all know as dedicated readers, we compile a list each summer of the top 25 players in the organization under the age of 25. I was reading back through my list from this past off-season recently and was somewhat shocked at some of my logic. As a result, I’ve decided to revisit my list at the halfway point of the season and see what changes need to be made.
First, let’s set some ground rules.
1. Any player that was eligible for the list over the summer remains eligible. Even if they’re over 25 now.
2. This summer’s list was compiled using a few factors: current status, potential in the organization, pedigree, etc. This list will be based solely performance this season as a way to measure who is meeting and not meeting expectations.
3. I’ll mark how much a player has risen or fallen and give some brief notes on them.
Let’s check it out:
1. Filip Forsberg, W, Nashville Predators [-]
This one goes without saying. Forsberg is putting together another elite season despite facing injury. 34 points in 37 games will put you at the top of this list.
2. Kevin Fiala, W, Nashville Predators [+1]
Fiala and Arvidsson are putting together similar seasons, but Fiala’s emergence has been critical to the team. He’s finally showing up as that first-round talent he is.
3. Viktor Arvidsson, W, Nashville Predators [-1]
There were concerns Arvidsson would regress this season, and he’s certainly had his droughts, but he’ll finish with 20+ goals and close to 50 points - not much of a slump.
4. Juuse Saros, G, Nashville Predators [+1]
Saros started off the year making every fan hold their breath with sub-par performances, but he’s been lights out recently and his numbers are excellent.
5. Eeli Tolvanen, W, Jokerit [+7]
I was slightly skeptical of Tolvanen to start the year, but the story has been written. He’s torn up the KHL this year. I’m slightly concerned over his recent slump, but the Olympics will be an exciting challenge for him. I’m still not convinced he should be brought over for the playoffs, though.
6. Emil Pettersson, C, Milwaukee Admirals [+10]
Pettersson has really impressed me this season. He’s been a consistent producer for the Admirals with 28 points in 37 games to date and is now an AHL All-Star. I expect he may push for a surprise roster spot in the next couple seasons.
7. Trevor Murphy, D, Milwaukee Admirals [+15]
Another huge riser, Murphy has been nothing short of fantastic this season in the AHL. I was a bit surprised he didn't make the All-Star cut. He is ten points shy of his point total from last season in a little over half the games, but his game has solidified off the scoresheet too. He’s up for a new contract this summer, so keep an eye on that.
8. Colton Sissons, C, Nashville Predators [-]
Sissons has been good this season. He’s already set a career high in points in only 44 games. I think he’s more comfortable after finding his ceiling. I’m still skeptical of his work on the power play, but it’s nice to see him keep up with any part of the lineup.
9. Frederick Gaudreau, C, Milwaukee Admirals [+1]
He certainly hasn’t been the scoring phenom he was in the playoffs, but I’m glad we’ve pumped the breaks on expectations. He’s a solid player when in the lineup and maybe still has another stride to hit with different linemates.
10. Anthony Richard, C, Milwaukee Admirals [+14]
Richard is a bit of a conundrum. As I wrote last week, I’m very excited to see how he finishes the season and plays next year. 19 points in 40 games isn’t fantastic, but with more consistent linemates I think he can cause havoc at the AHL level. A player to watch for sure.
11. Victor Ejdsell, C, HV71 [NA]
Ejdsell didn’t make the list over the summer mostly because I had too many questions. It’s clear he can compete in Sweden’s top league and has great versatility. 23 points in 36 games is fantastic for his first full SHL season. I’m curious if we see him in Milwaukee next year.
12. Yakov Trenin, C, Milwaukee Admirals [-3]
Trenin drops here mostly cause of injury. The boarding incident earlier in the season is the opposite of what the developing Russian needed. Like Richard, he’s a player to watch down the stretch. This injury certainly seals him into another full year in Milwaukee.
13. Patrick Harper, C, Boston University [+5]
Haper is having a quiet year at BU but has still put up 21 points in 20 games. The team as a whole is struggling which never helps. I think some expected more this season and maybe he gets there on a better team. The World Juniors was concerning. 4 points in 7 games is fine, but he completely disappeared for a few of those matches. Again, I’ll defer to next season.
