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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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If you could select one NHL franchise’s core of players under the age of 24 to build around, which one would you pick?

That, in a nutshell, is the thought behind TSN’s annual Core 4 Under-24 analysis, which returns Wednesday with a special hour-long edition of 7-Eleven That’s Hockey (7 p.m. ET on TSN1/4).

On the show and on TSN.ca, we will be break down and rank the top four players from each franchise who fit that criteria, then rank those teams for the third year in a row.

(To see our 2017 ranking, click here. To see 2016, click here.)

We’ve taken it a step further this season by adding individual letter grades to all 124 Core 4 players in the NHL.

That doesn’t mean we’ve been perfect along the way.

In order to get where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. That’s why we conducted a self-audit. We’re not afraid to admit where we’ve made mistakes.

Here are three teams we got wrong in 2017:

Colorado Avalanche (Too low at No. 18)

Scoop: There was never any doubt about Mikko Rantanen’s ability, but the notion that he would blast off with 84 points last season – and that the Avalanche would make the playoffs after a historically bad 48-point season – wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Not only that, but Nathan MacKinnon nearly eclipsed his 2016-17 point total (53 points) in the first half of last season (52) on the way to being voted runner-up for the Hart Trophy. MacKinnon and Rantanen have now established themselves as one of the premier duos in the NHL, putting them in line for a well-earned year-over-year jump in the rankings.

New Jersey Devils (Too high at No. 9)

Scoop: In a normal year, the 52 points that Nico Hischier put up as an 18-year-old might have been enough to win the Calder Trophy. He did just about everything the Devils asked of him. With the explosion of Elias Pettersson, it’s now clear that Hischier is not the No. 1 player of the 2017 Draft and he may ultimately not even be the second best. For those reasons, coupled with the fact that the Devils do not have another ‘A’ grade prospect in their Core 4, the more accurate position for New Jersey in last year’s rankings was quite a bit lower than where they ended up.

New York Islanders: (Too low at No. 21)

Scoop: Mathew Barzal was off to an impressive start at this time last year in his rookie season, with 14 points in 17 games. The question then was whether he could keep it up for the remainder of the campaign and avoid the rookie wall. He ended up matching Evgeni Malkin for the most points (85) by a rookie in the 21st century and ran away with the Calder Trophy. His game-breaking ability, and fact that he’s been able to start strong again this season without John Tavares shielding his matchups, proves that he is an exceptional star in this league worthy of top-status Core 4 billing. The Islanders are so deep, with franchise netminder Ilya Sorokin and quality draft picks, that this year a player like Anthony Beauvillier has fallen out of the ranking through no fault of his own.

Find out where these three teams now sit in the Core 4 Under-24 rankings, plus all 28 others, when the 2018 version is released on Wednesday morning.

 

2017 Core Four U-24 List

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews, C
Morgan Rielly, LD 
William Nylander, RW 
Mitch Marner, RW

 

2. Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid, C
Leon Draisaitl, C/W 
Darnell Nurse, LD  
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW

 

3. Winnipeg Jets

Patrik Laine, RW 
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW
Jacob Trouba, RD
Kyle Connor, RW/LW

 

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

Zach Werenski, LD
Seth Jones, RD 
Alexander Wennberg, C 
Pierre Luc-Dubois, C

 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Andrei Vasilevskiy G
Mikhail Sergachev LD
Brayden Point C 
Cal Foote RD

 

6. Boston Bruins

David Pastrnak RW
Charlie McAvoy RD
Brandon Carlo RD
Anders Bjork LW

 

7. Arizona Coyotes

Clayton Keller C
Max Domi LW
Christian Dvorak C
Jakob Chychrun LD

 

8. Calgary Flames

Sean Monahan C
Matthew Tkachuk LW
Adam Fox RD
Mark Jankowski C

 

9. New Jersey Devils

Nico Hischier C
Will Butcher LD
Jesper Bratt LW
Damon Severson D

 

10. Vancouver Canucks

Bo Horvat C
Brock Boeser RW
Elias Pettersson C
Thatcher Demko G

 

11. Florida Panthers

Aleksander Barkov C
Aaron Ekblad RD
Michael Matheson LD
Henrik Borgstrom C

 

12. Philadelphia Flyers

Ivan Provorov LD
Nolan Patrick C
Travis Konecny RW
Travis Sanheim LD

 

13. Pittsburgh Penguins

Matt Murray G
Jake Guentzel LW
Olli Maatta LD
Daniel Sprong RW

 

14. Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel C
Rasmus Ristolainen RD
Alex Nylander RW
Sam Reinhart RW

 

15. Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg LW
Eeli Tolvanen RW
Dante Fabbro RD
Kevin Fiala C

 

16. Carolina Hurricanes

Jaccob Slavin D
Sebastian Aho C/LW
Brett Pesce RD
Teuvo Teravainen C/LW

 

17. New York Rangers

Igor Shestyorkin G
Brady Skjei LD
Pavel Buchnevich
LW Lias Andersson C/W

 

18. Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon C
Mikko Rantanen RW
Cale Makar RD
Tyson Jost C

 

19. Anaheim Ducks

Hampus Lindholm LD
Brandon Montour RD
Sam Steel C
Nick Ritchie LW

 

20. Montreal Canadiens

Jonathan Drouin C
Alex Galchenyuk C
Artturi Lehkonen LW
Victor Mete D

 

21. New York Islanders

Mathew Barzal C
Ilya Sorokin G
Anthony Beauvillier C/LW
Josh Ho-Sang RW

 

22. Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov LW
Luke Kunin C/RW
Joel Eriksson Ek
Matt Dumba RD

 

23. Ottawa Senators

Thomas Chabot LD
Logan Brown C
Colin White C
Cody Ceci RD

 

24. Vegas Golden Knights

Shea Theodore LD
Cody Glass C
Nick Suzuki C/RW
Erik Brannstrom LD

 

25. Detroit Red Wings

Dylan Larkin C/LW
Anthony Mantha RW
Andreas Athanasiou C
Michael Rasmussen C

 

26. St. Louis Blues

Jordan Kyrou C
Robby Fabbri C/LW
Tage Thompson C/LW
Robert Thomas C

 

27. Chicago Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz C
Alex DeBrincat RW
Ryan Hartman RW
Dylan Sikura C

 

28. Dallas Stars

Miro Heiskanen LD
Esa Lindell LD
Radek Faksa RD
Riley Tufte LW

 

29. Los Angeles Kings

Adrian Kempe LW
Kale Clague RD
Gabe Vilardi C/RW
Jaret Anderson-Dolan C

 

30. Washington Capitals

Andre Burakovsky LW
Ilya Samsonov G
Jakub Vrana RW
Tom Wilson RW

 

31. San Jose Sharks

Timo Meier RW
Tomas Hertl C
Josh Norris C
Kevin Labanc RW

 

 

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​