The 1 Player on Every NHL Team with the Brightest Future

Dave LozoNHL National Lead WriterDecember 20, 2013

The 1 Player on Every NHL Team with the Brightest Future

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    The NHL is loaded with tremendous young talent. This list is designed to highlight each team's best player in that regard.

    There are no set parameters on the list in terms of age or past accomplishment. Rather, the idea is to shine the spotlight on the players that will provide the most production in the years to come.

    Everyone on the list is under the age of 30, but that's not an indictment of the league's older players. The reality is younger players provide the most potential, and there are plenty of those players on this list.

    The list contains superstars, rookies and others who are on the cusp of their primes. Feel free to object in the comments or offer a hearty congratulations on us getting it right.

     

    All statistics via NHL.com.

Anaheim Ducks: Hampus Lindholm, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The sixth selection in the 2012 draft has arrived in a big way as a 19-year-old rookie this season. He's third among rookie defensemen with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) while averaging 19:22 of ice time per game, fourth-most on the team. Defensive mainstay Francois Beauchemin (upper body) was out for a month and Sheldon Souray won't play his first game this season until perhaps January, and Lindholm is why the Ducks have hardly missed a beat without them.

    5-Year Projection: Beauchemin, 33, and Souray, 37, are coming to the end of their careers. It's only a matter of time before Lindholm secures a regular spot as one of the Ducks' top two defensemen.

    Runner-Up: Cam Fowler

Boston Bruins: Torey Krug, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The 22-year-old burst onto the scene during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring four goals and adding two assists in 15 games despite having played just three regular-season games in his career. He's followed that performance this season by leading all rookie defensemen in goals (8) and points (18). Among veterans, Krug's eight goals have him tied for third among all defensemen with Nashville's Shea Weber and one back of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and teammate Zdeno Chara.

    5-Year Projection: Krug isn't playing big minutes for the Bruins, as his 17:32 per game ranks him seventh on the club. He sees most of his action on the power play and is mostly sheltered at even strength. But the potential is there for him to be an offensive dynamo in a top-four role with the Bruins for years to come.

    Runner-Up: Dougie Hamilton

Buffalo Sabres: Cody Hodgson, C

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    Why He's the Pick: In what has been a dark and gloomy season in Buffalo, 23-year-old Cody Hodgson has found a way to produce at acceptable levels. He has eight goals and 19 points, which is pretty impressive when considering the Sabres are scoring 1.69 goals per game. 

    5-Year Projection: The 10th pick in the 2008 draft has a chance to be a 70-point, top-line center if he continues to develop. A lot of that will depend on how the Sabres' rebuild goes, but if Hodgson has competent wings, he can be a consistent offensive threat.

    Runner-Up: Zemgus Girgensons

Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, C

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    Why He's the Pick: Much like the Sabres, the Flames have had their scoring woes this season. But the 19-year-old Monahan has acquitted himself well enough in the difficult situation despite making the jump straight from juniors. He's second among rookies with 10 goals and tied for second on the Flames with 16 points in 28 games.

    5-Year Projection: As the Flames, theoretically, improve, so will Monahan. His 6'2", 200-pound frame could get even stronger, making him one of the toughest power forwards in the league. He could be a regular 30-goal scorer by the time he signs his second NHL contract.

    Runner-Up: T.J. Brodie

Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The 21-year-old is the Hurricanes' No. 1 defenseman and is on pace for the best offensive numbers in his three-year career. He plays 24:06 per game, the 27th most of anyone in the league. Faulk has played so well in his short career that he has a chance to represent Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.

    5-Year Projection: He's already the team's go-to defenseman when it comes to facing top forward lines, but Faulk has offensive abilities that are coming along. He's was a scorer for both Minnesota-Duluth and the U.S. National Team Development Program, so that side of his game has a chance to blossom as he gets more comfortable defensively.

    Runner-Up: Jeff Skinner

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, RW

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    Why He's the Pick: It seems crazy to include a two-time Stanley Cup winner on this list, but Patrick Kane continues to get better and better. Still only 25 years old, Kane had 55 points in 47 games last season. Those numbers translated into a career-best 1.17 points per game, but he's blowing that out of the water this season. His 20 goals and 46 points in 37 games have him on pace for career bests in those categories. 

