The Last of the Rejects

You people love goalies. First it was Olivier Roy running away with the vote, and yesterday Tyler Bunz followed suit. Frans Tuohimaa can feel the pressure, but he's just one of eight men vying for that last spot in the Top 25 Under 25. But with a couple of NHL'ers in the mix this time (I feel like I'm selling copper jewelry covered in gold spray-paint), the task won't be easy. I'll take a look at each of the contenders after the jump.

Mark Arcobello - Well, didn't this guy just come out of nowhere. He spent four years with Yale and had some decent offense. But there's nothing all that special about a 5'9'' forward scoring at a decent clip in the ECAC, and so Arcobello was forced to sign an AHL contract. At the start of the season, that AHL team demoted him to the ECHL, where he scored just 20 points in 33 games. And then he had the most important 26 games of his life. Mark Arcobello came to the Barons after a few of their top scorers were moved up to the NHL, and he scored 22 points in 26 games, playing well enough to earn himself a two-year entry-level contract with the Oilers. Now, I don't want to put too much stock in 26 games, but nearing a point per game in the AHL in your first pro season is an impressive feat even if it does happen when you're 22 years old. Last Rank: NR

Kyle Bigos - If we look back far enough, we'll see that Kyle Bigos was the Most Valuable Player on a team that won the RBC Cup. Now, he's a top-four defenseman who plays in all situations on one of the best NCAA teams in the country. The man has some ability. And at 6'5'' and 235 lbs., that ability comes with plenty of nasty. I don't know if he'll ever be in the NHL, but Kyle Bigos is going to be one scary dude in the AHL in just over a year's time. Last Rank: #31

Taylor Chorney - It feels like this guy has been around forever, and at 24 years old, he is nearing the end of his time on the Top 25. That makes his position on this list precarious to say the least. Chorney is 24 years old and still hasn't established himself on the NHL roster. Last season ended with an injury, and I haven't yet seen a depth chart with Chorney in the top seven this year either, so there are some very definite down arrows. With that said, 2010-11 was Chorney's best season by far. In Oklahoma City, he was counted on by Todd Nelson to play tough competition, and for the first time in his pro career, he didn't get killed. His -1 rating in 46 games isn't great, but it is an improvement! At the NHL level, he (again) looked overwhelmed, but not quite to the same extent as in 2009-10. He's been asked to do too much every step of the way, and he's still managed to improve, but given his age, he might be running out time. Last Rank: #22

Drew Czerwonka - He took a big step forward offensively this season. In 2009-10 he scored just 13 points in 54 games; in 2010-11 he scored 43 points in 68 games. That's still not very good, but it's good enough that he can contemplate becoming a fourth line guy on an NHL team. His calling card at that level will be physicality, but if he can add defensive responsibility - and his +9 with Kootenay is a good start - there might just be a place for him in the organization. For now, he just needs to keep plowing forward so that he earns himself that first NHL contract. Last Rank: #33

Travis Ewanyk - He's a very interesting prospect. The guy has pretty much no offense (27 points in 72 regular season games), but all of the major scouting services seem to really like him: Decentralized Scouting had him as the 66th best North American in the draft, Red Line Report ranked him as the 64th best prospect available in 2011, and ISS had him 42nd. This despite the fact that they all know that he has pretty much no offense. His skills, it would seem, are on the other side of the puck. He works hard, plays the role of "shut-down" center for the Oil Kings, and plays a really chippy game too, sort of like Dave Bolland with the Blackhawks except that he fights a lot and doesn't have close to the same level of offensive skill. Last Rank: NR

Milan Kytnar - After a rough start, Kytnar adjusted well to life in the American Hockey League. He had just 29 points in 78 games, but there's some evidence that he had a tough role early on, and when the call-ups came fast and furious toward the end of the season, Kytnar was forced into a larger role. He responded well with 11 points in his last 12 games and a +5 rating. Of all the centers taking a regular shift in Oklahoma City last year, I think that Kytnar is the guy with the best chance at an NHL career. Last Rank: #29

Ryan O'Marra - This was most definitely his best season as a professional, and yet I'm not any more hopeful than I have been the last couple of years. His Corsi was awful, second-last on the club and closer to Steve MacIntyre than to Ryan Jones immediately above him. In fact, it was the seventh-worst Corsi in the entire league (min. 20 GP), this despite having over 60% of his end-zone starts in the offensive zone. He was better in the AHL, but it sure is saying something when you've just had your best AHL season in four tries and it involves scoring two goals in over fifty games. Last Rank: #27

Frans Tuohimaa - It's hard to know what a great season from a 19 year-old netminder in a Finnish U20 league really means. I mean, it's a helluva lot better than a poor season, but... is it actually any good? Could be. His .931 was the best save percentage in the league this year (min. 20 GP), and it's the sixth best mark in that league in the last decade (again min. 20 GP). The guys ahead of him? Karri Ramo's .945 in 2004-05, Pekka Tuokkola's .939 in 2003-04, Tuukka Rask's .936 in 2003-04 and .935 in 2004-05, and Teemu Lassila's .931 in 2001-02. A couple names you recognize there, and a couple that you don't. Ramo and Rask obviously have some skill, but the other two also did well for themselves. Lassila went to Sweden for a couple of years, but has since returned to Finland where he's been a quality starting netminder in the SM-Liiga for the last several years. Tuokkola, meanwhile, stayed in Finland and has also been a starter in the SM-Liiga, though he's recently signed on with a KHL team for 2011-12. So the low end of these four seems to be "starting netminder in a major European league", which is pretty darn good! Even if he doesn't make the list, this is a solid seventh rounder for the Oilers. Last Rank: NR

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