VHL Top 25 Players
Part 5: 5-1
Here we are. We’ve gone a long way over the last week or so, moving in from the 25th ranked player in the league up to the 6th ranked player in the last part we’ve released, which brings us here with a final top 5. At this point, you can probably guess who are the 5 players making the top 5 - unless we made a terrible mistake - so all there is left for you is to see if you have the order right. Let’s get it started with our #5, one of the players that made the biggest jump from last season as he moved up 16 positions in only a season.
5. Julius Freeman
Julius Freeman had his best season to date in S69. Freeman racked up a very balanced 44 goals and 45 assists, as well as good defensive stats with 25 shots blocked and a +/- of 42. Only two teams have their entire top line of forwards on this list, Malmo and Vancouver, but Vancouver has two in the top five. I see no reason why we shouldn’t expect Freeman to improve again next season and see another personal best from him. I don’t even think it is a stretch to say that we may see Julius take the top points earner spot on the Wolves in S70 and the top scorer on the wolves will likely be the top scorer in the league, so that bodes well for his Mike Szatkowski chances.
Randoms’ career might have started as a humorous experiment, but it actually turned out he is a hell of a player. The statistics he posted in the first half of his career skew his numbers down, as they’re not on par with other Season 63 draftee greats like Julian Borwinn or Ryan Kastelic, but he truly became a superstar when he was traded from his home Riga Reign to the Moscow Menace before the start of Season 67. In three seasons since the move to Russia, he scored 110 goals and 133 assists for 243 points, setting career highs of 38 goals, 50 assists and 86 points along the way. Despite his high point totals in this time frame, I think the aspect of Randoms’ play that shines the brightest is his physicality, a remnant of the early build that got him his name in the first place. He was always dominant in the hits column, as he recorded an impressive total of 1,539 hits in the first six campaigns of his career, which helped establish him as one of this generation’s finest power forwards. Now entering his final season, the Latvian forward looks every bit like the feisty forward that claimed the Scott Boulet Trophy last season, making him one of the favourites to win it in again in Season 70.
3. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Well, well, well…. Is it not the best player to come out of S66? Hunter Hearst Helmsley or more commonly known as HHH has been brilliant for Vancouver Wolves. While playing his first two seasons with Riga Reign there were quite a lot of questions about HHH and his ability to be a true powerhouse on ice and maybe he should be considered a bust. After being traded away to Vancouver, already in his first season he improved and showed that there is a chance for him to shine if given the opportunity. All doubts about his abilities were shut when he went on a 92 point run and finished with almost 300 hits. He led Vancouver in points and was the true leader in the Locker room for Wolves. For Helmsley, this season will be the most important as it will cement or completely ruin his legacy in VHL. Extreme hype that surrounded him at the draft and the fact that he was selected 1st Overall puts a certain expectation on and if we can believe what we all saw in S69, current expectations might be too low and we should be looking at him as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. Maybe next season he will be the Number 1?
2. Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen
As one of, if not, the premier defenseman of the VHL, Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen's high ranking should be of no surprise to any reader. The second overall pick of the Season 65 VHL Entry Draft to the HC Davos Dynamo, Werbenjagermanjensen wasted no time asserting himself as a physical presence and effective puck-mover, recording 275 hits and 44 assists. The resident meme lord quickly developed a deadly shot the next season, scoring 16 goals, 10 of them on the power play. By his third season, Werbenjagermanjensen had it all together: 19 goals (12 on the powerplay), 44 assists and 63 points. But Werbenjagermanjensen continued to get better, posting career highs in goals and assists in Season 68 with 27 and 59, for another career-high in points with 86. In a season in which he truly became among the VHL's elite, Werbenjagermanjensen's trophy case reflected it, winning both the Sterling Labatte Trophy as the league's top defenseman and the Alexander Valiq Trophy as the top offensive defenseman. After being traded to the Moscow Menace, Werbenjagermanjensen's elite play continued. Although he dropped to 17 goals, he tallied a new career-high in assists with 66. He also returned to a more physical style of play, recording 264 hits, by far his most since his rookie season. Although Moscow fell just shy of reaching the Continental Cup Finals, Werbenjagermanjensen's trophy case expanded yet again, winning a second Sterling Labatte Trophy and the Jake Wylde Trophy as the league's top defensive defenseman. With Diljodh Starload winning the Alexander Valiq Trophy by two points, Werbenjagermanjensen narrowly missed becoming the first player in VHL history to win all three defensive awards in the same season. However, he doesn't miss out on our Top 25 ranking, as Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen comes in as #2.
1. Julian Borwinn
And then there was one… Julian Borwinn has been a household name now for 7 VHL seasons, having come out of the gate in his rookie season with over a point per game (including 42 goals, good enough for 8th in the league as a rookie). Since then, he has only missed out on the point per game mark once, in his sophomore season by just a single point. Borwinn is a one-team player, and after being drafted in season 63 by the Helsinki Titans, he has been synonymous with the organization ever since. He is a prototypical two-way forward; since joining the VHL, he has worked hard on his physical presence, reaching a career-high 241 hits last season. In addition, he has always been a dependable forward in the defensive zone, covering his wing well, but it is his offensive production that puts him on top of the VHL going into S70. His consistency across his entire career, as previously mentioned, has been nothing short of astounding. He has never finished a season below 70 points and has cleared the 90 point mark on three separate occasions.
Over his illustrious career, Borwinn has amassed a trove of both individual and team awards, including, but not limited to, two Szatkowski’s, a Boulet, a Campbell, a Brooks, a Funk, a Slobodzian, a Stolzschweiger, and of course the Continental Cup that he led the Titans to in S66. It was in that cup-winning season that Borwinn performed at his all-time best, with career highs in goals as well as assists with 51 and 63, respectively - bringing in a large portion of his individual trophies that season. With a rebuild or at least retool perhaps on the horizon, as the Titans are set to lose a host of players to retirement, most notably starting goaltender Alexander Pepper, they may be looking to Borwinn to give it one last go before saying goodbye to the VHL. If he recaptures his S66 form, or even just performs at the level he has been the past two seasons, reaching over 90 points both times, they could have a real chance at the cup. For his individual talent, work rate, and overall ability to influence a game of hockey, Julian Borwinn is our pick for the number one player in the VHL going into S70.
Thanks to our readers for following this mammoth of a list as we travelled all around the world, presenting you players from almost every team in the league - if I’m not mistaken, only Davos, Prague and Toronto were not represented this season. Like last season, we close these rankings with a retiring player, making so we are sure to have a new player named best in the VHL for Season 71. Do you think you have what you need to make the jump straight up to #1? Or who do you think will make it next season?
People mentioned: @rjfryman @hedgehog337 @Jubo07 @Enorama @Beaviss @flyersfan1453 @Sonnet