    5-Year Projection: With the way his game is escalating and the talent that surrounds him in Chicago, he could average 40 goals per season over the next five years. It's scary to think that he has always been one of the most gifted players in the league and now he's improving.

    Runner-Up: Jonathan Toews

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The third pick in the 2009 draft is beginning to realize his immense potential this season. He has 16 goals and 31 points in 31 games, which means he's on his way to his first 30-goal season if he can stay healthy. 

    5-Year Projection: A Hart Trophy is not out of the realm of possibility for Duchene. The Avs are loaded with young offensive talent, including Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon. If the Avalanche can keep that core together and build around it, Duchene could become one of the league's biggest stars.

    Runner-Up: Gabriel Landeskog

Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The 21-year-old was the fourth pick of the 2010 draft and has put that talent on display this season. His 12 goals and 27 points lead the team and are already career bests. He's a big reason why the Blue Jackets are hanging around the playoff race with Marian Gaborik out with injury and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky underperforming and banged up.

    5-Year Projection: At 6'3", 223 pounds, Johansen is setting up to become one of the game's best centers. If he continues to develop and the Blue Jackets solidify the team around him, Johansen could contend for scoring titles and receive Hart Trophy consideration.

    Runner-Up: Matt Calvert

Dallas Stars: Valeri Nichushkin, RW

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    Why He's the Pick: Valeri Nichushkin won't turn 19 until March, but he's already showing he belongs in the NHL. The 10th pick in this year's draft has six goals and 18 points in 33 games. He's using his considerable size (6'4", 205 pounds) to win board battles that would leave most 18-year-olds in a heap in the corner.

    5-Year Projection: As he gets stronger and more comfortable with everything that comes with playing in the NHL, he will just get better. There's no reason to believe he won't be at least a 25-goal scorer when he's in his early 20s.

    Runner-Up: Tyler Seguin

Detroit Red Wings: Danny DeKeyser, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan played in 11 games after joining the Red Wings last season. He had two goals, 11 points and was playing more than 20 minutes per night before a shoulder injury put him on the shelf in November. The 23-year-old has adjusted to the NHL quickly and adeptly. 

    5-Year Projection: He sizes up as a top-four defenseman over the long haul. He's already playing regular shifts as a penalty killer and has the ability to chip in offensively. That part of his game should develop as he grows into the position.

    Runner-Up: Tomas Tatar

Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The Oilers have a plethora of young talent with tremendous upside, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the only dynamic center on the club. He has nine goals and 27 points in 33 games as a 20-year-old this season. He has had injury issues in his first two seasons, but his vision on the ice is practically unmatched.

    5-Year Projection: He could become one of the game's best playmakers and has plenty of teammates who can finish. He has 101 points in his first 136 career games and will continue to build on that as long as he can stay healthy.

    Runner-Up: Taylor Hall

Florida Panthers: Jonathan Huberdeau, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The 2013 Calder Trophy winner has seen his numbers drop this year, but he's still the most talented player on a downtrodden Panthers team. The third pick in the 2011 draft has seven goals and 15 points in 34 games this season. He is tied for second on the team in both goals and points.

    5-Year Projection: Huberdeau has all the tools to be an elite scorer, but he can't do it alone. If the Panthers can surround the 20-year-old with offensive talent, he can be a point-per-game player in the NHL. 

    Runner-Up: Erik Gudbranson

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty, D

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    Why He's the Pick: At 24, Doughty is already one of the game's best two-way defenseman. He draws the top competition every night and still has found a way to post six goals and 18 points in 36 games. During the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, Doughty had four goals and 16 points in 20 games.

    5-Year Projection: As he enters his prime, Doughty has room to get even better. He's just about a lock for about 25 minutes a night and 40 points per season, but he could find the form that made him a 16-goal, 59-point blueliner in 2009-10.

    Runner-Up: Tyler Toffoli

Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin, D

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    Why He's the Pick: Jonas Brodin played most of his rookie 2013 season playing alongside Ryan Suter, who was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Brodin played so well that some thought he deserved the Calder Trophy. He's doing just fine in his 20-year-old season, improving on his 2013 totals with six goals and 12 points in 34 games. He plays nearly 25 minutes per game, ranking him in the top 20 in the NHL in that category.

    5-Year Projection: He will always be in the shadow of Suter, which will make it nearly impossible to collect individual awards over that time. But he has all the makings of being a shutdown defenseman, and there's nothing wrong with doing that next to one of the game's best in Suter.

