Analyzing If 10 Youngest NHL Teams Will Be Pretenders or Contenders in Near Future | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
Analyzing If 10 Youngest NHL Teams Will Be Pretenders or Contenders in Near Future
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Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
With the NHL season underway, we all got to see just
how old and young each team’s opening roster was. It made for an eye-opening
becoming a young man’s league, which means those with younger rosters should be
better positioned to compete for the Stanley Cup not too far down the road.
But where do the 10 youngest teams actually stand?
Since we’re focused on youth, we need to
look at just how well-positioned those squads are to compete sooner than later. We’ll
examine the top 10 a bit closer to see if they’ll tough through the learning years for a while or if they are ready to stake a claim
for greatness in the near future.
The folks at CapFriendly have all the numbers
necessary to save those of us
who are less mathematically inclined.
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The Coyotes hope Dylan Guenther can lead them back to the postseason someday (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Arizona Coyotes have long been the team where fat expiring contracts go to conclude because
they need to reach the cap floor. After all, who
can forget legendary Coyotes such as Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian
Part of the reason the Coyotes have taken on those expiring contracts was to collect high draft picks for a rebuild. It’s a superb idea, but it
requires great scouting and solid management to put it all together. If ever a franchise needed a Moneyball-like means to win, it’s the
But right now? The Coyotes’ cupboard seems bare outside
2021 first-rounder Dylan Guenther and 2016 first-rounder Clayton Keller.
There’s Jakob Chychrun, also selected in the
2016 first round, who should be their cornerstone defensemen for years,
but he told reporters he wants to be traded to a contender. That alone would indicate the Coyotes are still far from making
a run at the Stanley Cup.
Arizona has struggled to draft well and develop players,
putting general manager Bill Armstrong, who took over in September 2020, in a tough position to start the process
himself. Drafting Guenther was a good start, but it will take a lot of
time and patience to get the Desert Dogs back into the playoff pack, never mind in the Cup hunt.
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Owen Power is the latest big prospect to give the Sabres serious hope for the future (Photo: Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images)
Where previous Buffalo Sabres GMs Jason Botterill and Tim Murray failed, Kevyn Adams
appears to have the rebuild on the right track.
Murray and Botterill each had flaws, but a few of
Botterill’s moves helped set the groundwork for the Sabres’ revival.
Tage Thompson was the key return in the Ryan O’Reilly trade
in 2018. Botterill traded Murray’s 2016 first-rounder, Alex Nylander, for Henri
Jokiharju. He drafted Casey Mittelstadt and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in 2017,
Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson in 2018 and Dylan Cozens in 2019.
foundation set things up well for what Adam has done.
He added Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch in the Jack Eichel
trade. The Sam Reinhart swap got them goalie prospect Devon Levi and a 2022
first-round pick, which turned into Jiri Kulich.
The Rasmus Ristolainen trade earned them a first-round pick in which
they took Swedish winger Isak Rosén. They also drafted Jack Quinn and JJ
Peterka in 2020, got Owen Power with the No. 1 pick in 2021, and selected Matt
Savoie and Noah Östlund in the 2022 first round alongside Kulich this year.
There’s a lot to like about what’s cooking in Buffalo. Having Dahlin, Samuelsson, and Power gives them the foundation of a potentially
dominating blue line, and the numerous forwards they’ve picked are all
in the NHL or knocking on the door in the AHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
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Cole Sillinger has had an instant impact in Columbus (Photo: Kaydee Gawlik/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a curious position. A casual look over the roster and system indicate they’re
in the heart of a rebuild, but their moves of late say they’re trying to get
This summer, Columbus signed Johnny Gaudreau—who’s an electric scorer both in goals and assists and should be their leader for the next few years—to a seven-year, $68.25
Of course, he’s 29 years old, which makes
him one of the older players on a roster with an average age of 25.9.
Where the Jackets’ future gets bright is in how they’ve used their recent picks
and the acquisitions they made through the Seth Jones trade.
In that deal with the Blackhawks, Columbus added defenseman
Adam Boqvist and a 2021 first-round pick they used to select forward Cole
Sillinger. The latter was an instant everyday player last
season and should grow into a bigger role this year and beyond.
Mixing Boqvist and Sillinger with drafted forwards Kent
Johnson, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy and Emil Bemström, along with goalie Daniil
Tarasov, gives Columbus a solid start.
Boqvist is the lone under-23 defenseman in Columbus, the team drafted first-rounders David Jiricek
and Denton Mateychuk this year to address that.
