Part 1 of NHL Core 4 Ranking: #31-27
By: Zach Irwin (@zachirwin3196)
Like all sports we love to see the new kids on the block making an immediate impact in their prospective sports. Examples that come to mind are Ja Morant and Zion Williamson in the NBA, Kyler Murray and Josh Jacobs in the NFL, or Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. from the MLB. In the NHL, everywhere you look there seems that almost every team has one or more 18 or 20-something year olds who are not only really young, but they are dominating the sport more ways than one. The old saying was “It’s a grown man’s league”, well in the last couple of years the saying is more likely reading “It’s a young man’s league now”. With all the young players in the NHL, I decided to start a series ranking all 31 teams’ best 24-and-under players and calling it “The Core Four”.
This article we will be ranking team’s #31-27:
And to start off the list at 31 are the Pittsburgh Penguins.
#31: Pittsburgh Penguins
1. John Marino
2. Marcus Petterson
3. Jared McCann
4. Samuel Poulin
This year for Pittsburgh Marino was a revelation for a team that was heavily bit by the injury bug. Only in his rookie season, Marino has shown great flashes of being a shut-down top-four defensemen. Petterson was an under-the-radar pickup last season and has solidified himself as a good 2nd or 3rd pair d-man. McCann hasn’t played the way people initially thought he could when he was drafted in the first round by the Canucks in the 2014 draft, but he’s turned into an effective bottom-six forward, he’s only problem is staying healthy. Poulin has put the numbers up in juniors, but he does have a lack of speed and flash that could truly make him a top-six forward in the big leagues
#30: Nashville Predators
1. Dante Fabbro
2. David Farrance
3. Eeli Tolvanen
4. Philip Tomasino
Nasville’s top three players on this list have the talent to be stars in the NHL, but for them it just hasn’t clicked yet to the dismay of Predators management and fans. Fabbro has huge potential to be a star defenseman for your years to come in the league but his rookie season didn’t go the way he and Nashville most likely hoped for. Farrance was considered by many to be the best defenseman in the NCAA this past season. A good skater with an underrated shot and an ability to generate offense from the back end. Watch out for Farrance to make immediate contributions in the coming years.
Eeli Tolvanen, once considered the top prospect in the NHL has really taken a nose-dive in terms of his development in the past two seasons. He is still a young player at 21 years old, and still has time to possibly turn things around because he really does have all the skill in the world to be an impact player in the NHL. But he is on the chopping block. Tomasino, last year’s 24th overall pick, a right-handed shot centermen is a fearless puck-carrier with elite hands. Has an explosive skating ability and has great upside if everything comes together to be a very good second line center.
#29: Los Angeles Kings
1. Alex Turcotte
2. Rasmus Kupari
3. Gabe Vilardi
4. Tobias Bjornfot
The Kings group are all prospects and while all four of these players have extremely high upside, none of them are sure things in the NHL. Turcotte who was the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft is an excellent two-way forward that has the potential to be selke contender for years to come. A highly competitive player with high-end speed and skill. He did struggle at times during his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin. He has decided to turn pro so will see if he makes the team out of camp next season. Kupri is a skilled center when he has the puck on his stick.
His ability to create scoring opportunities for others and himself are what made him so enticing for the Kings to draft him in 2018. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL during the World Juniors and there really isn’t a timetable or plan for him at the moment for when he returns. But when he does he has the skill and speed to be a possible top-six center. Vilardi has the top end skill and grit to be a cornerstone center for Kings in the future. However, injuries have been a huge concern thus far and it has slowed his development to the dismay of the Kings. Finally, Bjornfot is a steady defenseman who won’t blow you away with anything special in his game, but he gets the job done, moves the puck well and defends good enough. He looks like a good top-four paring defender.
#28: Anaheim Ducks
1. Trevor Zegras
2. Sam Steel
3. Troy Terry
4. Maxime Comtois
Zegras, a left-handed shot center who was picked with the 9th overall selection in last year’s draft is the most skilled drafted player outside of the NHL. His versatility to play both the wing and center positions makes him extremely valuable. He knows how to get under the opponents skin making him a very difficult player to play against, but a delight to have on the team. He
plays like a Jamie Benn or Matthew Tkachuk with the skills and grit to make him a star in this league for years to come. Terry has skill to be a 50-60 point center/winger. When playing for the Ducks he didn’t make the leap that management hoped for, but he’s still young and the Ducks team is also very young so he will be able to grow with them and hopefully produce the way people think he can. Sam Steel, like Troy Terry, has very good skill at the wing position to produce 50 points and has 30 goal scoring potential. And like Terry, Steel didn’t put the numbers in the NHL level just yet, but in time they will both be impact contributors for a young Ducks team and carry them into the future. Comtois is a heart-and-soul type power-forward that gives those teams an identity. He’s a big-body who sees the ice well, has good speed and hands and is dependable on both sides of the ice. He’s been bounced around from the NHL and AHL recently, but will find his footing soon in the coming seasons.
#27: St. Louis Blues
1. Robert Thomas
2. Vince Dunn
3. Scott Perunovich
4. Jordan Kyrou
Thomas had a breakout season this season after having a coming out party during the Blues cup run last season. Producing 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) he truly became an impact player this past season. Keep a good eye on him. He is a star in the making and don’t be surprised if he makes an all-star game in the next year or two. Dunn, who was another vital part to the Blues winning the Cup last season, has quietly become one of the best puck-moving defenders in the league. Dunn has really asserted himself into an already great defense and has made it better. At a young age and already playing critical top-four minutes for a contender, Dunn will be considered in my opinion one of the most underrated players in the league for years to come. Perunovich was a man amongst boys this season in college playing at Minnesota-Duluth putting up big numbers (40 points in 34 games) before the season was cancelled. His offensive tool-kit is ELITE with the skills he has for a defenseman. With an already deep d-core at the NHL level, Perunovich gives St. Louis an extra toy in their farm system to dominate and make the big club sooner rather than later. Kyrou is very good in all facets of his game to be a good second-line center or at best third line center. The only thing stopping him is injury as he continues to grow into a bruising center of the future.