This year’s Top 25 Under 25 project has had the most prospects to rank, and there have been several prospects outside the Top 25 who very easily would have been there in previous years. These five players below just barely missed out, whether it was due to being pushed out by new prospects or seeing a quick rise thanks to a strong season that left them just short of the official countdown.
30. Xavier Simoneau - Forward - 21 - Laval Rocket
One of the QMJHL’s most prolific scorers in recent seasons is hoping to become yet another late-round steal of the Montreal Canadiens. He is currently following in the same footsteps of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who was also drafted as an over-age player and signed a one-year AHL deal with the Laval Rocket. In fact, the comparisons between the two players likely won’t end there. Much like Harvey-Pinard, Simoneau is never going to be the flashiest or most skilled player on the ice at any time. He will, however, be the one working the hardest on any given shift.
Standing at a meagre 5’7”, Simoneau doesn’t let his size hamper his efforts, and with an AHL deal on the table for him this year he will have a new league to learn and adjust to. While he has impressive QMJHL point totals, he’s done a lot of his damage as an over-age player in a high-scoring league. Now, he must find ways to be successful in the minors, where scoring comes at a much lower pace.
Luckily for Simoneau, the path to success is there thanks to Harvey-Pinard, but it’s only going to happen with a huge dose of effort on his part. The underlying skills are there, but his size may end up being the great equalizer as he makes the leap from playing against teens to full-grown adults.
29. Joël Teasdale - Forward - 23 - Laval Rocket
Joël Teasdale is an interesting prospect in the Canadiens prospect pool. Injuries robbed him of a season-and-a-half of development after signing his entry-level contract. When he has been healthy, he’s been a strong producer for the Rocket. Despite not being an overly large player, he embodies the essence of a power forward on the ice. He drives hard to the net and makes use of his strong frame to push defenders back as he drives into the offensive zone. He’s more than capable of getting himself to the dirty areas to clean up plays, or to make himself available for teammates to find him around the blue paint.
It remains to be seen if there is another degree to his overall game at the professional level. He’s established himself as a reliable middle-six AHL forward, but there’s still another step needed to make himself an NHL-calibre player. His game isn’t overly flashy, and so far he hasn’t really evolved beyond what he was in the QMJHL. He has all the trappings of someone who could take another step, like Michael Pezzetta did last year, and latch on to a fourth-line role in the NHL, but right now there doesn’t seem to be a much higher ceiling than that.
28. Jakub Dobeš - Goaltender - 21 - Ohio State University
Goalies are notoriously tricky to evaluate as they develop in almost all cases and Jakub Dobeš is no exception to that rule. Originally drafted in 2020 after a middling season with Omaha in the USHL, he took a huge step forward the following year by becoming one of the league’s premier goaltenders. The massive Czech goaltender took it to another level in his freshman year in the NCAA. collecting a swath of Big 10 awards including All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, Rookie of the Year, and Best Goaltender.
With such a strong start to his NCAA career, one would think that he might rank higher on this list. However, as we’ve seen in the past, prominent NCAA goalies like Hayden Hawkey may start strong but fail to continue to improve on their stats. For Dobeš, the biggest thing will be to build on his strong freshman season — an admittedly already high bar.
What he has going for him already is his massive frame. Standing 6’4”, he covers the net extremely well to begin with. Along with that, the big Czech has the fundamentals down pat, keeping himself in position to make the most efficient save possible while also making himself available for second chances or rebounds.
It’s hard to analyze young goaltenders as there’s so much that can change in their development from year to year. We’ve seen it with Cayden Primeau — a middling start in a lower league to becoming an elite NCAA goaltender in short order before graduating to the pro ranks. For Dobeš, he has three more years of NCAA eligibility and if he continues his ascent as he has already, he won’t be sticking around Ohio State for all of them.
27. Ty Smilanic - Forward - 20 - University of Wisconsin
One of the newest arrivals on this list is Ty Smilanic, who was acquired in a deadline trade with the Florida Panthers that saw Ben Chiarot heading the other way. In previous years, Smilanic would have been a slam dunk to crack the top 20 of most ballots, but thanks to so many new prospects, and high-end pieces being acquired, he slots in at 27th this year. While Smilanic is part of a hugely successful trade for Kent Hughes, there is still plenty of growing left to do for the 20-year-old forward.
Smilanic has spent the last two years at Quinnipiac University, one of the top teams in the NCAA, and the runaway regular season champions of the ECAC as they went 32-3-7 on the year, and Smilanic was a big part of that with 23 points in 41 games. Yet, after Quinnipiac’s season came to an end at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, Smilanic chose to enter the transfer portal. It’s believed that the young forward wanted bigger minutes that he wasn’t getting with the Bobcats in the previous two years. By selecting the University of Wisconsin, Smilanic will have just that chance as the Badgers don’t have many elite prospects.
This, of course, becomes a double-edged sword for Smilanic. If he can’t take advantage of the situation in front of him and produce more, he risks falling behind in an increasingly crowded Canadiens prospect pool. He does have the talent to make the most of this new situation, however, even with some defensive warts. He’s a fierce competitor in all three zones, battling hard for pucks and doing what he can to disrupt opposing offences.
With a strong skating base to work with, Smilanic can bring all sorts of pressure in the offensive zone. He can force defenders back with his speed to open up opportunities for his teammates, or he can maintain the puck as he cycles through the zone using his frame to keep control of the puck.
Smilanic is a prime candidate to rise up this list in the 2023 edition. He has all the talent and now has an opportunity to be the go-to guy at Wisconsin. That requires Smilanic to take that next step and prove that he can become an NHL player and not just a potential one.
His game has flaws, but it’s nothing that’s beyond fixing. A lot of it truly comes down to Smilanic maturing his game a bit and putting in the effort he needs.
26. Vinzenz Rohrer - Forward - 17 - Ottawa 67’s
One of the youngest names on this list, Austrian forward Vinzenz Rohrer, debuts at #26, just missing the cut for the Top 25.
Looking at how Rohrer is built, one might envision him as a flashy player who shies away from the dirty areas of the ice or other physical contact, but he makes his money as a relentless forechecker against his opponents, and beyond that, uses a high hockey IQ to disrupt passing lanes with an active stick.
Despite his high-pressure style of play and willingness to battle for every puck, he rarely finds himself sitting in the penalty box, collecting just 14 penalty minutes in 64 games last year. He never puts himself in non-advantageous situations and has drawn some comparisons to Artturi Lehkonen. The young Austrian can likely reach the professional level based on his two-way play right now, but there is still more he can do to grow.
Rohrer doesn’t always get himself into the high-danger areas offensively, limiting his quality chances on net and his overall offensive output. Yet even with just 25 goals on the year and 23 assists, Rohrer led the Ottawa 67’s in scoring. Ottawa was also not the strongest squad, finishing seventh in the 10-team Eastern Conference. With a full year of OHL hockey in his back pocket, he should continue to grow offensively.
Listen to Habsent Minded where the crew discuss the players who just missed the cut in the Top 25 Under 25.
Now that we’ve looked at the 27 players who didn’t make it, Monday we will begin the official countdown of the 2022 Top 25 Under 25.