In hockey, it seems like most teams are following a similar path, by injecting youth with a mixture of experience. This seems to be a winning formula and the Pens were yet another example of this with the veterans carrying the way offensively, while a 22 year old rookie kept the puck out between the pipes.
This article will highlight particular situations of teammates who generally play the same role and position, but have a huge gap in age (except for one entry). In most cases, the younger guard is thriving, while the old seems to fading. However, we do have several cases of both young and old currently guiding the ships of their teams despite such a large age gap.
The article will be highlighted by the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr and a situation which made headlines during the playoffs with an unexpected new comer dominating when it mattered.
For now, we start off with the only curious case of a player and coach that are actually close in age. Can you guess which two these are?
15 John Hynes & Patrik Elias: 1 Year Age Difference
This is the only rare instance on this list that sees a close age gap. What makes it so unique is the fact that it is between a player and a coach. Normally, a coach has a pretty substantial gap in terms of age with their players. Ken Hitchcock, for example, is 64 years old, while his young breakout player Robby Fabbri is only 20. With a 44 year age difference, Ken can pass for Robby’s grandfather. More times than not, this is the case with coaches and players.
However, there are some curious cases like this one. Last season, the Devils announced that new coach John Hynes was stepping into the hot seat. He became the youngest coach in the entire league, inking the deal when he was only 40 years of age. It's pretty funny to think that long time Devils' veteran Patrik Elias is only a year younger than his coach, as Elias is 40, while Hynes is 41. It should make for some interesting team meetings. Regardless of his age, Hynes did a solid job in his first season with the franchise.
14 Dylan Larkin & Henrik Zetterberg: 15 Year Age Difference
It's a rare dynamic in Detroit, which seess the team's franchise players sitting 15 years apart. Zetterberg is set to turn 36 this coming October, while Larkin just entered his 20s in July.
For years and years, the Wings have had a constant reliance on seasoned veterans. With Datsyuk’s departure, the pressure now mounts even further on captain Henrik Zetterberg to guide the ship. However, he’ll be 36 at the start of the season and can certainly use all the help he can get. As opposed to previous years, the Wings are looking at youth to spark yet another playoff run. Dylan Larkin will be highlighted the most, especially after he had an outstanding rookie campaign, which could have seen the youngster be rewarded with the Calder Trophy. He needs to build off of his year and help man the ship alongside the bearded 35 year old veteran. Different in age, but similar in responsibilities, making a very unique situation in Motown.
13 Artemi Panarin & Marian Hossa: 13 Year Age Difference
It might not be very obvious, but Marian Hossa is indeed 37 years of age, set to turn 38 in January. He still plays a dominant game, as he's huge in size with some serious wheels. His game is yet to slow down, although injuries did halt the veteran a little bit this season.
Missing almost 20 games last year saw Hossa put up a career low in goals, as he found the back of the net only 13 times. Somebody needed to pick up the slack in Hossa’s absence and that person was a rookie who is 13 years younger than the Hos, Artemi Panarin.
Generally speaking, you can’t really replace Hossa, as his two way game is just so elite, but in terms of contributions offensively, Artemi certainly fit the bill, having an outstanding rookie season. Playing on the same line as Hawks mega star Patrick Kane for most of the year, Panarin put up some insane numbers, scoring 30 goals and picking up 77 points. When Hossa decides to hang them up, look for Artemi’s role to increase with the team.
12 Nathan Beaulieu & Andrei Markov: 14 Year Age Difference
Andrei Markov and Nathan Beaulieu basically sum up the Habs current defensive unit which is based on experience and youth. The Subban deal infuriated many Montreal fans for this very reason, as instead of getting younger, the team opted for a defenseman older than Subban and who is into his 30s. All of a sudden, The Habs top d-men are 37 years old in Markov and 30 (turning 31 on August 14th) in the newly acquired Shea Weber.
With that in mind, it is key that the Habs use their experience wisely by putting the grizzled vets alongside the young defensemen like Beaulieu, who is only 23 and has two seasons under his belt as of now. Putting Weber and Markov wouldn’t be the wisest decisionm especially in terms of depth, so look for Andrei and Nathan to play the bulk of the season together with one another, despite their large gap in age. It’s going to an interesting year in Montreal this upcoming season.
