The NHL, as a league, has a bright future. They have stars like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos, shining bright and making the game of hockey fun to watch but the future of the NHL is even brighter. Young stars are taking the hockey world by storm. There are stars that are 20 and under that are making noise and making their case on becoming the NHL’s next superstar. Here are my top 8 players in the NHL, who are 20 and under
- Nathan MacKinnon #29 Center Colorado Avalanche 19 years old
MacKinnon was the number one overall draft pick in the 2013 entry-level draft. The Halifax native, played his junior hockey with the Halifax Mooseheads and had 77 points in 44 games before getting drafted in 2013. All he did in his rookie campaign in the NHL was score 24 goals and have 39 assists on his way to winning the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. The Avs have so much faith in MacKinnon that they got rid of Paul Stastny and moved MacKinnon back to his natural position of center. The Avs are asking a lot from this 19 year old but it is nothing he can’t handle. This kid has extraordinary talent and could be the next face of the NHL.
2014 Stats: 7 GP 0 G 3 A
- Olli Maatta #3 Defensemen Pittsburgh Penguins 20 years old
The 2012, 22nd overall draft pick has taken the NHL by surprise. Maatta was supposed to develop a little more before becoming such an impact player but he has been magnificent for the Penguins, as they have been struggling to deal with injuries on their blueline. Maatta made the best of his opportunity in 2013 playing in 78 games, scoring 8 goals, and adding 20 assists, in his rookie year. The Finland native also participated in the Sochi Olympics and had 5 points for team Finland. The Penguins will look for Maatta to contribute more minutes in 2014, with departure of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.
2014 Stats: 4 GP 0 G 3 A
- Valeri Nichushkin #43 Right Winger Dallas Stars 19 years old
Picked 10th overall in the 2013 entry-level draft, Nichushkin wanted to get right into his NHL career and that’s just what he did. Playing in 79 games for the Dallas Stars last season. He put up 34 point, playing third line minutes, which is pretty impressive for an 18-year-old kid. Flagged by injury early this season he hasn’t got off to a fast start. When he comes back he could be playing on a line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Just being on the ice with those two stars will increase Nichushkin point total. Look for Nichushkin to have a breakout sophomore season when he returns from his injured groin.
2014 Stats: 2 GP 0 points
- Seth Jones #3 Defensemen Nashville Predators 20 years old
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well Seth Jones is a 6’4” defensemen from Arlington, TX, drafted 4th overall in the 2013 entry-level draft. After a 63 point season with the Portland Winterhawks in the 2012 season, many were surprised when Jones fell all the way to number four in the draft. His rookie year for Nashville consisted of 77 games played, 6 goals, and 17 assists. He has been learning a lot from veteran defensemen and fellow teammate Shea Weber. Jones looks to get more minutes and more powerplay time this year for Nashville. More minutes and a better team around him, look for Jones’ point production to increase, as will his reputation in the NHL as a solid defensemen.
2014 Stats: 0 G 2 A
- Sean Monahan #23 Center Calgary Flames 20 years old
As the Calgary Flames continue to struggle, they look to rebuild their team with the young talent they are getting from the draft. In 2013 the drafted they Monahan 6th overall, after he put up 78 points in his finally season in the OHL. The Flames made Monahan jump right into the line up last season as a 19 year old. He scored 22 goals for the Flames and if it wasn’t for such a remarkable year for MacKinnon, he probably would have took home the rookie of the year trophy. The Flames have Monahan playing with Mason Raymond and Johnny Gaudreau. We all know Raymond has talent, Monahan is a raising star, and we all saw what Gaudreau did at Boston College. The tandem of these three could make for a very exciting line in the NHL.
2014 Stats: 8 GP 0 G 2 A
- Andre Burakovsky #65 Center Washington Capitals 19 years old
Taken 23rd overall in the in the 2013 entry level draft, Burakovsky went back to the OHL to develop to a little more before returning to the NHL this year. With the Erie Otters he was a point machine, totaling 87 points in just 57 games. The lefty from Austria looks to be on his game in 2014. He has great speed and smooth hands, making him a sleeper pick for rookie of the year. With the Capitals’ improving their defensemen in the offseason and if Burakovsky can add to their potent offense, they could sneak back into the playoffs this year.
2014 Stats: 5 GP 2 G 3 A
7. Filip Forsberg #9 Center Nashville Predators 20 years old
Forsberg was drafted 11th overall in 2012 and in my mind the most talented young Swed in the NHL. Last year he spent the year developing in the AHL, when many thought he would be in the NHL. He had a good year with 15 goals and 19 assists but in the World Junior Cup was where he really found his game. He had 12 points in Sweden’s silver medal performance. He has had a solid start to his rookie campaign this year as he looks to establish himself as an everyday NHL player.
2014 Stats: 6 GP 1 G 4 A
- Tomas Hertl #48 Center San Jose Sharks 20 years old
Hertl had a remarkable rookie season with 25 points in 37 games but an injury kept him away from competing for the Calder Trophy. Hertl was the 17th overall pick in 2013. He will hopefully have a solid return from his injury and have another breakout year in 2014. Watch Hertl have a big year if he can stay healthy.
2014 Stats: 7 GP 2 G 0 A
Honorable Mention: Jacob Trouba (WGP), Damon Severson (NJD), Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Anthony Duclair (NYR).
Young talent is why NHL fans keep coming back for more. As the NHL advances, so do their player. These young men are coming into the league with more speed, stronger grit, and better hands, allow them to contribute right way in the NHL. Seeing these players evolve so fast, making an impact for their team, and showing that they care about the name on the front of their jersey, instead of the name on the back.
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