Offseason activities are nearly at an end with training camp and preseason imminent. As the New Jersey Devils receive more professional tryouts for their camp and everyone not named Eric Gelinas is ready to arrive, we looked at the system. More specifically, we asked you, as part of the larger In Lou We Trust community, to rate the young players in the system. This is the third year of the ILWT Top 25 Under 25 and the second driven by a survey of readers like you. The survey is closed and we're going through the results. As Brian noted in the first post for this year, we got a big increase in response to a total of 217 votes. We are again relying on the wisdom of crowds to determine where the under-25 players in the organization are perceived to be at this moment.
Enough description. Brian revealed who did not make the Top 25 on Friday. Today will be the first of three posts revealing who made the Top 25 but not the Top 10. This is the bottom five: ranks #25 through #21.
#25 - Artur Gavrus - RW/C - Age: 20 - 2013 Rank: 16 - 2013-14 Team: Dinamo Minsk (KHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
Artur Gavrus made a move to the KHL last season, playing forward for Dinamo Minsk. The KHL is arguably the top league in Europe. It is very much a professional league so Gavrus got to play better competition than he did in the Belarussian league and against men, unlike the OHL. Gavrus suited up for Minsk 30 times, put up four points, took 36 shots, and averaged just over 11 minutes per game according to his profile at the KHL website. He was definitely low in their system. It's unclear whether Gavrus has a desire to play North American hockey. He may just be in the system because the Devils have his rights. I think that's a big reason why he fell so hard in the eyes of many of you and I can't say I disagree. However, if he continues to get little ice time - in four games this season with Minsk, his average ice time is 10:50 - then the door may be open for him to give the NA game another shot. We shall see.
#24 - Miles Wood - LW - Age: 19 - 2013 Rank: 31 - 2013-14 Team: Noble & Greenough (USHS) - Elite Prospects Profile
Wood got a big jump from last year's rankings. I wonder why? I think the expectation was that Wood would go to Boston College for this season. In fact, it was even reported by Jeff Cox at SBN College Hockey that he would on July 1 based on some sources. But Joseph Gravellese at BC Interruption, well, interrupted that by noting sources saying that he would not on July 3. Wood himself - the best source - confirmed on Twitter he will be returning to Noble & Greenough on July 3. My understanding is that he still needs to graduate, which is understandable in light of acceleration. But it certainly does not help his development. Yeah, he'll crush prep hockey again but what does that mean for the future? It means we will have another year to wait to see if the Devils have a diamond in the rough or another winger in the system.
#23 - Alexander Kerfoot - RW/C - Age: 20 - 2013 Rank: 21 - 2013-14 Team: Harvard (ECAC) - Elite Prospects Profile
Alex Kerfoot gets the unofficial award of fewest non-zero ranking votes. Out of 35 spots in the survey, he got at least one vote in 32 different rankings. (Gavrus and one other were close with 31 non-zero rankings.) I can understand a few who just left him third based on alphabetical order, but he was literally anywhere between third and thirty-fifth in the eyes of some of you. Plenty of love and hate and he ended up just a bit down from last year. Kerfoot was one of the younger players of the 2012 draft class, so he just finished his first year at Harvard. Eight goals and fourteen points in 25 games is certainly respectable for a freshman. Unfortunately, he missed plenty of games due to arm injuries. Examples: one and two. I'd love to see him stay healthy enough to play a full year. However, I suspect the plan will be to let him play all four years and see what they have. In the meantime, his perception will vary wildly. It'll depend on how much one views Harvard/ECAC hockey, how much one thinks of his numbers, and his seemingly long lead time in development.
#22 - Brandon Burlon - D - Age: 24 - 2013 Rank: 17 - 2013-14 Team: Albany (AHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
Burlon has been trending down ever since we started doing these Top 25 Under 25 rankings. Burlon will enter his fourth season in the AHL after three years with Michigan. He signed a two-year, two-way deal this summer so if the Devils want to bring him up, they can. However, I don't quite see it. When the Devils called up Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas last season, the next in line was Seth Helgeson, who got called up but did not dress for a game. That he jumped ahead of Burlon, the veteran minor-pro at this point, tells me that he's that low in the pecking order. I suspect that will not change with Damon Severson going pro this year. Burlon may be solid in Albany but there's nothing in his numbers or from what I understand from his play that really makes him standout. As such, his stock has dropped appropriately in the eyes of the fans. Maybe he'll get his shot this season or next, but he's definitely not part of the team's long-term plans at this point.
#21 - Ryan Kujawinski - C - Age: 19 - 2013 Rank: 24 - 2013-14 Team: Kingston (OHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
It's expected for junior players that have a semblence of a future in pro hockey to improve with each year in junior. Their bodies are more developed, they have more experience, and so their skills should yield more results. Kujawinski did display that in 2013-14 with Kingston. He put up a nearly point-per-game average in 45 games with Kingston, though he wasn't as productive the playoffs. Brock Otten of OHL Prospects noted that he struggled getting into form with the injuries he had last season. The encouraging part is that Otten says he has the skill, and just has to work on some other things. He may not be able to control injuries or where the coach uses, but skating and using his size might be improvable. I agree with Otten that Kingston will need Kujawinski to be available and a major part of their attack next season. If he can accomplish that, then that may yield a better ranking next year and a more encouraging sign of his future when he turns pro.
Stay tuned later today for the next five profiles on the list. It will feature the first of two new additions to the system making the Top 25. It will also include two new additions to the Top 25 that were already in the system, too. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts on the rankings, Gavrus, Wood, Kerfoot, Burlon, and/or Kujawinski in the comments. Thank you for reading.