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Looking To The Future: The Under-26 NHL All-Star Team

In this day and age, many people around the world, not just hockey fans, know about the most skilled hockey players playing in the NHL. Those well-known NHL players include Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Evgeni Malkin - just to name a few.

But what about the next generation of aspiring hockey players; the players that grew up idolizing Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. What about them? As the ever-evolving sport of hockey switches focus to the younger millennials, new superstar names are rapidly emerging from the shadows of yesterday’s NHL stars. Nowadays, NHL teams are always scouting for young talent because they provide newfound speed, immense energy and excitement. Whether through the means of drafting or signing players out of college, the new generation of hockey players offer unparalleled hype to any NHL franchise.

In today’s article, we will discover tomorrow’s NHL stars and potentially some future NHL players to don the ‘C’. The majority, if not all, of the hockey players mentioned in this article are extremely entertaining to watch and add a unique dynamic to their respective franchises and the league as a whole. These players are already dominating the leaderboards, and with an auspicious future ahead of them, there is no reason why they won’t have a promising career.

15 Right Wing: Vladimir Tarasenko

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The 24-year-old St. Louis Blues right winger inaugurates our list and rightfully so, after posting back-to-back 70-plus point seasons. On the ice, he can dazzle the opposing team’s defenders and utilize his slick wrist shot. When you watch him play, he almost looks like the second coming of Pavel Bure, “The Russian Rocket”, because he uses his explosive speed to weave through defenders quickly and create high danger scoring chances. The talented goal-scoring winger will represent Russia at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. He is evidently a leader on the experienced Blues team, leading the team to four consecutive playoff appearances in the last four years. The deepest playoff run they had was this past year when they were defeated by the San Jose Sharks in the western conference finals. Will Tarasenko be able to post another consecutive 70-plus point season? Most likely. Will Tarasenko be able to lead the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final? We’ll have to wait and see. But there is no doubt that Tarasenko will be one of the candidates to don the ‘C’ after David Backes signed with the Boston Bruins. He was also voted to appear on the cover of EA’s NHL 17. Tarasenko is undoubtedly a rising star who has already success and experience to excel in the many seasons to come.

14 Center: Tyler Seguin

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2nd overall pick in the 2010 Entry NHL Draft is quickly rising to the occasion and becoming the NHL’s next franchise centerman. He was traded in the infamous trade that sent him from the Boston Bruins to the Dallas Stars. Since then, the 24-year-old centerman has created impeccable chemistry with his countryman, Jamie Benn. They will both play for Canada at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in September. Seguin displays the talent and aptitude of a complete hockey player, possessing an accurate laser-firing shot and exquisite stick handling. With a Stanley Cup ring in his reservoir, Seguin will certainly be looking to replicate his success with the Dallas Stars. He has produced three consecutive stellar back-to-back 70-plus point seasons, also breaking the 80-point plateau in the 2013-14 season. The Dallas Stars haven’t managed to get past the first round in their two playoff appearances in the last three years. Accompanied by Jamie Benn, the dynamic duo will strive to lead the Dallas Stars to a deep playoff push. Tyler Seguin is constantly proving why he and the Dallas Stars should be a dominant force to be reckoned with and not taken lightly. As he continues his on-ice success, it will be interesting to see if his individual talent can help propel the Stars to playoff triumph.

13 Left Wing: Johnny Gaudreau

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Standing at 5 foot 9, the 23-year-old Calgary Flames left winger is showing no intent of slowing down anytime soon. After his 64-point campaign in 2014-15 earned him a Calder Trophy nomination, he followed it up the next season with a 78-point campaign. The relatively small winger is known for his outstanding vision and flawless hockey IQ. For the majority of the season, he plays on the top line of the Flames, which is centered by Sean Monahan. The recent 30-goal scorer, along with teammate Sean Monahan, the North American team in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. The incredibly highly skilled winger has had some degree of personal success, such as finishing 7 th in scoring last season, but he hasn’t had the same success with the Calgary Flames. He has only managed to lead the team to one playoff berth two seasons ago, which ended in a secondround loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Will Gaudreau be able to lead his team to another playoff berth? Many questions surround the young Calgary Flames team, but after beefing up their roster with the signing of Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott, they are destined to improve from their 26th overall finish. Overall, Gaudreau has a phenomenal set of hands that allow him to protect the puck and dominate his opponents.

