6 Young NHL Players Trending Toward Becoming All-Stars Next Season

Youth is the bastion of hope for even the most haphazard of NHL franchises. At this time of year, non-playoff teams are looking to the future, wondering how their top young players will develop and just how far said skaters will be able to take them further down the road.

Meanwhile, squads that have punched their tickets to the postseason are looking to see how their youngsters respond to the higher intensity and brighter lights. Some thrive under pressure. Others, not so much.

With every draft pick, there is the dream of landing the next Kirill Kaprizov, Cale Makar or Igor Shesterkin—players who can instil Stanley Cup aspirations in just one breakout season.

Not everyone can reach those heights, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t numerous skaters around the NHL who could play at an All-Star level throughout their respective primes. Today, we’re going to shine the spotlight on some of these players, identify what makes them so special and predict what they will mean to their franchises moving forward.

For our purposes, young means under the age of 23. It’s arbitrary, but it seems like a solid number to stick with. Just using the Calder Trophy rules here would force us to count out some skaters who, frankly, we just don’t want to.

Also, since we’re trying to identify All-Star-caliber talent who haven’t made that roster, players who have already appeared in an All-Star Game won’t be eligible, either. Playing in the rookie portion of that contest will not prohibit a place on this list, though.

This group isn’t all-encompassing, either, so feel free to make arguments for your favorite young players who haven’t yet appeared in an All-Star Game in the comments.

Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks

Take a good, long look at the future face of the NHL—at least when it comes to more casual fans who only keep up with the league via highlights and clips on Instagram. Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks is the kind of player your non-hockey-watching friends will text you about to ask one simple question: “Who the hell is this kid?” after seeing one of his many internet-breaking clips.

The 21-year-old is a spotlight magnet, capable of making plays at high speeds during games that most people wouldn’t even try in practice. He’s getting under the skin of dour former coaches like John Tortorella with his highlight-reel skills and is frustrating old-school types like Jay Beagle, who would prefer hockey players behave like robots instead of human beings.

So you know he’s doing something right.

Zegras speaks his mind—he called the Beagle cross-check “embarrassing”—and could conceivably take up every spot on a goals-of-the-season list. And he’s just getting started in Anaheim. Here’s hoping the NHL doesn’t find a way to squeeze the joy out of him before his microphone has the same wattage as Connor McDavid’s or Auston Matthews’.

The league has a way of zapping the levity out of players like Zegras. We have a feeling that the New York native won’t be going away quietly, and he figures to be an All-Star staple for the next decade-plus. As long as he doesn’t get blindsided for doing something silly like scoring a cool goal, that is.

Cole Sillinger, Columbus Blue Jackets

If Zegras and his flashy style of play aren’t your cup of tea, then Cole Sillinger should be. If he played in a market like New York or Chicago, you would know all about what this teenage center has brought to the table for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

He’s been gritty, reliable and hung tough during the grind of a regular season.

The Columbus Blue Jackers are a team that are almost never on national broadcasts and virtually never make the front page of the internet’s sports column unless they are trading their best players to, well, New York or Chicago.

What Sillinger has managed to do on a poor Blue Jackets team this season is nothing short of miraculous. Where most 18-year-olds are brought into the league and asked to play bottom-six minutes while learning about life as a pro, Columbus hasn’t needed to with the Ohio native.

Author: Lucy Green