Young Players Having the Biggest Impact on the 2014-15 NHL Season

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2014

Young Players Having the Biggest Impact on the 2014-15 NHL Season

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The NHL season is far enough along to see a few trends, and one of the major items comes from the league's youth. Many NHL players under 25 are flourishing, and several are just beginning to blossom.

    Some are in new cities with new circumstances and have benefited from coaching changes. Others have been in the NHL for a time and are taking a step forward in 2014-15.

    Here are 10 young players impacting the league in a big way this season.

10. Filip Forsberg, RW, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Nashville Predators acquired Filip Forsberg from the Washington Capitals in a trade for Martin Erat in the spring of 2013.

    What's He Doing This Season? Forsberg leads NHL rookies in points and is part of a fast start in Nashville. He has 15 even-strength points, suggesting his scoring prowess isn't aided by getting a power-play push. He is a strong candidate for rookie of the year honors.

    The Future: Forsberg is playing on a strong possession line with James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. If he can contribute to a line that outscores the competition as a rookie, it bodes well for him in the future.

9. Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Tyler Johnson as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He was passed over despite an impressive junior career and has been making NHL general managers pay since then. 

    What's He Doing This Season? Johnson is among the NHL's top 15 scorers so far this season and delivering offense in a big way.

    The Future: Johnson should have a long and productive career now that he's established at this level. The fact he was undrafted proves the bias against small players remains among NHL scouts and managers.

8. Sami Vatanen, D, Anaheim Ducks

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Anaheim Ducks selected Sami Vatanen in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. 

    What's He Doing This Season? The young defender played 48 games a year ago and impressed with his puck-moving ability. This year he's having an impact, especially on the power play where he's among the NHL's best defenders.

    The Future: Vatanen is a massive asset for the Ducks this season. He's impacting the power play, is one of the top six on defense and costs a little over $1 million this year. He will be delivering extreme value for the money for some time to come.

7. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Los Angeles Kings selected Tyler Toffoli in the second round of the 2010 entry draft.

    What's He Doing This Season? Toffoli is showing very well with the Los Angeles Kings, providing offense and responsible play. He's scoring in all disciplines, including leading the league in shorthanded goals.

    The Future: Toffoli is that rare player who has forced his way onto a loaded team and made it better. He ranks as one of the outstanding second-round selections of recent years.

6. John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    How Did They Get Him? The Washington Capitals selected John Carlson in the first round of the 2008 entry draft. 

    What's He Doing This Season? Carlson is a central figure in new coach Barry Trotz's defensive alignment. He leads all Capitals in time on ice and is delivering quality play in all areas.

    The Future: Washington has been a mystery on defense for a long time, but Trotz is deploying Carlson in a productive way. He is currently playing beside Brooks Orpik this season.

5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Edmonton Oilers selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins No. 1 overall in the 2011 entry draft. 

    What's He Doing This Season? Nugent-Hopkins is scoring well and emerging as a complete player. Travis Yost of TSN points out his improvement in possession stats and the good indicators this year.

    The Future: Nugent-Hopkins is part of an impressive young cluster in Edmonton and the club's best center. He's taking a step forward this year and should be part of the group that breaks a long playoff drought for the Oilers.

4. T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary Flames

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Calgary Flames selected T.J. Brodie in the fourth round of the 2008 entry draft. 

    What's He Doing This Season? Brodie has blossomed as half of a stunning pairing with Mark Giordano in Calgary. The pairing has been a major reason for the Flames' success this season.

    The Future: Brodie and Giordano are young enough to have a long run as an effective pairing. They give Calgary some cover as the team rebuilds with youth, and both should be around when the good times return.

3. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The St. Louis Blues selected Vladimir Tarasenko in the first round of the 2010 entry draft. 

    What's He Doing This Season? After scoring 52 points in the first 102 games of his NHL career, Tarasenko has blossomed into a point-per-game player so far this season. It comes at a time when St. Louis is looking for more goals from its roster.

    The Future: Tarasenko is part of a strong trio with Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz, and the emergence of this line gives the Blues a formidable offense. If all three players can continue to produce, this could be the season St. Louis enjoys a Stanley Cup parade.

2. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Dallas Stars acquired Tyler Seguin in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2013. 

    What's He Doing This Season? Seguin is near the top of the scoring race and having a major impact in Dallas. He has played much of the season with Jamie Benn, and the combination is overpowering the NHL.

    The Future: Seguin was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2010 draft, and comparisons with Taylor Hall continue to this day. At his current pace, Seguin may end up winning that competition in the long run.

1. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    How Did They Get Him? The Tampa Bay Lightning chose Steven Stamkos No. 1 overall in the 2008 entry draft.

    What's He Doing This Season? Stamkos is scoring well and is once again among the leading goal scorers in the NHL. His consistency is among the best in the league, and he's still a young player.

    The Future: Stamkos is the most famous name on this list, and in many ways, it's hard to believe he is only 24. He is approaching 250 NHL goals and is on pace to become one of the great all-time goal scorers.

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