    Runner-Up: Mikael Granlund

Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk, C

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    Why He's the Pick: Galchenyuk is looking like the real deal despite being just 19. He played well as an 18-year-old rookie in 2013, amassing nine goals and 27 points in 48 games. He's aiming to blow that season out of the water in 2013-14, with 10 goals and 22 points in 36 games. Despite his relative inexperience, his name is being discussed as a possibility for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.

    5-Year Projection: The sky truly is the limit for Galchenyuk. He's currently listed at 6'1" and 203 pounds, but he's going to get stronger. He could be a 30-goal scorer within a few years and a real offensive force for the Canadiens.

    Runner-Up: P.K. Subban

Nashville Predators: Seth Jones, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The third pick in this year's draft is already a mainstay on the Predators' blue line. Jones' minutes have dropped significantly over the past six games, but he's still shown glimpses of why he was considered by many to be the best player in his draft class. He has three goals and 10 points in 36 games.

    5-Year Projection: Jones will eventually be a regular on the Predators' top pair, likely alongside Shea Weber. There will be growing pains for Jones to be sure, but he should be one of the game's top defenseman by the time he reaches his early 20s.

    Runner-Up: Filip Forsberg

New Jersey Devils: Eric Gelinas, D

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    Why He's the Pick: Gelinas didn't make the Devils out of training camp, but he's made the most of his opportunities since injuries opened the door for him. The 22-year-old is second among rookie defenseman in points with 15 points, three fewer than Boston's Torey Krug. Gelinas, however, has played nine fewer games than Krug.

    5-Year Projection: Gelinas has just 27 games of NHL experience, but he's improved by leaps and bounds this season. If he can take that progress and continue it over the next five years, the Devils could have a complete No. 1 defenseman for a long time.

    Runner-Up: Adam Henrique

New York Islanders: John Tavares, C

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    Why He's the Pick: It's easy to forget that Tavares is only 23 years old. But since coming into the league as an 18-year-old, he's taken strides to improve in all areas. It all came to fruition last year, when he had 28 goals and 47 points in 48 games, leading the Islanders to their first playoff trip since 2007. This season, he has 13 goals and 38 points 35 games.

    5-Year Projection: It doesn't happen all that often in today's NHL, but Tavares could eclipse the 100-point mark in a season. The Islanders will move to Brooklyn in 2015-16, and if the team begins to spend more money on talent, Tavares could contend for the Art Ross Trophy.

    Runner-Up: Travis Hamonic

New York Rangers: Ryan McDonagh, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The 24-year-old has been one of the Rangers' top shutdown defensemen since the 2011-12 season, but now he's coming into his own offensively. He has six goals in 35 games this season, which is one short of his career high. His 24:13 per game ranks him among the leaders in that category. He has a very good chance of being among the top six defensemen for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.

    5-Year Projection: If he continues to excel offensively, he has a chance to be among the Norris Trophy contenders. The defensive side of his game is getting better, too. He will be one of the league's most reliable blueliners for the foreseeable future.

    Runner-Up: Derek Stepan

Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson, D

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    Why He's the Pick: Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as a 22-year-old in 2012, as he racked up 78 points in 81 games. Last season, an Achilles injury derailed his campaign. But this season, Karlsson is healthy and has 34 points in 37 games.

    5-Year Projection: Karlsson will continue to be among the leading scorers among defensemen for years to come. As long he doesn't suffer any more lower-body injuries, his skating ability will carry him for a long time.

    Runner-Up: Robin Lehner

Philadelphia Flyers: Brayden Schenn, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The 22-year-old has been considered one of the game's top prospects for what seems like an eternity, but he looks like he's going to be a fine NHL player. With seven goals and 19 points in 36 games, he's third on the Flyers in scoring. His development has been slower than some had hoped, but he's coming along nicely.

    5-Year Projection: Schenn will become a reliable 20-goal scorer and could become a 60- or 70-point player. 

    Runner-Up: Sean Couturier

Phoenix Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D

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    Why He's the Pick: At about 25 minutes per game, Ekman-Larsson shoulders a workload similar to that of Boston's Zdeno Chara and Montreal's P.K. Subban. He has four goals and 21 points in 34 games this season while playing against the opposition's best players.

