Under-rated Young NHL Stars.

Five young NHL stars who, in my opinion, have so far received less than their fair share of acclaim.

John Tavares, NY Islanders. He’s probably been overlooked because he plays for the poor cousin of the New York-area NHL teams – a franchise which seems in a perpetual state of rebuilding – but the 21-year-old Tavares is on the cusp of superstardom.

After netting 54 and 67 points in his first two seasons, Tavares is on pace for between 80-85 points, making significant strides in his development as a franchise player.

The Mississauga-born Tavares dashed the dreams of some Southern Ontario hockey scribes – hoping he’d one day join the Maple Leafs after his entry level deal expired – by re-signing a long-term extension last year with the Isles, remaining loyal to the team which drafted him, and determined to build them into a playoff contender.

Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers. Oilers fans know how talented Eberle is, but outside of Edmonton, he’s been overshadowed by the promise of 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall and 2011 first overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Eberle, 21, was selected 22nd overall in 2008, and had a good debut last season, with 43 points in 69 games. In his sophomore campaign, Eberle’s on pace for potentially 40 goals and 85 points. He leads his more touted younger teammates in scoring by a wide margin, and is among the league’s top ten scorers.

Perhaps another reason Eberle hasn’t garnered his just due is the Oilers remain a non-playoff club  in the midst of their second rebuilding process. If he continues developing at this pace, the Oilers won’t be outside the playoff picture for much longer, and Eberle won’t be overshadowed much longer.

Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said it best: “I think he’s one of the finest young players in the league that nobody knows about. If this was a kid in Toronto, they’d be making statues of him”.

Since joining the Stars as a rookie in 2009-10, Benn has done nothing except steadily improve every season. The 22-year-old is currently on a point-per-game pace and could finish the season with between 75-80 points, which would be his best single season numbers to date.

Benn was the second-last player selected in this year’s NHL Fantasy All-Star Draft. That’ll be the last time he’s picked that low.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues. Hockey fans were surprised last February when the Blues dealt away former first overall pick Erik Johnson  in a four-player deal with Colorado, which also brought them blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk.

The reason was Blues management believed Pietrangelo, not Johnson, would become the anchor of their defense corps. They were right.

Pietrangelo  had an impressive rookie season last year, with 43 points and a plus-minus of +18. This season, the 22-year-old’s offensive numbers are down slightly, but only because he’s improved his defensive play. No sophomore jinx for Pietrangelo, who is on pace to one day become a Norris contender, and remains the lynchpin of the Blues blueline.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings. Now in his fourth NHL season, his third as a starter, the 26-year-old Quick is among the league’s elite netminders, yet it seems he still hasn’t  received his just due.

Two years ago, Quick set the Kings record for most victories in one season for a goalie with 39. This season, he currently has the third-best goals-against average (1.90), third-best save percentage (.934) and is tied for most shutouts (6) of all NHL goalies. He’s on pace to be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Maybe it’s because the Kings have yet to establish themselves among the league’s elite teams, or failed to advance beyond the first round in the past two years. Whatever the reason, Quick deserves more plaudits than he’s been getting so far.

19 Comments

  1. Completely agree on Quick, for some reason everyone keeps pushing the Kings to play Bernier more and more .. and yes .. maybe they should .. if for no other reason than to get him some playing time in order for him to develop. But it’s so hard to find any time for Bernier to get in there as Quick has simply played outstanding hockey for the last few years. He’s in for a humongous raise in his next deal.

  2. Not a single young Red Wing?!What about Helm,Emmerton or Abbie for that matter?!

  3. Why is it that MY beloved Sharks never get ANY love?

    HELLO!! Can anyone say LOGAN COUTURE ??? It is a travesty that Jeff Skinner won the Calder last season, as COUTURE actually helped his team get into the playoffs. I am SICK of hearing about all of these EAST COAST teams and the HATED RED WINGS.

    LOGAN (Juicy) COUTURE for President

  4. zata: surely, you jest. I believe the topic is “under-rated Young NHL Stars”. Guess I missed the memo where those three you listed are of the same caliber as those listed above.

