Back in 2010, I decided that as a reprieve during the deadest hockey news month of the calendar that Eyes On the Prize should simply steal the Copper & Blue's bit and do a prospect ranking. The Copper & Blue are a hockey blog worth stealing ideas from, I figured, so I asked the writers on the site at the time, as well as some for other Montreal Canadiens sites, to come up with a ranking of who they thought were the most valuable 25 players under the age of 25 that the Canadiens held exclusive NHL rights for.
That first year, I did all the writing, revealing the picks five at a time. It was pretty good fun, but by the next year we knew we could do it better. In 2011, the writing and presentation duties were split between myself, Andrew Berkshire, Kevin van Steendelaar, Stephan Cooper and Chris Boyle. In 2012, we were able to add Justin Dahan and Christopher Ive to write a couple of the profiles for Hamilton Bulldogs players. The project turned into a big hit annually, and as Eyes on the Prize has grown in both popularity and staff, we've now reached the point where in 2013 we'll have eight different writers for the profiles, after having a solid dozen of our staff take part in the voting process.
It's entirely an Eyes on the Prize project now. Only staff from the site were solicited for opinions on the players and rankings. We've had a good run in the past with co-operation from Brian La Rose at Habsworld and Chris Topham of Lions in Winter, and we've managed to add Robert Rice to our own staff after he had voted as an outsider in past years. Our staff and its range of opinion on this site is so large now that we're pretty comfortable all different kinds of voices are being heard.
With that out of the way, here's a look at the players being judged this year:
|Player||Pos.||Age||Current Club||2012 Rk|
|Sven Andrighetto||RW||20||Hamilton (AHL)||NEW|
|Nathan Beaulieu||LD||20||Hamilton (AHL)||5|
|Mac Bennett||LD||22||Michigan (Big Ten)||17|
|Michael Bournival||C||21||Hamilton (AHL)||12|
|Tim Bozon||LW||19||Kelowna (WHL)||18|
|Sebastian Collberg||RW||19||Frolunda (SHL)||10|
|Mike Condon||G||23||Wheeling (ECHL)||NEW|
|Connor Crisp||C||19||Erie (OHL)||NEW|
|Jacob De La Rose||C||18||Leksand (SHL)||NEW|
|Peter Delmas||G||23||Wheeling (ECHL)||39|
|Josiah Didier||LD||20||Denver (NCHC)||36|
|Darren Dietz||RD||20||Hamilton (AHL)||21|
|Gabriel Dumont||C||22||Hamilton (AHL)||25|
|Lars Eller||C||24||Montreal (NHL)||4|
|Morgan Ellis||RD||21||Hamilton (AHL)||11|
|Stefan Fournier||RW||21||Hamilton (AHL)||NEW|
|Zachary Fucale||G||18||Halifax (QMJHL)||NEW|
|Alex Galchenyuk||LW||19||Montreal (NHL)||3|
|Brendan Gallagher||RW||21||Montreal (NHL)||7|
|Jeremy Gregoire||C||18||Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)||NEW|
|Patrick Holland||RW||21||Hamilton (AHL)||19|
|Chalres Hudon||LW||19||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)||28|
|Louis Leblanc||RW||22||Hamilton (AHL)||6|
|Artturi Lehkonen||LW||18||Turku (SML)||NEW|
|Mark MacMillan||RW||21||North Dakota (NCHC)||30|
|Robert Mayer||G||23||Hamilton (AHL)||40|
|Michael McCarron||RW||18||London (OHL)||NEW|
|Joonas Nattinen||C||22||Hamilton (AHL)||22|
|Magnus Nygren||RD||23||Hamilton (AHL)||26|
|Erik Nystrom||LW||19||MODO (SHL)||37|
|Max Pacioretty||LW||24||Montreal (NHL)||2|
|Greg Pateryn||RD||23||Hamilton (AHL)||23|
|Steve Quailer||LW||24||Hamilton (AHL)||24|
|Martin Reway||LW||18||Gatineau (QMJHL)||NEW|
|P.K. Subban||RD||24||Montreal (NHL)||1|
|Colin Sullivan||RD||20||Boston College (HE)||44|
|Christian Thomas||RW||21||Hamilton (AHL)||NEW|
|Dalton Thrower||RD||19||Vancouver (WHL)||16|
|Jarred Tinordi||LD||21||Hamilton (AHL)||8|
|Dustin Tokarski||G||23||Hamilton (AHL)||NEW|
|Maxim Trunev||RW||23||Lokomotiv (KHL)||41|
|Brady Vail||C||19||Windsor (OHL)||32|
The method by which we rank players is to ask ourselves this question: Would you trade any player straight-up for any other one? Who is more valuable going forward to the Canadiens? If choosing between Dalton Thrower and Christian Thomas, who would you rather have from a pure talent perspective?
In doing this over four years, I've found that the most contentious players to rank are the new arrivals. Some voters will instinctively rank them lower due to a lack of knowledge of the player, or how far away they are from making the NHL. Some will rank them higher as they have probably excelled at their lower level, and the faults in their game haven't become obvious. It's tough to weigh all these concerns at once, but with enough opinions I feel we arrive at a fairly balanced ranking at the end of the day.
This past year saw a lot of changes to the group. Fourteen players from last year's U25 group aren't in this group anymore, whether due to turning 25 or leaving the organization. That's about a 30% turnover rate. For the ones that remain, we had a very young group of players play in Hamilton last year to a disastrous result, yet our 2012 Draft class seemed to almost universally excel at the junior level. Yet even amongst all the rookies in Hamilton that didn't do well, we saw that Brendan Gallagher, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu could still provide impressive performances at the NHL level when called upon.
This is the last year we will be ranking P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Lars Eller as they are all going to be turning 25 within the next 12 months. This makes this year's U25 class probably the deepest we'll see in years.
Tomorrow I'll offer a sendoff to the 14 players that didn't make the year as part of this U25 club. The actual ranking will start to reveal itself on Tuesday, August 6, with a new player profile every working weekday until completion. I hope you enjoy the project and stick with it until the end.