After the hockey calendar got delayed a few months, the 2020 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25 is finally set to begin. The first step is to introduce the players who are eligible this time around.
Last year we ranked 46 players — tied for the most in the 10-year history of the project — including 10 who were added at the 2019 NHL Draft. Despite holding even more picks a few weeks ago at the 2020 event, just eight more prospects joined the organization after trades to add roster players and some transactions during the draft to move picks to next year.
The filling prospect pool also saw a handful of players who would have been signed to entry-level contracts in previous years left unsigned, spending just two seasons in the organization after being selected in 2018. We also didn’t get any young free agents signed after impressing at development camp because the pandemic prevented that showcase from taking place.
The net result of the additions and subtractions over the past 15 months is a decrease of three players under the age of 25, with the eight 2020 Draft selections the only new additions, for a total of 43 born after September 15, 1995. (For consistency purposes, we will be sticking with the normal cutoff date even though it has already passed. No players on the list will turn 25 before the end of this year’s project.)
With a spectrum ranging from newly drafted teenagers still a year away from joining the NCAA to players who have seen multiple years of action in the NHL, some guidelines for the project are needed. The best way to approach the ranking is to consider projected value of the players.
Many people preferred the “would you trade Player A for Player B?” method of weighing the options in the past, ranking A higher than B if the answer is “no.” One issue with this particular method is that you may end up placing more importance on current NHL players than top-end prospects.
The goal of the project is to rank players according to their projected impact at the NHL level. This does not necessarily mean with the Montreal Canadiens, and not necessarily for this upcoming season. Assume every player has an open shot at claiming the place in a lineup that his skill set suggests.
On the flipside, a player already producing in a third-line role in the NHL is likely more valuable than a longer-term prospect who has a small chance of becoming a top-six player. Your decision in those situations will depend on how certain you are that a prospect will reach his projected ceiling.
With that in mind, instead of asking which player you would rather trade, ask which player you’d rather lose. If you would be more upset at the organization parting with a certain prospect than a particular established NHL player, the prospect should be higher on your list. The player at the bottom of your ballot should be the one the organization (and you) would miss the least if he left. The player at the top will be the one you’d happily rebuild your franchise from scratch around, whether that’s a current top-six NHL forward, a minor-league goaltender, or a teenage defenceman.
Any obvious troll ballots (e.g. placing a current NHL player at #43) will be disqualified. The hundreds of community votes we receive will be averaged together to serve as one of our panel entries — a wisdom-of-the-crowd ranking — that we incorporate in the final results.
As we have done recently, two EOTP members have been granted individual ballots this year. To choose them, I tallied the individual comments made on our weekly prospect reports this year and sorted by most to least posts, limiting candidates to those with no warnings on their account in the past 12 months, and who hadn’t had an individual vote in the series in previous years. The two representatives will have their ballots receive equal weight to those of staff members in determining the rankings.
Should you decide to do some research for your ballot, you can read up on David St-Louis’s Catching The Torch series, Patrik Bexell’s European Prospect Report, and our comprehensive coverage of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. I ask that you refrain from discussing the specific or relative order of the players in the comments of this article as to not influence other members’ decisions.
The survey has three questions.
The first one asks for your SB Nation (EOTP) username so we can validate ballots and find the ones from our panellists (all participating staff members will be filling out this same ballot during the same window as well).
The second is a drag-and-drop list of the 43 players (randomized for each of you). Move the players around until you’re happy with your order, from the best at the top to the worst at the bottom.
The final question asks how many players you ranked. You must have ranked at least the top 25 players for your ballot to count in the average. Ranking all 43 would be ideal, and the more the better, but just rank as many as you’re comfortable with and let us know how long your list was so we don’t factor in the ranks for the players you skipped.
Ballots can be edited after submission (so long as you use the same device and don’t delete the survey site’s cookies or clear your browser’s cache), but it’s probably best if you don’t second-guess yourself too much. Please take your time to consider each player. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your list to reference throughout the series.
The survey will be closed at 11:45 PM EDT on Saturday, October 31, with preliminary articles beginning the following week.
Now let’s get this thing under way. Your ballot can be filled out here: