The Top 25 Under 25 makes its return for the summer with a nine-person panel of writers both past and present, namely, Alan Hull, Benjamin Massey, Bruce McCurdy, Derek Blasutti, Derek Zona, Jonathan Willis, Michael Parkatti, Ryan Batty, and Scott Reynolds.
But if the list of contributors is similar, the list of players has seen plenty of additions and several subtractions: Taylor Fedun (recently signed) and Niko Hovinen (recently qualified) are off the list because of age; Magnus Paajarvi, Tobias Rieder, and Kyle Bigos left via trade; Colten Teubert, Alex Plante, Samu Perhonen, and Phil Cornet were set free by the organization when it came time for new contracts; and Kristians Pelss died tragically earlier this summer in a swimming accident.
We haven't said much about Pelss to this point in part because speculating when the news first came out seemed unwise and in part because no words can adequately address the grief of his family, friends and teammates. We all knew Kristians as fans, which is an odd relationship to speak from when a young life is cut way too short. For those looking for someone to speak from that voice capably, I heartily recommend Bruce McCurdy's wonderful retrospective article on Pelss, which speaks both to the person and player and to the fragility of human life.
As for additions to the list, the Oilers drafted Darnell Nurse, Marc-Olivier Roy, Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Jackson Houck, Kyle Platzer, Aidan Muir, Evan Campbell, Ben Betker, and Greg Chase this past June; signed Andrew Miller and Brad Hunt as free agents; and traded for Kale Kessy, Philip Larsen, and Lee Moffie.
This year's list has 47 players eligible, which means that 22 players aren't going to make the final cut. This time around, it was the last five spots that held the most controversy. The top 20 was virtually unanimous; seven of the nine panelists agreed on the top twenty players (even if the didn't agree on the order), and the two other panelists had just one party-crasher. But the last five spots? Not so unanimous. No one else made the top twenty-five on every ballot and eleven different players beyond the top twenty received at least one vote for one of those last five spots.
Of the men listed below, one eventually made it, while seven others missed the cut. Vote below, and we'll see if the wisdom of our readers is similar to that of the panel.
Greg Chase: Chase lasted until the seventh round, but with 59 points in 86 games, he does bring a substantial amount of offense. Given that he scored just15 of those points on the power play, his non-PP point per game rate of 0.51 actually looks pretty decent for a player who just turned 18 last January. Chase finished fourth on the team in scoring behind two 20-year-olds and a 19-year-old. With at least a couple of those players moving on, Chase should have more opportunity in with the Hitmen in 2013-14 and could post much better offensive numbers. Last Ranking: N/A
Brandon Davidson: He fell out of the top twenty-five last time around, but has made a solid case to return. After getting back from testicular cancer halfway through the season, Davidson worked his way from the ECHL back up to the Barons and eventually into a top four role during Oklahoma City's playoff run. There's a logjam of defenders at the AHL level to compete with this fall, but Davidson is a year of professional hockey ahead of the newest prospects, and significantly, already has the confidence of his coach. Last Ranking: #26.
Travis Ewanyk: The Oilers signed Ewanyk to a three-year entry-level contract believing that he can play the same role in the NHL that he's been able to play in the WHL. Ewanyk, a forward, had his best offensive season in the WHL in 2012-13 with 33 points in 80 games, but he played a very physical game against many of the WHL's best players. He's a checking forward, and he knows it. In the past, our panel hasn't been impressed with those credentials, but as he moves to pro hockey in 2013-14, he'll try to take a step toward proving us wrong. Last Ranking: #39.
Curtis Hamilton: In July of 2011, Curtis Hamilton was #9 in the Top 25 Under 25 and just about to start his professional career. In July of 2013, he's two years into that career, and he's definitely not going to be coming in at #9. Hamilton's first two seasons have largely been characterized by injuries and ineffectiveness. A tough first season in the AHL should probably have been expected, but Hamilton's offensive performance actually regressed in his second year, and it seems very likely that this will be his last year in the organization. Last Ranking: #29.
Kellen Jones: He continues to be invited to development camp, so the club hasn't totally given up on him, but Jones is probably on thin ice as a prospect. He regressed offensively in 2012-13 with Quinnipiac, scoring just 0.63 points per game after being a point per game player in 2011-12. His team was one of the best in the NCAA last season, but if both he and they repeat their 2012-13 seasons, it's hard to see Jones being offered a contract. Last Ranking: #41.
Andrew Miller: The Oilers signed Miller earlier this summer. He's a very similar player to Mark Arcobello and the two players were actually 21-year-old teammates in 2009-10. They had similar seasons statistically (15-21-36 in 34 GP for Arcobello and 5-29-34 in 34 GP for Miller) at that time, but then took different paths as Arcobello turned pro and Miller played three more seasons at Yale scoring 37-85-122 in 107 games over those three years. He's an older player, and probably has an outside shot at making the Oilers out of training camp. Last Ranking: N/A
Lee Moffie: The Oilers traded Kyle Bigos to San Jose for Moffie, but they still haven't signed him to a new contract. Moffie had an excellent season with Michigan in 2011-12, scoring 32 points in 41 games, good enough for 11th in points per game amongst NCAA defensemen, especially impressive given his splits by game state (4-19-23 at evens; 2-6-8 on the power play; and 1-0-1 shorthanded) and given his role on the team's shut-down pairing. But he followed it with a real dud in 2012-13, which is why he was available via trade. The Oilers have until August 15 to sign him, but with all of the additions on defense, they may decide not to. Last Ranking: N/A
Aidan Muir: I wasn't too impressed with Aidan Muir statistically when I looked at his pre-draft performance, but it's virtually certain that the Oilers drafted Muir because of the trajectory and not the results themselves. He's got excellent size, and apparently didn't look out of place at the development camp held earlier this summer, which is an encouraging sign. He's one of the youngest players in the organization, and he'll need that time in order to catch up to some of the other prospects in the organization. Last Ranking: N/A
Check out the complete Top 25 Under 25 List in our