TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: 10 players who received no votes from us

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You know, when there’s next to no hockey news, and we spend a lot of time over-analyzing a bunch of players who can’t legally drink in most, if not all of the cities that they play in. 

This year’s panel features Ryan Hobart, Shawn Reis, Jess Pincente, Ryan Fancey, Adam Laskaris, Katy Tearle, Dominik Luszczyszyn, and myself. We also took in reader rankings over the course of July to see how you all felt before reading our profiles, which has helped us create a consensus ranking of nearly 375 users that will be featured throughout the series and broken down in more detail when the rankings are done.

For now, though, we kick off the series with ten players who didn’t receive a single vote from our staff. Is that a knock on these players? Or is it a byproduct of the system being so overloaded with talent? Well, let’s take a look at each player.

Stephen Desrocher

TLN Readers Vote: 33rd of 42

Desrocher took a significant step forward from an offensive standpoint this year, picking up 46 points in 69 games, doubling his previous career high. While that’s to be expected of a player returning to play his age 19 -> 20 season in the OHL, progression is still nice to see. The 6’4 defenceman is likely to get lost in the depth chart due to his left-handed shot, which the Leafs have an abundance of, but he could get some AHL time in the near future to see if there’s any room left on the ladder for him to climb.

For now, he remains without an entry-level contract.

Pierre Engvall

TLN Readers Vote: 39th of 42

Speaking personally, I had a lot of trouble keeping Engvall off of my own list; the fact that a player of his calibre came out of an eight-person panel with no votes shows the strength of the Leafs’ depth chart right now. Engvall was a half-point per game player in the Allsvenskan, which, while it is the second tier in Sweden, is probably the best “second tier” pro league in Europe, and has been argued to give the AHL a run for its money.

His age 19 season, from an adjusted point production standpoint, compares to players like Andreas Johnson, Dmytro Timashov, Tobias Lindberg, and Brendan Leipsic. While the towering winger went voteless this time around, fighting for a Top 10 spot in our Midterm Rankings this winter wouldn’t be all that shocking.

Nolan Vesey

TLN Readers Vote: 36th of 42

I feel bad saying this, but it’s looking more and more likely that the best part of Nolan’s skillset is his surname, and that’s only if the Leafs are able to sign his brother Jimmy in two weeks. Vesey had an early growth spurt and dominated in high school and Junior A-level leagues, but with 34 points in his first 72 NCAA games, I’m not about to bet the farm on him being an impact player of any type in the future.

Now 21 years old, the 2014 sixth round pick should be further along in his progression right now. He still has two years of eligibility, though, and doesn’t take up a contract spot. Maybe there’s hope for him yet, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Nikolai Chebykin

TLN Readers Vote: 40th of 42

Chebykin’s ranking likely has a lot to do with unfamiliarity. He was a near point-per-game player in the MHL last year and might get the chance to see some KHL action this year. Don’t be surprised if his ice time is limited, though; players as young as his 19-year-old self need to stand out significantly to get a regular shift at Eurasia’s highest level.

Keaton Middleton

TLN Readers Vote: 35th of 42

Middleton is probably the most controversial pick of this year’s draft for the Leafs, as his profile is a direct counter to the selection philosophies that the team appeared to be employing in the previous year. Rather than fitting the “skilled, undervalued forward” profile, Middleton is a huge, hulking defenceman whose highlights involve hitting and fighting before they involve scoring.

If it’s any saving grace, though, look at a player like Andrew Nielsen. His age 16 and 17 years were spent in AA and AAA, and now he’s a point-per-game WHLer. Middleton started this year at 17, so while he gets points about as often as a goalie right now, there’s a chance that could come around, especially when you consider that he’s been playing on a pretty awful OHL team in Saginaw the past two years.

If he does, watch out. The 6’5 native of Edmonton is said to be a very good and still improving skater for his size, so maybe it’s a matter of locking him in a room with Darryl Belfry and friends for six months to teach him some offensive tricks.

