With the NHL North American season kick-off just around the corner, all 30 teams are finalizing their 23-man rosters. I noticed an interesting trend: a continued prevalence of 18 and 19-year olds.
No less than 9 picks* from the 2008 Entry Draft, as well as many more from the 2007 Draft, have made their opening-day roster:
1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
3. Zach Bogosian, Atlanta
4. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis
5. Luke Schenn, Toronto
8. Mikkel Boedeker, Phoenix
9. Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
14. Zach Boychuk, Carolina
28. Viktor Tikhonov, Phoenix
And the 6th overall pick, Nikita Filatov, is in the AHL, so there is a likelihood that he will get called up at some point as well.
I understand that many of these players could be returned to their junior teams before they play their 10th game, but this is exceptional. Last year, only 4 draftees made their debut. And one of them (Kyle Turris, Phoenix) played in just 3 games.
Why is this? It could be associated with the lowering of the age to be an Unrestricted Free Agent. Or it could just be that these guys are that damned good, that at 18 years old, they can compete with the best players in the world. Or all of these teams are in rebuilding years and feel that they are looking to the future and letting their kids play.
Indeed, Phoenix has 10 players on their roster who were born in 1985 or later, LA has 8, STL has 7.
Will this trend continue to next year? There is no reason not to expect John Tavares and Victor Hedman (the consensus top 2 in the 2009 Draft) to be playing in the NHL right from the start. After that, I haven't read enough draft material to know where everyone projects.
This is more of an NBA or NFL draft mentality, where there are no minor leagues, so players have to make that jump immediately.
Whatever the reasoning, we could be looking back in 20 years and see how remarkable this past draft actually was.
On the other end of the age spectrum, I don't know what is more insane:
Chris Chelios was drafted in 1981 and has still played in 100 less games than the one person Ron Francis, who was taken in the same year, or Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux both played for the 1987 Chicago Cubs, and are now on opposite teams in the National League Championship Series.
*I only looked at the 1st round, so I may have missed someone, but I doubt it