Columnist image
Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

|Archive

The bar has been set high.

Only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl meet it, as we take TSN Hockey’s annual Core 4 Under 24 ranking to the next level this year, breaking the best young players in the world into five separate stratospheres.

McDavid and Draisaitl are in a class of their own – the only two AAA players in the TSN Hockey rankings. Another 11 burgeoning superstars – AA players – many already lower-case faces of the game, rank below them. They are followed by the usual class of productive and talented first-line forwards and first-pair defencemen – A players.

We then assigned each grade a corresponding value, which aided in team rankings.

The results are unsurprisingly familiar, with the Edmonton Oilers landing at the top of the Core 4 rankings for the third time in four years. Watching McDavid and his second-brain linemate Draisaitl lap the league in scoring for the first-place Oilers seems to support that result.

But six of the last 12 Stanley Cup finalists find themselves in the bottom third of the Core 4, a poignant reminder for these teams to strike while the window of opportunity is wide open. It might not open again for a while.

That’s a message the Oilers, Maple Leafs and Canucks – three Canadian clubs inside the Core’s Top Four – should heed with the salary cap creating as much or more of a threat as a player’s aging curve.

Life comes at you fast, like this ever-changing referendum on the game’s next greats.

Methodology: We went through every organization, from top to bottom, isolating the top players 23-and-under who are now Core 4 players or are authentic candidates to become Core 4 players. We then graded each eligible player, which came with a corresponding point value that aided in team rankings. In the case of closely graded teams, the edge was given to teams with a stronger total core. With closely graded players, those currently in the NHL earned the edge over prospects in the minors or junior. To be eligible, a player must be 23 or under on Oct. 1, 2019.

Legend

Embedded Image Team moved up from 2018 Ranking

Embedded Image Team moved down from 2018 Ranking

Embedded Image Cream of the Crop

Embedded Image Elite Star

Embedded Image No. 1 goalie, 1st pair defenceman, 1st line forward

Embedded Image No. 1 goalie, 2nd pair defenceman, 2nd line forward

Embedded Image Depth goalie, 3rd pair defenceman, 3rd/4th line forward

Here are the fourth annual TSN Hockey Core 4 Under 24 rankings for 2019:

 

THE CORE FOUR

 

1. Edmonton (2018: No. 1)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Connor McDavid, C Embedded Image Edmonton (NHL) 22 24 16 28 44
2. Leon Draisaitl, C Embedded Image Edmonton (NHL) 24 24 16 28 44
3. Philip Broberg, D Embedded Image Skelleftea (SHL) 18 19 0 3 3
4. Evan Bouchard, D Embedded Image Bakersfield (AHL) 20 16 3 6 9
 

Aged Out From 2018: Darnell Nurse

Scoop: We’ve run out of superlatives to describe McDavid and Draisaitl. So we’ll ask: When was the last time two teammates had a one-two finish in voting for the Hart Trophy? It’s supposed to be for the player adjudged most valuable to his team. They’re impossible to separate. (The answer, by the way, is Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito in 1970-71)

Click here for Edmonton's Core 4...Plus Four.

 

 

Embedded Image2. Colorado (2018: No. 3)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Mikko Rantanen, RW Embedded Image Colorado (NHL) 23 9 5 7 12
2. Cale Makar, D Embedded Image Colorado (NHL) 21 22 7 18 25
3. Bowen Byram, D Embedded Image Vancouver (WHL) 18 21 3 12 15
4. Samuel Girard, D Embedded Image Colorado (NHL) 21 22 1 7 8
 

Aged Out From 2018: Nathan MacKinnon

Scoop: Cale Makar is the exception to the rule, the only player without a significant NHL body of work to earn “AA” status in the Core 4. He’s that smooth. Makar became second-fastest rookie defenceman to 20 points, hitting the mark in 20 games, ahead of Bobby Orr (33 GP) and Nick Lidstrom (22 GP). That’s decent company.

 

 

Embedded Image3. Toronto (2018: No. 2)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Auston Matthews, C Embedded Image Toronto (NHL) 22 24 15 13 28
2. Mitch Marner, RW Embedded Image Toronto (NHL) 22 18 4 14 18
3. William Nylander, RW Embedded Image Toronto (NHL) 23 24 8 10 18
4. Kasperi Kapanen, RW Embedded Image Toronto (NHL) 23 24 6 6 12
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: There’s been no shortage of disappointment around the Maple Leafs to start this season. But one development that’s flown under the radar is that William Nylander is back to producing like the first line talent he’s paid to be. If the Leafs do decide to shake things up, Nylander would have to be one of their most enticing moveable assets.