    5-Year Projection: It's only a matter of time before Ekman-Larsson begins to receive consideration for the Norris Trophy. He's growing defensively and putting up quality offensive numbers, which will make him an asset for years to come.

    Runner-Up: Mikkel Boedker

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby, C

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    Why He's the Pick: Yeah, it's the obvious choice, but it's the right one. Crosby is still only 26 years old and the best player in the world. Injuries have sidetracked him over the years, but he's going to be dominant for years to come. He has 19 goals and 51 points in 37 games this season.

    5-Year Projection: If he avoids another significant injury, it's well within the realm of possibility that he wins five straight Hart Trophies. He's a lock for 100 points a season.

    Runner-Up: Olli Maatta

San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl, C

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    Why He's the Pick: The 20-year-old Czech sensation is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy this season. Through 34 games, he leads all rookies with 15 goals and 25 points. 

    5-Year Projection: He has the potential to be a force in San Jose for a long time. Forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are on the back end of their careers. As their skills diminish, Hertl will step into that breach and be a star.

    Runner-Up: Joe Pavelski

St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The 23-year-old has quickly become one of the NHL's best defensemen and could find himself on the blue line for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics. He's in the top in the NHL in ice time at nearly 26 minutes a game and his 21 points in 34 games have him tied for 11th among defensemen.

    5-Year Projection: Pietrangelo will be a staple on the Blues' blue line for years to come. He will continue to be a stalwart on defense who can contribute 40 or 50 points per season.

    Runner-Up: Vladimir Tarasenko

Tampa Bay Lightning: Ben Bishop, G

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    Why He's the Pick: At 27, he's the oldest player on the list, but he's just now finding his place in the NHL. After being drafted by the Blues in 2005, Bishop dominated the AHL but couldn't crack the big club. He was traded to the Senators, where again he was behind a logjam of goaltenders. Another trade gave him another chance with the Lightning, and he's been superb. He's 18-5-2 in his first season as a No. 1 netminder with a 1.96 GAA and .934 save percentage.

    5-Year Projection: He should be a reliable starter in net for the Lightning for the next five years. He's excelled at every level, and he's finally doing it in the NHL after a long and winding road to Tampa.

    Runner-Up: Alex Killorn

Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri, C

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    Why He's the Pick: Kadri had a lengthy contract negotiation this summer after his breakout 2013 campaign in which he had 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games. He's not quite at that level this season, as he's posted 10 goals and 22 points in 33 games, but he's been quite the effective as a 23-year-old.

    5-Year Projection: Kadri should be a consistent 20- to 25-goal scorer for the Maple Leafs. He's probably not the player who scored nearly a point per game last season, but he could reach 70 points as he earns more ice time.

    Runner-Up: James van Riemsdyk

Vancouver Canucks: Zack Kassian, RW

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    Why He's the Pick: The Canucks are lacking in top-end young talent, so the 22-year-old Kassian is the best choice for the list in a shallow pool. He has six goals and seven points in 30 games this season, which is hardly impressive, but it has the 13th pick in the 2009 draft on pace for his best offensive season in the NHL.

    5-Year Projection: Kassian could turn out to be anything at this point of his career. But at 6'3" and 214 pounds, he could turn into a 20-goal scorer who uses his size and strength to score dirty goals around the net.

    Runner-Up: Chris Tanev

Washington Capitals: John Carlson, D

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    Why He's the Pick: The 23-year-old doesn't possess the offensive flash of Mike Green on defense, but Carlson is the Capitals' best overall defenseman. He plays on the power play, kills penalties and usually sees his fair share of top competition. With six goals in 34 games, Carlson is on pace to set a career high in that category.

    5-Year Projection: He figures to only get steadier and more reliable. If he continues to be an asset offensively, he'll find himself on Team USA's Olympic squad in Sochi and four years down the road. 

    Runner-Up: Marcus Johansson

Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane, LW

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    Why He's the Pick: Kane has just eight goals and 16 points in 28 games this season, which is down from his previous season. Still, the 22-year-old is by far the most talented player on the Jets. He scored 30 goals two seasons ago and had 17 goals in 48 games last season.

    5-Year Projection: There's no doubt he's just about a lock for 20 goals a season, but his ceiling is far higher. He should hover near the 30-goal mark on a regular basis over the next several years.

    Runner-Up: Jacob Trouba