The NHL is enjoying a renaissance. A string of recent drafts featuring so-called “generational” players delivered an influx of young, fresh-faced superstars eager to accept the baton from an older generation. These things tend to be cyclical throughout history, of course, but there’s no denying the league as a whole has steadily skewed younger and faster over the last decade — and it’s already begun to change the way the game is played.
At the start of the 2008-09 season, the NHL’s average age on opening night rosters was 28.07 years. In 2017-18, that number was down to 27.1, and is likely to shrink further for a seventh consecutive season when the puck drops Oct. 3, 2018, thanks to another fertile incoming draft class and the continued graduations of ones before it.
More than ever, the NHL’s youngest players double as its most vibrant, marketable stars. At a time when the league continues to lag behind its hipper counterparts in capturing the imaginations of young sports fans, these reinforcements couldn’t be more welcomed. And that’s something worth celebrating.
In that spirit, Sporting News set out to identify the NHL’s top 25 players under the age of 25 for the 2017-18 season. Between Aug. 20-24, we’ll reveal our picks in increments of five, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1.
Below is a complete explainer about the project and how players were selected.
Sporting News’ top 25 NHL players under 25
A 10-person panel comprised of Sporting News hockey editors and contributors submitted ballots ranking the 25 best NHL players under the age of 25 for the 2018-19 season. The resulting order was determined by a weighted point system. Points were allocated for each slot, starting at 100 for No. 1 overall and decreasing by increments of four from 2-25. A No. 2 vote received 96 points, No. 3 received 92 points, and so on. A player’s score was then calculated out of 1,000 possible points.
Any player 24 years old or younger as of Oct. 3, 2018, the first day of the NHL’s 2018-19 regular season schedule. They also must be under contract with an NHL team or within the organization. There was no minimum or maximum standard for experience. Players receiving votes varied widely in NHL games played, from zero to 400.
Where’s my favorite player?
Our panelists were asked to give consideration to previous accomplishments as well as future projections. Otherwise, these rankings are entirely subjective. For example, Rasmus Dahlin is arguably hockey’s most talented teenager, hailed as a generational NHL prospect. He also has yet to appear in an NHL game. It was ultimately up to each voter to determine how heavily experience (or lack there of) should be weighted vs. potential, but it’s one possible explanation why your favorite player didn’t make the cut.
In short, the NHL is packed with established young talent. We could have created a top 50 with parts to spare. It’s not an indictment against an omitted player. Rather, the future of hockey is so exceptionally bright, the bar is set higher than ever before.
Brandon Schlager, SN NHL editor
Jim Cerny, SN Canada managing editor
Evan Sporer, SN Canada digital producer
Adam Gretz, SN contributor
Steve Kournianos, SN contributor
Lyle Richardson, SN contributor
Dave McCarthy, SN contributor
Brian Sandalow, SN contributor
Andrew Hirsh, SN contributor
Mike Murphy, SN contributor
*Individual writer ballots can be viewed here.