The NHL has truly transformed into a young man’s game and that is pretty intriguing for NHL fans. NHL players from ages 18 to 24 seem to have taken full control over the game because they are bringing a whole new style of offence. There is still an abundance of older NHL players who dominate the game, but it is clear that stars are now born into their starting seasons. NHL teams now recognize a player’s value very quickly after they have made it to the league, so with that we have seen plenty of younger players traded as a result.
With that said, in this article, we will be looking at eight young NHL players who will likely end up traded for the right price and seven who are without a doubt safe. It is important to note that the players on this list are all younger than 26 and are still developing their skills at the NHL level. Every name on this list has or had huge trade value and were seen as future superstars in the NHL. Now that they have all played a decent amount of time in the NHL, we can see if they have reached expectations or not. That is where the idea of a trade truly forms for these players, especially with the ones who did not succeed.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the NHL youngster who will be traded and which ones are safe.
15 Trade Bait: Sam Reinhart
Since being drafted 2nd overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Sam Reinhart was expected to be a top tier player for the club. However through three NHL seasons, Reinhart has yet to show signs that he can be an elite player in the NHL. The Sabres have been patient with Reinhart’s development, but his lacklustre performance so far this season may be an indicator that they are ready to move on.
The Sabres are extremely desperate to get out of this rebuilding phase they have been stuck in, but for that to happen they need players like Reinhart to grow to what they are supposed to be. It is becoming apparent that Reinhart will never develop correctly in Buffalo and that is why he is trade bait. Reinhart is a player who needs a new start, so expect to see him traded soon enough.
14 Safe: Jack Eichel
The Buffalo Sabres had the 2nd overall pick the following year at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft where they selected Jack Eichel. Since joining the NHL, Eichel has been a truly dominant player and that is not going to change anytime soon. In fact, it is apparent that Eichel is only continuing to get better as every year passes and this is wonderful news for the Sabres, even though he has shown frustration with the team.
Because of all the success Eichel has had in his career thus far, he was handed an eight year, $80 million extension with the club. This absolutely shows that the Sabres are committed to Eichel long term and see him as their franchise player. With all that said, there is no way that Eichel will be put on the trading block and he very well could play the entirety of his prime with the Sabres (even though he may not be thrilled about that).
13 Trade Bait: Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett was drafted by the Calgary Flames 4th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and many thought he would end up being the team’s top player. Bennett was initially ranked as the number one North American skater in that draft class, but surprisingly dropped to 4th overall. The Flames had high hopes for Bennett, but things are continuing to get worse for him.
After a pretty decent rookie season with the club where he registered over 30 points, Bennett has yet to put up that production since. In fact, his point totals are only continuing to drop and that is a startling sign. This season has by far been his worst thus far, as he only has a measly three points in 19 games. It is fair to assume that Bennett will be traded soon enough because he simply does not fit in Calgary.
12 Safe: Charlie McAvoy
Charlie McAvoy is quickly emerging as an elite defenseman in the NHL and already appears to be the best defenseman on the Boston Bruins. McAvoy was drafted 14th overall by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and as every game passes, this pick continues to look like a steal. McAvoy is only going to get better from here and could be the player that leads the Bruins to contention again.
With all of this said, there is no way that McAvoy will be traded anytime soon. The Bruins have changed their management, so it is unlikely that they would make another idiotic trade with one of their top young guns. McAvoy will look to become the number one defenseman when Zdeno Chara finally retires. McAvoy is safe and will be for quite some time.
11 Trade Bait: Hampus Lindholm
Hampus Lindholm is one of the best defensemen on the Anaheim Ducks because he not only is solid defensively but offensively as well. Lindholm continues to show progression in his game and is one of the main reasons why the Ducks have been one of the top teams in the Western Conference for quite some time now. Yet, will they be able to keep Lindholm much longer?
The Ducks have one of the worst salary cap hits in all of the league because of the long term deals they gave to their aging veterans. With that, it is apparent that the Ducks will need to move one of their defensemen and Lindholm appears to be the odd man out. Lindholm has been in trade rumours for quite some time and it is only a matter of time before he is off them.
10 Safe: Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner has done everything right for the Toronto Maple Leafs since being drafted 4th overall by them in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Although Marner has had issues scoring goals this season, he still is producing many assists. Marner is developing into a very talented playmaker for the Maple Leafs and will look to only improve from here.
Mitch Marner will not be traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs any time soon because of the immense success he has had thus far. Marner had an unbelieveable rookie season and it is easy to believe that he can do it again as his career progresses. Marner is a blossoming superstar and will be a key reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs will be one of the top teams in the NHL for years to come.
9 Trade Bait: Noah Hanifin
When the Carolina Hurricanes drafted Noah Hanifin 5th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, many people believed that he was an absolute steal. Hanifin has been a very solid defender for the Hurricanes since joining the club in 2015-16, but the Hurricanes have a lot of depth on the backend. Due to the many extensions they gave out to their other defensemen, it is easy to believe that Hanifin could end up traded.
