Ranking the Best NHL Players Under 25 Years Old
A number of NHL players under the age of 25 have risen to prominence with their respective teams in recent years. Such names include Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg.
Players such as McDavid and Forsberg have established themselves as superstars in a short period of time, while several rookies—such as Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine—are quickly becoming stars in their own right.
Here's a look at this season's best under-25 NHL players. Performance, skills and roster role have been factored into this compilation.
Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers
Injuries have hampered Barkov and Ekblad has struggled this season. Still, the 21-year-olds remain key players for the Panthers.
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl, 21, is second among Oilers' scorers (56 points) and could reach 70 points by the season's end. He and linemate Connor McDavid are a lethal offensive combination.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets
The 21-year-old Ehlers is enjoying a strong sophomore season. With 54 points, he sits fourth among Jets' scorers.
Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Faulk, 24, and the 22-year-old Slavin anchor the Hurricanes' young blue line.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
Galchenyuk's strong start to this season was derailed by a knee injury and then inconsistency following his return. Still, the 23-year-old's 39 points place him third among the Canadiens' leading scorers.
Dougie Hamilton, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Hamilton (44 points) and Monahan (46) overcame slow starts to rank among the Flames' top scorers. Joining them is 19-year-old winger Tkachuk (44 points), who's among this season's rookie scoring leaders.
Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators
In his first full season with the Predators, 24-year-old Johansen has become their top-line center and playmaker. With 52 points, he's jockeying for the team scoring lead with linemate Filip Forsberg.
Seth Jones, Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
With 51 points in 67 games, 24-year-old Kuznetsov's production is down compared to last season's career-best 77 points. Despite that drop-off in production, he sits third among the Capitals' top scorers.
Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
Contract negotiations delayed Lindholm's season debut, while Rakell was hampered by an early-season abdominal injury.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Despite a miserable season for the Avalanche, 21-year-old MacKinnon is their leading scorer with 44 points. He's on pace to exceed 50 points for the third time in four years.
Mitchell Marner and William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs' surprising improvement is due in part to these two rookies. Along with Auston Matthews, 19-year-old Marner and 20-year-old Nylander are among the Leafs' leading scorers and are rapidly becoming invaluable core players.
J.T. Miller, New York Rangers
It's been a breakthrough season for Miller, who turned 24 on Tuesday. With 50 points in 69 games, he's the Rangers' leading scorer and should reach 60 points by season's end.
Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
After backstopping the Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup title, 22-year-old Murray has taken over as their full-time starter this season. He's won 26 of 38 games with a 2.33 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
The 20-year-old Pastrnak has rebounded well from last season's injury-ravaged sophomore campaign. With 28 goals and 58 points, he sits second among the Bruins' leading scorers.
10. Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
Since making his full-time NHL debut in 2014-15, right wing Mark Stone has proved to be an invaluable player for the Ottawa Senators. The 24-year-old is their best two-way forward and consistently among their top scorers.
A Calder Trophy finalist in 2015, Stone tied Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau for the rookie scoring lead with 64 points. He also finished second among Senators' scorers in 2014-15 and 2015-16 (61 points). With 50 points in 63 games, he's second in scoring to Erik Karlsson and on pace for his third 60-plus point season.
Stone also plays a solid defensive game. He topped the league in takeaways in the last two seasons and leads with 88 this season. His skills at both ends of the ice are among the reasons the Sens are a playoff contender.
9. Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
Since making his NHL debut in 2013-14, Rasmus Ristolainen has steadily grown into a skilled and reliable top-pairing defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres. He's also blossoming into one of the league's top all-around blueliners.
Strong in his own zone, the 22-year-old leads the Sabres in hits (174), blocked shots (149) and sits second to Jake McCabe in takeaways (23). He's also their leader in time on ice per game, logging 26 minutes.
The Sabres' defense is the league's worst, giving up 34.1 shots-against per game. That cannot be pinned on Ristolainen. Few teams have a young defenseman as skilled at both ends as this talented Finn, and the Sabres must build up their blue line around him.
8. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Despite missing the opening 21 games of this season, the 20-year-old is still putting up impressive numbers.
With 47 points in 48 games, Eichel is the Sabres' point leader. He's tied for second with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart in game-winning goals, tied for second in goals (19) with Kyle Okposo, sits third in assists (28) and fourth in power-play points (20).
If not for his injury and given his rate of production, Eichel could be on pace for 85 points this season. Still, he could finish the season with 60 points, exceeding last year's rookie total.
