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Weekend Roundtable: Kapan-out of our prospect rankings

As you’re going to hear more about in the coming days, TLN is set to get going with its annual Top Twenty Prospects series next week. Those profiles will run over the course of the month and into training camp, ending off somewhere in mid-to-late September.

The process we use to get our final list in order entails asking our writing staff to rank their own from a rather large pool of Leafs prospects. But obviously there are rules, and in order to keep things tidy, we again went with Calder eligibility as the main criteria for what defines a “prospect”.

For that reason, Kasperi Kapanen will not be included in our list. Due to his short stints in the NHL in each of the last two regular seasons, he won’t be able to win rookie of the year in 2017-18 (or…well, ever).

So for this week’s roundtable we figured it was a fun exercise to see just how our writers would’ve plugged Kapanen into their rankings if he was, in fact, eligible. I don’t want to speak for the entire fanbase, but I think a lot of people are expecting a nice progression for Kapanen next season as a full-time NHL player, and ideally he can climb the lineup and make himself into a real threat, easing the damage as the team looks at making decisions on forwards such as Komarov, JVR and Bozak between now and season’s end.

(Note: Do not read any further if you want to be surprised a month from now about who’s our number one prospect. But, like, seriously, how could you not know?)

Due to our strict “Calder eligible” criteria in the upcoming TLN Top Twenty Prospects series, Kasperi Kapanen has been ruled out. But, if you could include him, would he rank at the top of your list?

Adam Laskaris

I fall in and out of love with Kasperi Kapanen once a week. On one hand, you look at the way he plays at the AHL level and near the end of the year and you just gawk at the Leafs adding this guy as a regular. He’s provided me with probably the single best moment of joy as a Leafs fan in my adult years, (which is kind of lame, but true all the same).

On the other hand, we’re talking about a guy who despite all the projections and whatnot hasn’t really been able to produce points in his NHL icetime despite a few key goals. Yeah you can talk all you want about matchups and zone starts and bad linemates but at the end of the day, production is the bottom line and he really hasn’t done much in his NHL stints. I think he slots in at #2 behind Liljegren, but some days I think he could slot at the #3 or #4 spot.

Scott Maxwell

If Kapanen were to be included in this year’s prospect rankings, I still think I would put him below Liljegren. While I think Kappy is the better player now (obviously, he has more NHL experience), I think Lily has a higher ceiling. I think Kappy pans out as a top-6 forward, while Lily has potential to be elite. Regardless, Kappy is still second on my list, well ahead of *gets tackled by secret service agents*

Ryan Hobart

Despite Kapanen not being included in this year’s TLN prospect rankings, I would consider him the best prospect the Leafs have. “Best” is always a tricky word when it comes to prospects because the weighing of how good they are now vs. how good they can be in the future will be different for everyone, but I think that Kapanen is going to be a good complementary forward next year and continue to rise. Given his finish last season he’s certainly an NHL player today. I don’t think the same can be said of Liljegren.

Timoth has the higher ceiling no doubt, but Kapanen has defined his ceiling/floor better and we have a good idea that he’s going to be a pretty good NHL player. With Liljegren there’s a lot more uncertainty.

Jon Steitzer

When you look at the Leafs roster it’s clear that the majority of the young talent has already made the Leafs, and it’s really a two horse race between Kapanen and Liljegren for who is the best of the rest.

Liljegren is shiny and new and fills a greater roster need for the Leafs so there may be a tendency to favour him over Kapanen.

Kapanen on the other hand has looked very good in the AHL, and in his recent NHL stints has performed the role asked of him very well, although the points haven’t been there yet.

Objectively it’s closer than I think it is, but I’d still put Kapanen 2nd to Liljegren, despite thinking he’s wonderful. A stellar defensive prospect will always trump a stellar wing prospect for me, and I also like shiny new things.

Ryan Fancey

I thought Liljegren was the easy choice here at first glance, but upon further thought I think there is an argument to be made for Kapanen at the top of this list.

I’m trying my hardest to separate myself from the recent draft hype, and I see Kapanen as a prospect that’s progressed every season he’s been part of this organization, even if some injuries have made it seem less so. The guy just turned 21-years-old a couple weeks back, and will likely move on to a permanent role with the big club this season on the heels of a point-per-game outing with the Marlies last year. That type of output at that age really isn’t common, and I know beyond the numbers the Leafs front office and coaching staff are really excited about this guy’s skill.

Still, like Jon, I think I tend to lean toward a blue-liner like Liljegren when it comes to who I believe can impact the franchise more. So, if Kapanen were eligible I’d probably end up ranking him second, but it would be a razor-thin margin.

  • DukesRocks

    I guess it would depend on the variables you may want to include when defining the “Best Prospect”. One can see it as, which prospect is most ready to play in the NHL? On this account, I would go with Kappy. One might see it from a point of need, so therefore I would go with Liljegren. One may see it from a rankings point of view, where the philosophy is you build a team up the middle “goalie, defense and centre”. The problem with this method is, it’s not sexy. A goalie or defenseman generally are not appreciated because they don’t put up points, but yet are considered the backbone in putting a contender together. Ever notice the term “generational player” doesn’t apply to dmen or goalies. Why is that? In 2005, Crosby was picked number one and was considered a generational player. The guy taken 5th overall is none other then Carey Price, who in my opinion is the best goalie in the league and therefore should be considered a generational player. I’ve often wondered, which position on a hockey team is more valuable, but that’s another debate.

    The problem I find with putting a top 20 prospect list together is, what variables or criteria are we using to rank the players? For example, I can make an argument that the Leafs need more players with physical attributes, with offensive upside. So, I could make an argument that Carl Grundstrom, might have a bigger impact to the Leafs than Kappy.

    The bottom line is, there’s really no right or wrong answer, there’s just opinion with logic and opinion without logic.

    • Stan Smith

      I’ve always looked at prospect lists, and their ranking of, as a look at a player’s potential. With that in mind, players like Liljigren and Bracco would be at the top, until they show otherwise. Players like Kapanen, are the most NHL ready, but that is based on their abilities right now, not their projected ceiling. Maybe two lists are needed, one for potential ceiling, and one for NHL readiness.

      • DukesRocks

        If I was was putting together a top 20 list, it would be based on talent/projection first, position played second, and team needs third. I would create weighted scale where I’d assign a value to each category.

  • jbrough7

    I am still amazed that seven or eight rookies moved up to the big team permanently last year and we are still talking about more that can make it very soon. Very exciting time to be a Leaf fan and I haven’t said that since…. ’93?? 🙂

  • BC SPORTS FAN

    Maple Leaf fans should be so thankful that Liligren dropped so far in the draft due to mono. He is an elite D-man who will anchor the blue line for the next 10 years once he starts playing in the NHL.