Being a young overachiever has become commonplace in the NHL.
This weekend’s 59th NHL All-Star Game will include 12 players under 25 years old—not including the rookie selections with an average age of 21.
At the season’s midway point, the top five goal scorers in the NHL are 25 or younger, led by 21-year-old Steven Stamkos with 32 goals. Twenty-two-year-old Logan Couture leads the San Jose Sharks with 21 goals, and the New York Islanders’ scoring leader is 21-year-old John Tavares with 19 goals.
And not to mention, Erik Karlsson—this year’s top vote getter and most productive NHL defenseman—is only 21 years old.
All-Star Game History: Seguin had his All-Star Weekend debut last year as part of Team Staal’s rookies. He participated in the SuperSkills competition, defeating Anaheim’s Cam Fowler in the Hardest Shot event.
Why He’s an All-Star: After an impressive rookie season that included winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, Seguin has done nothing but improve in the 2011-12 season. He has nearly doubled his 22-point total from last season with 43 this year. He is the team leader in goals with 19 and his plus-minus ratio is through the roof—he leads the NHL with a plus-34 rating. Quite the improvement from his minus-4 in 2010-11.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: Zdeno Chara will likely pick up Seguin and Tim Thomas early in the Fantasy Draft, which could create a solid core for Team Chara.
In terms of future development, the sky is the limit for Tyler Seguin. A 2012 Stanley Cup run will have a lot to do with Seguin’s contributions.
All-Star Game History: First appearance
Why He’s an All-Star: Despite the New York Islanders’ dismal 19-22-7 record at the All-Star break, Tavares has made a name for himself this season. He currently leads the Islanders in points with 49, boasting 20 goals and 29 assists.
He has five game-winning goals, including a two-goal game on Jan. 21 where he netted the equalizer in the second period and then the game-winner in overtime to lift the Islanders to a 2-1 win over Carolina.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: Tavares has indeed become a legit star, and at only 21 years old he is only beginning to tap into his potential. Expect a goal from Tavares in the All-Star game, and expect him to build on the chemistry he has established with Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau for the rest of the season.
All-Star Game History: Karlsson played in his first All-Star Game last season as a member of Team Staal.
Why He’s an All-Star: Karlsson has improved to be the most prolific defenseman in the NHL, receiving the most votes during All-Star balloting with 939,951. He leads all NHL defensemen in assists with 40, as well as points with 47—nearly doubling his numbers from last season. This time last year, while he was still voted an All-Star, he had recorded only 25 points.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: Karlsson will be in good company this weekend, joined by teammates Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and rookie Colin Greening. I predict Alfredsson will draft his fellow Senators early on, giving Team Alfredsson an abundance of chemistry.
The Senators, currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, will depend on Karlsson’s ability as an offensive blueliner to remain in playoff contention.
All-Star Game History: First appearance
Why He’s an All-Star: Eberle leads the Edmonton Oilers in all three point categories with 18 goals, 27 assists and 45 points. He has three points in the last five games. The Oilers’ season has been grueling; they're currently 14 points out of the playoffs, with an 18-26-5 record. But there is hope for the Oilers in the form of young talent. Eberle, along with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, are the future of the team. The trio has combined for 113 of the team’s total points this season.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: Eberle will replace injured Mikko Koivu in Sunday’s game, and is coming off an injury of his own. He underwent an MRI on his right knee on Jan. 9 and has been easing back into the swing of things. At this point in the Oilers’ season, taking the time to properly heal takes precedence over a speedy return.
All-Star Game History: Stamkos shined in his first All-Star Game in 2011, his third season in the league. In the SuperSkills competition, he helped Team Lidstrom in the Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot events—beating out Alex Ovechkin in the Hardest Shot, shooting the puck at 101.9 miles per hour.
In the All-Star game, Team Staal took an early 4-0 lead, but Team Lidstrom rallied back to score four unanswered goals to even it at by the end of the first period. Patrick Sharp and Kris Letang jumped on Team Lidstrom early in the second period, taking a 6-4 lead. Lidstrom’s Anze Kopitar then brought them within a goal, and Stamkos scored the equalizer. Team Lidstrom went on to win 11-10.
Why He’s an All-Star: Since entering the league, Stamkos has been the face of scoring in the NHL. As we have come to expect production from Stamkos, he has already reached the 30-goal mark this season with 32 at the All-Star break, and currently leads the league in scoring.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: Stamkos will get picked early in the Fantasy Draft and will continue to shine this weekend.
For a player who never seems to be in a slump, the Lightning will count on Stamkos’ consistency to help them sneak into the playoffs. Currently Tampa Bay is 11th in the Eastern Conference, and will need all the help they can get from Steven Stamkos and Co.
All-Star Game History: Couture was a rookie selection in 2011, and was chosen to be a rookie captain for the SuperSkills competition. In the competition, he defeated 2011 All-Star Game MVP Patrick Sharp in the accuracy shooting segment, earning a point for Team Staal.
Why He’s an All-Star: Couture currently leads the San Jose Sharks with 21 goals, and is on a hot streak with three goals in the last five games.
Prediction for All-Star Game and Beyond: While Couture may get outshined in the Fantasy Draft, he will do anything but go unnoticed in the All-Star Game. Expect him to contribute at both ends of the rink.
His consistency and nose for the net will continue to propel the Sharks as the season goes on. In the midst of recent injuries and power-play incompetence, the Sharks will count on Couture to perform at an All-Star level on a constant basis.