Young Guns: theScore's All-Under-25 Team
As a hockey fan, few things are more fun than a roster filled with young, fast, up-and-coming players. For instance, Team North America captivated the sport's international community at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey by giving us a taste of the future.
With that in mind, we decided to use our imagination and build a 25-man roster - 13 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders - using only the best under-25 players in the world.
There's no cap limit and no consideration of specific forward positions or whether a defenseman shoots left or right. We're simply picking the top players in each category. So, without further ado, here is theScore's All-Under-25 Team (career stats as of Nov. 1):
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted: First round (No. 1 overall), 2015
Accolades: Hart Memorial Trophy (2016-17), Art Ross Trophy (2016-17, 2017-18), Lester B. Pearson Award (2016-17, 2017-18), First-Team All-Star (2016-17, 2017-18)
Any list of this sort that doesn’t begin with this generation's GOAT should be considered invalid. McDavid performs unreal feats on a nightly basis, outworking opponents (and often teammates) while outskating literally everyone.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Drafted: First round (No. 1 overall), 2013
Accolades: Calder Trophy (2013-14), Second-Team All-Star (2017-18)
Don't let recent ho-hum seasons from the Avalanche fool you - the things MacKinnon can do with the puck (at blazing speed) are phenomenal. He was a Hart Trophy finalist last season and is on track to reach similar heights in 2018-19.
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Drafted: First round (No. 1 overall), 2016
Accolades: Calder Memorial Trophy (2016-17)
From his deceptive release to his elite hockey IQ to his sheer size, Matthews combines all the factors that scouts drool over into one player, and kicks them up a notch. There’s a reason he made Team North America before he ever played an NHL game. Meanwhile, a hot start this season prompted talk from some corners that Matthews could actually be better than McDavid, and while most realistic observers recognize that’s an overstatement, tongues are wagging nonetheless.
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Drafted: First round (No. 2 overall), 2015
Ignore the injuries and look at Eichel's dominance when healthy. He's simply one of the best young forwards out there, with all the necessary tools to be a legitimate first-line center. Alongside new linemate Jeff Skinner, Eichel just might be able to turn things around for the Sabres (if he can stay off IR).
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Drafted: First round (No. 3 overall), 2014
Draisaitl's not just the perfect complement to McDavid on the Oilers - he’s a formidable player in his own right. The 23-year-old is dynamic with the puck despite not being the best skater around, and will likely finish second behind McDavid in points again this year.
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Drafted: First round (No. 11 overall), 2012
As Forsberg continues to grow as a player, it’s difficult to believe David Poile acquired him in 2013 for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. The 24-year-old Forsberg is one of Nashville’s top offensive weapons - scoring some truly ridiculous goals - and he puts in the work to boot.
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
Drafted: Second round (No. 35 overall), 2015
Aho’s current 12-game assist streak is tied for the longest to begin a season in NHL history, but that’s not why he makes this list - it's just gravy. Aho’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice, thanks to his high-end hockey smarts and speed.
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted: First round (No. 2 overall), 2016
A pure goal-scorer who garners comparisons to Alex Ovechkin (time will tell if those bear out), Laine rarely misses when he takes his shot - both on the ice and when he’s talking to reporters. He’s also a high-end playmaker who possesses great hands.
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Drafted: First round (No. 2 overall), 2013
Pundits like to crow about the Panthers' captain being underrated, and Barkov is certainly one of the top centers in the NHL. His elite hockey sense allows him to play - and succeed - in literally any situation.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Drafted: First round (No. 25 overall), 2014
With 11 goals already this season, Pastrnak's a key piece of one of the best lines in hockey. He's also front and center in the Bruins' long-term plans. The 22-year-old is an elite scorer (69 goals across the last two seasons) and pairs his strong vision with a high enough skill level to execute what he sees.
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
Drafted: First round (No. 10 overall), 2015
Alongside linemates MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, the 22-year-old Rantanen is embarrassing the rest of the league right now. He leads the NHL in points with 21 (MacKinnon's next with 18) and is well on his way to following up last year’s stellar campaign with an even better one. Rantanen’s high-end playmaking skills combined with his finishing ability make him an offensive threat on a nightly basis.
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
Drafted: First round (No. 8 overall), 2014
Don’t let Nylander’s contract impasse distract from the sublime offensive ability he displays every time he steps onto the ice. And he’s not just a "skilled winger," as he also played some center last season, displaying his versatility. Overall, Nylander's hockey sense, agility, and excellent hands (all of which he can use at top speed) set him apart.