12 Defenseman: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Selected 6th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Arizona Coyotes assistant captain has led the charge by proving his offensive prowess. He has posted three consecutive 40-plus point seasons and is solid defensively. Ekman-Larsson also plays a well-structured game by pushing his opponents to the outside and limiting their on-ice space. He is already well-known as an elite defenseman, appearing in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. His astounding skating ability enables him to seamlessly glide across the ice and maneuver easily in his own zone. Among other accolades, the 25-year-old defenseman competed for his home country, Sweden, in the 2014 Winter Olympics and captured an Olympic silver medal. His cool and calm demeanor sets him apart from other defenseman and always uses his remarkable hockey IQ to get the puck out of harm’s way. For the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson has led the Arizona Coyotes in points. It is pretty impressive as a defenseman to lead the charge of your team, so it will be interesting to see whether Ekman-Larsson can extend his personal success since the Coyotes haven’t been able to make a playoff appearance in the last five years. Ekman-Larsson’s spectacular point production totals are undeniably superior, but if he wants to be in the same category as Erik Karlsson, he will have to continue to improve his all-round defensive game.

11 Defenseman: Victor Hedman

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2nd overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has continually risen to the occasion and established himself as Tampa Bay’s #1 defenseman after inking an eight-year extension worth $63 million. The 25-year-old defenseman has reached the 30-point plateau thrice and set a career-high in points in the 2013-14 season with 55 points. Standing tall at 6 foot 6, he is a strong defenseman with a heavy shot who can use his explosive speed to be an impact player. The unique combination of his size and speed, along with his impressive hockey sense, cannot be overlooked, creating an excellent well-rounded defenseman. Hedman has helped guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to three consecutive playoff berths, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 2014-15 season that ended in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. He also won a bronze at the World Championships with Sweden. Allied with Ekman-Larsson, both elite defenseman will represent Sweden at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. His stupendous puck skills and stickhandling will be a key factor for the Lightning in future playoff appearances. If he can continue to live up to his expectations and his new hefty contract, then he will continue to rack up the points and be an integral part of the Lightning.

10 Goalie: Petr Mrazek

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 24-year-old Detroit Red Wings goaltender is the next star goalie in the NHL and is constantly exhibiting impressive athleticism. Initially drafted in the 5 th round of the NHL Entry Draft, Mrazek has been turning heads by his steady improvements since winning the Calder Cup with the Grand Rapid Griffins in the 2012-13 season. After backing up Jimmy Howard in his rookie season with 16 wins, he took over the starting position in the second half of the 2015-16 season, concluding the season with 27 wins. He finished 14th overall in wins amongst NHL goaltenders. His quick developing reflexes are giving him an advantage over shooters and is noticeably improving his rebound control. After taking over the starting job in Detroit, he has been in the spotlight ever since. Many analysists wonder how Mrazek and Howard will coexist beyond next season after Mrazek’s stellar season and Howard’s lackluster season last season. Mrazek recently agreed on a twoyear extension with an AAV of $4 million. With both goalies making north of $4 million, Detroit has a ton of cap strapped onto their two goaltenders. The 5th rounder of 2010 is undoubtedly a rising star in the NHL and is bound to excel in the coming seasons. In September, he will play for the Czech Republic at the World Cup. As he strives to become an elite goalie in the NHL, he certainly be looking to improve his reflexes and mental fortitude.

9 Right Wing: Nikita Kucherov

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 23-year-old right winger has consistently shown his goal-scoring instincts in clutch performances. After being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he has displayed the proficiency of an experienced sniper and thus, making a name for himself. With Steven Stamkos covering all the major headlines in Tampa Bay, Kucherov finally was able to emerge from the shadows to become the Lightning’s leading scorer with 66 points in 2015-16. He has a quick and highly skilled set of hands that can release the puck with accuracy and a high velocity. His brisk release has helped him reach the 25-goal plateau twice in his short career. As shown by his most recent stats, he has steadily improved with a 65-point campaign in 2014- 15 and followed it up with a 66-point campaign in 2015-16. His talent on the ice has helped lead the Lightning to three consecutive playoffs appearances, including a Stanley Cup Final berth in the 2014-15 season. Kucherov’s two successful campaigns in 2014-15 and 2015-16 has gained him a leadership role in Tampa Bay and he has certainly earned it. He has a laser of a shot and his explosive speed makes him look remarkably electric on the ice. Will the tenacious, dynamic sniper be able to guide the Lightning to another playoff berth next year? Most likely. It is incontestable that Kucherov is a rising star in Tampa and will only improve with time.