JJ Piccinich

TLN Readers Vote: 30th of 42

If there was an award for “Leafs prospect most overshadowed by another Leafs prospect”, Piccinich wins it in a landslide. The American winger had a solid Age 19 year in London, with 66 points in as many games. THat’s a bit more impressive sounding when you consider that it was his first year of major junior and that he was coming off of being used sparingly in college the year prior. 

Of course, his totals were nearly doubled by Mitch Marner on the same team, so he flew under the radar a bit. One would suspect he’ll get one more year of junior in before the Leafs decide whether to sign him or not.

Jack Walker

TLN Readers Vote: 31st of 42

Walker was part of this year’s overager movement. A handful of sites still listing him as a defenceman made people extremely excited when he was selected, but I promise you that his 36 goals and 48 assists this year came as a Left Winger. He has played defence before, though, and plays the point on the powerplay.

Certainly, Walker fits the 2015 Draft Class mould more than the changeup the Leafs threw with some of their other selections this year. A bit on the shorter side at 5’11, Walker is considered to be one of the WHL’s best skaters and has used the skills he learned from his past position to make himself into a responsible two-way forward.

Walker’s Age 19 year production compares slightly favourably to Frederik Gauthier’s Draft+1. The hope, though, is that his scoring game continues to grow, rather than stagnating in hopes of becoming a shutdown forward like the Goat appears to be doing.

Fabrice Herzog

TLN Readers Vote: 42nd of 42

Herzog was dead last in our rankings, and that’s not a slight on his ability. The 21-year-old had 22 points in 34 games with the Zurich Lions this season, putting him second in Under-29 scoring on the team behind… Auston Matthews. Getting real minutes at his age in the NLA is pretty impressive, though his Swiss roots probably help with that.

His ranking, however, is low due to the fact that nobody quite expects him to ever come back. Herzog is essentially only a prospect in the Leafs system these days because of the rules regarding European prospect rights; the same rules that made Marcel Mueller ‘Leafs Property’ as recently as a month and a half ago. Who knows what the future holds, though; Leo Komarov was more or less given up on, ended up showing up anyway, left again, and came back. 

Dominic Toninato

TLN Readers Vote: 37th of 42

The 22-year-old Toninanto is one of the older prospects in the system, and it’s hard to feel convinced that he’ll break through at this point. Playing for his hometown school, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Toninato has yet to steal the spotlight in three years of NCAA eligibility. As a point of reference, fellow Leafs draft pick Tony Cameranesi has outscored him on the same lineup in all three seasons and walked out with just an AHL contract to show for it.

With that said, Toninato is a better two-way player and gets time on UMD’s penalty kill and powerplay. He’ll be their captain for his final year of eligibility in 2016/17. 

Dakota Joshua

TLN Readers Vote: 38th of 42

Joshua is another player who appears to have stagnated a bit, though he has a lot more time to figure himself out. The 6’2 centre played his first year of college hockey this season, scoring 5 goals and adding 12 assists for Ohio State. That he didn’t light exactly light up the USHL in prior seasons is a bit concerning, but those numbers aren’t horrible for a freshman, and Toronto has three years to figure out whether or not they want to bring him into the pro fold.

Check back tomorrow for the first half of our “Honourable Mentions” list!

  • magesticRAGE

    surprised korostelev wasn’t mentioned. he had a down year especially after konecny was acquired by the sting. lindgren also had a bad year but it’s not his fault modo was terrible and he was barely given ice time.

  • magesticRAGE

    Always enjoy the top 20, but I also always make a simple request that goes ignored…

    Pllleeeease can you start each prospect blurb with a quick/simple list or table of their important details?

    —–

    Player Name

    Position, Age or DoB, Height, Weight, Draft Year, Draft pick #.

    Maybe throw in a few rows of stats.

    Thanks!

  • magesticRAGE

    Engvall gets no love. He’s a solid prospect, and I hope he gets at least an AHL contract next year. Solid 2way player, can skate, and seems smart. He just needs to have a couple NHL summers.