Increasingly, the NHL is a young man’s game.
Take a gander at the top 30 scorers in the NHL this season and you’ll notice a boat load of under 25 players producing at a high level.
So, who are the best Young Guns early in the 2014/15 season?
1) It’s pretty hard to argue against Tyler Seguin as being the best of the bunch considering he is leading the entire league in scoring and is on pace for a 60 goal 133 point season. Dallas coach Lindy Ruff has moved Jason Spezza to his first line with Seguin and Jamie Benn and the line has been all but unstoppable.
2) And then there is Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli was a 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft and has been a revelation since joining the Kings last season. Toffoli blossomed during last season’s march to the cup by the Kings and he hasn’t looked back. Now on a line with Jeff Carter and our 3rd pick of the Young Guns rundown, Tanner Pearson, Toffoli is surging into the stratosphere as a scorer.
3) Tanner Pearson was drafted 30th overall in 2012 and is beginning to make the 29 teams that passed on him look pretty stupid. Pearson is on pace for a 70 goal season and, while he may not get there, I would’t bet a whole lot of money that he won’t score 50. Oh, and by the way, Pearson just turned 22 in August.
4) We tend to forget that John Tavares just turned 24. He may not be the consummate goal scorer that Steven Stamkos is but he’s pretty much a lock for 80+ points if he remains healthy.
5) Steven Stamkos is off to a relatively slow start by his standards but he’s on pace for 55 goals and I have little doubt he will get there if he remains healthy.
6) Ryan Johansen has picked up right where he left off last season despite an acrimonious off season where he didn’t get a contract until late and missed training camp. Johansen is 7th in league scoring at the moment and is on pace for 51 goals and 112 points. Boy, that next contract is going to be a doozy!
7) Watch out for Jonathan Drouin. The youngster suffered a broken thumb in training camp and missed the pre-season and the Lightning’s first 5 games of the season. He’s been moved to play on the 1st line with Stamkos and has produced 3 points in 4 games. I expect he’ll give Pearson a run for rookie of the year before all is said and done.
8) Taylor Hall has had a decent start to the season with 7 points in 8 games. He’s on pace for 41 goals and 71 points but that won’t cut it in this group. It’s also worth mentioning that the Oilers have been blessed with a schedule laced with EC opponents and the team is 0-4-1 against the WC. The sledding is about to get much tougher.
9) Tyler Johnson is quietly putting up a pretty nice season for the Bolts with 8 points in 9 games. Only 1 goal though so he’ll likely stay under the radar.
10) Alex Galchenyuk is starting to make the drafting of Nail Yakupov 1st overall look like a whiff. Galchenyuk has 3 goals and 7 points in 8 games played and I would imagine he’ll thrive in Montreal.
The Colorado Avalanche quartet of Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly has struggled to score so far this season but I don’t expect that to last very long. Just too much talent so we’ll have to revisit this half way through the season.
Nail Yakupov, the 1st overall pick in 2012, continues to struggle to find a place in the lineup and despite a severe zone start push and sheltering is not producing anywhere near someone with his draft pedigree. I expect he’ll be traded or return to the KHL before the Oilers have to sign him to his next contract.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is another player who is not meeting his draft pedigree. Although he has some nice 2 way skills, his scoring does not meet expectations.
Jonathan Huberdeau, who was selected 3rd in the same draft as Hopkins and Landeskog has also been very underwhelming.
The performance of Ryan Johansen over the past season and a bit shows that some players take a little longer for the light to go on but, increasingly, young players tend to bolt out of the gate and are up and running by at least their 3rd season.
Those that don’t can become suspects pretty quickly.