Sometimes, contract status forces your hand with a prospect when you really, really wish you had just a bit more time with them. Most frequently, those decisions involve either a player’s draft rights expiring and an ultimatum involving giving them their first contract, or they involve a slightly older prospect requiring waivers for the first time.

Kerby Rychel falls into the latter, and will have to go through waivers in the next few days. That is to say, a player on the top half of this list may not even be here in a week.

Age 22 (October 7, 1994) Birthplace Torrance, California
Pos Forward (LH) Drafted 2013 (Rd 1, Pick 19)
Vitals 6’1, 214lbs Acquired Via Trade (2016)

Thankfully for the Leafs, the cost of acquiring Rychel wasn’t quite the same for them as it was for the team they got him from. The Columbus Blue Jackets were curious about the aggressive winger in 2013, so much so that they drafted him with their first-round pick. Some felt it was a little early, but not enough to be off-the-board.

For a while, it seemed like a decent bet. Rychel built upon his draft year with a spectacular final season in the OHL, buzzsawing through the regular season and dominating the playoffs for the Guelph Storm, who acquired him to go on a deep playoff run. He gave them that and more, scoring 32 points in 20 playoff games en route to an OHL championship, and pushing them to the Memorial Cup Final.

Rychel followed this up with a jump to the professional ranks, scoring at a decent rate for a rookie in his first AHL season, and earning himself an All-Star nod in his second year. He also earned himself nearly half a season with the big club, though it was a mostly insignificant role with a Columbus team that had a mostly insignificant season. Upon returning to the Lake Erie Monsters at the end of it, he became a piece of their championship team, though he didn’t have the same impact as he did in Guelph.

14  2008-09  Sun County Panthers  AHMMPL 26 11 17 28 24
15  2009-10  Belle Tire U16  T1EHL U16 29 13 10 23 29
16  2010-11  Mississauga / Windsor  OHL 62 7 14 21 73 6.9 4
17  2011-12  Windsor Spitfires  OHL 68 41 33 74 54 22.3 3
18  2012-13  Windsor Spitfires  OHL 68 40 47 87 94 26.2 -21
19  2013-14  Windsor / Guelph  OHL 58 34 55 89 43 37.7 41
20  2014-15  Columbus Blue Jackets  NHL 5 0 3 3 2 49.2 3
20  Springfield Falcons  AHL 51 12 21 33 43 24.9 7
21  2015-16  Columbus Blue Jackets  NHL 32 2 7 9 15 23.1 5
21  Lake Erie Monsters  AHL 37 6 21 27 53 28.1 1
22  2016-17  Toronto Marlies  AHL 73 19 33 52 118 27.5 -11

Last year, with Rychel searching for a change of scenery, the Blue Jackets traded him to Toronto in exchange for Scott Harrington, a supplementary defensive prospect that the Leafs previously acquired and wrote off. While he had a slow start to his season, Rychel began to pick up the pace at around the same time as his teammates, eventually leading the club in points (mostly due to longevity, however), and representing them at the AHL All-Star Game after Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen had to drop out.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
160 (14/31) 51 (4/31) 36.6% (8/31) 30.4 (15/31) 11.1 (8/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

There should be no surprise here, as far as where the numbers lie. A player that picks up Top-6 points in the AHL in his early 20s while still racking up penalty minutes is pretty much a lock to at least get a spin with someone as a grinder, and if they’re anything more than that, they’ll usually get a few shakes at being a middle-six contributor. That might not fit Rychel’s expected pathway in Toronto specifically, but given that he’s got 37 NHL games under his belt already and that he has first-round pedigree attached to him as well, you know someone is going to give him that look again at some point.

Rychel was always envisioned to be a bit of a power forward, even despite the fact that his frame (6’1, 214) is closer to “slightly above small” than it is imposing. He excels in physical situations; unphased by throwing the body, unafraid of fighting, and pretty creative and hard to fend off in front of the net.

The Upcoming Year

Rychel’s future might be the hardest to speculate because he’s the biggest threat on this list to not be a member of the organization in a month. He’s not waiver-exempt, he’s not good enough to crack an opening-night roster with this many quality options, but he’s still young enough with a sufficient enough track record to possibly catch the eye of another team that is a little more shallow on the wings to start the season.

If that’s how it goes, all power to him. Otherwise, he’ll likely be playing similar minutes with the Marlies to what he was throughout last year.

Long-Term Outlook

Realistically speaking, I’m not stuffing Rychel into any of Toronto’s long-term plans. If he clears waivers, his best case scenario is affordable depth until it becomes more efficient for them to part ways. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of future for him in the organization unless the depth chart were to get dramatically shaken up at both the NHL and prospect levels.

For him individually, his aspirations should be based around becoming a modern NHL bottom six forward. Someone who can defend his teammates when need be, use his body to cause a commotion, get in front of the net, and be a utility option on the powerplay if one of the regular guys aren’t feeling up to it. The game breaker expectations are gone, but there’s no reason to think he’s without promise entirely.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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