11 Morgan Rielly & Stephane Robidas: 17 Year Age Difference
Yes, Stephane Robidas is still an active Leafs player and hasn't officially retired. Injuries have prevented him for any type of sustainable playing time, but he hasn’t announced his retirement, though his agent said it might be tough for him to get back due to his age.
The Leafs can certainly use the experience, Rielly is the team’s top defenseman at the age of 22. Jake Gardiner is another young blue-liner who is still rather green at 26. Both are very offensive, so Robidas can still serve a purpose and fill in the void as the veteran defensive defenseman which every team needs to employ. His contributions can be served as a mentor for the remaining season in his deal with the Leafs that has been quite the disaster because of injuries. He signed a three-year, $9 million deal in 2014. In his first season in Toronto, he played a mere 52 games, scoring a single goal. He didn't play in his second season due to injuries.
10 Shayne Gostisbehere & Mark Streit: 15 Year Age Difference
It truly was a dream season for Flyers’ defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. We tend to forget, but if not for his play, the Flyers would not have been in the postseason. He was a third round pick in 2012 and played two NHL games prior to last season. He started putting up some serious points offensively and, before you knew it, the Flyers were back in playoff contention. They made the dance and Shayne put up remarkable totals, scoring 17 goals along with 46 points, finishing second in the Calder voting.
His teammate, and big minute eater, Mark Streit credited the rookie for a fantastic season, claiming he made the team better. Gostisbehere picked a perfect time to do so as well. With Streit being 38, the Swiss defender put up a career low in points, finishing the year with six goals and 23 points. It's safe to say that the 23 year old thrived at the best time possible.
9 Ryan Strome & Jason Chimera: 14 Year Age Difference
At the age of 37, Chimera was able to seal a new deal with the New York Islanders and rightfully so. Jason is coming off a career season that saw him put up 20 goals and a remarkable 40 point total. His contributions on the third line last season with the Caps was absolutely invaluable and he, along with his linemates, were arguably the top trio in the second part of the season for the Caps.
What makes the signing that much greater for the Islanders is how well Chimera has done with younger players. Last season with Washington, Jason blended quite nicely with the young Austrian Andre Burakovsky. The Islanders are hoping for something similar with Chimera and young Ryan Strome who is regarded as a huge depth player moving forward.
Ryan had a tremendous rookie year but slowed down last season, New York is hopeful that perhaps the speedy veteran can help Ryan get his game back for next season. Despite their age difference, look for the two to get some playing time together next season.
8 Nathan MacKinnon & Jarome Iginla: 19 Year Age Difference
We're pretty sure that Jarome Iginla didn’t get the memo that he’s 39, as he put up yet another 20+ goal season, finishing the year off with 22 goals and 25 helpers. He played most of the year alongside Nathan MacKinnon, so he had no choice but to use those old wheels when trying to keep up with the youngster.
It's an interesting dynamic with these two players, as one just entered his 20s, while the other is set to enter his 40s next year. Despite the age difference, the two meshed quite nicely together when placed on a line, as Roy loves to use young players alongside seasoned veterans, which has been a constant theme on several Colorado lines for the last couple of years. Iggy still has a lot left in the tank, but it’'ll be interesting to see when he finally decides to call it a career. If the Avs fall out of a playoff race, look for the team to trade Iginla over to a cup contender.
7 Curtis Lazar & Chris Neil: 16 Year Age Difference
We’ve seen it time and time again and it just doesn’t seem to surprise us anymore when a young player comes in and replaces an older guy in the same role. The Sens are currently undergoing something similar with Chris Neil and Curtis Lazar. Turning 37 this summer, Neil has been a constant pest and workhorse for the franchise. His heart and determination provides great energy for the club, even going into his 15th season with the team.
He’s getting older, so the team is quietly cutting down his time and increasing Curtis Lazar’s role at the same time. Lazar, who is 21, plays a similar role to Neil as a super pest who provides great energy. Although, looking back at his days in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he can also put the puck in back of the net, something Neil did not have success with throughout his long career. Look for Lazar’s role to only increase next season, while Neil might need to take another step back.
6 Jack Eichel & Brian Gionta: 18 Year Age Difference
It’s pretty clear the focus in Buffalo is on youth, with the team building around the likes of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane. Despite being surrounded by a subpar cast, the 19 year old still had a fantastic rookie season, scoring 24 goals and picking up 56 points.
