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Photo Credit: Prince Albert Raiders / WHL

TLN Top 20 Prospect Rankings: Honourable Mentions

We’ll get into the main portion of our rankings starting tomorrow, but before that we have some more business to tidy up.

As mentioned in previous posts, the process used to complete these rankings involves us asking our writers to vote through their own lists, then we aggregate and draw up our big board of twenty. Here is a rundown of players who couldn’t crack our final list, but did receive at least one top twenty vote from someone on our staff.

It’s the honourable mentions.

Fedor Gordeev – D

Drafted: 2017

Team: Flint, OHL

Gordeev was initially seen as one of the head-scratcher picks from this summer’s draft – an enormous defenceman with very limited puck skills who seemed to signal the Leafs essentially doubling down on the Middleton experiment they ran last year. He did get a couple votes near the bottom of the top twenty range, however, and a few reliable prospect sources point to his skating and mobility for a big guy being strengths. Still, at this stage, with him being such a project, we weren’t confident enough to put him in our final list.

Ryan McGregor – F

Draft Year: 2017

Team: Kingston, OHL

I actually liked the McGregor pick, personally. He’s a player with a lot of question marks around him due to spending last summer recovering from a concussion, which may have held him back this past season. But at 172nd overall, that’s the type of gamble you can take. He’s a prospect Mark Hunter specifically said he believed would skyrocket his production this upcoming year, so let’s see if that’s the case.

That said, right now, like Gordeev, we just don’t have enough to go on to include him in our main group.

Tobias Lindberg – F

Draft Year: 2013

Team: Toronto, AHL

At 22-years-old, Lindberg is likely capping out as a decent AHL player. But hey, he was part of a trade that saw the Leafs shed 7-million dollars in Phaneuf’s cap hit, so we’ll always be grateful for that.

Ian Scott – G

Draft Year: 2017

Team: Prince Albert, WHL

Again, a major “project” pick. A big goalie who played on one of the worst teams in the WHL, and will have a long road ahead of him before potentially becoming a significant prospect for the Leafs.

Dakota Joshua – F

Draft Year: 2014

Team: Ohio St., Big-10

Joshua is still a Leafs prospect? Toronto took the U.S.-born prospect from the USHL in the 2014 draft, but it feels like he’s been in the Leafs’ system for 20 years.

To his credit, Joshua did produce over a point-per-game at Ohio State this past season, so hopefully he can prove us all wrong in a Zach Hyman sort of way.

Rinat Valiev – D

Draft Year: 2014

Team: Toronto, AHL

Valiev has been a decent all-round defenceman for the Marlies, but perhaps that’s all he’ll ever be. Hasn’t been able to put it all together and take a jump offensively, and for the first time since being drafted he’s fallen out of our final ranking.

Pierre Engvall – F

Draft Year: 2014

Team: Mora, Allsvenskan

Engvall is doing fine in the second-tier Swedish league, but the 7th-rounder from the 2014 draft hasn’t done enough to get into the top twenty this year. Maybe a year with the Solar Bears and/or Marlies could be good for him.

Martins Dzierkals

Draft Year: 2015

Team: R-N Huskies, QMJHL

At first glance it’s probably an encouraging sign that a player who notched 116 points in 106 games over the last two QMJHL seasons is an honourable mention. There is obviously a case to be made for having Dzierkals in our main twenty, but here’s the thing: His production numbers didn’t really improve from year-to-year in his time with the Huskies.

Dzierkals actually scored at a lower rate in his second season with Rouyn-Noranda (albeit on a weaker team than his rookie season), so he didn’t really jump off the page as someone our writers wanted to rank highly. After signing a one-year deal with the Marlies yesterday, we’ll see what he can prove at the pro level this season, and perhaps he’ll jump back up our list for the mid-term rankings.

Summary

As we should always point out with these rankings, 20 prospects is a really deep dive into what the Leafs have in the system, and the expectation for players close to the bottom of the list should be quite low. After all, teams don’t typically hit on that many prospects, and the late-rounders, while sometimes smart gambles process-wise at draft time, are late-rounders for a reason. They don’t turn out often.

Then we get to the group above, players who weren’t even included in that top twenty. Their odds of becoming long-term serviceable pros, let alone Leafs, are even longer.

But, while it’s unlikely someone from these honourable mentions becomes an impactful pro, the Leafs do have a process that I’m confident in, and if you swing for the fences enough and eventually you get a hit. The theme here with a few of these names, particularly Scott, Gordeev, and McGregor, seems to be very raw skill accompanied by some hang-up – a weak team, injuries, and so on – last season that pushed them down the draft board.  Hopefully the Leafs’ player development department is as good as they apparently believe they are, and we can see these players make climbs to get into our main list next go-round.