Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So, about this Top 20

As promised, a few comments about the Top 20. I've discussed the process before, but this time I came up with an initial ranking of about 22 players and passed it around to a few knowledgeable people, including the HF staff. The top three guys are pretty cut and dried (and I was quickly locked into those for the benefit of the Top 50 list committee). It was the 4-10 range that was tough. I ended up taking the advice of those who have proven to be right about players over the longest period of time. But really, you could make an argument for any of them being No. 4, and any being No. 10 or 11.

I then wrote up 22 blurbs, without the exact order known. When they were done, I reordered them and that's what you see. We have a rough word limit per player for Top 20's at HF -- 150 words -- which means that in practice you can't include many quotes. I had to paraphrase most things, though I did include the two exact quotes from Kenny because they were good and I hadn't had a chance to use them before. You might ask why we have a word limit on a website, since we have unlimited space. Well, we want to make the articles approachable to someone who isn't a fan of the team, and a non-fan isn't going to read all the way through if it's longer than this. Plus there's a consistency issue across teams. In fact I sent the Minnesota one back today because it was too long, so we're pretty serious about that.

Things I cut out. I had written more on the dilemma of keeping an 18-year-old on the roster (i.e. Bogosian), but took it out because I decided it's not all that relevant right now since the Thrashers are pretty much forced to use him to get to the salary floor. If they didn't have that need, then they would need to consider the problem of bringing him up too fast and risking him losing confidence. Balance that with the possibility of him getting frustrated or bored if he were sent back to junior. Emotional reactions are extremely important at this age. One empirical fact remains though -- very few 18-year-old defensemen play in the NHL.

Somewhere along the way in the past few months, there's an idea out there that Kulda has a chance to make the Thrashers roster. That's just crazy talk. I was writing about him last year, before the pile of words that has accumulated now, but even though he's exceeding expectations, it's important to stay realistic about the normal development of prospects. Artie himself would probably say "it would be great if it happened, but..." tilt his head and leave the rest of the sentence hanging. Because he knows he's going back to Chicago. As he should.

If Lasu were in the Top 20, I would have included the fact that he was thrown out of a game at Lake Placid. Alas, I just mention it here.

Next up, a training camp preview focused on rookies. I already started it in fact.

This weekend I made a plane reservation for a hockey trip -- someplace I've never seen a game before. I decided I need to get out and see more things. Last year I made 3 trips to see the Wolves, and that was far too much. This year, I aim for more viewing of 2009s and other things of more general prospect interest. Word on the street is that scouting service ISS, which was sold a year ago, is in flux, so this will be a good year to use my own eyes more.

On an unrelated note, how about the possibility of Jake Anderson, John's son, getting a tryout with the Gwinnett Gladiators? He's a 23-year-old forward who played Div III at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He played junior in the OPJHL. John made a crack about him moving back home this summer, though now "home" has moved.

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