8 Center: John Tavares

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 1st overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has exhibited the proficiency of a prominent complete player from the very start of his career. He produced a 54-point campaign in his rookie season and hasn't slowed down at any possible degree. The No.1 selection became the Islanders’ 14th team captain in 2013, which is packaged with baring the leadership responsibilities of the team. He has certainly become the Islanders’ most talented player because of his determination, commitment and offensive instincts. His hockey IQ is phenomenal, which helps him create great scoring chances and possess a high caliber shot accuracy. His offensive talent has guided him to an Olympic gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He will also represent Canada at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in September. At the age of 25, he has garnered 500 NHL games and 471 points total already. His hockey expertise has led the Islanders to three playoff appearance in four years, after missing the playoffs in 2013-14. He provides the necessary leadership presence in Long Island and motivates his team through his on-ice performances. He has risen to the expectations on many occasions, prompting the Islander fans to call him “Captain Clutch”. Throughout his seven-year career with the Islanders, he has reached the 80-point plateau twice and the 30-goal plateau thrice. With his superb hockey sense and exceptional offensive aptitude, it will be fascinating to see if he can push for the playoffs for the fourth time in his career. He has only ever gotten to the second round, but nevertheless, his leadership prowess has immensely helped him towards an illustrious and successful hockey career.

7 Left Wing: Taylor Hall

via allhabs.net

We have another former 1st overall pick; this time, drafted in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The 24-year-old left winger was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers and was the first of three consecutive 1st overall picks made by the team. Surrounded by inexperienced, unideal teammates, he still found a way to bring excitement to the Oilers fan base. One of the reasons he was the top prospect in the draft is because he possesses both an accurate shot and superb playmaking skills. Hall utilizes his terrific skating skills to his advantage to storm into his opponent’s zone and set up his teammates for a highlight reel goal. The former 1 st overall pick and assistant captain of the Edmonton Oilers was traded in June to the New Jersey Devils, in exchange for Adam Larsson. Many fans were taken by surprise by this trade because the Oilers lost a ton of value. Nevertheless, Hall seemed thrilled to have been reunited with former junior teammate Adam Henrique. Before the NHL, Hall won quite a few trophies, including two Memorial Cups and two OHL Championships. In his 6-year career with the Oilers, he produced one 80-point season and three 50-plus point seasons. Though he was accompanied by a plethora of young talent in his later years with the Oilers, they never managed to successfully join forces and produce a playoff-worthy season. When he joins the Devils in October, he will undoubtedly be looking to seize this new opportunity, mentally reset his focus and contribute in such a way that helps lead the Devils to his first playoff appearance.

6 Defenseman: Aaron Ekblad

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, look! Yes it is! Yet another 1st overall pick that earned a spot in today’s article. The 2014 NHL Entry Draft’s top prospect is a defenseman and was rightfully picked 1st overall. In his rookie year, he collected 12 goals and 39 points; just enough to edge out Johnny Gaudreau for the 2015 Calder Trophy. Ekblad plays a strong, physical game and is excellent in both ends of the ice. At the age of 20, he has a hockey IQ way beyond his years, which helps him lead the team and provides the Florida Panthers with a formidable backend. He is a capable and mature defenseman, has great hockey vision and has the ability to set up quality scoring chances. His fantastic performances each and every night earned him a spot at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. The sophomore defenseman has had two consecutive 30-plus point seasons and is only going to get better with time. He recently won gold with Canada at the 2016 World Championships. He will also represent Team North America at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. As shown by his accolades at such an early stage in his career, he is destined for extensive opportunities and success in the years to come. Ekblad has become a sensation in Florida, leading the team to a long-awaited playoff appearance in 2015-16. This past offseason, he signed a massive eightyear extension worth $60 million, with an AAV of $7.5 million. It is a huge payday indeed, but putting up consistent 30-point seasons as a sophomore defenseman is an exceptionally rare phenomenon, especially considering that he is the complete package. In the coming seasons, it’ll be interesting to see whether he can live up to his contract and maximize his potential to become one of the most elite, dominant defenseman in the NHL.

