We opened the Top 25 yesterday with a brief look at those who won't be returning in this edition. Today, we start looking at the players who are still eligible. Many of you are already familiar with the Top 25 Under 25, so you'll know that we'll have a detailed profile of each of the top 25 players under 25 (as judged by our rankings). But there are more than 25 players to choose from, and over the next three days, it's time to let those who were left out have their chance to shine.
On each day over the weekend, I'll present six guys who didn't make the final cut plus one who did. With 30 different players receiving at least one ranking inside the top 25, there will consistently be at least a couple of reasonable options. I always find this exercise interesting because about half the time, the consensus of our readers differs from that of our panelists. Will that be the case today? I'll take a closer look at each of today's candidates after the jump.
Philippe Cornet: It's amazing how much one bad year can sewer you in these rankings if you don't have tools and draft pedigree on your side. Philippe Cornet scored 88 points in 76 QMJHL games in his last year of junior hockey and folks were feeling pretty optimistic about what he might be able to do as a pro. This season, he scored 44 points in 81 AHL games and established himself as a top nine forward. Granted, he did it with a crazy shooting percentage to start the year, scoring 20 goals on 65 shots when he last checked in on him in late January, but he did it nonetheless. That little run helped him to earn a call-up to the NHL at the end of January, and Cornet performed quite well in his two games before being sent down. His shooting percentage went unsustainable in the other direction for the rest of the year in the AHL (he had 6 goals on 101 shots the rest of the way for a shooting percentage of 5.9%), but he'd already established himself by that point. After a difficult first year in the AHL, Cornet is back on the radar of the organization. Last Ranking: #32
Travis Ewanyk: When the Edmonton Oilers came to the microphone to make the 74th pick in the 2011 entry draft, they had a plethora of options, but one was a highly skilled player from the Edmonton Oil Kings, so you knew that there had to be a chance. Sadly, the Oilers left Michael St. Croix on the table, and picked his teammate, Travis Ewanyk. St. Croix went on to score 125 points in 96 games last season, while Ewanyk spent most of the season on the shelf recovering from major shoulder surgery. He returned from injury near the end of the regular season, and helped the Oil Kings get to the Memorial Cup tournament. But with 9 points in 35 games, the offense just isn't there. Now, I know that the guy is a defensive specialist, but he's a defensive specialist in the WHL, and I have a hard time seeing that translate to the NHL. The reasoning behind drafting Ewanyk is from the same family as the reasoning behind putting Rob Zamuner on an Olympic hockey team. Seems like bad reasoning. Last Ranking: #39
Erik Gustafsson: The Oilers drafted Gustafsson in the fourth round of this year's entry draft after the Swedish defender passed through the draft completely in both 2010 and 2011. As you might imagine, the selection was a bit off the board in the top 100, especially since Gustafsson didn't even make Sweden's roster for the WJC tournament this winter, but Gustafsson, who turned 20 in March, had something of a breakout year in 2011-12. He played well at the junior level and found himself playing in the Elitserien for the first time, managing to get into 41 games with Djurgarden, and getting a respectable 15:18 per game. Stu MacGregor described Gustafsson as a "puck-mover" and unlike another Swedish "puck-mover" who will be much higher on this list, you can even see it a little in his scoring stats: Gustafsson had 14 points in 21 games in the U20 league and then 7 in 41 in the Elitserien. Last Ranking: N/A
Kellen Jones: Here's a guy that just isn't getting any respect from our panel despite showing some pretty good growth statistically. Jones had a solid if unspectacular rookie season with Quinnipiac, and followed that with a point per game showing in 2011-12. Granted, his 36 points in 36 games was only good enough for third in team scoring, and yes, Quinnipiac does play in a weaker Conference (the ECAC), and Jones is still just 5'9'' so it's not like this is overwhelming stuff. Still, scoring at a point per game rate in the NCAA during your 21-year-old season is at least somewhat promising. This guy might be the next Mark Arcobello for crying out loud! Last Ranking: #42
Jujhar Khaira: Khaira was selected by the Oilers in the third round, 63rd overall. None of the scouting agencies had Khaira that high going into the draft but Red Line Report did say that he could be "the biggest/best sleeper in the draft" (they had him just outside their top 100). Khaira finished 10th in the BCHL scoring race this year, playing mostly with the league's leading scorer, Paul De Jersey. In reading Ben Berland's lengthy scouting report, I read about a player with excellent size, strength, and intelligence that needs to work on his footspeed. Khaira will be heading to Michigan Tech next year, which plays its games in the WCHA, a very solid hockey conference. It will be very interesting to see how Khaira deals with the step up in competition. Last Ranking: N/A
Joey Laleggia: Like Gustafsson, Joey Laleggia had already passed through two drafts before being selected by the Oilers in 2012. Like Jujhar Khaira, he played junior hockey in the BCHL and plays college hockey in the WCHA. And he's absolutely killing it. Laleggia was the third highest-scoring defenseman in his Conference during his freshman year with 38 points in 43 games, and only one first-year player (forward Kyle Rau) scored more points. Laleggia was so effective that he was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year. Corey Pronman had him ranked 89th going into the draft and gave him good marks for both his passing and skating. So what's the problem? He's tiny, and struggles with the physical aspects of the game. Whether or not he can translate his college success to the pro game will be a question until he actually makes the jump, and that's still at least a full year away. Last Ranking: N/A
Antti Tyrvainen: Tyrvainen had a tough first year in North America. He did an interview in January where he described the difficulty of adjusting both to North America ("The first two or three months when I came here it was so hard for me, I was alone in a new country, a new language, and my language wasn't so good"), and the North American game ("When I first came here I was struggling a lot and then I broke my arm"). But after returning from injury, things picked up. Tyrvainen was consistently in the lineup through the end of the regular season, and played (mostly on the fourth line) in all fourteen playoff games. Next season, he likely hopes to move up the depth chart and improve his offensive output. If he can do that even a little bit, the agitating Finn could find himself in the NHL. If he can combine a strong physical game with some skill in the agitator role, there may well be a place for him on the team's fourth line for years to come. Last Ranking: #33