Auditing the Top 25 Under 25
One NHL team executive took a look at the list of Top 25 players under 25 years old compiled by statistical analyst Neil Greenberg and made a quick conclusion.
"The first thing you've got to get is a new stat guy," he said.
He immediately noticed the absence of Claude Giroux, and since the criteria for the list hadn't been thoroughly explained, the exec thought it was an inexcusable oversight. Giroux is 24 years old but would turn 25 during this season, if it's ever played. So he was ineligible.
The call for Greenberg's head was rescinded.
But it wouldn't be the first time somebody seriously questioned Greenberg's sanity. Last year, his list excluded Islanders forward John Tavares in an omission that was very much noticed inside the Islanders organization.
Tavares jumped to No. 5 this year, and it wasn't a makeup call. Tavares made serious improvements as a player last season, according to former Islanders assistant coach Dean Chynoweth, who is now the coach of the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.
"He took a huge, huge stride last year," Chynoweth said during a Monday afternoon phone conversation. "He is such a focused and driven guy. He was a treat to coach."
At times during his rookie season, Tavares was overmatched by the sheer size of opponents and the physical nature of the NHL. That's no longer happening. Tavares had a career-high 81 points and 31 goals last season.
"The biggest improvement was the strength in his skating and his quickness," Chynoweth said. "He's become a man. He's mature. The inner competitiveness and inner drive is phenomenal."
Jonathan Toews was No. 1 for the second consecutive year, and while there's a strong argument to be made for Steven Stamkos (ranked second), nobody I spoke with had any issue with putting Toews at the top.
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