Yesterday, Corey Pronman released his Top 30 Draft Prospects of the Past Five Years (ESPN Insider Paywall). I thought it would be good to show you where potential Leafs ended up on this list.
Technically, everyone who is draft eligible is a potential Maple Leaf so I’ve included them all in here.
Before we get into it, not that we’re breaking it down completely, but it’s important to highlight Pronman’s thought process here. It’s basically to take his opinion of each player before they were drafted, and rank those opinions of players against each other. This prevents players from the 2011 and 2012 drafts from having an advantage due to being so much further on their development paths.
So, if you were to look at the full list, you’ll see some guys who were busts in high positions, and that doesn’t mean Pronman doesn’t realize they were busts. It means he’s staying true to the context of this particular ranking.
The problem is, I think, he has over corrected and given recency bias boosts to the 2016 draft eligibles. But that’s not important. The important thing is: what does he think about our future Leafs?
The main purpose of including the draft-eligibles is to show you who comes up first on this list, so get ready for it. We kick off with…
(2) PATRICK LAINE
That’s right, Finnish sniper Laine finished 2nd in this list, and it wasn’t even to Auston Matthews. I’ll give you 3 guesses as to who he lost to, and the first 2 don’t count.
Pronman has been vocal about his appreciation for Laine’s appeared higher ceiling compared to Matthews. He ranked Laine #1 and Matthews #2 for his 2016 draft rankings, so it’s not much surprise to see him ranked higher in this ranking.
(4) AUSTON MATTHEWS
There’s our boy. And two spots below Laine! There’s no question Pronman is big on Laine, and he continues to show it. Pronman still definitely thinks highly of Matthews, so we should still be excited, but his love for Laine continues to be too strong to be unseated.
(6) JESSE PULJUJARVI
The other Finn comes in 6th on this list, which is very impressive. There’s no question the top 3 of this draft are special talents, but Pronman putting 3 of them in the top 6 is really what suggests to me that there’s some recency bias going on. Puljujarvi is certainly an elite talent, though, so don’t let my skepticism suggest I think he doesn’t belong near the top of this list.
(16) MITCH MARNER
This is quite the drop off for us to finally get to Mitch. There’s no question for me that there’s a skill gap there between the top 3 of this draft and Marner, but for there to be this much separation is once again a suggestion that there’s recency bias at play here.
(18) WILLIAM NYLANDER
At one time considered the Leafs best prospect, Nylander lands in the 18th spot for Pronman. There’s no question that there’s a lot of really talented prospects in the last 5 draft classes, but to see Mitch and William so far down this list.
(22) CLAYTON KELLER
There’s no question Keller has been very high on Pronman’s mind in recent times. He was 4th on Pronman’s 2016 top 100 prospects, and he has been singing his praise consistently. Keller is unquestionably a very talented prospect, albeit small, so I’m not surprised to see him on this list.
(26) PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS
Another 2016 draft-eligible makes his way onto this list. From a probabilistic standpoint they should take up 5, and Dubois would make for that 5. Perhaps not such a recency bias issue in terms of numbers. But in terms of ranking, it seems at least the top 3 got a bit of a boost. Or, maybe they’re just that good?
(29) MATTHEW TKACHUK
Now we have six 2016 draft-eligibles. Tkachuk has been a goal-scoring machine in the OHL and certainly deserves the consideration for this list.
Unfortunately, for the rest of the members of the list, you’ll have to get access to ESPN Insider; it’s paid, but a very good use of your money. Overall, I think it’s an interesting exercise for Pronman to go through. Attempting to think back to your opinions on prospects as long as 4 years ago, as well as erasing everything that has happened since is no small task.
Overall, there are many questionable rankings on this list, but ultimately I have a lot of appreciation for Pronman’s efforts here. I’d highly recommend getting access to the paid version if you can.
To conclude, the Leafs definitely have an exciting future ahead in Pronman’s mind. To have 3 prospects in the top 25 is very impressive, and when you realize that those were only from the last 3 years instead of the full 5, you can see that the immediate and long-term future are very bright.