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Snipers in Diapers – Your Quick Fix of Youthful Talent in the NHL

Hello and welcome to the very first edition of Snipers in Diapers! This will be your non-stop shop for the youth movement in the NHL. You might be thinking, what in the heck does that mean? No, we won’t be discussing Ilya Kovalchuk‘s diaper preference, or Alex Ovechkin‘s go-to brand (it’s Huggies). Instead, we are going to focus on the young talent in the NHL.

You can easily find your lists of ‘Top 25 Under 25’ around the wide web of the world, but this will not simply just be a list of everyone 25 and under. What we will provide you (potential readers) is a daily, or near daily discussion of the slate of games the night prior and weed out some of the top performances of players age 23 and under.

This can be useful in a number of ways.

  1. Seasonal Fantasy League – This can give you an idea of some of the best young talent around the league, night in and night out.
  2. DFS – If you play daily fantasy sports on DraftKings, FanDuel, or one of the many DFS websites, you may see some of these young studs names appear on your list. In some cases, you may find them cheaper than some of the more established talent in the league.
  3. Draft/Dynasty – Have you ever been part of a dynasty fantasy league? If not, I highly recommend it. It brings the armchair GMs out of their comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to really build your franchise from the ground up. If you do partake in a dynasty league, you know better than most that you need young talent to build your team now, and for the future.

This first post will be a little different from the rest, as we are already almost a month into the season. Normally we will take last night’s ridiculous 10-game slate (Insert Seinfeld’s “Yada yada yada – This guy did this and that guy did that”).

However, the way we can kick things off this time around is by seeking out some of my personal favorite top young performers, 23 and under on the season. We will look at standard statistics, along with a mix of advanced statistics and underlying metrics for potential sustainability. Please feel free to comment or find me on Twitter @RickyOlshansky with more of your favorite top young talent around the NHL.

Are you ready? I sure am. Let’s get weird!

Top Performers 23 and under:

Auston Matthews – If you have watched any hockey this year, it should come as no surprise why we’re starting with Matthews. He is your league leader in goals with 10 (Well tied for the league lead with a bowl of Pasta…I’ll explain later). Matthews, along with the rest of the Leafs, have gone a bit cold as of late, but he had one of the hottest starts we’ve seen in a long time. Scoring goals in six consecutive games to start the season is pretty ridiculous. But going a step further, Matthews tallied two goals in four of the six matches.

David Pastrnak – Here is your bowl of “Pasta”. One of the best nicknames in the NHL, and my personal favorite meal. Seems like there should be more vowels somewhere in his name but oh well. Tied with Matthews in goals scored, Pastrnak has been consistent throughout the short season. He really broke out two seasons ago with 34 goals and 36 assists. He followed it up last year with an even better performance, increasing his points by 10. Starting off hot, Pasta has 10 goals in 10 games and eight of them have come at even strength. His possession metrics are outstanding as well with a CF% of 58.1 and a FF% of 57.2.

Nathan MacKinnon – Wow, I was surprised to find out Mac is still just 23 years old. A veteran on this list, as he only has one more year of diaper eligibility. MacKinnon debuted at 18 which is how he is already in his sixth NHL season. Last year he finally had the statistics to back up the Avs’ reasoning for spending a #1 overall pick on him in 2013. MacKinnon beat his career best in points by a huge margin of 34. He finished near the century mark with 97 points, 39 goals, and 58 assists. He led the league with 12 game winning goals, and is off to another hot start this year with 18 points in 11 games. He and his line mate, who we’ll talk about next, were on a nine game point streak until just the other night.

Mikko Rantanen – Rantanen fits comfortably in the diaper category, and is now finally allowed to consume alcohol in the U.S. Mikko and Mac have been one of the most formidable duos in the NHL. He has 20 points and plays more of a setup role with 15 assists and five goals. 53% of the time he starts a shift in the offensive zone to exploit his passing skills.

Alex DeBrincat – The Cat fits the diaper category even better than Rantanen, based on his 5’7” 165LB frame. He also tops Rantanen in offensive zone starts at 63.9%. Don’t let his size fool you though, as he has proven to be one of the better snipers in the league. Not necessarily with power, but DeBrincat kills goalies with deception and accuracy. Between 2014 and 2017 with the Erie Otters of the OHL, The Cat had three consecutive 100+ point seasons. He had 127 points in 63 games in his final OHL season, but fell in the draft due to a lack of size.

Sebastian Aho – Aho, at just 21 years old is off to an unbelievable start. What’s even more impressive is the start he and his Carolina Hurricanes are off to. They are at the top of the Metropolitan at 6-3-1, and have been one of the best possession teams thus far. Aho has exceeded 60% in CF% and FF%, including a career high 19+ minutes of ice time per game. With four goals and 11 assists, there is no reason to believe he won’t match or beat his 65 points from last season as long as his team can keep up this level of play.

Now look, I know there are a ton of 23 and under NHL players that belong on this list throughout the league. But the goal here was to prevent myself from creating a novel on the first post! Below are a few quick hits of some more Snipers in Diapers that have caught my attention before we wrap things up.

Quick hits of the 2018/19 season

Connor McDavid – Six goals and eight assists

Mitch Marner – Four goals and nine assists

Kasperi Kapanen – Five goals and four assists. 58.9% offensive zone starts.

Brady Tkachuk – Currently nursing an ankle injury. Three goals and three assists.

Matthew Tkachuk – Three goals and nine assists.

Thomas Chabot – Three goals and eight assists. 22+ minutes of ice time per game.

 

As we discussed earlier, this first post will look different from future Sniper in Diaper posts. A month into the season, the focus was on performances from the entire month. The sample size is much larger than what the rest of the topic will normally cover, thus the length you were forced to read. Generally, Snipers in Diapers is going to cover daily performances, so you may see lesser known players around the league such as Dennis Cholowski of the Red Wings who had an assist last night, or Timo Meier of the Sharks who scored a goal for the third consecutive game last night.

I truly hope you enjoyed the initial “Sniper in Diapers” post and look forward to the direction the NHL is heading in its current youth movement.

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