It's hard to recall a better time to be a young NHL prospect than right now. Young stars have spent much of the past year making their mark across the league, leaving a competitive Calder Trophy race in which any of Artemi Panarin, Connor McDavid or Shayne Gostisbehere could have reasonably earned the NHL's annual top rookie award (the nod ultimately went to the Blackhawks' Panarin). Notable omissions from the Calder race included Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Max Domi and Colton Parayko, all of whom have star potential. When the NHL playoffs started, it was young phenom goalies like Matt Murray, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Martin Jones who took center stage.
On top of that, the recent 2016 NHL Draft ushered in another wave of budding future talent, led by Auston Matthews, the second once-in-a-generation player to enter the league in as many years after McDavid, and Patrik Laine, a potential 60 goal scorer. The Draft also brought its share of risks, including the Columbus Blue Jackets passing on presumptive No. 3 pick Jesse Puljujarvi to select Pierre-Luc Dubois. As is the case every year, some of these selections will pan out and make team executives look smart, while some won't and might even get some decision-makers fired.
You will hear many interviews in the immediate aftermath of the Draft that feature plenty of back-patting on the part of general managers and much boasting on how teams were successful in getting the guy they wanted all along. Sure, everything seems rosy right now, but the true stories of success and failure won't be fully known for years to come. Still, we develop a pretty good idea over time on just which prospects are navigating their way along a road to stardom and which ones aren't quite emerging as advertised. Here are 10 players that appear poised to fit into each category!
20 Future Bust: Tanner Pearson
At the end of the 2013-14 season, Tanner Pearson was called up to the NHL to help with the Los Angeles Kings' playoff push and thrived, opening eyes with four goals and eight assists for the eventual Stanley Cup champions. It looked like a case of the rich getting richer as the No. 30 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft appeared bound for stardom. But the struggles of the club in the two years since have mirrored their prospect. Just as the Kings haven't won a playoff series since last hoisting the Cup, Pearson has failed to recapture the magic of that playoff run, failing to average so much as half a point per game.
19 Future Star: Christian Dvorak
18 Future Bust: Samuel Morin
17 Future Star: Jimmy Vesey
16 Future Bust: Michael McLeod
15 Future Star: Esa Lindell
14 Future Bust: Jake DeBrusk
13 Future Star: Mikko Rantanen
12 Future Bust: Slater Koekkoek
11 Future Star: Dylan Strome
10 Future Bust: Nikita Zaitsev
9 Future Star: Ivan Provorov
8 Future Bust: Stefan Matteau
7 Future Star: Mitch Marner
6 Future Bust: Jack Campbell
5 Future Star: Matt Murray
4 Future Bust: Griffin Reinhart
3 Future star: Jesse Puljujarvi
2 Future bust: Patrik Laine
1 Future star: Auston Matthews
One guy you won't hear any such concerns about is the draft's No. 1 pick, Auston Matthews. As a pro in Switzerland last season, the Maple Leafs' long-awaited frontline center scored 46 points in 36 games for Zurich FC, which served as a prelude to an impressive performance for the United States at the World Championships. If it weren't for Connor McDavid coming along last season, the arrival of Matthews would have been seen as the coming of a once-in-a-generation talent. Now, McDavid and Matthews could be poised to engage in this generation's edition of Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin. Of course, given that they belong to historical sad sack franchises in Edmonton and Toronto, respectively, the chances are good that something might go awry along the way.
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