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2014 Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and departed

Before we get to the 2014 rankings, let's take a look back at the guys who are no longer eligible this year for the top 25 under 25.

Bruce Bennett

This year, the Top 25 Under 25 list is going to have quite a different look than we've had in recent editions. Three members of last year's top five have graduated, and that includes the reigning two year champion. We are guaranteed a new king of the top 25 under 25 with the departure of Subban.  We have 12 players from last year who will not be in the running this year, listed in the table below.

Player 2013 Rk 2012 Rk 2011 Rk Current Status
P.K. Subban 1 1 2 Graduated, under contract through 2021-22
Max Pacioretty 3 2 3 Graduated, under contract through 2018-19
Lars Eller 4 4 4 Graduated, under contract through 2017-18
Sebastian Collberg 8 10
Traded to the New York Islanders
Louis Leblanc 9 6 6 Traded to the Anaheim Ducks
Brady Vail 27 32 Released
Steve Quailer 32 24 38 Traded to the Los Angeles Kings
Erik Nystrom 34 37 Released
Robert Mayer 35 40 36 Released
Dustin Walsh 42 33 20 Released
Peter Delmas 43 39 26 Released
Mike Cichy 44 45 38 Released

P.K. Subban

PK is the marquee name that will no longer be eligible for the top 25 under 25. Subban of course came number one for the first time in 2012, then made EOTP history in 2013 as the first ever unanimous number one selection. Confirmed again as the unanimous number one selection in our mid-term rankings back in January, Subban truly dominated for a good while after the graduation of Carey Price.  For a few days I thought all was lost, but as it turned out the Habs and Subban came to an agreement, and Habs fans can strap themselves in for eight more years of this:

Max Pacioretty

Max was removed from consideration prior to our mid-term rankings in January. His contract situation was a sight less of a worry for Habs fans of late, as he's been signed to a sweet deal for a while now. He's become one of the league's elite scorers, and the Habs are fortunate to have him at a great price, for a good while.

The Canadiens have not had a scorer on this level since Vincent Damphousse. Max is a huge part of the Canadiens offense, and despite finishing 3rd in last year's T25U25 rankings, he put up 39 goals on the season. If the Habs are poised to take another run at the cup, Max will be heavily relied upon. With Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta gone, he will likely have to step up as a leader as well.

Lars Eller

When Eller and Subban filed for arbitration, most of us at EOTP assumed that the former was the more likely to actually make it there. Lars has proven himself a very capable player with the Habs since the Halak trade, but hasn't displayed the type of consistency that some might like. Personally, I was very happy to see one of the best 2013-14 playoff producers signed at 3.5 million AAV, and I believe that most Habs fans would agree.

Larry is yet another happy story, having graduated the top five with a multi-year deal. I think that all he needs is the right linemates, the right looks on the powerplay, and a little consistency to really bust out and make that 3.5 million look like loose change.

Louis Leblanc

Here's a guy who falls in the 'departed' category that I'm not particularly happy about personally. Leblanc was a much-hyped Habs draft pick that never really seemed to get his footing with the big club, and was moved out by Marc Bergevin to the Ducks for a conditional fifth round draft pick. Although his stock definitely dipped in the last few years, Leblanc was a perennial top 10 player on our lists so he was certainly on our radar as having real NHL potential.

Some may argue that Leblanc simply doesn't have what it takes to stick at the NHL level, but there may also be a viable argument that his is a case of failed development. He didn't have the best of linemates when he played in Hamilton, and his stints with the big club were typically pretty good, but short and infrequent. In any case, the Canadiens decided to part ways with Louis, and we wish him the very best in Anaheim.

The departed

Sebastian Collberg of course was the main piece used in Marc Bergevin's deadline acquisition of Thomas Vanek from the Islanders. Collberg debuted in the final spot of our top 10 in 2012, the very year he was drafted. Many of us felt quite strongly about the skillset of Collberg, bumping him up to eighth overall in the following year and the 2014 mid-term. He's also a scoring right winger, a position the Canadiens would certainly have filed under the 'needs' category at the time he was dealt.

Certainly, I wouldn't say my view on losing Collberg is joyful, but I find it hard to criticize the move. Marc Bergevin saw that his team had an opportunity to make a run, and went after some immediate help, sacrificing Collberg and a pick to add some scoring on the right wing. Notwithstanding the fact that Vanek turned out to be no more than a rental player, It's pretty hard to argue against making that trade. With additions like P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Sekac, and the emergence of Sven Andrighetto as a legitimate threat to crack the Habs lineup, it sounds odd to say, but Collberg almost seems expendable in retrospect. I wish him well, but I hope he does not come back to burn us as a member of the Islanders organization, as he certainly still has some attractive upside.

Out of those who remain, Vail stands out to me as the one that may sting the most. There were rumblings about some perceived conditioning issues, but he was a rather prolific scorer in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires, and it seems odd that the Habs chose not to sign him. Certainly Hamilton could have benefited from his scoring potential, and this would give him an opportunity to prove something. He re-entered the draft and was not selected, tried out for the Hurricanes but was not signed, and now he may head back to Windsor for an overage year.

No offense to Walsh, Mayer, Delmas, Cichy or Nystrom, but I would have viewed their prospects of becoming Montreal Canadiens as slim at best if I'm being brutally honest. Steve Quailer rounds out the departed, as he was traded to the Kings for Robert Czarnik, a trade that was accurately described by Marc Dumont as "the epitome of a minor trade." While all of these players were in consideration last year, their departure has minimal impact on this year's results.

That rounds out the graduates and the departed from last year's top 25. The class of 2013 featured some pretty good hockey players, and although some of the best are gone we've still got a pretty deep roster to work with in the 2014 Top 25 Under 25.