Wings' Larkin joined by rising NHL young guns

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Toronto's Auston Matthews, right, carries the puck across the Montreal blueline during a preseason game against the Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.

Detroit – Rarely has there ever been an infusion of young talent in the NHL as there has been the last two seasons.

Dylan Larkin was just one of many young players who made huge impacts a year ago, including Artemi Panarin (Chicago, rookie of the year winner), Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo) and Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia) among others.

And the rush of talent isn’t ending this season.

Auston Matthews (Toronto), Patrick Laine (Winnipeg) and Jimmy Vesey (New York Rangers) are potential breakout stars.

“When you have the best hockey players playing across the world, night in and night out, regardless of where they’re from and how old they are, you’re going to get entertaining hockey and we see that on most nights in the National Hockey League,” said Ed Olczyk, NBC sports analyst, on a conference call this week. “There’s some really, really talented players. You have some guys that have had success in the league and are proven studs.

“It’s a young man’s game.”

The move to youth is mainly because of the salary cap and the need for inexpensive, but impactful, players.

“When you see some top heavy guys up at the top of the totem pole,, it really forces teams to go young and force a lot of these young players in the NHL into roles on their specific teams.

“That’s just the nature of the beast because you have cost control for the first couple of years of these guys coming into the league, and they may be better than 75 or 80 percent than anybody in your organization.”

All this young talent has greatly improved the speed of the game.

“Now, if  you can’t skate, you’re not even in there (in the NHL), you’re somewhere else, you’re in one of the other minor leagues or maybe not playing at all,” said Mike Emrick, NBC Sports play-by-play announcer.

Like McDavid, Panarin and Eichel excited fans last season, the duo of Matthews and Laine are expected to raise eyebrows this season.

“In terms of his (Matthews) body of work and watching him play and develop over time, I don’t think he’ll be eaten up at all,” said Pierre McGuire, NBC Sports analyst. “He’s going to start the year as a depth player, that’s critically important, they’re not going to throw him to the wolves right away.

“And in terms of Patrick Laine, I’m not comparing the two (Laine and former star Teemu Selanne), but there are a lot of similarities. Patrick is going to do extremely well in Winnipeg.”


News sports writer Ted Kulfan ranks the 5 most exciting young players entering the season:

Connor McDavid, Edmonton: Would have been rookie of the year had it not been for injury. McDavid is a wondrous talent.

Jack Eichel, Buffalo: The cast around Eichel is getting better, which should help him flourish.

Artemi Panarin, Chicago: Was helped by playing with Patrick Kane, but Panarin is a terrific bridge to the future.

Auston Matthews, Toronto: The cornerstone of the Maple Leafs for many years to come, Matthews appears to have the talent, temperament, and character to thrive.

Patrick Laine, Winnipeg: Some draft experts felt Laine was a better player than Matthews during the Entry Draft.