Top 20 Best Young NHL Stars
A professional ice hockey league in North America, the National Hockey League (NHL; French: Ligue nationale de hockey—LNH) has 32 teams: 25 in the United States and 7 in Canada. One of the top professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the NHL is regarded as the best ice hockey league in the world. The league playoff winner is given the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, at the conclusion of each season.
The National Hockey Association (NHA), which had been established in 1909 in Renfrew, Ontario, was dissolved, and the National Hockey League was established on November 26, 1917, at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. Before a series of league mergers and foldings left the NHL as the only league left competing for the Stanley Cup in 1926, the NHL immediately took the NHA's place as one of the leagues that contested for the Stanley Cup in an annual interleague competition.
The NHL's first four teams were all from Canada, hence the "National" in the league's name. When the Boston Bruins joined the league in 1924, it was expanded to include American and Canadian teams ever since. The league's only six teams from 1942 to 1967 were collectively (if not simultaneously) referred to as the "Original Six." Six new teams were added to the NHL in 1967, doubling its size. By 1974, there were 18 teams in the league, and by 1979, there were 21 teams. 30 teams were added to the NHL between 1991 and 2000. It added its 32nd and 31st teams, respectively, in 2017 and 2021.
20. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets - December 9, 1996 (age 24)
Kyle David Connor, an American professional ice hockey player for the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League, was born on December 9, 1996. (NHL). The Winnipeg Jets selected Connor with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Connor competed in the 2009 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament while playing minor ice hockey for Detroit Belle Tire.
At the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, Connor played for the United States and won a gold medal while recording two goals and three assists in four games. Connor scored the game-winning goal against Russia in the championship match. At the 2014 World Junior A Challenge, Connor again played for the Americans and won a gold medal. He registered one goal and one assist in four games.
Connor competed for the United States at the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championships, where he won a gold medal and registered four goals and three assists in seven games.
Connor competed for the United States alongside linemates Tyler Motte and J. T. Compher at the 2016 IIHF World Championship. In five games, he recorded two assists.
19. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators - September 16, 1999 (age 22)
|Photo: Bleacher Report|
Braeden "Brady" Tkachuk, an American professional ice hockey left winger for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League, was born on September 16, 1999. (NHL). In the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Senators selected Tkachuk with the fourth overall pick. Tkachuk played for the Boston University Terriers for one season before turning pro, making the All-Hockey East Rookie Team.
Tkachuk has represented Team USA internationally at the IIHF World U18 Championships in 2017 and the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in 2018.
At the 2017 IIHF World U18 Championships, Tkachuk served as captain of the U.S. under-18 national team, which won the gold medal.
Tkachuk won bronze while competing for the United States on the under-20 national team at the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Buffalo, New York.
18. Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes - 26 March 2000 (age 21)
Russian professional ice hockey winger Andrei Igorevich Svechnikov, born on March 26, 2000, plays for the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was taken by the Hurricanes with the second overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Svechnikov started his junior hockey career in North America with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). Because of the Lumberjacks' close proximity to his brother's American Hockey League (AHL) team in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he agreed to a contract with them in May 2016. He was the team's top scorer and finished sixth in the league overall in 2016–17. Svechnikov was named USHL Rookie of the Year and selected to the All-USHL Team.
Svechnikov scored the first "Michigan" goal in the NHL on October 29, 2019, against David Rittich, as part of a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. He beat the Winnipeg Jets on December 17 with a similar goal. He scored 24 goals and had 37 assists for 61 points, which was a significant improvement over his previous season's totals. In the 2020 Qualifying Round, the Hurricanes and the Rangers played each other. Svechnikov scored a hat-trick in Game 2 of the series, leading his team to a 4-1 victory. The achievement was a first for the Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers postseason franchise.
Svechnikov and the Hurricanes reached an agreement on an eight-year, $62 million contract on August 26, 2021.
17. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks - February 25, 1997 (age 24)
|Photo: Nucks Misconduct|
Brock American professional ice hockey player Michael Boeser was born on February 25, 1997. He plays for the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks (NHL). He represented the University of North Dakota in college hockey.
Boeser, a highly regarded prospect with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League (USHL), was selected by the Vancouver Canucks with the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He then played the next two seasons for the University of North Dakota. With Vancouver, he made his NHL debut in 2017. Boeser has competed internationally for the American national junior team, where he helped the group win a bronze medal at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
Boeser has competed for the American national junior team twice, first at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and then at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge with the U.S. Junior Select Team.
At the 2016 World Junior Championships, his first competition endorsed by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), he contributed three points in seven games to the United States' bronze-medal victory. Due to a wrist injury, he did not compete in the 2017 World Junior Championships.
16. Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks - December 18, 1997 (age 23)
Alexander DeBrincat, a professional ice hockey right winger for the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League, was born on December 18, 1997. (NHL). Nicknamed "the Cat", he was selected by the Blackhawks with the 39th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
At the 2016 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland, DeBrincat was selected to play for Team USA. He suffered an injury against Sweden, but he was able to bounce back in time to score an important goal against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. He contributed to Team USA winning bronze with 1 goal in 5 games at the tournament's conclusion.
DeBrincat was added to the Team USA roster for the 2018 IIHF World Championship following the conclusion of his rookie season with the Blackhawks. He helped the United States win the bronze medal in Denmark by scoring 9 points in 10 games.
The following year, DeBrincat returned to the World Championship after being selected for Team USA to play in the 2019 IIHF World Championship, which was held in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.
15. Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning - 25 June 1998 (age 23)
Russian professional ice hockey defenseman Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sergachev (born June 25, 1998) is currently playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Montreal Canadiens picked him ninth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In 2020 and 2021, Sergachev won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Lightning.
Sergachev made an impressive debut on the Canadiens' opening night roster after attending his first training camp. On October 13, 2016, Montreal defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 to mark his NHL debut. Before being sent back to his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires, to continue his development on October 31, 2016, he played in four games with the Canadiens.
Sergachev received a $2,403.67 fine from the NHL Department of Player Safety on January 13, 2018, for cross-checking Johan Larsson in the previous night's game at KeyBank Center against the Buffalo Sabres. Sergachev contributed a goal and two assists to the Lightning's 7-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in game three of their second-round series on August 26, 2020. Sergachev is one of only three Lightning defensemen to have three points in a single playoff game, along with Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman.
Sergachev agreed to a three-year, $14.4 million deal with the Lightning on November 25, 2020.
14. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks - October 14, 1999 (age 21)
Quintin "Quinn" Hughes (born October 14, 1999) is an American professional ice hockey defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL). Hughes was drafted 7th overall by the Canucks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to the draft, he was considered a top prospect player.
Hughes has represented the United States internationally. He stated that choosing to play for the United States was an easy choice because it was important for him to represent his country.
Described as a smooth-skating and mobile player, Hughes says he models his game after NHL defencemen Duncan Keith and Kris Letang. After being drafted by the Canucks, general manager Jim Benning cited his dynamic skating and ability to quickly transition the puck as reasons for drafting him, seeing it as ideal for the team. Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet described Hughes as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL.
13. Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens - August 10, 1999 (age 22)
|Photo: Sports Illustrated|
Nicholas Suzuki, a Canadian professional ice hockey center for the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League, was born on August 10, 1999. (NHL). The Vegas Golden Knights selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Suzuki had become one of the Canadiens' most valuable players by the 2020–21 season after scoring 41 points in each of his first two regular seasons, the latter in just 56 games. He performed even better in the postseason, scoring 7 goals and dishing out 9 assists as the Canadiens advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. He was paired on a line with rookie Cole Caufield for the final games of the regular season and the playoffs, and the two received high praise for their offensive performance and linemate chemistry. After Phillip Danault left for the Los Angeles Kings in the off-season, Suzuki was referred to as "the clear-cut top pivot of the team" moving forward.
12. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames - December 11, 1997 (age 23)
Matthew Tkachuk (born December 11, 1997) is an American professional ice hockey winger and alternate captain for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL). Tkachuk was selected sixth overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Flames.
Tkachuk helped the United States win gold at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge held in Nova Scotia. He also competed at the 2015 IIHF World U18 Championships, where in seven games he registered ten assists (tops in the tournament), leading the U.S. under-18 team to a gold medal win.
At the 2016 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, held in Helsinki, Tkachuk and Auston Matthews each scored 11 points to lead the American team in scoring. After losing in the semi-finals, the U.S. defeated Sweden to claim the bronze medal.
11. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars - 18 July 1999 (age 22)
Miro Heiskanen (born 18 July 1999) is a Finnish professional ice hockey defenceman for the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL). Ranked in the top ten eligible European skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, Heiskanen was picked third overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Stars.
On 30 August 2020, in Game 4 of the Stars' second round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, Heiskanen would set the Stars' playoff record for points by a defenceman with 16. In reaching the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals, Heiskanen ended the playoff campaign with 26 points in 27 games, the fourth most by any defenceman during a playoff year in league history, behind only Paul Coffey in 1985, Brian Leetch in 1994 and Al MacInnis in 1989. The Stars would ultimately lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
On 17 July 2021, Heiskanen signed an eight-year, $67.6 million contract with the Stars.
10. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders - May 26, 1997 (age 24)
|Photo: Eyes On Isles|
Mathew Barzal (born May 26, 1997) is a Canadian professional ice hockey centre for the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League (NHL). Barzal was selected by the Islanders in the first round, 16th overall, of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2017–18, the fifth Islander to win the award.
Barzal helped Canada capture the bronze medal at the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championships and won gold at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Barzal was again named to the Canada roster the following year to compete at the 2015 IIHF World U18 Championship, where he again won bronze.
Barzal was selected as an alternate captain for Canada at the 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. He helped guide Canada to a silver medal and was one of the top ten scorers in the tournament.
On April 12, 2018, Barzal was named to Canada's senior team to compete at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.
9. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins - December 21, 1997 (age 23)
Charles Patrick McAvoy Jr. (born December 21, 1997) is an American professional ice hockey defenseman for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was selected 14th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins.
McAvoy has won a gold medal at every junior level. He won at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge (January), 2015 IIHF World U18 Championships and 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. McAvoy led all defenseman in scoring at the 2018 IIHF World Championship, with 9 points despite only playing 6 games because the Boston Bruins were still in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. He won the bronze medal at the tournament.
8. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs - May 5, 1997 (age 24)
|Photo: Editor In Leaf|
Right winger Mitchell Marner, a Canadian professional ice hockey player (born May 5, 1997), serves as an alternate captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL). Marner was raised in Thornhill after being born in Markham, Ontario. In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs selected him with the fourth overall pick.
At the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Marner represented Canada for the first time and took home a gold medal. He shared first place among Canadian scorers at the competition with Mathew Barzal.
Marner and Dylan Strome led Canada in scoring with four goals and two assists each in five games at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships in Helsinki. Canada advanced to the quarterfinals but was defeated by Finland, the host nation. Marner scored twice in the contest, both times tying the score for Canada, but it was insufficient to beat the eventual gold medal winners.
At the 2017 IIHF World Championship, where team Canada took home silver, Marner made his senior team debut for Canada. Marner finished second to Nathan MacKinnon in team scoring with 12 points in 10 games, placing him among the top ten scorers.
7. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes - 26 July 1997 (age 24)
Sebastian Antero Aho, a Finnish professional ice hockey player who currently competes for the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League, was born on July 26, 1997. (NHL). In the past, Aho and Oulun Kärpät competed in the Finnish Liiga. During the 2013–14 season, Aho made his professional debut with Oulun Kärpät. He was selected by the Hurricanes in the 2016–17 season, 35th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
In the 2013–14 season, Aho made his Liiga debut while playing for Oulun Kärpät.
Aho became the first player to sign an offer sheet since Ryan O'Reilly in 2013 on July 1, 2019, when he agreed to terms with the Montreal Canadiens. The bonus structure in the contract was sizable and included $21.7 million in the first 12 months. Aho was re-signed by the Hurricanes to a five-year, $42.27 million deal on July 7, 2019, after they formally matched the offer sheet.
6. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche - born 29 October 1996 (age 24)
Mikko Rantanen, a forward for the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League, was born on October 29, 1996, in Finland (NHL). The Avalanche made him their 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
In the Finnish national junior under-16 program, Rantanen was first introduced and nurtured as a youngster. As a result of his seven points in five games during the 2013 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, he was first chosen for an international competition. Prior to taking part in his first full IIHF competition at the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championships, he led the under-18 team with seven points in four games at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
Rantanen continued to advance within the Finnish junior team, which led to his selection for the Toronto 2015 World Junior Championships. Rantanen contributed with four goals in five games to earn a top-three spot on the team despite a disappointing seventh-place finish.
Rantanen was given a loan by the Colorado Avalanche to captain the Finnish junior team as they hosted the 2016 World Junior Championships during his first North American professional season and while he was still eligible for his final junior competition. Rantanen played a supporting role throughout the round-robin stage, providing a calming veteran presence, before stepping up his performance in the semifinal against Sweden and scoring in the final against Russia to help Finland win the gold medal and end his junior career.
5. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche - October 30, 1998 (age 22)
|Photo: Mile High Hockey|
Cale Douglas Makar, a professional ice hockey defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League, was born on October 30, 1998. (NHL). The Avalanche took him fourth overall in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Makar became the sixth Avalanche/Nordiques player to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 2019–20.
In 2015 and 2016, Hockey Canada first chose Makar to represent Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. In both seasons, he was chosen for the Tournament All-Star Team, and in 2015, he assisted Canada West in winning the gold medal. Makar, who was unable to retain the gold medal, followed in 2016 by setting a tournament record for defenseman points in a single game. At the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, Makar participated for Team Canada. During the exhibition, he scored one goal and provided one assist. On August 4, 2017, against Sweden, he scored one goal at a crucial moment to tie the score 4-4. The goal gave the Canadians new life, and they scored three more goals to earn a 7-4 victory.
