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As the second oldest player eligible for this year's T25U25, Timmins is in a weird spot to consider in our rankings. The Maple Leafs are not unfamiliar with a highly regarded defenseman prospect struggling to find their footing in the NHL. Both Sandin and Liljegren went through it, but the newly acquired Conor Timmins – Sandin's former teammate in the OHL – has had even bigger problems.
|Age as of July 1||24.78|
How does one rank a guy who has only played in 66 NHL games across five seasons as a now-24 year old? As you'll see in the voters section, he had a pretty wide spread in rankings for a borderline top 5, and for one of the few players eligible on this list who we can be certain is at least a borderline NHLer.
If you subscribe to The Athletic, Scott Wheeler had an in depth history and scouting report of Timmins right when Toronto acquired him. For everyone else, I'll summarize it:
Conor Timmins was drafted 32nd overall – in the second round at the time – by the Colorado Avalanche. He is a 6'2" right shot defenseman who had a good amount of hype as a prospect. In his draft year, he had 61 points in 67 games. The next season, he had 41 points in only 36 games plus 18 points in 25 playoff games. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors where he had 5 points in 7 games.
In short, he was a very productive offensive defenseman. But he also had a good reputation for his two-way potential. He was voted as the best defensive-defenceman in the OHL by coaches. He was named as one of the top 3 players at the World Juniors and assisted on the gold-medal winning goal against Sweden.
Timmins' problems with injuries began in his final OHL season. In the OHL finals, he suffered a serious concussion that he tried to play through. Lingering symptoms resulted in him missing the entirety of the next year, which would have been his first AHL season.
But that said, he still had enough hype about him that when he finally returned fully healthy for the 2019/20 season, he started the season in the NHL with Colorado. Mind you, he was sent down to the AHL after only playing in 2 games. In the AHL, he had a respectable 27 points in 40 games, good for fifth in the AHL among defensemen his age or younger for points per game. He finished right behind Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
Timmins played in 31 NHL games and an addition 10 playoff games the following season, and was traded during the off-season to Arizona in the deal that brought Darcy Kuemper to the Avs. Unfortunately for Timmins, he suffered a season ending knee injury just six games into the season. It was the second time in three years that he missed basically an entire professional season due to injury.
Last season is when Timmins returned. He had two NHL games and a conditioning stint in the AHL, where he reportedly didn't look fully back to himself. At that point, the Coyotes needed to make room for him on their NHL roster or waive him. They chose a third option, and traded him to Toronto for an AHL player. Toronto snapped him up as they were dealing with a bevy of injuries to their NHL defensemen themselves.
In Toronto, he got into 25 games and had 14 points – by far his most productive NHL stint. But by the time Toronto's defense got fully healthy and they loaded up for the playoffs, he found himself in the pressbox the rest of the way. However, he played well enough that Toronto rewarded him with a two-year contract.
The thing is, Timmins at this point is still kind of an unknown. He had good impacts with Colorado in a second/third pair role, but that was only in 33 combined games. Since returning from his knee injury, he was more or less at replacement level – even accounting for his time in Toronto where he had so many points.
I can sympathize with him a lot for missing two full seasons at an age where he could really have used those missed games adjusting to pro-hockey. Having a serious knee injury that required surgery and caused him to miss an entire season couldn't have helped with mobility – an important element of his game.
But sympathy won't take anyone far. To steal a joke, you can find sympathy in the dictionary between shit and syphilis. The fact is, Timmins is almost 25 years old and he does not have a clear spot on the Maple Leafs' roster. In the best scenario (for him), he looks great at camp and locks down the 7th defenseman spot. There's a non-zero chance he winds up being waived to the AHL, at least to start the season. There are three other young-ish defensemen in Lagesson, Lajoie and now Benoit who have even more NHL experience than him. They are all also on NHL deals and will compete with Timmins for that 7th and 8th defenseman spots. The one advantage that Timmins theoretically has over them is that he is the only right handed shot.
