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Prepare The Way Of The Plugs

Tom Szczerbowski

Yesterday's vote was very tight, but in the end, readers gave Jujhar Khaira two more votes than Philippe Cornet. But that vote didn't have the drama an incumbent.

Today, we've got another two candidates from the 2012 draft, plus Curtis Hamilton trying to defend his spot, Taylor Fedun looking to make his first appearance in the Top 25 after being the last list's bubble-boy (Roberto Luongo was so close to becoming a choking legend!), and three men who have been trending down for the last little while and hope to move back up.

I'll take a closer look at each candidate after the jump.

Taylor Fedun - He hasn't played a single game since our winter rankings because of a devastating leg injury he sustained in an exhibition game at the end of last year's training camp. But he climbed all the way from #39 to #26 last time based on nothing more than a strong training camp and despite the aforementioned injury. That seemed a little bit excessive to me when you consider how often players look great in camp and then fall back substantially once the season starts. But with Fedun poised to return - he participated in this year's rookie camp just a few weeks ago, and his recovery seems to be going well - it seems quite possible that he could rise again, especially with some of the players ahead of him having difficult seasons themselves. Last Ranking: #26

Curtis Hamilton - This would be a rather precipitous fall, but Curtis Hamilton didn't exactly have a sterling pro debut. He had trouble getting into the lineup all season, and then was injured in the month of March. That injury was likely one of the factors that contributed to him being left off of Oklahoma City's clear day roster, which meant playing in just two of their fourteen playoff games. By his own admission, his first year was a struggle. Of course, that's not all that unusual for players coming out of the CHL, and Hamilton was came to the AHL younger than most. It was a brutal year, but he's been tracking well prior to that, so the question is simply how much to push him down the list. Last Ranking: #16

Ryan Martindale - For Ryan Martindale the answer to, "How much do we push him down the list?" was, "A whole bunch" after his pro career got off to a rough start. Martindale didn't make the Barons out of camp and scored just 15 points in 34 ECHL games while registering a -13 rating (third-worst on the team). He also lost about three weeks of the season to injury. But at least in the ECHL there were was the odd positive sign, like his shot rate of 3.18 per game. After getting back from injury, Martindale was called up to the AHL, and I can't even grasp at straws to find positive signs there. Martindale had just 2 points in 16 contests and saw his shot rate fall to less than 1.00 per game. He obviously wasn't getting much ice time, but that's a pretty bad year. Last Ranking: #28

John McCarron - This is a big guy who has enough skill to play among the top nine forwards of an NCAA team. He had already passed through two entry drafts before this year, but that last bit was new this year and is likely what convinced the Oilers to draft him. He played with Cornell last season and finished seventh on the team in scoring with 19 points in 35 games, but finished second in penalty minutes with 61 (likely considered a plus for this player). He was one of just 15 forwards in the NCAA to register at least 15 points and at least 60 penalty minutes while being a plus player, and he did it in his freshman year. The Oilers are likely hoping for a step forward in year two, similar to the one that Alex Chiasson took from his 19-year-old to his 20-year-old season. If he can do that, he'll be worth getting excited about. Last Ranking: N/A

Mitch Moroz - Moroz's story isn't that much different than McCarron's in that they're counting on the player to take a big step forward. Of course, Moroz was taken over 100 picks earlier in the draft, so the risk is a bit harder to stomach. Regardless, the Oilers made the pick thinking that Moroz was trending up and that he would get more opportunities in offensive situations with the Oil Kings in 2012-13. The hope is probably for something approaching a point per game if he gets power play time (he had six power play points last season, so it's not unfathomable) while retaining the physicality that the Oilers already like. It'll be interesting to see if he can deliver. Last Ranking: N/A

Toni Rajala - You generally expect players to get substantially better as they get older, but some guys just get a little bit better, and a whole bunch of people pass them by. That's more or less what's happened with Toni Rajala. He had his best season in the SM-Liiga this year, which is good, but it's not a good enough season to really get excited. He set a career high in points with 29 (in 51 games), a career high in goals with 16, and was more instrumental on this year's team than he has ever been in the past, finishing second in team scoring. H but it wasn't really that much better than his previous performances. But while it's very nice that he's improving, offense is his only calling card, and his offense just isn't enough to make you excited. Last Ranking: #36

Frans Tuohimaa - He was fantastic in the U20 league, but moving up to the SM-Liiga was a big step for Tuohimaa. When Jokerit's starter was injured, it presented a big opportunity, but Tuohimaa struggled to an .898 save percentage in 18 games, placing him 28th out of 32 goalies with at least ten games (but ahead of Vesa Toskala!). Tuohimaa then had to deal with a concussion, which kept him on the sidelines for an extended period. When he returned, the team loaned him to Kiekko-Vantaa in Finland's second division where he performed much better, posting a .921 save percentage in 16 games, placing him in 6th out of 23 goalies with at least ten games. Both of those are very small sample sizes, so it's tough to get a clear read, but "mixed" is a lot better than "bad", which is what his season looked like when we came together for our winter rankings. Last Ranking: #35