Things are looking up for Columbus, but the Blue Jackets will need a couple of additional years to mature and
Detroit Red Wings
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With Lucas Raymond, Elmer Söderblom and Moritz Seider, the future looks good in Detroit (Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Perhaps the chicest young team picked to become a contender is Detroit. Under GM Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings have
heavily invested in the draft the past few years, and they hit it big in his first
one in 2019 with defenseman Moritz Seider. The 6’4″, 197-pound German won the Calder Trophy
last year and wowed with his ability to put up points and hold his own in the
Young forward Elmer Söderblom, taken in the sixth round in
2019, is looking to make his first impact in the NHL this year, while 2020 first-round
forward Lucas Raymond made a big splash last season alongside Seider. That would
make for a good starting point for any team, but Detroit has more on the way.
2018 second-round pick Jonatan Berggren, 2021 first-round picks in
goalie Sebastian Cossa and defenseman Simon Edvinsson are knocking on the parent club’s door, and 2022 picks Marco Kasper and Dylan James look solid
but will need time.
Even still, Detroit has 23-year-old Michael Rasmussen and 22-year-old
Joe Veleno as contributors, and top players Dylan Larkin (26) and defenseman Filip
Hronek (24) have been leaders for the Red Wings the past few seasons.
This team is ready to make the jump out of the lottery and into the postseason—if not this season, then certainly next season. Once the Red Wings get there, with this
pipeline, they should stick around a while.
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Cole Caulfield (David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Montréal Canadiens have been stuck in limbo. When they made the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, it gave a false
hope that they were already on the road to greatness and everything was going according
to plan. Since, a knee injury put Carey Price’s career jeopardy, and
Shea Weber’s essentially ended because of foot and ankle problems.
The time to rebuild arrived
suddenly, and GM Kent Hughes, hired in January, recognized it quickly. They
already had forwards Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and
Hughes found a coach in Martin St. Louis to maximize their talents.
The Canadiens also traded for Kirby Dach from Chicago and had six top-100 selections in the 2022 draft, including No. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovský. The stockpile of promising players left
from Marc Bergevin’s time as GM is on the verge of making it to the NHL as
well. Defensemen Jordan Harris and Kaiden Guhle made the team out of
training camp this year, and forward Jan Mysak is close to getting there as
Those players make for a solid starting point, but the Canadiens will need time for those 2022 picks to mature and time to fill up their coffers as well. There’s a lot to like about what Montréal is doing, but it’s not close to being a contender.
New Jersey Devils
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Jack Hughes is the truth in New Jersey (Photo: Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
The New Jersey Devils have had good
fortune in the draft lottery, which allowed them to take
Nico Hischier No. 1 overall in 2017 and Jack Hughes with 2019’s top pick. Those two are
the foundation of their youth movement, and they’ve made good picks since
then to support them.
The Devils had the fifth-best odds to land the top pick in the 2022 draft lottery but landed the No. 2 selection and took defenseman Simon Nemec. He seemingly made the
opening roster but was sent to the AHL after the Devils made LTIR
adjustments. Still, Nemec
will be an NHL player sooner than not at 18 years old.
They drafted defenseman Ty Smith in 2018 but traded him to
Pittsburgh over the summer for defenseman John Marino, who is three years older. In 2020, they took Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer and Shakir Mukhamadullin in the first round. Mercer had an impressive rookie season last year and
Holtz made the Devils roster out of camp this year.
Mukhamadullin remains in
the KHL in Russia. 2021 first-rounders Luke Hughes and Chase Stillman remain
with their teams in the University of Michigan and the OHL, respectively, but
aren’t far off.
That’s a lot of top-end talent, and the Devils management
knows it. With 24-year-olds Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt already key
players, they added Vitek Vanecek in goal during the summer to try to push them back into the
postseason. If it’s not this year, it won’t be much longer until they’re
back, sporting more to build on.
New York Rangers
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Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko have the Rangers sitting pretty (Photo: Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)
No team among the NHL’s 10 youngest is more poised
to win the Stanley Cup than the Rangers. They made the Eastern Conference Final
last season with essentially the same roster they have now.
Defensemen Adam Fox (24) and K’Andre Miller (22) lead the
way on the blue line, with Ryan Lindgren (24) also part of their top four. Meanwhile,
Zac Jones (21), Libor Hajek (24) and Braden Schneider (21) all surround captain
Jacob Trouba (28) to fill out the blue line.
