Every year, Corey Pronman - previously of ESPN, now of The Athletic-at-large - puts out arguably one of the most controversial lists available to hockey fans.
His Top 100 players list, whether he’s looking at prospects or players under Age-25, is always rife with talking points. Defensive defensemen and skilled wingers are ranked alongside goaltenders and penalty-killing centers, creating plenty of discord among readers as they hash out the results of the rankings.
He released the bottom half of his Top 100 Under 25 list on Monday morning, offering up his honorable mentions and players 100 through 50 for fans to peruse and argue about.
It speaks volumes about the Avalanche prospect system that of the qualifying players, just one made it into the bottom 50 - but one made it nonetheless, with none other than Mikko Rantanen clocking in at #60 after his impressive rookie campaign.
WHAT HE SAID
“In the exploding tire fire that was Colorado’s 2016-17 season, Rantanen was one of the few pieces of good news to take out of it. He’s a very skilled, big winger who showed he can play at an NHL pace even if he’s not a great skater. His development continues to trend sharply upwards from his time in Finland to the AHL and NHL and while I don’t expect him to shoot 15 percent long-term, I expect he’ll be a top-six forward for a while.”
WHAT IT MEANS FOR COLORADO
In all likelihood, Rantanen could end up shooting closer to 15 percent over his career than the league average, which hovers somewhere between 8 and 9 percent accuracy overall. Players like Phil Kessel and Brad Marchand have proven, in large sample sizes, that elite skill forwards are able to maintain up to a 13 or 14 percent rate throughout long-term periods.
Even if he doesn’t, Rantanen’s overall evaluation from Pronman is promising.
He’s shown an ability to keep up with the game even without the foot speed - something that other promising prospects have seen as a bit of an Achilles heel during their own development - and even if he doesn’t end up being a 30-goal scorer over time, it sounds like he’s already hit a level that Pronman thinks will be top six long-term.
What should worry Avalanche fans, though, is the lack of any other names in that part of the list.
The qualifiers for the list are that a player must be under 25-years old by September 15, 2017, and must have played either over 25 NHL games in a single season or 50 games in his entire career.
This eliminates promising young players like Tyson Jost and JT Compher from consideration, but still signifies a stark lack of young talent in the system.
Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon are likely to clock in on the list higher up, and maybe Nikita Zadorov will find his way up in the Top-50 as well.
But it doesn’t bode well for some of the team’s other young skaters like Sven Andrighetto, Nail Yakupov, or Matt Nieto. Combined with the team’s dubious veteran presence at this point, and that’s just another reminder that there’s a lot of work to be done for the roster to be where it needs to be.
To check out the rest of Pronman’s list, all subscribers of The Athletic can find it here.