The best is yet to come for this skilled Sabres center.
7. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Since his full-time NHL rookie season in 2014-15, Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg is among the league's most consistent young scorers. The 22-year-old is on track for his third consecutive 60-plus season.
With 27 goals and 51 points in 68 games, Forsberg is jockeying with linemate Ryan Johansen to be the Predators' offensive leader this season.
A clutch scorer, he leads the Predators with eight game-winning goals and is tied with Viktor Arvidsson for the lead in shorthanded goals (three). Forsberg is also among the league leaders in both categories.
Should Forsberg maintain his current pace, he'll finish as the Predators' leading scorer for the third straight year. It's that level of reliable production that makes him one of the league's best under-25 players.
6. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Despite his 5'9", 157-pound frame, Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau consistently proves that he's no lightweight on the scoresheet. Now in his third full NHL season, the 23-year-old is a consistent offensive performer.
A Calder Trophy finalist in 2015 for his 64-point rookie campaign, Gaudreau followed up last season with a career-best 30 goals and 78 points. He was the Flames' leading scorer, raising expectations of better things in 2016-17.
Gaudreau's production is down this season, in part because of a fractured finger sidelining him for 10 games. However, he's rallied back and is tied with Mikael Backlund for the team scoring lead with 48 points.
Gaudreau's on pace to finish the season with 60 points, and he's among the reasons why the Flames are in playoff contention.
5. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Since his full-time NHL debut in 2013-14, Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele has steadily improved into a first-line forward. This season, he's among the league's elite forwards and one of the Jets' top stars.
Turning 24 on Wednesday, Scheifele has already reached career highs in assists (40) and points (68). With 28 goals, he's only one behind his career best of 29.
He's the Jets' leading scorer by a wide margin, sitting nine points ahead of linemate Patrik Laine. Scheifele also plays a good defensive game, tied with Dustin Byfuglien for the team lead in takeaways (57).
Scheifele's offensive numbers rank among the league's top scorers. He's in the top 10 in points and the top 15 in assists. Given his ongoing improvement, the best is still to come for the Jets' first-line center.
4. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Right wing Nikita Kucherov is among the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Bolts are struggling, the 23-year-old is enjoying his best NHL campaign.
Kucherov already had two 65-plus points seasons on his resume entering 2016-17. Despite missing seven games to injuries, he's set career highs in goals (31) and points (67). He's also the Lightning's leader in goals, game-winning goals (five) and points.
Thanks to Kucherov's strong improvement this season, he's also among the NHL's top 10 in goals and points. The talented Russian winger has fully blossomed into a reliable scorer and an invaluable core player for the Lightning.
3. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Only 18 years old, Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine is enjoying a memorable NHL debut. He could become the biggest rookie goal-scoring sensation since Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin in 2006.
With 32 goals and 59 points in 61 games, Laine leads all league rookies in both categories. He's also the Jets' top goal scorer and their leader in game-winning goals (five). He sits behind only Mark Scheifele for the club's points lead.
More impressively, Laine is only two goals behind Pittsburgh Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby for the league goal-scoring lead. He could become the first player in NHL history to win both the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie and the Maurice Richard Trophy as its leading goal scorer.
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
As the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews entered this season facing considerable pressure and expectations.
Fortunately, the 19-year-old rookie is proving to be up to the challenge. His play is among the reasons the rebuilding Leafs are contending for a wild-card berth.
With 31 goals and 55 points in 67 games, Matthews leads the Leafs in both categories. He's also tied for the team lead with Nazem Kadri in game-winning goals (six). Matthews is challenging Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine for the rookie lead in goals and points. He also sits only three goals behind Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for the league goal-scoring lead.
Matthews' performance and its positive effect upon the Leafs this season could make him the favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. Like Laine, he also has a shot at winning the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal scorer.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
In just his second NHL season, McDavid is establishing himself among the elite stars. The 20-year-old is already challenging Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the league's top player and is unquestionably the best under-25 player.
A finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie in 2015-16, McDavid could be in line for bigger silverware this season.
He's the league leader in assists (52) and points (75). If he can maintain this pace over the remainder of the season, he'll become the first Oiler since Wayne Gretzky in 1987 to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer.
McDavid's performance this season is the main reason the Oilers could clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2006. That could also make him the first Oiler since Mark Messier in 1990 to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player.
All stats (as of March 12, 2017) via NHL.com.