Jack Hughes, U.S. National Team Development Program
Drafted: Eligible in 2019
Much like Matthews making the Team North America roster before entering the NHL, Hughes makes ours. His inclusion as a 17-year-old may be contentious, but think of him as this team’s 13th forward. Hughes' skill level and hockey IQ are sky-high, and seeing him alongside the rest of these players would be a treat.
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Drafted: First round (No. 4 overall), 2013
Accolades: Second-Team All-Star (2017-18)
There’s a reason Jones was, for a time, considered the potential No. 1 pick in 2013 ahead of MacKinnon. He's the engine that makes the Blue Jackets go, and he checks off every box necessary for an elite top-pairing defenseman. There’s a good chance you’ll see Jones receive at least one Norris Trophy before his career is over.
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
Drafted: First round (No. 8 overall), 2015
Werenski - an incredibly smart player and an excellent skater - forms an elite defensive pairing with Jones in Columbus. He managed to post 16 goals and 21 assists in 2017-18 despite playing most of the campaign with a shoulder injury that ultimately required offseason surgery.
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
Drafted: First round (No. 9 overall), 2012
Trouba's immense value to the Jets is evidenced by the fact that he’s had multiple contract disputes (arbitration this past summer and sitting out/asking for a trade prior to the 2015-16 season) but is still in Winnipeg. The 24-year-old is mobile for a big guy and shuts down opponents with regularity. Meanwhile, offense will never be his calling card, but Trouba can produce when necessary.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
Drafted: First round (No. 14 overall), 2016
McAvoy proved last season that his playoff debut with the Bruins wasn’t a fluke. Between his stellar shot, high-end vision, and love of physicality, McAvoy will be leading Boston's blue line for years to come. Bonus: He can handle playing in just about any situation.
Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers
Drafted: First round (No. 7 overall), 2015
Provorov ended last season tied for the league lead in goals by a defenseman (17), and the Flyers don’t hesitate to match him up against their toughest opponents. The youngster is poised, quick, and very smart - ideal traits for a defender in the modern NHL.
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Drafted: First round (No. 1 overall), 2014
Accolades: Calder Memorial Trophy (2014-15)
You won’t see Ekblad on many highlight reels or at the top of the scoresheet, but he's effective in difficult top-pairing minutes. The former No. 1 overall pick is smart, a strong puck-mover, and possesses an impressive shot.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Drafted: First round (No. 5 overall), 2012
Rielly is intelligent, mobile, and poised - the kind of player who could make any blue line better, including Toronto's. Last season, he managed to break 50 points despite skating alongside Ron Hainsey against top competition most nights. That's quite an accomplishment in itself.
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drafted: First round (No. 9 overall), 2016
The speedy, tenacious, and highly skilled Sergachev can dominate a shift. While he could stand to gain some consistency, he still netted 31 points as a rookie and will look to build on that this year.
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres
Drafted: First round (No. 1 overall), 2018
It’s still early for Dahlin, but when you’re constructing a superteam, you want guys with all the tools. Dahlin certainly has those tools, and it’s safe to assume we’ll see them put to good use this season. Even though he's just 18, the Swede is confident in his own abilities and doesn’t hesitate when making decisions. His hockey IQ, agility, and stick-handling skills allow him to succeed in any situation.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drafted: First round (No. 19 overall), 2012
A 2017-18 Vezina Trophy nominee, Vasilevskiy might be the platonic ideal of what a goaltender should be in today’s game. He’s smart, tracks the puck well, and can dominate when his team needs it. A fun stat: Last season, Vasilevskiy went 6-1-1 in games following a shutout.
Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
Drafted: Third round (No. 83 overall), 2012
Accolades: Stanley Cup champion (2015-16, 2016-17)
With two Stanley Cup wins under his belt by the age of 23, Murray’s resume is already top-notch, while his hockey IQ and size allow him to appear unstoppable on many nights. Last season was difficult - Murray’s dip in play coincided with injuries and the loss of his father - but his talent is undeniable.
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
Drafted: Fourth round (No. 99 overall), 2013
Pekka Rinne’s protege is, in his own words, patient when it comes to the number of games he plays per season, but Saros is nipping at Rinne’s heels. The 23-year-old isn't big like most goalies tend to be right now, but his instincts are elite. And with a bit more seasoning (and many more starts), perhaps Saros will follow in Rinne’s footsteps when it comes to Vezina nominations.
Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter at @HockeyWthHannah.