Eight Leafs ranked on ESPN’s top 120 NHL prospects, Matthews ranked No. 2

“AUSTON MATTHEWS NOT #1? WOW, he must be wrong about everything!” might be your first reaction to Corey Pronman’s Top 120 NHL propsect rankings for 2016-17, but if that’s where your analysis ends, you’re probably missing the point.

A day after ranking the Leafs 1st in his team prospect pool rankings, Matthews was ranked #2 by ESPN’s Pronman behind, well, a certain Finnish Winnipeg Jet forward who went second behind Matthews in the draft. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise really, considering Pronman was one of just two major scouting services/outlets to rank Matthews second in his 2016 draft rankings, again, behind the guy who was ranked 1st.

It also doesn’t really matter all that much.

At this point, we’re mostly splitting hairs between the two top talents coming into the 2016-17 season, and a specific ranking or projection is just that: an educated guess about how a player will perform moving forward.


Eight Leafs were named in total, and the first three Leafs named were no surprise: Matthews second, Mitch Marner (at #5), and William Nylander (at #7).

Further down the list was #58 Kasperi Kapanen, #67 Jeremy Bracco, #90 Travis Dermott, #93 Connor Brown, and #105 Carl Grundstrom. In our projections, they went 5th, 11th, 9th, 6th, and 14th, respectively.

The list itself doesn’t showcase any real new information on any of the players, as they match up heavily with Pronman’s and other’s previous scouting reports. There’s no real “hot take” opinions on any of the Leafs prospects, but it’s interesting to see the notable omissions: Nikita Zaitsev, Andreas Johnson, and Dmytro Timashov, to name a few that ranked higher in our rankings than #105 Grundstrom. 

Pronman describes the tiers for prospects as “The top two, then No. 3 (Puljujarvi) on his own tier,
followed by a tier of No. 4 through No. 13 and then a gradual decrease from
there.”

Again, none of this should come as overly surprising, as that’s how most prospect rankings of the current group of NHL-ready players go. Beyond the top few, it’s a matter of valuing different ranking systems, opinions and an extremely challenging puzzle of trying to predict the future from players developing in many different leagues around the world.

There’s three main takeaways from Pronman’s rankings, and they’re very similar to just about every other neutral, legitimate prospect ranking out there: 

  • The Leafs have a great prospect pool that’s either the very best or one of the top few
  • There are three very very good Leafs prospects
  • After the “big 3”, there’s a bunch of talented players with loads of question marks

If anything, perhaps the list serves as some kind of validation for the hype around the Leafs prospect pool, coming from a neutral source. 

The full list is available with an insider account here.

  • Martin TO

    Sort of weird that Pronman swapped Marner and Strome from his last years rankings after Marner’s “win everything there is to win” season.

    Also its going to be really interesting to see how the Dubois pick works out for Columbus considering how high most scouts were on Puljujarvi. If he becomes a stud and Dubois is meh it could go down as a pretty serious swing and miss pick.

  • Martin TO

    who cares. the season needs to start already. all of this stupid back and forth about who is the better prospect is so tired. it’s just one opinion by a hockey writer. everyone has different opinions. all that matters is we have a #1 centre who plays a much more valuable position. we already have great wingers. we’re set at forward depth for now and the future. we still have the best prospect depth with elite talent. forget comparing guys jesus.

  • Capt.Jay

    I feel Laine will only be as successful as his line mates make him. Like Ovechkin who is dependant on someone doing the dirty work in dirty areas only to dish him the puck for the reward. Matthews is the guy who make his line mates better through puck pursuit, defense and passing. It’s unfortunate they will be judged by the scoresheet.

    • magesticRAGE

      I totally agree. I’m convinced that Puljujarvi is a superior player, and Matthews is only behind McDavid. Actually, Matthews had the better 2-way game than Connor.
      Laine will get points because of being a winger of a legitimate centerman who drive the play. Matthews and Puljujarvi are play drivers.

      • magesticRAGE

        Let’s be real here, Matthews isn’t Mcdavid, nobody in the NHL is. Let’s not set the kid up for failure, he’s a cant miss franchise player, not generational.

      • JB#1

        My personal choice would have been Puljujarvi over Laine.

        If the Leafs had dropped to 2nd pick and therefore missed out on Matthews, then Puljujarvi might have been able to be converted into a #1 centre.

        Laine will be the new Ovechkin and might have meshed well with Nylander but I think picking in the No. 2 spot, the Leafs may have “surprised” by taking Puljujarvi.

        All a moot point now as WE HAVE MATTHEWS!

  • Harold Ballard

    I know its EA sports but Im in January of my 2017-2018 season for GM Mode and:

    MATTHEWS (85OVR) – (2016-2017) – (GP82/G20/A35/P55) – (2016-2017) – (GP44/G28/A17/P45)
    NYLANDER (87OVR) – (2016-2017) – (GP82/G20/A28/P48) – (2016-2017) – (GP44/G12/A16/P28)
    MARNER (83OVR) – (2016-2017) – (GP82/G19/A29/P48) – (2016-2017) – (GP44/G6/A20/P26)

    Clearly Im itching for the season to start but those numbers are unrealistic are they?

  • Koocheecoo

    I agree with the last comments. Connor McDavid was the big fish that got away from us (and others). So gifted. The kind of guy that will break your heart when he single handedly buries your team in Gretzky like, ’93 playoffs fashion.

    Having said that, very happy to have Auston Matthews on our team, and the rest of the very promising prospects in tow. Will be a wonderful thing to see it come together (hopefully).