We tend to forget, but the captain of the franchise is still 37 year old captain Brian Gionta. Gio is clearly in the twilight of his career, scoring a combined 25 goals over his last two campaigns with the Sabres. His best days are clearly behind him which were served with the Devils and Canadiens.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and what the future holds for Gionta, especially when the majority of his teammates are extremely young, as we're pretty sure he can pass as Jack’s father at this point. With a focus on youth, Gio might play his final season in the 16-17 campaign.
5 Bo Horvat/Jake Virtanen & The Sedin Twins: 14-16 Year Age Difference
The Canucks have finally made it clear that they are rebuilding the team around youth. The focus is now on a pair of 19 year olds in Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, along with 21 year old Bo Horvat. With this trio set to take over in the future, rumblings are already beginning to percolate in Vancouver as to where the Sedin’s may end up at the end of the season.
Set to turn 36 in September, the brothers understand that they missed their Stanley Cup window after losing to the Bruins in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since the loss, the team hasn’t been the same and decided to rebuild the entire franchise, which sees only these two left. Still trying to build, the Canucks might be inclined to trade the players in order to further their youth, while a craving for the postseason this year might be exactly what both Henrik and Daniel want. Things will become more clear halfway into the 16-17 season.
4 Torey Krug & Zdeno Chara: 14 Year Age Difference
Not only are they different in age, but there also different in size, as Krug is one of the smaller defensemen standing at 5’9", while Chara is the tallest player in the league with a height of 6’9". Being one of the oldest players in the league, we are finally starting to see his age become a factor, as the towering defensive presence has seen his ice time take a serious hit in the last couple of seasons as coach Claude Julien is finally slowing the big guy down.
Instead, the team has opted to use more of a player that looks to be half his size. Krug’s mobility and puck distributions at the back have helped increase his ice time. He has also become the main PP quarterback on the Bruins' first unit.
Krug put up a career high in assists with 40 last season, while Chara’s numbers continue to dip, scoring nine goals last season and eight the year before. This is yet another case of the new guard slowly taking the puck away from the old.
3 Matt Murray & Marc-Andre Fleury: 9 Year Age Difference
One of the most intriguing storylines of the past NHL season was a 22 year old goaltender coming out of nowhere and taking his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, before sealing the deal and picking up a Stanley Cup ring. Adding to the craziness, Murray did so by taking the reins from the team's long time goaltender and former Stanley Cup winner, Marc-Andre Fleury. Although the age gap isn’t all that bizarre, the experience certainly is. Fleury has over 650 games of NHL regular season experience while Murray has played in 13 games.
The Pens have stated there is no goalie controversy and that the team will ride both men throughout the year. Though, with an expansion draft on the way, look for Fleury to possibly be on his way out as the Pens won't want to lose him for nothing.
2 Max Domi & Shane Doan: 18 Year Age Difference
Similar to the Red Wings situation we discussed at the beginning of this article, the Arizona Coyotes are going through something very similar. He’s set to turn 40 at the start of the season, but Shane Doan proved last year he still has a lot left in the tank. The captain was remarkable last season, scoring 28 goals. The last time he put up numbers that high was seven years prior, in the 08-09 campaign, which saw him score 31 (a career high).
On the flip side, the Coyotes are now putting their attention on youth, Max Domi is exactly what the team needed, as, similar to Doan, he has an intense style of play which is not only physical, but that finds the stat sheet with regularity. Max had a great rookie season, putting up 52 points. Looking at next season, the team will look to a couple of players who are 18 years apart, but that play a similar role in the club's success.
1 Aleksander Barkov & Jaromir Jagr: 24 Year Age Difference
"I remember my first beer,' is what Jagr is probably thinking when he looks at his 20 year old teammate. All jokes aside, the Panthers second pick overall is truly something special. Last year, Aleksander Barkov broke out, scoring 28 goals and picking up 59 points in just 66 games.
On the flip side, Jagr, who is the oldest player in the league, is somehow still getting it done with ease. Jaromir scored 27 goals last year and those were his highest totals since the 06-07 campaign almost a decade ago, when he was a member of the New York Rangers.
The most remarkable stat of them all is that he played all but three regular season games with 79 total games played. They're different in age and trajectories for the future, but their contributions are both incredible at different stages of their careers.