The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Acquired at the start of the off-season in 2017, Carter Verhaeghe was traded by the New York Islanders to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. In two seasons with the Islanders, Verhaeghe found himself bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. That wasn’t a great start to a professional career, but his AHL time was average and the organization saw value in keeping him. In the Lighting organization, Verhaeghe spent the entire season in the AHL, consistency he hadn’t seen since he was captain of the OHL Niagara IceDogs.
Voting wise, Verhaeghe was better liked by the writers than the readers. Most writers had him in the 19-23 range, with the exception of Alex, who watched him more than any of us in Syracuse. Our readers had him at number 23.
His 48 points numbers in Syracuse put him second in team scoring, and if he had played all 75 games he was projected to top out at 62 points. When he was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2013 there was concern about his size and scoring - most of his points came on the power play that season - but he’s filled out his body. Staying in one spot for an entire season helped him build on his existing skills, and playing under one coaching staff with one organizational style also helped immensely.
A player who needs some constant poking and direction on where to improve, Verhaeghe has embraced playing in the Lightning system. From Syracuse.com:
“They gave me an opportunity,’’ Verhaeghe said of the Tampa Bay organization. “When I was playing well, they rewarded me. You work for everything here. It’s good. I’m starting to gain a little confidence here coming into the last stretch.
“I thought he played a good game. He was skating well tonight,’’ Syracuse coach Ben Groulx said of Verhaeghe. “I thought lately he was not skating or making plays with as much authority. I’m very happy for him but for our guys as well. I thought we had a demanding week of practice for them, and they responded well tonight.’’
Verhaeghe was one of my favorite players on the IceDogs, and was the subject of my first on location piece for SBN. He turns 23 in August and is on the verge of crossing the line from prospect to project. Another solid season in Syracuse will help him boost his profile and perhaps get a call up or two to the Lightning, but at the very least Crunch fans have themselves a solid player who’s enjoying his time in the organization.