Makar was chosen for the under-20 Canadian team that won gold at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York. With three goals and eight points in seven games, Makar finished the tournament with the most points among all defensemen, and he was the only Canadian selected to the All-Tournament Team.
Makar reportedly declined an invitation to represent Canada's senior team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the World Juniors so that he could concentrate on his season at UMass and avoid missing three weeks of action for the competition.
4. Adam Fox, New York Rangers - February 17, 1998 (age 23)
|Photo: Blueshirt Banter|
Adam Fox, an American professional ice hockey defenseman for the National Hockey League's New York Rangers, was born on February 17, 1998. (NHL).
He participated in the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons and set records for the most assists in a season (in 2015–16) and career (in overall assists) (in 2014–16).
He received the award for Best Defenseman at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championships. Fox was chosen 66th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, but he decided to enroll in college instead. During his time playing ice hockey for Harvard University, he led all NCAA defensemen in both assists and points during his freshman season and points per game and assists during his junior season.
The NHL rights to Fox were transferred from Calgary to the Carolina Hurricanes in June 2018, and then in April 2019 to the New York Rangers. He graduated from college a year early and played for the Rangers in his NHL debut in 2019. He finished third in assists and points during his rookie season, tied for second place in goals among all rookie defensemen in the NHL.
Fox and Bobby Orr are the only players in NHL history to have won the James Norris Memorial Trophy prior to their third NHL season. Fox received the award in 2021 as the league's top defenseman.
3. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks - 12 November 1998 (age 22)
Elias Fredrik Pettersson, a Swedish professional ice hockey player for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League, was born on November 12, 1998. (NHL). The Canucks picked Pettersson with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He was born in Sundsvall, Sweden, and was given the nickname "Petey" by Canucks supporters. He grew up in nge, Sweden. Pettersson was a member of the Canucks' opening night roster for the 2018–19 season after having one of the best U20 seasons in SHL history in 2017–18 and winning the Le Mat Trophy with the Växjö Lakers. In 2019, he became the second Canuck to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's best rookie, joining Pavel Bure in 1992.
During the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, Pettersson represented Sweden and took home a silver medal. Pettersson would go on to win a gold medal with Team Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Championship despite playing only 5 games due to a broken thumb.
Pettersson was added to the roster for Sweden's second consecutive tournament at the 2019 World Championships, which were held in Bratislava, Slovakia, on May 9.
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs – September 17, 1997 (age 24)
A professional ice hockey center for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, Auston Taylour Matthews was born in America on September 17, 1997. (NHL). When Matthews was a baby, his family moved from San Ramon, California, to Scottsdale, Arizona. After playing baseball and hockey throughout his childhood, he became especially interested in the sport after seeing the Arizona Coyotes, a local team, play. Prior to being selected in the NHL draft in 2016, Matthews played for the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League. That same year, he won the Swiss Cup. Matthews is a product of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League (USHL). The Toronto Maple Leafs chose Matthews first overall in the draft, who was widely regarded as the best prospect.
Matthews became the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut in the modern era. As the fourth teenager in league history to achieve the feat, he set the Maple Leafs rookie record with 40 goals in 2016–17, becoming just the second rookie (along with Alexander Ovechkin) to do so since the 2004–05 lockout. As the top rookie in the NHL for the season, his performance earned him the Calder Memorial Trophy. With 41 goals in 52 games, Matthews took home the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2020–21 as the league's top scorer.
Matthews has competed for the United States internationally in a number of competitions, winning gold at the U17 World Hockey Championship, two U18 World Junior Championships, and two IIHF World U20 Championships.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers - January 13, 1997 (age 24)
|Photo: Global News|
The Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League are captained by Canadian professional ice hockey center Connor Andrew McDavid (born January 13, 1997) (NHL). Many of his coworkers and members of the news media believe he is the best player in the world.
After being chosen first overall by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, McDavid has earned three Art Ross Trophies as the league's top scorer, two Hart Memorial Trophies (awarded in 2017 and 2021 to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his team), and three Ted Lindsay Trophies as the league's top player. In addition, McDavid and Wayne Gretzky are the only two unanimous Hart Trophy winners in league history.
McDavid was given "Exceptional Player" status by Hockey Canada, which allowed him to play major junior one year earlier. He grew up in the Toronto area and played hockey there. As a result, he joined the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he played for three years before being selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. McDavid competed internationally for Canada's national junior teams at one World U18 Championship, two World Junior Championships, and one World Championship for the senior team, winning one gold at each level.
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