Ranking the Best Players Under 25 So Far in the 2014-15 NHL Season
The NHL is a young man's league these days, with plenty of guys who have still yet to hit their prime years dominating statistically. Ranking the best players under the age of 25 is no easy task. There are plenty of potential candidates for the top 10 or so, but these chosen ones stand out for a variety of reasons.
Points, of course, are a consideration. Many of these guys are going at a point-per-game clip on the forward ranks. The defensemen have their share of offensive ability but are also driving possession or facing top lines from the opposition every night and playing important minutes.
Some may not be around the next time you take a look because consistency is key, and many don't discover that element of their games until later in their careers. But the list is full of guys who have that potential staying power.
Missing the cut because they've already turned 25 are a half-dozen superstars such as P.K Subban, Frederik Andersen, Jamie Benn, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jakub Voracek and Max Pacioretty.
Click ahead to see where the youngsters land.
Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings: The 22-year-old is at nearly a point-per-game pace and part of the best line in L.A. to start the season with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson. His plus-14 is tied for third best in the loop.
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks: At 23, he is third among defensemen in scoring and has been huge factor in the Ducks' power-play success this season.
Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild: The goaltender is in the top third in wins and has a respectable 2.08 goals-against average and .914 save percentage as the de facto starter thanks to injury, age and illness associated with the Wild's other two options.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: He's averaging a point per game on one of the league's top lines with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera. He's physical and determined and could be future captain material.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson: He has overtaken Keith Yandle as the Arizona Coyotes' top option on the blue line.
11. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Age: 24 (May 31, 1990)
Numbers at a glance: 17 games, four goals, eight assists, 12 points, 72 shots, one game-winner
What makes him stand out: Those 72 shots are impressive. That's the third-highest total in the league at the moment and tops among all defensemen by a wide margin. His average minutes are also up there at third in the NHL. His giveaways knock him back behind the likes of Drew Doughty and T.J. Brodie so far this year, but his low shooting percentage is bound to climb, which will shoot him up the list when that happens.
10. John Tavares, New York Islanders
Age: 24 (Sept. 20, 1990)
Numbers at a glance: 18 games, seven goals, 11 assists, 18 games, 55 shots, one game-winner
What makes him stand out: Maturity and confidence. There's a reason the 24-year-old is the Islanders captain. The first overall pick from the 2009 draft is coming off a serious knee injury, but you'd hardly know it from his strong numbers this season—another thing he has in common with Steven Stamkos.
9. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Age: 24 (Dec. 8, 1989)
Numbers at a glance: 19 games, one goal, nine assists, 10 points, 51 shots
What makes him stand out: Only Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild has averaged more minutes per game than the Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty. His point totals are well short of his per-game average in the playoffs last spring, but he's still on pace for more than 40, which combined with his plus/minus and the important minutes he plays will earn him plenty of Norris Trophy votes.
Four of his points have come in the past four games, which bodes well for an uptick in production.
8. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
Age: 23 (Oct. 15, 1991)
Numbers at a glance: 18 games, nine goals, nine assists, 18 points, 49 shots, plus-five, one game-winner, five power-play goals
What makes him stand out: If Nelson was playing on John Tavares's wing, his offensive production would still be impressive. The fact it's coming while playing mostly with Ryan Strome on the second line makes it even more so and is giving the New York Islanders a balanced attack up front that is resulting in more wins.
The second-year player spent some time in the press box last year but showed some real potential in spurts. He looks like he's found his consistency.
7. Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Age: 22 (July 31, 1992)
Numbers at a glance: 18 games, six goals, 14 assists, 20 points, minus-five, 49 shots
What makes him stand out: He held out on the Blue Jackets for a better deal as a restricted free agent this summer and fall, and some worried that once he got paid, his passion might disappear.
But Johansen is a determined young player with a knack for hitting the scoresheet, and that emotion hasn't gone away. At times it can be a detriment that turns into a poor penalty—an example being the roughing call against him that led to his benching in the third period of a recent game against the Detroit Red Wings.
6. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Age: 24 (July 29, 1990)
Numbers at a glance: 20 games, six goals, 15 assists, 21 points, plus-10, 55 shots
What makes him stand out: There's no concern about a sophomore slump for the Calder Trophy finalist who is playing at a point-per-game pace and among the league's top 10 scorers despite not playing alongside Steven Stamkos. He's also no one-trick pony, suiting up for significant minutes as a penalty-killer as well as on the power play. That sets him apart from a number of those on this list who may be more dynamic offensively but not as well rounded.
5. T.J. Brodie, Calgary Flames
Age: 24 (June 7, 1990)
Numbers at a glance: 20 games, four goals, 12 assists, 16 points, plus-11, 33 shots, 25:05 minutes per game
What makes him stand out: Like his top-pair partner on the Calgary Flames blue line, Brodie doesn't get a lot of attention. Captain Mark Giordano spent years in relative anonymity doing a stellar job as a two-way, puck-moving defenseman. But with a spot in the top three in scoring among defensemen and a task of shutting down the opposition's best players nightly, the spotlight won't avoid the former fourth-round draft pick for long.
He's a smooth skater with great puck-handling skills who can quarterback a power play or compensate for a turnover using his speed to force people to move the puck.
4. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Age: 24 (February 7, 1990)
Numbers at a glance: 20 games, 12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points, 69 shots, one game-winner
What makes him stand out: Stamkos has an innate ability to make something happen quickly when he has the puck on his stick. For example, he made New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist look like a rookie with his shifty moves after storming in from the blue line on a turnover this week. He's one of a few captains on this list who lead by example.
3. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Age: 20 (Aug. 13, 1994)
Numbers at a glance: 18 games, nine goals, 13 assists, 22 points, plus-20, 51 shots, two game-winners
What makes him stand out: His hunger to be a difference-maker. He's only 20 and is doing incredible things with the puck despite being a rookie who is playing his first full season in the league. Everything from his improved strength and skating to his maturity and confidence is being complimented by teammates. Mike Ribeiro recenlty told The Canadian Press' Stephen Whyno (via The Globe and Mail) the youngster is a hard worker:
"He’s showing up every game and (putting in) good effort and can play both sides of the puck. He’s a deceiving shooter, too. He’s mature for his age. He’s a guy who gets prepared for games and wants to make a difference."
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Age: 22 (Dec. 13, 1991)
Numbers at a glance: 18 games, 10 goals, 11 assists, 21 points, 70 shots, two game-winners, plus-15
What makes him stand out: Not only is he one of the most dynamic scoring wingers in the league—twice earning NHL three-star honors this season and sitting seventh in the early points race—he's the driving force of one of the league's best two-way lines. His plus-15 rating is second only to rookie dynamo Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators, but his 54.5 Corsi-for percentage, per Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, is tops among those on this list.
1. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Age: 22 (Jan. 31, 1992)
Numbers at a glance: 19 games, 14 goals, 10 assists, 24 points, 71 shots, two game-winners
What makes him stand out: Seguin is a sniper, leading the NHL in goals through Wednesday night's games, but he's also a skilled passer from the center position. The fact he's overcome a great deal of adversity after a fall from favor in Boston led to his trade to the Stars seems to have helped the second overall pick in the 2010 draft mature a great deal in a short amount of time.
He's got the most goals and points of any player under 25 in the league so far and is third behind Sidney Crosby and Jakub Voracek in the overall standings.