John Tavares isn't on this list, because at the tender age of 23, he's a bona fide NHL star.
He's not the only young player that has made the jump from "rising star" to "actual star." From Steven Stamkos to Taylor Hall to Gabriel Landeskog, it seems like the period of time between the NHL's most exceptional young players making it to the majors and the time they're established difference-makers just keeps getting shorter and shorter. Like the interstate exit for a small town, all it takes is one blink and it's gone.
But there's something special about watching that transformation, short though it is. To watch the transformation of a player like Drew Doughty—who went from favored whipping boy of the local press to the best defenseman in the Stanley Cup playoffs—is a wonderful thing, part of hockey history. Whether the process takes some time (as it did with Doughty) or is nearly instant (as it was with Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby), it's one of those "I was there" moments.
As much as hockey is a tribal sport, with fans thoroughly dedicated to their respective clubs, there's a transcendent quality to watching the arrival of one of those players that is really going to matter—be he a Richard or an Orr, or even a Sundin or a Roenick. That's the point of this list; these players are their generation's Bourques and Forsbergs and Iginlas, the ones who leave an indelible mark on the game and, consequently, are well worth the price of admission.