If his place on an NHL roster at almost 25 years old (Sept 18th birthday) is in question, even if it's not entirely his fault there shouldn't be a lot of uncertainty about his NHL future at that point. Maybe he's a unicorn that needed time to play some real games and fully recover and re-strengthen himself after a serious injury to turn into a solid two-way defensemen people thought he'd be. Or maybe the ship has sailed, and what we've seen from him even in his limited NHL minutes are basically where he tops out.
I ranked Timmins 5th, which is in the middle of the pack. His highest ranking was 3rd, his lowest was 8th. Most of the voters had him between 4th and 7th. Personally, I can buy into the idea that maybe he has a bit more to give than he showed with Toronto last year. More time to familiarize himself with the other players, the coaches and the system, and more time to fully recover and build his strength up and get his legs under him. I'm not sure I buy that there's a second pair guy there, but I'm rooting for him this pre-season. But even him returning to the level he was at with Colorado before being traded and injured again would be a good development for him and the Leafs.
I had Timmins in a similar range with Robertson, Woll, and Holmberg. They're all NHL depth who haven't done enough to convince anyone they're good enough to lock down a regular NHL spot yet. I have Timmins only behind Robertson, but honestly the two of them may as well be together. It's funny I have them together since they both have similar history of hype as prospects who have dealt with almost constant injuries for big chunks of their pro careers.
Here's where the others ranked him:
Here's what the other voters had to say:
dhammm: The last of a long line of Soo Greyhound alumni that Kyle Dubas brought into the fold, Timmins seemed like a great find as a puck-moving defenseman with size and IQ enough to find passing lanes and cohere with the Leafs' forward weapons. Did he benefit from Keefe’s careful deployment of younger defensemen? Probably, yeah. Is he a likely cap casualty going into next season? Sure, but I call 'em as I see 'em. I hope that he can settle in as a regular defenseman in the 2023-24 campaign.
Catch-67: I don’t know if Conor Timmins will have a long NHL career, I don’t know if he’ll play many more games for the Leafs, and I don’t really think there’s much space for him on the Leafs’ blueline, either in terms of playstyle or skill level. That said, I’ve enjoyed Timmins’ time as a Leaf. He is an undoubtedly offensively-focused defenceman, but he’s not particularly flashy. He’s a very good passer. The Leafs only had to trade a bottom-six AHLer to get him. For whatever reason, I’m a fan of Timmins as a Leaf, and I’ve probably ranked him a little too high because of it.
Cathy: Timmins can teach you a lot of things. He’s what a pick in the 30s gets you. Life throws curveballs at you, and you get judged for missing even the really hard ones. Unfairness on unfairness. You never know when the door is going to open for you, and you have to be ready. And that’s his job. I don’t think he makes the team until someone goes on IR. When the opportunity comes, I’m not sure what to expect from him but his play so far has been underwhelming to me.
The Bag: Timmins is less than a year older than guys like Abruzzese and Holmberg and, to me, looks more like an NHL player than either of them, which means I’m higher on him than most. That’s maybe because in my mind, he’s the antithesis of Justin Holl, a genuine NHL defender who made me groan every time he touched the puck. Ranking Timmins against guys like Cowan or Minten or even Robertson was very hard, because each of those guys projects to be better if everything goes right, but just ask Conor Timmins about that.
Hardev: He's an NHLer, even if it's marginal on a contender. Whether his value is with the Leafs or someone else, it's undeniable that he's going to have achieved more than 90% of this list ever will. That fact makes his ranking like comparing apples to seeds – really difficult. I ranked him lower than most, mostly because I wanted to be optimistic about the prospects who I had ahead of him, like Minten. If I wasn't in denial, I'd be asking how much of a difference is there really between Liljegren and Timmins, and either push one up or the other down.
That's what we all think, and now it's your turn! Do you think Timmins has more to give in the NHL? Or will he be the next in a long line of Leafs depth that gets claimed off waivers and lives out his NHL career only popping back up into our awareness when he plays against Toronto?
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