Mike Ridewood - Getty Images
At #15, Ryan White. The tough as nails, won't back down from anyone, grinder who's extremely underrated.
As one of only two notable 24 year olds in the Montreal Canadiens' system, this is Ryan White's last year of eligibility for the top 25 under 25. White is also the first guaranteed roster player on the Habs to appear on this year's list. What has been consistent in his ranking over the 3 years we've been running this project, ranking 13th in 2010 and 2011, before moving down two spots this year to 15.
It's important to note that White hasn't moved down two spots because that panel has soured on him, but because notable prospects have been added to the system, and some offensive minded prospects that the panel was less sure of in the past have continued to impress, and therefore have moved up the rankings.
That White was able to keep the panel's attention this year is actually quite impressive, as he barely played. White missed the majority of the season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia that healed much slower than expected, and missed the last few games of the season because he took on more than he could handle in fighting Erik Gudbranson and getting concussed.
There were positives to White's season though. Even if it may have been poor strategy, Randy Cunneyworth gave White excruciatingly tough minutes upon his return, with by far the highest relative Corsi quality of competition score at 1.304, and the second lowest offensive zone start percentage at just 40%. White struggled in those minutes as he's not suited to play them, but he still drew more penalties than he took and pushed the play up the ice effectively.
The panel was pretty consistent in their ranking of Ryan White, with the two outliers being Justin Dahan and Chris Ive, our two Bulldogs writers.
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STRENGTHS: White's most obvious trait as a player is his aggressiveness, which is almost animalistic at times. Ryan backs down from no one and refuses to give players space. This works to his advantage in his play without the puck in most scenarios as he is a miniature freight train when he gets going on the forecheck, and his physicality can create loose puck situations in all 3 zones that teammates can capitalize on.
White's offensive capabilities are nothing to write home about, but he possesses a better than average shot for a grinder and can make nifty plays with the puck on occasion.
The most oft referenced strength of Ryan White however, is his willingness to drop the gloves, and his effectiveness as an undersized guy in that regard. Any reader who knows me, knows that fighting in hockey isn't exactly my thing, but they also know that my favourite moment in Ryan White's career was this moment, which I take every opportunity to post:
Johnny Boychuk vs Ryan White Mar 8, 2011 (via hockeyfightsdotcom)
In fact, this fight has become somewhat of an inside joke among a few of my friends and I, partly due to the first time we ever saw the fight, a guys night out at Hurley's, where right after the fight ended I looked towards the other guys and asked, "Remember that time Ryan White beat the sh*t out of Boychuk?". Also note the ridiculous commentary by noted buffoon, Jack Edwards, as he mentions "Boychuk's really angry now" as Boychuk continues to get his face caved in. I'm getting way off track here, but I love Ryan White.
WEAKNESSES: White is, in many ways, his own worst enemy. His aggressiveness is both a blessing and a curse, as he at times takes the physical side of the game much too far. It's great to not be afraid of anyone, but sometimes you should be. White's fight with Gudbranson is a good example, he never should have entered into that altercation. His decision making in this respect is very hard on his body, and may prevent him from establishing himself as as good a player as I think he can be.
White's skating is below average for an NHLer, although his effort level makes up for it at times. His endurance has become less of an issue over time as his conditioning has gotten better, but he needs to continue that trend this upcoming season.
PROJECTION: White was supposed to start last season as an NHL regular for the first time. He had earned the trust of coach Jacques Martin the year before. Due to his sports hernia and subsequent surgery, that didn't happen, the coach was fired mid-season and White has to prove himself to a new coach in Michel Therrien. Marc Bergevin also brought in some hefty competition for White in Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong, both of whom are capable of playing right wing on the bottom two lines. It's possible that Therrien will try White as a 4th line center, however White still needs to prove that he can handle a full season of NHL hockey. White won't be leaned on to score goals, but he should learn to be more choosey with when he drops the gloves. It's possible that doing so could put him in Travis Moen territory.
#15: Ryan White