Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 5, 2017, when the 2017-18 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our fifth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Kicking things off, at #25: center Drake Rymsha.
2016-17 Teams: Ottawa 67’s/Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 65 GP, 35 G, 27 A, 62 P
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 14 G, 10 A, 24 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 25
Jewels Staff Ranking: 24
Drake Rymsha sneaking onto this list in the 25th and final spot seems appropriate for LA’s final draft pick in 2017. He flew under the radar in juniors, too, until a change in scenery and some long-awaited good health paid off for the overage prospect.
The Michigan-born Rymsha was a fifth-rounder in the 2017 NHL Draft, but three years before that, he was a fifth-rounder in the OHL Draft. His first season with the London Knights was unsurprisingly quiet as he got accustomed to the league, but he was named to the All-American Prospects game and expected his second season to be a year of further development. It was, but it wasn’t the development he was expecting. In his own words: “Sometimes it’s good for your development to overcome adversity when you are a young player.” After being traded to the Ottawa 67’s and scoring nine points in 28 games, a broken leg scuttled his 2015-16 and left him undrafted. He pronounced later, in a case of extreme understatement: “It’s never enjoyable to get hurt like that.”
Rymsha came back strong in 2016-17, and was tied for the team goal-scoring lead midway through the season, but he really took off after requesting a trade, and getting one to the Sarnia Sting. The Sting gave up four draft picks for Rymsha and got what they paid for, as Rymsha potted 20 goals in 28 games down the stretch. Playing with 2016 Blues second-rounder Jordan Kyrou helped, certainly, but Rymsha showcased speed and skill to go with the physical play he’d previously exhibited. He also fit seamlessly into Sarnia’s team system, and though they ran into an Erie Otters buzzsaw in the playoffs, Rymsha was positive about the Sting’s impact on this stage of his development. Clearly, LA was too, as they used the draft pick acquired in the Ben Bishop trade to select Rymsha.
"They run a pro system there in Sarnia, and I think that really helped me" - Rymsha on joining @StingHockey at trade deadline.— Ryan Yessie (@RyanYessie) June 24, 2017
Rymsha will have one more season in the Ontario Hockey League, and hopefully, it’ll be another full one. Could Rymsha break through as a scorer in the same way that Mike Amadio did in his final, 50-goal OHL season? There are some numbers working in his favor. He also was among the most dangerous players in juniors in terms of the area in which he got his shots off; @Scouching of Dobber Prospects ran the numbers and found that only four players in the OHL and QMJHL took a higher percentage of their team’s shots from high-danger or medium-danger areas. Essentially, Rymsha took over 10% of the team’s shots from what you would call “good” scoring locations.
Combine that with a very strong second half and the aforementioned recovery from injuries, and it feels like the jump in goals is no fluke. The question is whether Rymsha, a self-described “very versatile player” who hits and plays in all zones, can dominate in his 20-year-old season. Matt Mistele, a 2014 sixth-rounder, comes to mind; though he was drafted at 18, he was a similarly prolific goalscorer who had an excellent 19-year-old season after a poor 18-year-old campaign. After an underwhelming campaign in which he scored four fewer goals despite an extra year of experience, though, the Kings chose not to sign him. With an influx of forwards into the AHL soon to come, Rymsha will look to stand out in his final OHL season.