The influx of young talent in the NHL is unlike anything the league has ever seen. Players are making an impact before they turn 20, and making an impact in a big way.
Speed and skill are rampant in junior leagues across the world, making the transition to the big leagues easier for the kids.
This trend is creating new superstars in the NHL every year. Let's take a look into the future at 10 guys who will reach superstardom in five years.
After being drafted first overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, many thought Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would have to spend another season in junior hockey before making his mark on the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers gave him a shot after a a solid preseason, however, and the youngster hasn't looked back.
Nugent-Hopkins has 22 points in his first 21 NHL games. Given his incredible offensive instincts and the talent around him in Edmonton, he will be a superstar before long.
Tyler Seguin struggled as a rookie for the Boston Bruins a year ago with inconsistent play on both ends of the ice. He was often scratched from the lineup and buried on the depth chart.
It's amazing what an offseason can do.
Now 19, Seguin has blossomed into the Bruins' most dangerous offensive weapon, and he is only going to get better from here.
Cory Schneider, who is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, is slowly becoming the best goalie on the Vancouver Canucks. The 25-year-old Massachusetts native has outperformed Roberto Luongo over the last six months.
The Canucks will have a decision to make regarding the future of their goaltending situation. Schneider is going to demand No. 1 goalie money, and with Luongo's ridiculous contract, the team can't afford to keep them both for much longer.
Wherever Schneider ends up, he will be an elite starting goaltender. He is fundamentally sound, mentally tough and very athletic. It's only a matter of time before he gets his chance to show it.
Jacob Markstrom is the most talented goaltending prospect in the world. The Swedish netminder got his chance to shine early this season when Scott Clemmensen was injured, and he made a huge statement.
Insanely athletic for his size, Markstrom was unbeatable in a handful of his starts. Despite being sent back down to the AHL upon Clemmensen's return, there is no question that this kid is going to be considered one of the best goalies in the world within five years.
Everything is in place for Taylor Hall to become an elite NHLer within the next five seasons. His talent level is off the charts. Particularly, Hall's shot is a rocket. Couple that with his tremendous skating ability and the playmakers he has around him, and there is a chance for Hall and the Oilers to grow into something special over the next few seasons.
If it isn't already the case now, the Carolina Hurricanes will no longer be Eric Staal's team in five years. Jeff Skinner is evolving as both a top-level offensive talent and a great leader on and of the ice.
At just 19 years old, Skinner has developed a mean streak and a nose for the net that normally takes players years to develop. It's scary to think where this kid will be in five years.
Defensemen always take a bit longer to break into the NHL. Both the speed and size of the opposition make it a difficult transition to make.
However, in just his third full season in the NHL, Victor Hedman is beginning to show his immense upside. The 6'6" blueliner is becoming the type of player Tampa Bay can build its entire defense around. He is physically imposing on the back end and a threat to create offense from the point.
A lot can happen in five seasons. Tim Thomas is likely to be slowing down or retired at that point, and Tuukka Rask will have either taken over the reins as the Bruins' starting goaltender or be starting in net for another NHL team.
Rask is the most talented backup goalie in the league, and he proved just how dominant he can be for stretches of the 2009-2010 season. As he continues to develop the mental side of his game, which he is currently doing under the tutelage of Tim Thomas—the most mentally strong goalie in the entire league—Rask will only continue to grow.
Like Schneider in Vancouver, and many other goalies before him, Rask is just waiting for his chance. It will come, and when it does, Rask will take the league by storm.
Luke Schenn has had his ups and downs to start his NHL career, which is to be expected for a defenseman playing on a struggling team. However, Schenn is showing signs of becoming the rearguard that Brian Burke drafted him to be.
If the talent level around him continues to increase, his skills will be further illuminated and Schenn could easily blossom into a superstar.
The Buffalo Sabres could never have a goaltending controversy, right? I mean, they have Ryan Miller, arguably the best goalie in the entire world. Who could possibly unseat him? Well, Jhonas Enroth is doing his best to do just that this season.
Even prior to Miller's concussion, Enroth was drastically outplaying the veteran backstop. I don't expect the Sabres to replace Miller, but Enroth will get a chance to play elsewhere in the not-too-distant future. Enroth's contract will expire following the 2012-2013 season, at which point Buffalo will have a big decision to make regarding the future of their franchise.
The likely scenario is for Enroth to find a new home and continue to develop into a stud goaltender.