- C) Connor McDavid (Edmonton) Age: 20 Draft: 1st Round, 1st Overall 2015
The top player on my list may well already be the top player in the NHL. McDavid lead the league with 100 points last year in only his second season. Not to mention he lead the oilers back to the playoffs in 2017. The heir apparent to Sidney Crosby, his rare blend of hockey IQ, speed, and skill will cement him as the best player of his generation.
- C) Auston Matthews (Toronto) Age: 20 Draft: 1st Round, 1st Overall 2016
With a calder trophy and 40 goals in his rookie year, Matthews career trajectory rivals Connor McDavid’s. The rookie sniper is supremely talented on both sides of the ice, and led a Maple Leafs team full of young talent back to the playoffs last year. Matthews game is very different from Connor’s, but a side by side look at their resumes would leave you hard pressed to decide who you’d rather start a franchise with.
- C) Jack Eichel (Buffalo) Age: 21 Draft: 1st Round, 2nd Overall 2015
Before Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel was considered the best American prospect since Patrick Kane, and dubbed the new face of American hockey. Matthew’s emergence has caused many people to forget about the former Hobey Baker winner, but Eichel quietly amassed 57 points in 61 games, after starting the season off injured. Eichel is one of the best NHL draft prospects in the last 7 years. It Just so happens that Connor McDavid was in the same draft class, and Matthews followed the year after. If it weren’t for those two we’d be hearing a lot more about Buffalo’s budding superstar.
- RW) Patrik Laine (Winnipeg) Age: 19 Draft: 1st Round, 2nd Overall 2016
Patrick Laine was so impressive during his rookie season, that at one point, people were questioning whether or not the Leafs should’ve drafted him over Auston Matthews. The power forward tallied 36 goals as an 18-year-old showing just how deadly he can be with his wicked shot. But just like how Jack Eichel’s career will always be measured against Connor McDavid’s, Laine’s production will always be measured against Matthew’s.
- C) Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton) Age: 22 Draft: 1st Round, 3rd Overall 2014
The hype surrounding Connor McDavid has caused Leon Draisaitl’s play to go underappreciated. The former number 3 overall picked finished eighth in scoring last season with 77 points; ahead of players like Evgeni Malkin and Vladimir Tarasenko. A common misconception is that these numbers come from playing on the same line as McDavid, which he does not. He won’t be front page news with Mcdavid around, but Draisaitl continues to dazzle with elite puck handling and and playmaking ability for a bigger guy.
- D) Aaron Ekblad (Florida) Age: 21 Draft: 1st Round, 1st Overall 2014
Only the third player after Sidney Crosby and John Tavares to be granted exceptional player status for early entry into the OHL draft, Aaron Ekblad has always been a phenom. As a boy in a man’s body, the 6’4 defensemen became an all-star his first season in the NHL, and took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie in 2014-15. Ekblad has tremendous potential as a two way defensemen, however, concussion problems have delayed his development. He’ll be looking to get back on track with an injury free season in 2017-18.
- LW) David Pastrnak (Boston) Age: 21 Draft: 1st Round, 25th Overall 2014
At 21 years of age, David Pastrnak, is arguably the most skilled player on the Bruins roster already. It is hard to believe that he is only 21, as this is already his fourth season in the league. But it wasn’t until last year that he harnessed the potential that made him a first round pick. He erupted for 34 Goals and 70 points in 75 games played. The goal total should give you an idea of how gifted a scorer Pastrnak is. But what the stats fail to capture are his sublime skating and stickhandling ability. There’s a reason the Bruins locked him up to a 6 year 40 million deal in the offseason. More may still be yet to come from the talented young Czech forward.
- G) Matt Murray (Pittsburgh) Age: 23 Draft: 3rd Round, 83rd Overall 2012
They say that goaltending wins Stanley Cups. 2 Championships in his first 2 seasons should shed some light on just how talented this young net minder is. The fact that Pittsburgh was willing to let Marc-Andre Fleury go only reinforces how talented they believe Murray to be. However, that has not always been the case. Murray was a highly rated prospect he when arrived in the OHL. Yet he struggled throughout much of his time with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (with GAA numbers in the high 3s and 4s). So much so in fact, that scouts wondered how and if he’d project as an NHL prospect. Needless to say all doubts about Murray have been put to rest with his stellar play in the playoffs the past two years.
- D) Zach Werenski (Columbus) Age: 20 Draft: 1st Round, 8th Overall 2015
The Blue Jackets blue liner exploded for 47 points as a rookie last season, on his way to a 3rd place finish in Calder Trophy voting. This stands the 6th highest point total recorded by a rookie defenseman In NHL history. In any other rookie class that didn’t include Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, Werenski might have been rookie of the year. He has continued this momentum in 2017-18 with 12 points in his first 20 games. Werenski is already a premier offensive defenseman in the league at 20 years old. His ability to run the offense from the point will establish as a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
- C) Nathan Mackinnon (Colorado) Age:22 Draft: 1st Round, 1ST Overall 2013
The 2013 draft class is regarded as one of the deepest talent pools in recent memory. Mackinnon was considered the cream of the crop of these prospects. While at times Mackinnon has shown to be every bit as skilled as scouts thought, he has struggled to find consistency at the NHL level. While his production has been solid, it remains to be seen whether he can put it all together and become the generational player he was billed as. He undoubtedly has the raw tools to do so with amazing hands and skating ability. 22 points in 19 games to start his 2017-18 campaign is certainly a step in right direction.