Click here for Toronto's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

4. Vancouver (2018: 4)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Elias Pettersson, C Embedded Image Vancouver (NHL) 21 23 9 19 28
2. Brock Boeser, RW Embedded Image Vancouver (NHL) 22 23 10 13 23
3. Quinn Hughes, D Embedded Image Vancouver (NHL) 20 22 2 15 17
4. Vasily Podkolzin, RW Embedded Image St. Petersburg (KHL) 18 11 0 0 0
 

Aged Out From 2018: Bo Horvat

Scoop: Not many NHL teams can graduate their captain from the Core 4 and still place in the top four. Then again, not many teams are like the Canucks, one of just three with an “A” graded player in the fourth slot.

Click here for Vancouver's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

THE NEXT FOUR

 

Embedded Image5. Carolina (2018: 12)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Sebastian Aho, C Embedded Image Carolina (NHL) 22 22 11 6 17
2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW Embedded Image Carolina (NHL) 19 22 10 14 24
3. Martin Necas, C Embedded Image Carolina (NHL) 20 22 5 10 15
4. Alex Nedeljkovic, G Embedded Image Charlotte (AHL) 23 8 2-5-1 2.80 .903
 

Aged Out From 2018: Brett Pesce

Scoop: Over three years, the Canes have climbed from 16 to 12, now up to five. They’ve always been this good, graduating Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Teuvo Teravainen over that time. We overlooked them, but now we’re in tune with a franchise ready to be an East power for the next number of years.

 

 

Embedded Image6. Philadelphia (2018: 16)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Carter Hart, G Embedded Image Philadelphia (NHL) 21 14 6-5-2 2.72 .896
2. Ivan Provorov, D Embedded Image Philadelphia (NHL) 22 22 5 9 14
3. Travis Konecny, RW Embedded Image Philadelphia (NHL) 22 22 8 13 23
4. Joel Farabee, LW Embedded Image Philadelphia (NHL) 19 16 2 3 5
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Here’s the scary thing about the Flyers: Not only does their Core 4 not include 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, who has sat out this season with migraines, but it also didn’t have room for Philly’s current leading goal scorer in Oskar Lindblom. The bet is Lindblom, Phil Myers, Travis Sanheim, Patrick and Morgan Frost each might’ve made the Core for 20 other NHL teams.

 

 

7. Boston (2018: 7)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. David Pastrnak, RW Embedded Image Boston (NHL) 23 22 20 16 36
2. Charlie McAvoy, D Embedded Image Boston (NHL) 21 22 0 7 7
3. Brandon Carlo, D Embedded Image Boston (NHL) 22 22 2 5 7
4. Jake DeBrusk, LW Embedded Image Boston (NHL) 23 17 3 3 6
 

Aged Out From 2018: None.

Scoop: David Pastrnak was the only player under consideration to join the rarified air of the “AAA” club in the Core 4 alongside McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s scoring at will, on pace this season to be the NHL’s first 70-goal scorer since Alex Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each did it in 1992-93.

 

 

Embedded Image8. Buffalo (2018: 6)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Jack Eichel, C Embedded Image Buffalo (NHL) 23 22 13 13 26
2. Rasmus Dahlin, D Embedded Image Buffalo (NHL) 19 22 1 13 14
3. Sam Reinhart, RW Embedded Image Buffalo (NHL) 24 22 8 9 17
4. Casey Mittelstadt, C Embedded Image Buffalo (NHL) 20 22 3 4 7
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Jack Eichel has taken it to the next level this season, one of the NHL’s truly dominant players through the first quarter. It’s hard to believe the Sabres’ captain and $10 million man had not yet hit 30 goals in his first four seasons.

