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October 25, 2011 :: 2:29pm ET
It's a young man's game
If you haven't noticed, there's quite the youth-movement in the NHL right now, explains TFP Columnist Tab Bamford.

CHICAGO, IL -- You have to wonder how many NHL general managers are humming a Katy Perry song while they walk around their offices.

Looking at the crop of talent breaking into the NHL this year, and some of the names that have some fan bases excited, some of these kids will be thinking about their second pro contract before they reach the legal drinking age in the United States.

Edmonton might be the, pardon the pun, poster child organization for the current youth movement. Their leading scorer is 18-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has five goals in his first seven NHL contests. Taylor Hall, a 19-year-old veteran this year, is right behind him in scoring for the Oilers.

The defending champs have struggled through some early season injuries, but Tyler Seguin has been a revelation. After a 22-point rookie season, Seguin has been the best offensive threat in Boston this year where he's posted nine points in eight games. He won't turn 20 until the last day of January.

Jeff Skinner hasn't been a disappointment in Carolina, but he'll have two full seasons on his resume before his 20th birthday. He had an easier time putting the puck in the net than he did growing a beard last year; he scored 31 goals and added 32 assists while receiving invitations to high school dances.

Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, also 18, has been outstanding for the Avs. On a fast team, he hasn't looked out of place yet and has helped the Avs deal with more missed games from Peter Mueller. He scored two big goals, including the game-tying tally inside the final two minutes in Chicago on Saturday night.

Those Blackhawks might not have a teenager on their roster right now, but the organization is thrilled by the play of Pittsburgh-area native Brandon Saad. The fourth pick by Chicago, and 43rd overall selection, in the 2011 Draft, Saad started the year in Chicago before he was assigned back to Saginaw of the OHL. On Monday, he was named the OHL Player of the Week after posting six goals and four assists in only three games. On Oct. 27, he'll reach 19 years of age.

Winnipeg may have re-assigned Mark Scheifele, 18, to juniors, but he scored his first NHL goal before the assignment. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Sean Couturier moving in with Danny Briere would seem to indicate the Flyers have high hopes for the 2011 pick -- in the NHL.

A couple young defencemen have been skating regular minutes as well. Adam Larsson won't turn 19 until mid-November, but he's been skating almost 24 minutes per game for the Devils. Erik Gudbranson won't turn 20 until January, but he's establishing himself in Florida early this year.

Both of them hope to have a rookie season that equals Cam Fowler's in Anaheim last year; for what it's worth, Fowler doesn't turn 20 until early December.

All over the NHL, there are youngsters making an impact early this season. It has been years, if not decades, since this many teenagers were making a strong impact early in an NHL season. There have been a few baby-faced players that have been successful in given years, like Colorado's Matt Duchene last year or Patrick Kane in Chicago and Nicklas Backstrom in Washington in 2007, but this many kids starting this well is almost unheard of.

With so many general managers living the "teenage dream," one has to wonder if this trend will complete Perry's chorus. Will front offices go young and "never look back?"

Tam Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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