A quick look at this season's NHL stats reveals a number of players under the age of 25 sit among the league's top stars.
Several, such as Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, established themselves as superstars early in their respective careers. Others, such as New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar, have emerged among the league's best within a short period of time.
These young stars perform crucial roles with their clubs. Some, of course, have much larger responsibilities and value than others. Some are franchise players, some are rising stars and others are indispensable core pieces.
Here's our ranking of the 25 best under-25 NHL players. Their value to their respective clubs and their overall performance factored into this compilation. We've excluded this year's rookie class, as they have only a small sample size compared to those on this list. Players must be under 25 as of May 10, 2021.
Nos. 25 to 21: Laine, Fiala, Necas, M. Tkachuk, Boeser
25. Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets
Traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Columbus Blue Jackets in January, Patrick Laine's endured the worst performance of his five-year NHL career. In 44 games with the Jackets, the 23-year-old winger managed 10 goals and 19 points. That's a far cry from the 30-plus goals in each of his first three seasons and the 30 he would have had last season had the COVID-19 pandemic not derailed the regular season.
Laine's 44-goal sophomore campaign in 2017-18 showed what he's capable of. The 6'5", 210-pounder is a natural goal scorer with blazing speed but needs a good setup man. That's something he's lacking with the offensively anemic Blue Jackets. He must also develop his overall game to shake the label of being a one-dimensional player.
24. Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild
Acquired from the Nashville Predators at the 2019 NHL trade deadline, Kevin Fiala has fit in well with the Minnesota Wild. The 24-year-old's offensive skills have contributed to the Wild's rise this season among the NHL's best teams.
A talented winger with game-breaking scoring skills, Fiala had 23 goals and 54 points in his first full season with the Wild. Consistency was an issue at times this season, but he's second in team scoring with 20 goals and 39 points and their leader with five game-winning goals.
23. Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
Overshadowed by talented teammates Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas served notice this season there's another skilled young forward on the Carolina Hurricanes. Following last season's promising 36-point performance, the 22-year-old sophomore has 41 points in 51 games and sits among their leading scorers.
Blessed with speed and terrific playmaking abilities, the versatile Necas' ability to play center or on the wing gives the Hurricanes some flexibility among their top-two forward lines. He's settled in well on their second line alongside center Vincent Trocheck and winger Nino Niederreiter.
22. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
This season was a disappointing one for the Calgary Flames, including Matthew Tkachuk. The 23-year-old winger was expected to take on more of a leadership role after tallying 77 points in 2018-19 and 61 points in 69 games last season. Instead, he's managed 34 points in 51 games as the Flames will miss the 2021 postseason.
This year's effort, however, could be an aberration. When Tkachuk's on his game, the 6'2", 202-pounder is an aggressive scoring forward who drives opponents to distraction with his feisty physical style. While his stock may have tumbled a bit this season, he has the skills to stage a bounce-back performance in 2021-22.
21. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser's performance was among the few bright spots in a miserable season for the Vancouver Canucks. After being waylaid by injuries through his first three NHL seasons, the 24-year-old right winger hasn't missed a game. He was also among the few Canucks who didn't end up on the COVID-19 protocol list in April.
A talented scoring winger, Boeser is the Canucks scoring leader this season with 20 goals and 41 points in 48 games. Since 2017-18, he's their leader in total offense with 91 goals and 197 points. With good health going forward, he has the skills to reach between 70-80 points per season.
Nos. 20-16: DeBrincat, Sergachev, Svechnikov, B. Tkachuk, Hughes
20. Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain the biggest stars on the Chicago Blackhawks. Alex DeBrincat, however, is garnering attention as a rising young scorer. While Kane is their leading scorer with 64 points in 54 games, the 23-year-old DeBrincat sits second with 52 points in 50 contests.
Despite his diminutive stature, the 5'7", 165-pound DeBrincat has proved himself as a top-line forward. He can play all three forward positions and uses his quickness and creativity to generate quality scoring chances. Since 2017-18, he's second among Blackhawks scorers in total offense with 116 goals and 225 points and third in game-winning goals with 14.
19. Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning
Mikhail Sergachev plays in the shadow of superstar defenseman Victor Hedman, but the 22-year-old continues to develop into a terrific all-around blueliner. He has 30 points in 54 games this season, sits third among Tampa Bay Lightning skaters in ice time per game (21:52) and tied for second with Hedman in blocked shots with 73.
On any other club, Sergachev would be the regular left-side defenseman on the top pairing. Hedman and veteran Ryan McDonagh are ahead of him on the depth chart, but his constant improvement should see him challenge for more minutes in the near future.
18. Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Selected second overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2018 NHL draft, Andrei Svechnikov made his debut that fall, going on to tally a respectable 20 goals and 37 points in 82 games. It was a promising sign of what was to come for the 6'2", 195-pound left winger.
Svechnikov is among the reasons the Hurricanes rose to become a Stanley Cup contender. An excellent scoring winger, the 21-year-old's size and imaginative offensive skills make him a crucial part of the Hurricanes attack. He's second among their scorers in total goals over the past three seasons (59) and third in total points with 140.
17. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
Older brother Matthew has garnered the most attention of the Tkachuk brothers since Brady joined the league with the rebuilding Ottawa Senators in 2018-19. While Matthew and his Calgary Flames have struggled this season, Brady is getting his share of the spotlight for his strong play and has the look of a future captain.
Brady, 21, has emerged as a physical scoring force with the Senators. Since 2018-19, he's their leader in total goals (60), even-strength goals (49) and game-winners with nine. The 6'4", 212-pounder doesn't shy away from physical play, leading the Sens with 712 total hits.
16. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
A talented puck-moving defenseman, Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks was runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy last season. He led all rookies with 45 assists and 53 points in 68 games and tied for third with Bo Horvat among Canucks scorers. The 21-year-old's mobility and offensive skills make him an invaluable scoring threat from the blue line.
Hughes is experiencing some growing pains this season, sitting with a team-worst plus-minus of minus-24. However, that can be attributed to the Canucks' overall poor defensive game. His offensive game remains sound, with 35 points in 48 games while logging a team-leading 23:03 of ice time per game. He will improve and remain an important part of the Canucks future.