5 Defenseman: Shayne Gostisbehere

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The 23-year-old rookie defenseman was the highlight of the Flyers’ season and certainly deserved all the attention that he received. Originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Gostisbehere emerged from the shadows to make a name for himself and prove his unwavering talent. Before his NHL debut, he wasn’t known to be the next Erik Karlsson or the next Drew Doughty. But before long, he started showing the hockey world what he was made of and produced a sensational 46-point campaign in his rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers. His on-ice offensive prowess earned him a Calder Trophy nomination in 2015-16 and a spot on Team North America at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. After an incredibly successful rookie season, Gostisbehere has been regarded as the next Flyers’ franchise defenseman. During the regular season, he broke and set the record for the longest point streak by an NHL rookie defenseman (15 games in length). Much like the other elite defenseman in the NHL, he has an outstanding hockey IQ and puck-moving skills. He is an excellent power play quarterback, finishing the season with 22 power play points. Looking into the future, there is no doubt that Gostisbehere will be a prominent contender for the Norris Trophy and a leader on the young Flyers team. At the age of 23, he still has tons of time to improve and hone his defensive abilities. In the years to follow, keep a close eye on Gostisbehere to see if he can progress and continue his on-ice offensive dominance.

4 Goalie: Robin Lehner

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The 25-year-old goalie was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. After six seasons with the Ottawa Senators, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres. The 6 foot 3 goaltender is known for his size and improved athleticism. With the departure of Jhonas Enroth in 2014-15, Lehner has finally inherited the role of the starting position. However, it was short-lived after he suffered an ankle injury that made him miss the majority of the 2015-16 season. He came back in January and experienced ankle issues in March. Lehner finished the season with a disappointing 5-9-3 record. No doubt Lehner has a deep desire to win each and every night. But with an inexperienced team in front of him that has had multiple top five picks in recent years, it will be difficult for him to lead them to a playoff berth. Will he have enough in the tank to turn things around in Buffalo? The odds are favouring no, but with the young talent of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo’s future is looking much brighter than ever before. Next season, Lehner will surely be looking to lead the charge in Buffalo and produce a career-high season.

3 Center: Dylan Larkin

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know why Dylan Larkin makes the list? He was the first 19-year old to play for the Red Wings since Mike Sillinger did it in 1990. The bottom line is that Detroit does not rush its rookies, unless they see something special - and they definitely found something special in Larkin, the first Red Wings teenager to score a goal in his first game since Steve Yzerman in 1983. He was the silver lining on a Detroit team that's slowly transitioning from the Zetterberg-Datsyuk show to a youth movement. With 23 goals to go with his 22 assists in his first season, Larkin is looking to improve those numbers -which he should do easily- this coming season, where he'll fill in at center for the departed Pavel Datsyuk. With big shoes to fill, we're certain Larkin takes the next step to becoming the superstar he's shown he could be, as well as the face of a historic franchise.

2 Defenseman: John Klingberg

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At just 24, with 2 productive seasons under his belt, John Klingberg has become one of the best offensive defensemen in the game. No slouch at his end of the ice, the Swedish native is already closing in on the century mark for points, which he should easily eclipse by the first few games of the new season playing for the offensive juggernauts in the Dallas Stars. We've already talked to you about Tyler Seguin earlier on in this list, and with Jamie Benn reaching the peak of his career, Klingberg is in an ideal position to see some hardware in the not-so-distant future, quarterbacking one of the most dangerous power play units in the game. Always looking to jump into the rush with his talented teammates, the puck-moving defenseman will see his scoring output increase next season as he'll surely take more chances with an improved defensive unit.

1 Goalie: John Gibson

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Frederik Andersen shipped to Toronto, John Gibson no longer has to look behind his shoulders - it's his net alone in Anaheim. At the age of 23, Gibson has been given the starting nod in nets for the Ducks, who hope the young goaltender takes his game to the next level. The trust is certainly there, and with a stacked team led by Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Gibson should see his best season yet as a pro, where he'll most likely be expected to start at least 60 games. Unquestionably a talented goaltender, Gibson is finally set to become the go-to guy in Anaheim, something the organization has been planning for a while. He'll definitely shine and lead the Ducks back to the playoffs.

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Looking To The Future: The Under-26 NHL All-Star Team