"Son, there goes #26 right there, in the flesh."
With next month's NHL draft about to add a whole new batch of teenagers to the New York Islanders system (assuming they don't trade for Herschel Walker before then), we're doing an update to our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 list before the new blood bends our lens and sends us scrambling through prep school boxscores.
Last time we did this survey was before the 2011-12 season, so certainly some stocks have changed as another season of data has been added to the biographies of players that typically have more potential than actual data.
Before we get to the countdown from 25 though, today we give a nod to those who missed the cut. That group is led, as you might expect, by John Tavares who sadly lacked the Clutch Performance Index chops to finish any higher than 26. Better luck next time, kid.
(Yes, in case you hibernated through last winter -- and we'd not blame you if you did -- Tavares' 26 ranking is a joke. A reference to Neil Greenberg's instantly infamous exclusion of Tavares from his NHL-wide 25U25 list in favor of ... some names I forget. His logic was dissected and desecrated, and Greenberg was a sport about it, explaining and defending his choice in comments here and with a follow-up -- and hey, publicity doesn't hurt, right? -- but the "Tavares at 26" meme shall live on.)
Anyway, back to the serious (ahem) business of telling you who an average group of Islanders-watching nobodies considers their top 25 players under 25. I should note that no one but Tyler McNeely dropped out of the pool of possible vote recipients thanks to age -- Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo are among those pushing 25 but are not there yet.
We will get into our voters' rationale (the front-page authors of this site plus a returning guest voter) more as we dig into the proper countdown over the next month. Each had a controversial pick or two, but suffice to say it was a variety of philosophies, including:
- Some of us weighed more heavily which player is (we think) literally better today
- Others weighed more heavily on potential, or at least those with significant potential
- Some (from each camp) penalized players who, though arguably of top 25 caliber today, are not on the NHL club and not likely in the Islanders' plans regardless
As the organizer of this exercise, I personally supported this varied approach. My reasoning: No one has an authoritative, purely objective way to decide these rankings across positions, players and current teams (aside from Tavares' poor CPI pulling him down to 26, obviously), so this would be a nice way to average out may different viewpoints and arrive at a decent ranking of the top 25 young Islanders.
And that is part of the purpose here -- not just to do a ranking of prospects yet to arrive, but to put them in the context of players in the same age range who are already on the roster.
Of course it's in part for debate and for summer fill, but it's also to record snapshots of how different players are perceived at a specific moment in time. There is so much second-guessing and revisionist history among observers of this game, sometimes it's nice to faithfully capture the zeitgeist rather than rely on unreliable memory.
Players Who Were on the Last 25U25 but Missed This Cut
- Anton Klementyev (25, barely, last fall)
- Adrei Pedan (24th last fall)
- Mark Katic (23rd last fall)
- Ty Wishart (14th last fall)
I was the only one to put Wishart on my list. I assume others left him off in part because the Islanders called him up for just one (emergency) appearance this year, something of a surprise that may indicate a lack of plans for him.
Katic no doubt suffered here due to his shoulder injury which kept him out for most of this season, as well as the possibility that injury knocks him further from the picture of the Islanders' future. Two of us still included him on our ballot.
Klementyev not only had an uninspiring season -- he was suspended and ultimately had his contract terminated after he refused assignment to the ECHL. No one had him on the ballot this time and we'll likely not hear from him again.
Pedan had a solid post-draft year for Guelph and will hopefully re-appear on this list in the future. He was on two ballots this time. As you'll see when we get into the top 25 proper, that 20-25 range is very much a toss-up of maybe-could-be prospects that could have easily included Pedan.
Well, start compiling your own updated 25U25 now -- and get ready to hash it out in debates as we go through our list leading up to the 2012 draft.