The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Raw Charge 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.
There is just one more player to unveil in the RawCharge Top 25 Under 25 rankings. That player will be revealed on Monday. Until then, we have the honorable mentions. This is all of the players that did not make the Top 25. Some of them received some votes from writers, while others were left off. Where applicable, I’ve also taken the results from last year so we can see if any of these players have perhaps moved up, even if just a couple spots inside the honorable mentions. Or on the other side, if there are any players that have fallen out of the Top 25 from last year.
Players Not Receiving Votes
Out of the 40 players eligible for the ranking, seven did not receive a vote from any of the RawCharge staff this year.
- LW Cole Koepke
- C Ryan Lohin
- D Nick Perbix
- D Radim Salda
- D Ryan Zuhlsdorf
- G Kristian Oldham
- G Ty Taylor
All of the players on this list have something in common; either they were in the 2018 draft class or they are NCAA players or both!
Koepke, Salda, and Taylor being from the 2018 draft class were eligible for the first time this season. Koepke was selected in the sixth round and is headed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season to play NCAA hockey. He is a goal scorer having put up 28 goals and 39 points in 60 games in the USHL last season. Salda was taken by the Lightning in the seventh round. Salda played in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs and was traded to the Rimouski Oceanic over the summer. He is a player with great tools and great inconsistency. It’s possible he’ll return to his native Czech Republic to play hockey this year instead of returning to the QMJHL. Taylor was the Lightning’s other seventh round pick this year out of the BCHL. He is committed to the University of New Hampshire for the 2019-20 season.
Zuhlsdorf is an NCAA player playing with the University of Minnesota. He was a fifth round pick in 2015 and has yet to emerge in an offensive role for Minnesota. As an upper classman, he needs to seize the opportunity to play on the power play and put up points to earn a professional contract. He did not receive any votes last year.
Another NCAA bound defenseman, Perbix was selected in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. He moved up to the USHL from High School hockey last season and put up 29 points in 56 points. More of a shutdown defenseman, he’ll start his NCAA career this year at St. Cloud State. He did not receive any votes last year.
Lohin received a 24th-place vote from me last year, but failed to pick up a vote in this year’s rankings. A seventh-round pick in 2016 as an overager, Lohin is playing in NCAA for UMass-Lowell. Lohin did not improve his production from his freshman year to his sophomore year.
Oldham picked up a vote in last year’s rankings with a vote from Allokago. A sixth round pick in the 2015 draft, Oldham has been stuck behind a goaltender a year older than him at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Frankly, his professional prospects are looking bleak. He’s likely to remain the back-up for another season and may get a chance as the starter when he’s a senior in 2019-20.
A lot of these players are a little bit of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. NCAA hockey does not get as much hype as the CHL leagues. That combined with the players picked at the end of the draft, and you don’t get a lot of hyped up prospects in this group. There’s still some potential for a couple of them to make an impact as pros, but they are all a long shot to become NHLers.
For the Honorable Mentions, each player has received at least one vote from the writers. Some of these rankings may have been different if the writers ranked every single player eligible. Instead, it’s based on how many points they got from the votes they received and how they finished in the final rankings beyond the Top 25.
#33 - D Alex Green
Green sneaks into the honorable mentions thanks to a 25th place vote from Alan. He also finished 34th among the readers. An overage draft pick, Green was taken in the 4th round of the draft this summer. He put up 10 points in 29 games with Cornell University as a Freshman. At 6’2” and 187 pounds, he has good size and he brings smarts to the ice. He has the tools to develop into a third-pair defenseman that can make a breakout pass. He’ll have a couple more years in NCAA hockey though before potentially taking his development to the AHL.
#32 - G Magnus Chrona
Also sneaking into the rankings thanks to a 25th place vote from Hardev, is Chrona. The Lightning have had an under the radar pick in each of the last three drafts after taking Oleg Sosunov in 2016 and Alexander Volkov in 2017. Playing in a lower junior league in Sweden, Chrona was not a player that was on the radar for the public scouting services. The Lightning scouts caught him though and put him on their draft board. Further showing how much promise Chrona has, he was picked up by Skelleftea’s U20 team. Skelleftea was a very good team last year and lost their top two goaltenders to the pros. Chrona will have every opportunity to be the starter there and really show what he has going for him in net.
