By Seth MacDonald
#1: Steven Stamkos, 2/7/90 (age 24; Tampa Bay Lightning).
This one is a no brainer. Since being taken first overall in 2008, his 233 goals are second most in the NHL to Alex Ovechkin’s 259. In his rookie season, Stamkos scored on just 12.7% of his shots; in the last five it’s increased to 18.2% while taking nearly 100 more shots per 82 games (how many games are in a season). He gets better every day; it’s that simple. He’s arguably the most feared goal scorer in the NHL.
#2: Tyler Seguin, 1/31/92 (age 22; Dallas Stars).
The second overall pick in 2010 is finally unleashing his full potential as a Dallas Star. The Bruins knew they had to trade Seguin after his disappointing postseason a year ago, and the deal has worked out extremely well for both sides as Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson have made excellent contributions for Boston. A change in scenery is just what Seguin needed. He wasn’t fit to be a Bruin, but he’s gotten a fresh start as a Star and has played with a whole new level of confidence. After his breakout 2013-14 season in which he scored 37 goals and tallied 84 points (4th in the NHL)—both career highs—he’s certainly emerged as one of the NHL’s elite players.
#3: Nathan MacKinnon, 9/1/95 (age 18; Colorado Avalanche).
The first overall pick last year and the youngest member of the Avalanche ever made quite the impression in his rookie season, scoring 24 goals with 39 assists—his assists being most among rookies and his goals being tied for most. MacKinnon has been a dominant player in every level of hockey he’s played. As a member of the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the previous two years before making his debut with Colorado, he scored 63 goals in 102 games to go along with 90 assists. His very solid rookie season is a preview of what fans are going to be seeing the next ten-fifteen years; look for MacKinnon to get even better.
#4: Jamie Benn, 7/18/89 (age 24; Dallas Stars).
Benn had his most effective season in 2013-14, setting career highs in goals (34), assists (45), and +/- (21). Before this year, he’s always been a pretty decent scorer but this past season solidified him as a top notch scorer. Of course, if you’re playing on the same line as a rejuvenated Tyler Seguin, that can tend to happen. In any case, Benn had a very steady season and will look to continue that in the years to come.
#5: John Tavares, 9/20/90 (age 23; New York Islanders).
The first pick in 2009 just completed his fifth full season in the NHL. Through his first 350 games, he’s notched 315 points (136 goals and 179 assists). Tavares has scored at least 24 goals in each season and has been very consistent overall for the Islanders on their first line. He missed the final 23 games of this season due to a knee injury, so he’ll look to come right back in 2014 and put up more of the same numbers as New York’s most prized player.
Gabriel Landeskog, 11/23/92 (age 21; Colorado Avalanche)
Taylor Hall, 11/14/91 (age 22; Edmonton Oilers)
Reilly Smith, 4/1/91 (age 23; Boston Bruins)