An NHL Trend: Keith Yandle and 7 Other Young Future Captains

Max von KleistContributor IIIJanuary 14, 2012

An NHL Trend: Keith Yandle and 7 Other Young Future Captains

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    There's a new trend in the NHL these days. Captains seem to be getting younger and younger.

    In 2007, Sidney Crosby was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the age of 19, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history.

    Two years later, it was Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, who at 20 became the third-youngest captain in NHL history.

    The next year, Alexander Ovechkin at 24 became the second-youngest captain in Washington Capitals history.

    The following list takes a look at several young players who are most likely to follow in these footsteps.

Notable Mention: Tyler Seguin, Age 19

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    Tyler Seguin, the No.2 pick of the 2010 entry draft, has quickly become a star in Boston. His high-tempo play, fierce competitiveness, and smooth, confident persona make him a likely candidate to wear the “C” for the Bruins.

    Standing in his way, however, is a long list of captain-worthy players such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, not to mention the current captain, Zdeno Chara, who won’t be going anywhere for the rest of his career. (He just signed a ix-year contract that locks him up until the end of the 2017-2018 season.)

    Still, don't be surprised to see Seguin wear the “C” for the “Big, Bad Bruins” one day. Even if it is not for six years, he will still be only 25 years old. 

Notable Mention: Evander Kane, Age 20

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    There is no debate about Evander Kane’s passion for hockey. He plays with fire and is a threat on the ice at all times.

    When it became official that the Atlanta Thrashers were on the move to Winnipeg to reinvent themselves as the Jets, Kane was neither nervous nor reluctant. Instead, he was thrilled and eager to get the new season underway. He is not afraid of anything (just ask Matt Cooke), and exudes the qualities of a leader.

    Current captain, Andrew Ladd, will likely hold the "C" for the foreseeable future, but Kane will soon be nipping at his heals. 

    He is the next Jarome Iginla, and just as Iginla wears the “C”, so too Kane. 

7. Erik Karlsson, Age 21

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    Erik Karlsson has developed into one of the top defensemen in the league. With 43 points through 44 games this season, he is leading all defensemen in points and will likely be a final candidate for the Norris Trophy.

    Karlsson has heart, skill and swagger, and would be a great, new-look leader for the Ottawa Senators.

    With current captain, Daniel Alfredsson, nearing the end of his career, look to see Karlsson as a candidate for captaincy. 

6. Tyler Myers, Age 21

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    The Buffalo Sabres have found something special in Tyler Myers. At 21 and standing at 6'8", weighing 222 pounds, it is fair to say that he may be the next Zdeno Chara of the NHL.

    Just as Chara gives the Boston Bruins a monstrous and to-be-feared persona by wearing the "C", Myers could do the same for the Sabres.

    He leads by example, and his skill development and leadership qualities on the ice are growing rapidly.

    Myers is the defenseman of the future for the Sabres. Expect him to be a front-runner candidate to become the 28th captain in Sabres history.

5. Jordan Eberle, Age 21

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    Jordan Eberle, a.k.a Captain Clutch, has this nickname for a reason—he scores big goals at important times.

    In the semifinals against Russia in the 2009 World Junior Championships, Eberle scored two goals—his second came with 5.4 seconds left in regulation and forced overtime. He then scored the shootout winner, allowing Team Canada to eventually win gold.

    In the gold-medal game of the 2010 World Junior Championships versus the United States, down 5-3 with three minutes to go in regulation, Eberle scored twice to force overtime once again.

    With 43 points in his rookie season with the Oilers, and 43 points through 41 games played this season, Eberle leads by example and is destined for captaincy.

    He is the batter-up to wear the “C” for the Oilers, and don't be surprised if he is stepping up to the plate soon. 

4. Jamie Benn, Age 22

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    Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Jamie Benn has literally become a “Star” for Dallas. He plays a mean, gritty, and skilled game—everything a coach, team and fans look for in a captain.

    Since his rookie year in Dallas, his offensive production has grown steadily, as too has his role on the team and qualities as a leader.

    Benn has the personality, playing style and passion needed to lead a team to a championship.

    With current captain, Brendan Morrow, locked up until the end of the 2012-2013 season, Benn is at least one year away from wearing the “C”. I do not expect him to be waiting much longer than that. 

3. Steven Stamkos, Age 21

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    Steven Stamkos, currently an alternative captain for the Tampa Bay Lightning, is one of the NHL's top superstars. 

    He is also one of the most important players to his team.

    With Martin St. Louis getting closer to retirement, and with trade rumors constantly surrounding current captain Vincent Lecavalier, the Tampa Bay Lightning will soon need a player who can lead the team both on and off the ice.

    Stamkos has proven he can be that guy.

    Even if Lecavalier does not get traded, Stamkos is the face of the franchise. And considering the Lightning’s disappointing season, Guy Boucher and the Lightning organization could choose to give him the “C” sooner rather than later in order to give the team a somewhat fresh start. 

2. John Tavares, Age 21

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    John Tavares is the face of the franchise for the New York Islanders. He is mature, highly skilled, and aside from currently wearing an “A”, has a lot of experience taking on responsibility and being a leader.

    In 2008, the Oshawa Generals named Tavares their team captain, and in 2009 he served as the alternate captain with the Canadian junior team that won gold.

    At the end of last season when Doug Weight’s captaincy came to an end, Tavares said that he would be honored to be captain and that he wants to lead the Islanders.

    Instead, the Islanders decided to go with Mark Streit. I don’t expect his captaincy to last long though, and can see Tavares wearing the “C” within the next year or two. 

1. Keith Yandle, Age 25

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    Keith Yandle, coming of a career year in which he put up 68 points, is not off to the same start this year. Regardless, he has risen to become one of the league’s elite defensemen and is the future of the Phoenix Coyotes blue line.

    With Shane Doan in the final year of his contract, the Coyotes captaincy will be up-in-the-air come the end of the season.

    Yandle is durable, offensively productive, and believes in the team and the city of Phoenix. I would not be surprised to see Keith dawn the “C” as early as next year.  

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