Our seventh 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 and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
This time last year the Kings were optimistic about not only their prospects of competing for a Stanley Cup, but also their defensive corps that had just help lock up a Jennings Trophy for Jonathan Quick. Fast forward five months and the Kings defensive game was so bad that they decided to jettison their best player to the Toronto Maple Leafs for their 2019 first round pick (which turned into Tobias Björnfot), Carl Grundstrom and 20-year-old right-shot defenseman Sean Durzi. Many around the league gave the trade win to the Kings mostly on the back of the future value of Durzi.
You’d have to agree with the experts, especially when his vision and poise were compared to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning when he signed his three-year entry level contract this spring:
If your scouting report compares you to @TomBrady and Peyton Manning, you're doing something right@lakingsinsider has what you need to know about @seandurzi, who just signed a 3-year entry-level contract with the @LAKings pic.twitter.com/yLlzAf1hbB— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) April 1, 2019
Even the über-harsh McKeens had good things to say about Durzi last year:
Where his shooting was pop-gun caliber, he has since improved greatly in the timing of his shot as well as its accuracy. He is more patient with the puck along the blueline, willing to shimmy up and down across the line until he gets a lane to release an impressive wrist shot. He has also become much less prone to trying to force plays, letting the play come to him and reacting in a more appropriate way. He will never be a perfect defenseman, but he does enough well that there should be a role for him at the next level.
The Kings have taken a shine to Durzi, touting him without prodding in recent months:
"They're going to be great pros and they've had a lot to do with why our team has made it this far."— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 8, 2019
- @Storm_City's Assistant Coach Jake Grimes on Sean Durzi and Markus Phillipshttps://t.co/L2KcSOqm18
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DURZI (as told to NHL.com)
“The type of player I am is someone who runs my game off my hockey IQ, It’s something I’ve had for a long time and as my skills develop, I think I’m only going to get better. I’m more of an offensive guy, a guy who can run the power play.”
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HIS TEAMMATES (via Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens’ 2017 13th overall pick)
“Sean’s a really a gifted, offensively minded defensemen. The things he does with the puck are pretty special and he has worked really hard to get to this point. I know coming in at 16 and 17, we came in together, and he has worked harder than probably anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s earned everything he has got and he deserves to be recognized as a top defenceman in the league.”
Originally picked by the Leafs with the 52nd pick in the 2018 draft, Durzi has the potential to be a steady, if not dynamic, second pair D-man with his elite puck-moving skills and offensive promise. He projects to be a high-level power play quarterback at the NHL level, (and based on the recent decade’s special team, who doesn’t need that?).
Other than the fact he was injured for a chunk of last year (limiting action to just 40 games) and that he doesn’t seem destined to be a top pair D-man, you can’t poke many holes in Durzi’s game that continues to soar with each passing game. Last season, Durzi posted 21 power-play points which ranked in rarified air for top prospect defensemen and his point-per-game production erases most weakness concerns. But McKeens also pointed out some things to watch in his game:
“He has not yet blossomed into a perfect player, with improvement still needed in his edge work, his pinching decisions, his propensity to try to do too much with the puck (especially in carrying it out of his own zone) and his ability to play a physical game effectively.”
As he steps up to the AHL this season with the Ontario Reign, it will be interesting to see if he continues his rise and eventually flirts with the NHL as soon as this spring.
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL
#LAKings prospects Sean Durzi and Markus Phillips are OHL champs. Guelph came back from a 2-0 series deficit to capture the championship. They move on to compete for the Memorial Cup, which begins Friday in Halifax. https://t.co/RmxHzuHyZj— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) May 12, 2019
And now...a look at the staff and fan voting...