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Analyzing If 10 Youngest NHL Teams Will Be Pretenders or Contenders in Near Future

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 01: Lucas Raymond #23 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his game winning overtime goal with Moritz Seider #53 to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 at Little Caesars Arena on March 01, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    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

    It’s quickly
    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.

Arizona Coyotes

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 27: Dylan Guenther #11 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena on September 27, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Pretenders

Buffalo Sabres

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    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 15: Owen Power #25 of the Buffalo Sabres greets fans after warmups before an NHL game against the Florida Panthers on October 15, 2022 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Contenders

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 12: Cole Sillinger #34 of the Columbus Blue Jackets high-fives teammates to celebrate scoring a goal, prior to the goal being overturned during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on October 12, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Kaydee Gawlik/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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
    into contention.

    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
    million contract.

    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

    Verdict: Pretenders

Detroit Red Wings

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 07: Elmer Soderblom #85 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his second period goal with Lucas Raymond #23 and Moritz Seider #53 while playing the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 4-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    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
    defensive end.

    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.

    Verdict: Contenders

Montréal Canadiens

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    MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 12: Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) plays with a puck before the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens game on October 12, 2022, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Pretenders

New Jersey Devils

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    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 03:  New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) against the Boston Bruins on October 3, 2022 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Contenders

New York Rangers

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    WINNIPEG, CANADA - OCTOBER 14: Adam Fox #23 and Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers discuss strategy during a second period stoppage in play against the Winnipeg Jets at the Canada Life Centre on October 14, 2022 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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
    winners soon.

    Verdict: Contenders

Ottawa Senators

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    TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 15:  Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators gets set for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on October 15, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Contenders

Philadelphia Flyers

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a drink between face-offs during a game against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on April 12, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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.

    Verdict: Pretenders

Vancouver Canucks

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    EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12: Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson (40) looks at the crowd in warm up during the Edmonton Oilers game versus the Vancouver Canucks on October 12, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    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
    build around.

    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.

    Verdict: Pretenders

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