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Top-5 centers in the NHL age 22 and under

August 15, 2019, 1:28 PM ET [51 Comments]
HockeyBuzz Hotstove
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Todd Cordell

1. Connor McDavid

He's already the most productive, dynamic, and dominant player in the league and the best is yet to come. Imagine what he'd be like with a more competent supporting cast.

2. Auston Matthews

Scoring goals is hard. Scoring goals at 5v5 is even harder. In that game state, nobody has found the back of the net at a higher rate than Matthews since he entered the league. He's an elite, elite, scorer and he's posted positive relative possession numbers each year.

3. Jack Eichel

Eichel's points per 60 has increased in three consecutive years and it spiked particularly large in 2017-18, the first season Eichel actually had quality wingers to work with. I still think he can take it up another level.

4. Nico Hischier

He has averaged more 5v5 points/60 than the likes of Mark Scheifele, Nicklas Backstrom, Logan Couture, Sean Couturier and Tyler Seguin over the last two years. He also drives possession, draws a ton of penalties, and grades out very highly using Goals Above Replacement (25th among all Fs from 2017-19). I think he's going to take off this season.

5. Elias Pettersson

EP40 put up nearly a point per game as a rookie on a bad Vancouver team. Has an absolute cannon of a shot and somehow might be a better playmaker than shooter. The sky is the limit for him.

James Tanner

1. Connor McDavid - The year before last, he led the NHL in 5v5 scoring by nearly 20 points. He makes me believe in Jesus.

2. Auston Matthews - since entering the NHL, he leads the NHL in goals per minute, during a time in which Alex Ovechkin, the arguably best goal scorer to ever live, has scored 133 times. Matthews is also 5th in points per minute. A list of players that he has scored more points per minute than over the last three years is Kane, Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Gaudreau etc. Also, during this time, he was a rookie, a sophomore, and he missed time with injury three times, including 25% of each of the last two years.

3. Jack Hughes - He hasn't played an NHL game yet, so I expect this won't be a popular opinion, but I hope you are prepared for a lot of "Is Hughes the Next McDavid" articles this year. If he plays 50 games it's a guaranteed Calder.

4. Jack Eichel - I can't honestly defend this pick with stats to this point, but on nights when he's on he's more electrifying than anyone in the NHL. He's going to soon be playing on a better team and I think we're going to see finally live up the extremely high expectations people have for him.

5. Elias Pettersson - Apolgies to Sebastian Aho, but this guy is a highlight machine. He keeps me awake on nights when my draftkings flamed out and the late games would otherwise lull me to sleep.

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