#31 - C Cole Guttman
Guttman picked up a 23rd-place vote from Hardev and ranked 38th with the reader’s voting. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, Guttman did not receive any votes in last year’s rankings. Listed at 5’9” and 168 pounds, Guttman is a small, speedy, skilled forward. He put up 27 goals and 54 points in his first full year in the USHL. Unfortunately, he dealt with some injuries this past year and only played in 17 games, but put up 11 points. He’ll be going to college this fall with the University of Denver.
#30 - D Matthew Spencer
Spencer got two 25th place votes from Allokago and Tracey. This one makes sense as they follow the AHL and ECHL respectively. Spencer made the move to the professional ranks this past season. He played in 39 games for the Crunch and 14 games in the ECHL for the Adirondack Thunder. He also played in 15 playoff games for the Thunder. Spencer has not come along as well in his development as hoped for and stagnated in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes in the two years following his draft selection. He was originally a second round pick in 2015. Spencer fell out of the top 25 after ranking 23rd last year.
#29 - D Ben Thomas
Thomas just missed on the top 25 last season coming in at 26th. He had a surge in production towards the end of the 2016-17 season and seemed like he was taking a step forward as an offensive defenseman. Unfortunately, his defense still hasn’t caught up to his offensive skills and often left Crunch fans cringing. He equaled his production from the previous season going from three goals to four and posting 18 assists in both seasons. His defensive skills need to come a long way for him to get an opportunity in the NHL.
#28 - D Dmitri Semykin
Semykin picked up a 25th-place vote from me and a 22nd-place vote from Hardev to get him into the Honorable Mentions. Additionally, he was 29th among the readers. When he was drafted, he was an under the radar pick in the third round. I went searching YouTube to find anything I could on him and ended up finding a full game that he played in. While it was not against top competition, when he was on the ice, it seemed that the puck was always in the offensive zone. He’s got great size at 6’3” and 201 pounds and is a right-handed defenseman.
Similar to Chrona, a sign of how good of a player he is for his level is that he was traded to powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg in May. SKA St. Petersburg is like the New York Yankees of old and have all of the money to buy whatever players they want in Russia whether KHLers or prospects. Semykin will be surrounded by a lot more talent this year and will have a big opportunity to show what he has as a hockey player.
#27 - C Ross Colton
Colton came in at 32nd in last year’s Honorable Mentions and has moved up a little bit after being signed to an entry level contract this summer. Colton was picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft as an overage NCAA bound player. He spent the past two seasons at the University of Vermont and put up 27 and 23 point campaigns. Having signed his ELC, he’ll most likely play with the Syracuse Crunch this fall and can play either center or left wing. Colton was ranked 23rd by the reader’s rankings.
#26 - C Sammy Walker
Much of Sammy Walker’s voting in my opinion comes from how he looked at development camp held just after the draft. I was one of three staff writers that did not give him a vote. He finished 26th among the writers and 25th among the readers. Last year he did not receive any votes.
Walker was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 draft and spent most of last season playing high school hockey in Minnesota. He started out in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars at the beginning of the season, but did not stick with the team and was sent home. At 5’9” and 150 pounds, he is at a serious disadvantage. While we’ve seen plenty of small players have success, they usually are 10-20 pounds heavier than Walker. He demolished high school hockey, but that should be expected of a player heading to NCAA hockey when he is a senior.
Walker did finish out the season playing with the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL after his high school season was over. He put up nine points in 17 games overall in the USHL. For a player billed as being highly skilled, that is still fairly light point production. For me, I’m not ready to anoint him as a future top six forward yet. He was spectacular at development camp in the 3v3 tournament, but I am less inclined to translate success in that format to success as a professional hockey player.
This fall, he’ll play for the University of Minnesota in NCAA hockey. This will be a test for him as he’s taking a big step up from high school hockey to the NCAA without much time or success in the USHL. His freshman year will have a significant impact on how I and other prospect watchers will feel about him a year from now.