For the very first time, Knights On Ice is embarking on a Top 25 Under 25 series. What does this mean? Well, we’re basically ranking the top 25 players in the Vegas Golden Knights’ system — whether they’re in the NHL, AHL, juniors, NCAA or elsewhere — who are under the age of 25 years old. This is not a ranking of just prospects. NHLers under 25, such as Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore, will be included on the list as well.
How did we put together the list? Six Knights On Ice writers — Ryan, Shepard, Jillian, Dalton, David and Jeff — all put together their own individual Top 25 Under 25 ballots. The player ranked No. 1 on each ballot received one point, the player ranked No. 2 received two points and so on. From there, the players with the lowest total score were ranked higher than the players who received a higher total score. Each individual ballot was then used to generate a composite score, which forms the final ballot.
Of course, the Golden Knights have far more than just 25 players under the age of 25 in their farm system. To recognize some of the players who just missed the cut, we included a list of five honorable mentions.
30. Connor Corcoran
Connor Corcoran started out as a defensive-minded defenseman, and that’s perhaps why his 32 points, his best OHL season to date, are still relatively unimpressive. Still, the young blueliner has plenty of potential as he continues to develop.
Corcoran certainly had a defensive role this past year in the OHL, with just a 35.51 percent even-strength goal share. He added a point while shorthanded, which means that Corcoran can get some offensive momentum while playing his defensive-leaning assignment, but those numbers weren’t enough to get him on this list. He also doesn’t have the highest potential amongst Vegas’ many defensive prospects.
Corcoran will head back to the Spitfires without a contract this season and try to beat his previous mark of 32 points. If he does well enough, Vegas may explore signing him. Eventually, players like Nicolas Hague, Zach Whitecloud and Dylan Coghlan will need to move out of the Wolves’ system, and a player like Corcoran could be useful in replacing them in due time.
29. Ryder Donovan
Ryder Donovan entered 2018-19 as a prospect on the bubble between the late first round and second round. His play in high school didn’t deter that, as he was dominant in the best high school league in the state, Minnesota’s. But what did deter that was when Donovan played up a level, against similarly strong prospects and players who were perhaps better than him, at least at the time, when he played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL. He had just one assist in nine games.
That’s not the kind of production you expect to see out of someone projected in the late first round. Certainly not in that league. But the Golden Knights saw enough in him and his play in high school to select Donovan with a mid-round pick this past draft.
Donovan will join the University of Wisconsin, where he’ll have more of a chance to play against top-tier talent and prove that his play in the USHL was a fluke. He’ll likely stay there a few years as he develops before eventually joining the Chicago Wolves, should he earn it.
28. Mason Primeau
Mason Primeau had a rough draft year, which made him available in the fifth round. His 33 points in 59 OHL games is not great for a forward, but the Golden Knights clearly believe in the Primeau project, and he does have a good amount of NHL games in his family tree (between his father Wayne, uncle Keith and his cousin Cayden is likely the future of the Canadiens’ net).
Still, Mason wasn’t the most impressive offensive forward, as his stats reflect. Ultimately, the Golden Knights see enough potential in his 6-foot-5 frame to have selected him with a late-round flyer, and he did impress in development camp — a feat he’ll likely need to repeat a few times in coming seasons.
Primeau will return to the OHL and the North Bay Battalion for another season, and likely another one after that. The Golden Knights will watch his development closely over the next few years to see if he’s able to add on the points.
27. Dylan Ferguson
Dylan Ferguson has already played an NHL game, something no other member of this honorable mentions list has done. To be fair, though, that was because of the insanity of the Golden Knights’ first year, when they ran through goaltenders like dirty underwear. Ferguson played half a game and posted a .500 save percentage.
The Kamloops Blazers made the playoffs for the first time with Ferguson in net this past season. Unfortunately, he didn’t do too much beyond appearing in the games (3.29 GAA, .887 save percentage).
Now, Ferguson will head to the pro ranks full time, joining, most likely, the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. He may see AHL time should injury concerns arise between Oscar Dansk and new Wolves goaltender Garret Sparks.
26. Slava Demin
Slava Demin entered the 2018 draft as a somewhat well respected prospect (Bob McKenzie had him as his 69th best prospect), despite having come out of the BCHL, which is not quite on par with the CHL. He had 45 points in 57 games in his draft year and got a taste of both the USDP where he put up one point in his one game.
Demin wasn’t gifted the optimal spot at the University of Denver this past season, but he still delivered four goals and 14 points in his 41 games. He definitely has room for improvement — he can continue to develop in his own zone, certainly — but the NCAA seems like the perfect place for him, and there’s no rush to get him to the pro level just yet.
With Mitchell coming back, Demin still won’t be in prime position, but he’ll be able to continue developing as he likely makes his way up the lineup at even strength. In 2020-21, however, Demin will likely take over Denver’s power play, and could see an explosion in points in the next two years. If so, he’ll likely make his way up the list in further versions of iterations.