2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniére and 2019 No. 2 pick Kaapo
Kakko are being counted on more to contribute behind a crew of
outstanding veteran forwards. Filip Chytil, 23, holds down a center spot
in their middle-six forward group and is part of their second power-play unit.
The Rangers don’t need to look down the road to see who is
coming next to greatly improve their lineup. Those players are already in the
NHL and are key contributors if not necessary pieces to their success.
still, they have 2021 first-round pick Brennan Othmann and 2020 second-round
pick Will Cuylle, both forwards, as the next players in line to be significant Blueshirts
in the coming seasons. The Rangers are young, but they can be Stanley Cup
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Brady Tkachuk has Ottawa poised to rise again (Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
If there’s an “It” team when it comes to NHL youth, it’s the Ottawa Senators.
The Sens are led by 23-year-old captain Brady Tkachuk, and
he has 20-year-old centerman Tim Stützle, 23-year-old forward Josh Norris and
24-year-old Drake Batherson to support him on the attack up front.
24-year-old Alex DeBrincat was a huge boost to their young talent, and when you
factor in 25-year-old Thomas Chabot, 23-year-old Erik Brännström and 20-year-old
rookie Jake Sanderson on the blue line, it’s easy to see why people are high on
Those are eight players they’re counting on heavily to
win games for them now and into the future. Newer arrivals such as 21-year-old
Shane Pinto are just getting their NHL careers started, but Ottawa still has
2020 draft picks in first-rounder Ridly Greig and second-rounder Roby Järventie
on the near horizon.
GM Pierre Dorion recognized they were close before
the start of last season when he said the rebuild was over and it was time to
get aggressive about returning to the postseason.
Oddly enough, the young
players are probably their more reliable ones because the veteran help is thin
apart from Claude Giroux. The Senators aren’t a Stanley Cup threat yet, but if the
upward trend continues and the roster deepens, they could be there within a
couple of seasons.
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Times may be tough for Carter Hart and the Flyers for a little while (Photo: John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images)
Philadelphia Flyers fans are some of the most diehard in the NHL, but
they’re in for a hard time the next few seasons as the rebuild begins.
Yes, the Flyers have a young team, and that youth
movement is spearheaded by goalie Carter Hart. At 24 years old, he has
already seen his fair share of tough times in net, but the gold-medal-winning goaltender
for Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championships will be tested mightily
in the coming seasons.
Philadelphia has youngsters Joel Farabee (22), Morgan Frost
(23), Noah Cates (23) and Owen Tippett (23) up front as the team’s first wave of youth. Bobby Brink was a second-round pick in
2019, and he got some NHL action last season, but surgery to repair a torn hip
labrum will have him out until December.
They drafted forward Cutter Gauthier fifth
overall this year, but he’ll need a season or so before becoming an everyday
Defense is where things get a little murky. 2019 first-round
pick Cam York is starting his year in the AHL once again, and past first-rounders
Travis Sanheim (26) and Ivan Provorov (25) are in their mid-20s. Undrafted 22-year-old
Egor Zamula cracked the blue line out of camp this year, but we’ll have to see
what his NHL impact can be.
Patience is necessary
in Philly. A rebuild was likely overdue there, but at
least it’s underway.
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Elias Pettersson is superb, but the Canucks need more and better youth (Photo: Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks are in limbo because they still haven’t decided whether they’re in or out on committing to a
rebuild. For now, they’ve got a young roster and will try to
figure it out on the fly. But their past moves to keep up—trading for a declining Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a big contract comes to mind—are hamstringing their ability to build into the future.
When they selected Jonathan Lekkerimäki in the most recent draft, he became their first opening-round pick since 2019, when they picked
Vasili Podkolzin 10th. They also landed Nils Höglander that
year in the second round. And that’s been one of their better drafts in the
past 10 years.
They’ve done mostly well with their first-round picks. Quinn
Hughes in 2018, Elias Pettersson in 2017, Brock Boeser in 2015 and Bo Horvat
in 2013 were all big winners and have helped give the Canucks a solid core to
But they’ve drafted poorly beyond the first round, leaving them with a severe lack of depth coming up through the minors. That
means they’ve had to try to fill in the gaps via trades or free agents. That way of
team building has gotten much more difficult due to the flat-lining of the salary cap.
Now Vancouver is stuck in a spot where it has all those
outstanding first-rounders but hasn’t taken a big step forward with them. The
pressure is on to get it together—and fast. They’re young, but
they need a lot of help.