    SHARKATTACK: Yes, soooo many “East Coast teams” were cited….all one of them. And Couture is anything but under-rated, and certainly not on the scale as the aforementioned.

  5. I know you hate covering anything canucks spector, but what about cody hodgson? He has got a ton of criticism and is having an awesome year. Guess you didn’t see that.

  6. Rune: Oh, you “know” I hate covering anything canucks? Evidently you don’t follow this site very often, because if you did, you’d realize what an absurd statement you just made.

    As for Hodgson,he’s a rookie, and thus hasn’t been in the league long enough to be considered “under-rated”. If he’s not getting much attention next season while still playing as well or better than he currently is, then yes, he’d be under-rated. All of the above have been in the league more than one season. FYI, I believe Hodgson’s on pace for a Calder Trophy nomination this season. IMO he’s one of the top rookies in the league, putting up solid numbers despite averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time per game.

  7. Re: Hodgson. Do you see him as a solid 3rd liner or do think AV sees him as top six on RW next year or even down the stretch?

    Thanks

  8. I was fortunate to have picked up Tavares in my keeper in Dec. and working on a deal for Eberle now. I think I saw a recent poll rating Tavares, Hall, Seguin, RNH……….Eberle not even mentioned!!!

  9. I’d add Tyler Seguin to that list. He seems to be flying under the radar on a stacked Bruins team.

  10. personally, I see Hodgson as the 3rd line center for now and next year. He’s not suited to play the wing, but has shown he can play with any mix of Canuck wingers. If anything, Kesler would be better suited for the wing if the time comes to promote Hodgson to the 2nd line after next year.

    All those mentioned above will be prominent stars in the future, and suppose they are underrated but not if you watch the Western Conference. Love the game of every single one of them, although just warming up to Travares.

  11. Here’s a name I wonder if he would have been on the under rated radar. Sean Couturier. He’s got 10 goals, 10 assists and is +11 while playing on the Flyers 4th line. I guess my main reason for mentioning Couturier is that Matt Read gets a lot of attention because of the year he is having, so Sean is overlooked at times.

  12. These all see like solid picks but there are 2 people not listed that at least warrant consideration. They are Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonaugh both currently playing for the top team in the NHL in prominent roles, the NY Rangers!

  13. I might be biased, but I feel that another player that might be qualified for this list is Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the last year he’s made massive strides for a defender who’s only just played in his 3rd year of professional hockey, learning to use his 6’6″ frame without trying to injure players. Having suffered from a concussion this year, he’s had a rough patch, but if anything he’s come back a more determined to be one of the best two-way defensemen out there. I don’t think the league will ever give a player in one of the “non-traditional markets” their due unless it can’t be ignored (like Stamkos), but Hedman is showing promise… enough that I think if he continues on this trend, he could be a Norris candidate.

  14. DNE: I debated adding Hedman to this list. Ultimately, I don’t think he’s under-rated, as he’s yet to reach his full potential. That’s not a criticism, as defensemen usually take longer to develop than other players. He’s certainly improving with each season, but I think he’s still a couple of years away from reaching his full potential.

  15. I wonder about Letang. Sure he gets some recognition but I don’t believe it up to scale with how exceptionally he’s been. I gets over looked with Crosby and Malkin. I think I’d call him under-rated and a star.

  16. Lyle I would never try to debate You in hockey knowledge!!!But I believe the three I mentioned would be considered a much higher caliber on a lesser team!!To say They aren’t in the same mention as the ones You listed,I’d have to say one huge reason for that is They play for a team that doesn’t have to give them as much of the load and a hellva lot less ice time!!Just My opinion.

  17. I don’t think Quick is that underrated at all, I think the only reason that the Kings are pushing to play Bernier is to show him of to other teams as trade bait.

    Jamie Benn and Alex Pietrangelo are definitely underrated players who aren’t on a lot of people’s radar.

  18. What about Duchene, I know he has been injured and had a slow start but the kid is a 70-80 point player

  19. Good stuff Lyle.
    Zata: Oh yeah, Helm is as good as Benn. Mmhmm. You sure know your stuff.