The Hurricanes are a team that are looking to improve their roster and besides their defensive core, they lack depth immensely. Hanifin is still young enough to net them a very talented forward that they desperately need as soon as possible. Hanifin most likely will never see himself as a top pairing defenseman with the Hurricanes, so realistically, he could find his way out sooner rather than later.
8 Safe: Patrik Laine
The Winnipeg Jets were extremely fortunate to draft Patrik Laine with the second overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft because he is quickly emerging into one of the best snipers in the NHL. For a time he appeared to be struggling with injury problems, but even with that looming as a constant threat he is just too good to ever let go.
With all that said, there is no way that the Winnipeg Jets will look to trade Patrick Laine because he is the face of the franchise. The Jets are finally becoming a top tier team in the NHL and players like Laine will continue to be the reason for it. There is no way that Patrick Laine will find himself on the trading block because he means far too much to the Jets’ franchise.
7 Trade Bait: Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog has been the captain of the Colorado Avalanche since his sophomore season in the NHL and overall, he has done a decent job. Besides last year’s abysmal season, Landeskog has been a very talented and important player for the Avalanche. Yet, with the Avalanche moving toward another rebuild, it is apparent that Landeskog could be moved.
Landeskog has been a very active part of the trading block for the Avalanche since last season. Although Landeskog has made it very clear that he does not necessarily want to be moved by Colorado, it may need to happen. The Avalanche are in desperate need of a major roster shakeup and with the Matt Duchene trade, the yard sale is officially open.
6 Safe: Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon was drafted first overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and since then has been a top player in the NHL. MacKinnon has only gotten better, even though he was stuck playing on some pretty terrible Avalanche teams. With that said, MacKinnon is only going to continue being a key player for the Avalanche for years to come.
Nathan MacKinnon will absolutely not be traded by the Avalanche and it is easy to understand why. MacKinnon is having a career year so far this season and it is likely that he will only get better. Also, it is important to note that Joe Sakic has made it clear, even during the Avalanche’s worst season, that MacKinnon is untouchable. MacKinnon is safe.
5 Trade Bait: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a very reliable player for the Edmonton Oilers since his in 2011. Although he has not been necessarily a superstar, he is a top-6 forward and has continuously been one of the best players for them, even during their worst seasons. It is understandable that he has a $6 million cap hit, but that may ultimately hurt him.
The Oilers are in financial trouble right now and they need to rid of one of their big contracts. With that said, it is easy to believe that Nugent-Hopkins will be traded very soon. He has been in the rumour mill for a handful of seasons now and with the Oilers’ top players getting big money soon, it makes Nugent-Hopkins expendable. The Oilers do not want to trade him, but they may have to.
4 Safe: Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid has definitely reached all the hype that he received when he was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. McDavid already has reached the 100 point mark in his career and that is definitely a rare feat in today’s NHL. McDavid absolutely deserves the captaincy for the simple fact that he has quickly transformed into arguably the best player in the game.
With all of this said, there is absolutely no way that Connor McDavid will get traded by the Edmonton Oilers. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that McDavid will ever wear a different jersey, but that would only happen of his own free will. So, it is absolutely apparent that McDavid will not be traded and is completely safe from any ludicrous trade rumours.
3 Trade Bait: Jesse Puljujarvi
The Edmonton Oilers were told that they struck gold when they drafted Jesse Puljujarvi fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Puljujarvi was expected to go into the top 3, but dropped and the Oilers quickly jumped on him. Yet, Puljujarvi has yet to make an impact in the NHL and with the Oilers being a contender now, they may look to move him before his value drops.
It is far too early to deem Puljujarvi as a bust, but there is no doubt that he could be treading toward those waters. The Oilers likely do not want to take that risk, so they could look to move Puljujarvi sooner rather than later. Now, for the Oilers to trade him, they would need to pick up a superstar or else trading him would be detrimental. Peter Chiarelli is known to make idiotic trades, so there is fear among Oiler fans about that as well.
2 Safe: Auston Matthews
This is a no brainer. Auston Matthews in the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs and what makes this most wonderful is that he is only in his second NHL season. The Maple Leafs have been through an extremely long rebuild and it finally came to an end when they drafted Matthews with the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, the Leafs have become an offensive powerhouse.
So, at the end of the day, an Auston Matthews trade will not happen unless the Maple Leafs’ management loses their minds. The Maple Leafs need Matthews as their franchise player because he has all the tools to carry the Leafs to their first Stanley Cup in decades. Matthews has already created a sense of optimism for Leafs’ fans so he will not be traded.
1 Trade Bait: Alex Galchenyuk
The Montreal Canadiens have never seemed to trust Alex Galchenyuk completely and with that, he has been the subject of trade rumours for years. Even after Galchenyuk put up a 30 goal campaign, the Canadiens were not completely sold on him because they did not see him as an NHL centre. With the Canadiens struggling this season, a Galchenyuk trade could happen soon.
Now, I think the Canadiens moving Galchenyuk is an unnecessary move because, realistically, that would only hurt them. The Canadiens are a club that need to win the Stanley Cup in the next few seasons or their chances will completely fade away. With all the negative criticism that Galchenyuk has faced, he may himself want out of Montreal at this point. They continue to use him incorrectly and it is starting to impact his production.