NHL
July 7, 2020
BY Calvin McAlee

10 Best NHL Players Under 25

The NHL is becoming more of a young man’s game nowadays. Speed and youth are quickly replacing size and strength. The game is simply the fastest it's ever been. 

Sure, the league still has plenty of veterans who are at the top of the game, like Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. However, it is the younger stars like Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon who are considered the best players to build a  franchise around.

These 10 players are all under the age of 25 as of August 2020. Expect these players to be at the top of the league for years to come. As you can see, some squads are stacked with the best young talent in the game and should be a force in the NHL for years to come.

10. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

Cale Makar is a defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche who was born on October 30, 1998 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The 21 year old was drafted by the Avalanche with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. From his first day in the NHL, Makar has made an impact for the Avalanche.

Makar scored his first career NHL goal on his first career shot, only one day after signing his entry-level contract with Colorado. The goal came in Game 3 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against his hometown Calgary Flames.

Makar is a core piece of this young Avalanche team going forward. One of the top youngsters in the league, Makar was second in total points among rookies when the NHL was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

9. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

The captain of the Florida Panthers, Aleksander Barkov was born on September 2, 1995. The 24 year old was drafted second overall by the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Barkov has spent all seven of his NHL seasons with the Florida Panthers. Since he first entered the league at 18, Barkov has been a consistent contributor to a less-than-stellar Panthers team.

Barkov had his best season in 2018-2019 when he scored 96 points and made his first All-Star appearance. He tallied 62 points in 66 games this season before the NHL went into hiatus.

Spending his entire career playing for one of the weaker franchises in the league, Barkov — if he can get out of Florida — would immediately improve any team’s chances of contending for a Stanley Cup.

8. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point is a 24-year old center for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Point was drafted with the 79th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft.

In the 2018-2019 campaign, Point contributed 92 points and had an impressive 20 power-play goals in 79 games. In four seasons, Point has 262 career points in 295 games.

Point was an All-Star during the 2018 season. He was a key component of the Lightning’s domination that year. In 66 games this season, Point has 64 points and a +/- of +28.

7. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche

Makar isn't the only young star on the Avalanche. He's joined by teammate Mikko Rantanen, a 23-year old Finnish forward. Rantanen was drafted 10th overall by the Avalanche in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Rantanen had an immediate impact on the Avalanche franchise as he made the opening day roster after being drafted at just 18. Although he didn’t play much in his rookie season, Rantanen made his real impact on the team in his third year when he notched 84 points in 81 games.

Rantanen followed that season up with 87 points in 74 games during his fourth season. An injury-plagued 2019-2020 season only saw him play 42 games before the COVID-19 hiatus in which he had 41 points.

Rantanen is now a part of one of the best top lines in the NHL that also features Nathan MacKinnon, who you might see later on this list. 

6. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

The highest-paid NHL player in 2020, Mitch Marner is a 23 year old Canadian forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was drafted fourth overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Marner has been a big contributor to the Maple Leafs since he began his career during the 2016-2017 season. In his rookie year, Marner put up 61 points in 77 games and finished fifth in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting.

In his third season, Marner had 94 points and played in all 82 games, earning him an All-Star spot that season. In his four campaigns, he has played in 300 games and has 291 points.

5. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

David Pastrnak is a Czech forward for the Boston Bruins. The 24 year old was drafted by the Bruins with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Pastrnak finished the 2019-2020 shortened season with 48 goals, tying him for the league lead with Ovechkin, making him the first Bruins player to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. Earlier in the season, he became the 25th Bruin to score four goals in a single game.

In 390 career games, Pastrnak has 379 career points. In 70 games during the 2019-2020 season, he had 10 game-winning goals and 20 power-play goals. That's pretty darn good. 

4. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

Leon Draisaitl is a 24 year old German forward for the Edmonton Oilers. Draisaitl was drafted third overall by the Oilers in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league, due to him playing alongside Connor McDavid, Draisiatl has been one of the league’s best players over the last two seasons. In the last two years, Draisaitl has 215 points in 153 games with a shot percentage of over 20%. He has scored a ridiculous 16 power-play goals in each of the last two seasons and tallied 10 game-winning shots during the 2019-2020 season.

In his six seasons, Draisaitl has 422 points in 422 career games. When the 2019-2020 season ended early, Draisaitl was leading the league with 110 points, 13 more than the next-highest player.

He also became the first German player and third Oiler (Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid) to win the Art Ross Trophy for the league’s highest scorer.

3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews is a 22 year old American center and alternate captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was drafted by Toronto with the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Matthews has been in the league for four seasons and has compiled 285 career points in 282 games. Matthews won the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 2016-2017 season.

He was having the best season of his career during the 2019-2020 season before it abruptly ended. He had 47 goals, one behind the league leader, and 80 points in 70 games.

After his career-best season in 2019-2020, which saw him end with a +/- of +19, his second-best of his career, Matthews will look to continue his rise in the NHL amongst the league’s elite.

2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The third Avalanche player to make the list, Nathan MacKinnon is a Canadian center and alternate captain for Colorado. The 24 year old was drafted first overall by the Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Draft.

MacKinnon was immediately a key piece of the Avalanche franchise from the moment he was selected. He played in all 82 games his rookie season, ending with 63 points and the Calder Memorial Trophy.

Over the last three seasons, MacKinnon has cemented himself as one of the best players in the NHL. In 225 games over the last three seasons, MacKinnon has 289 points which has led to two All-Star bids and a second-place finish for the Hart trophy.

MacKinnon is the leader of a young Avalanche team that is now among the league’s best after years of subpar performances. He finished the 2019-2020 season fifth in points.

Along with Rantanen and Makar, MacKinnon and the Avalanche are one of the league’s youngest and most talented teams.

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Of course, we couldn't pick anyone other than Connor McDavid to be the league's best player under 25.  At just 23, the former No.1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft is already the captain for the Edmonton Oilers. 

McDavid isn’t just the best player under 25-years old, he is the best player in the NHL at this time. He had a solid start to his career that saw him end with 48 points in 45 games during his rookie season. Since then, he has taken off and quickly become the best player in the world.

After his rookie season, McDavid had 100+ points in three-straight seasons. Had the 2019-2020 season not ended early, he would have done so in four consecutive seasons as he ended with 97 points in just 64 games. In 351 career games, McDavid has 469 career points.

McDavid ended the 2019-2020 season second in points behind his teammate Draisaitl. He has been named to the All-Star team every season he has played and he has won the Hart Memorial Trophy once, finished in the top five two other times, and won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies and Ted Lindsay Awards.

Photo: Getty Images / Lines.com Illustration