14. Miika Salomaki, W, Nashville Predators [+5]
I was almost certain Salomaki’s NHL career would go the way of Gabriel Bourque’s (until recently), but he has responded nicely when in the lineup this season. He’ll never be the 50-point scorer he was in the AHL, but he’s a solid fourth-liner.
15. Dante Fabbro, D, Boston University [-]
Fabbro has been another conundrum. His point totals aren’t bad (15 in 22 games), but he’s been so up and down this season - much like BU. It’s clear some of the skill he exhibited in the BCHL has failed to entirely translate. I’d pump the break somewhat on his potential and wouldn’t be afraid to use him as a trade piece.
16. Jack Dougherty, D, Milwaukee Admirals [-2]
The ONLY reason Dougherty drops here is cause of Salomaki’s rebound and being afraid the internet lights this article on fire if he’s ahead of Fabbro again. I REALLY like Dougherty - almost as much as I like Murphy. This kid is a player and we’ll be an excellent bottom-half defenseman in the NHL soon.
17. Rem Pitlick, C, University of Minnesota [+8]
Pitlick has impressed me quite a bit this season. 21 points in 28 games is really solid, and it’s encouraging seeing him keep up with Casey Middlestadt. He’s definitely a three-year college player at the least, but I like his game to date.
18. Alexandre Carrier, D, Milwaukee Admirals [-11]
I don’t think Carrier has been horrible this year. 15 points in 41 games is behind the curve he previously set for himself, but he’s been okay. His defensive game has taken a small hit. Another year or two in the AHL will do him well - especially if the Admirals defense improves around him.
19. Karel Vejmelka, G, HC Kometa Brno [NA]
If you’re keeping track at home, you know I saw Konstantin Volkov ahead of Vejmelka over the offseason. I anticipated Volkov to play more than he has, but Vejmelka has really impressed. He’s been excellent splitting between three teams in the Czech Republic. Keep an eye on him coming to Milwaukee next season.
20. Frederic Allard, D, Milwaukee Admirals [-7]
Allard, much like Samuel Girard, was an elite offensive producer in the QMJHL. I ranked him so high over the summer because of his potential which is certainly still there. This season, his first as a pro, however, has been okay. He’s getting good minutes in Milwaukee and experiencing the ups and downs of that young defense.
21. Jacob Paquette, D, Kingston Frontenacs [NA]
Paquette didn’t make the initial list this summer due to a lot of uncertainty for a young player. He’s played a nice season to date with a little bit more offense and up-ice play. It doesn’t hurt that the Frontenacs are playing excellent hockey.
22. Grant Mismash, W, University of North Dakota [NA]
Mismash is a similar case to Paquette. I had a lot of questions going into the season. He’s not putting up the numbers he did with the U.S. National Team Development Program, but he’s having a solid freshman year in North Dakota. His development next season will be something to watch.
23. Pavel Koltygin, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs [NA]
I’ve gone back and forth on Koltygin a lot this season. At times he looks brilliant; at times he’s invisible. Overall, I’ve been reasonably impressed. I think his ice time is a concern this season, but there isn’t much you can do about that when a contending team loads up at the deadline. As is much of the theme here, next season is vital for Pavel.
24. Tommy Novak, C, University of Minnesota [NA]
I’m still not convinced that Novak has that much of a future in the organization, but he’s put together a nice rebound season after missing some time with a bad knee injury. 19 points in 24 games for the big pivot is a decent output. He seems to have an AHL ceiling though.
25. Pontus Aberg, W, Nashville Predators [-21]
There’s not much to say here. Aberg is already 24 and has had three monumental seasons in the AHL but can’t put it together in the NHL. To me, he just has 4A player written all over him - similar to Taylor Beck. I don’t think he has much future here especially with players like Tolvanen, Gaudreau, and Trenin on the way.
Knocking on the Door
A couple players I like that are close to making this list:
Hardy Haman Aktell, D, Skelleftea AIK J20
Konstantin Volkov, G, SKA-1946
Joonas Lyytinen, D, Milwaukee Admirals
Aside from Aberg, here’s a few players that have nearly disappeared:
Justin Kirkland, W, Milwaukee Admirals
Tyler Moy, C, Milwaukee Admirals
David Farrance, D, Boston University
Additionally, rest in peace to Vlad Kamenev and Samuel Girard.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.