Monday, April 4, 2011

Who is the NHL's Best Player Below 21?

They aren't old enough to drink (in the United States) and their playoff beards are typically pitiful, but the NHL has a healthy crop of players below the age of 21. Below is a list of under-21s from each team to consider:

Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler, 19
  • Strong rookie season for Anaheim (GP 73-G 9-A 29-P 38)
  • Has a gold medal from 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships (United States)

Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane, 19
  • Already has 135 games experience and 68 points under his belt.
  • Has a gold medal from the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships (Canada)
Boston Bruins: Tyler Seguin, 19
  • Struggled this season (GP 71-G 11-A 11-P 22)
  • Has been compared to Steven Stamkos in terms of development
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner, 18
  • Calder-like season (GP 79-G 29-A 29-P 58)
  • One of the youngest All-Stars in professional sports in North America
Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene, 20
  • One of Colorado's best players already with 117 points in 157 games
  • Been compared to Yzerman, Sakic; a real franchise player
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall, 19
  • Was the leading Calder candidate until injury (GP 65-G 22-A 20-P 45)
  • Plenty of junior hardware proves pedigree, will be face of Oilers franchise like Gretzky was
New York Islanders: John Tavares, 20
  • Back to back 24 goals or more seasons, plenty of points with 118 points in 158 games played.
  • Has the junior stats and hardware, appears to be the next Trottier/Yzerman of the NHL.
New York Rangers: Derek Stepan, 20
  • Great rookie campaign (GP 79-G 20-A 22-P 42) as well as good college career
  • One of only four players to score a hat trick in the first game of their NHL careers
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson, 20
  • Already has several years of professional hockey under his belt
  • Off to a good start in the NHL with 71 points in 135 games on a rebuilding Ottawa team
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri, 20
  • Limited experience with Leafs thus far, but dynamic on the ice
  • One of very few blue chip prospects in the Leafs system
So whom among these ten prospects has the brightest future? At this point in their careers, John Tavares has proven to be a natural leader on the ice with the Islanders and it won't be long until he dons the "C" for captain. A few other players on this list might wind up wearing a letter in the coming years, but few will have the Yzerman-like impact on their team as Tavares. There's something to be said about Jeff Skinner's dynamic play as well as his status as the youngest player on the list. In interviews he has come across as a very mature person for his age and should fit in well on a young Carolina team that should get into the playoffs next season.

So who do you think is the best player on this list?

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