 

 

THE WILD CARD

 

Embedded Image9. NY Rangers (2018: 20)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Kaapo Kakko, RW Embedded Image NY Rangers (NHL) 19 17 6 4 10
2. Igor Shestyorkin, G Embedded Image Hartford (AHL) 23 11 7-2-4 1.89 .931
3. Vitali Kravtsov, RW Embedded Image Chelyabinsk (KHL) 19 6 1 1 2
4. Adam Fox, D Embedded Image NY Rangers (NHL) 21 19 3 6 9
 

Aged Out From 2018: Neal Pionk (also traded to Winnipeg)

Scoop: New York is home to the Core 4 wild card. The Broadway Blueshirts have Kaapo Kakko, Igor Shestyorkin, Vitaly Kravtsov and Adam Fox ready for the big time. But the sky is the limit for rebuilding Rangers, with a varied prospect pool that’s deep and has every position covered, starting with the best goaltending prospect in the world in Shestyorkin, the heir to King Henrik’s throne.

 

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

 

Embedded Image10. Tampa Bay (2018: 14)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Brayden Point, C Embedded Image Tampa Bay (NHL) 23 16 5 8 13
2. Mikhail Sergachev, D Embedded Image Tampa Bay (NHL) 21 19 1 9 10
3. Anthony Cirelli, C Embedded Image Tampa Bay (NHL) 22 18 4 8 12
4. Mathieu Joseph, RW Embedded Image Tampa Bay (NHL) 22 19 4 2 6
 

Aged Out: None

Scoop: Anthony Cirelli’s excellent rookie season got lost in the buzz of an exceptional Calder class last year. He ended up with 19 goals and 39 points and was voted the first-team All-Rookie centre, playing a checking role that brings a much-needed different element to the Bolts.

 

 

Embedded Image11. Calgary (2018: 13)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Matthew Tkachuk, LW Embedded Image Calgary (NHL) 21 25 10 10 20
2. Juuso Valimaki, D Embedded Image Calgary (NHL) 21 0 0 0 0
3. Noah Hanifin, D Embedded Image Calgary (NHL) 22 25 3 4 7
4. Rasmus Andersson, D Embedded Image Calgary (NHL) 23 25 2 4 6
 

Aged Out From 2018: Elias Lindholm

Scoop: The big blow to the Flames’ season was losing Juuso Valimaki to a torn ACL in August, putting a potential breakout campaign on pause. He put a wrench in Calgary’s depth chart and left natural questions about how much his recovery will halt his trending first-pairing progress.

Click here for Calgary's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

Embedded Image12. Ottawa (2018: 10)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Thomas Chabot, D Embedded Image Ottawa (NHL) 22 22 1 11 12
2. Brady Tkachuk, LW Embedded Image Ottawa (NHL) 20 22 8 5 13
3. Erik Brannstrom, D Embedded Image Ottawa (NHL) 20 19 0 2 2
4. Drake Batherson, RW Embedded Image Belleville (AHL) 21 15 6 11 17
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: What a difference a year makes, subbing out Max Lajoie (in the AHL) for top-end prospect Erik Brannstrom. This Core 4 is experiencing growing pains in the NHL, but they’re doing it together. The fun is in projecting what this Sens roster will look like with two or three years of seasoning. It’s already catching teams by surprise.

Click here for Ottawa's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

Embedded Image13. Chicago (2018: 22)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Alex DeBrincat, RW/LW Embedded Image Chicago (NHL) 21 22 5 12 17
2. Kirby Dach, C/RW Embedded Image Chicago (NHL) 18 16 5 5 10
3. Adam Boqvist, D Embedded Image Rockford (AHL) 19 7 1 0 1
4. Dylan Strome, C Embedded Image Chicago (NHL) 22 22 5 12 17
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: It’s been a change on the fly for Stan Bowman’s Blackhawks. Alex DeBrincat is doing his thing and he’s helped Dylan Strome rejuvenate his game. But the additions of Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist in real time make the future suddenly look a whole lot brighter than it did.

 

 

Embedded Image14. New Jersey (2018: 26)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Jack Hughes, C Embedded Image New Jersey (NHL) 18 20 4 6 10
2. Nico Hischier, C Embedded Image New Jersey (NHL) 20 18 3 7 10
3. Ty Smith, D Embedded Image Spokane (WHL) 19 14 4 10 14
4. Jesper Bratt, LW Embedded Image New Jersey (NHL) 21 17 4 3 7
 

Aged Out From 2018: Will Butcher

Scoop: The Devils were the biggest climber in the 2019 edition of the Core 4, rising 12 spots from 2018. Yep, that’s what you get for winning the Draft Lottery and the right to select Jack Hughes. Thanks, Taylor Hall.

 

 

Embedded Image15. Montreal (2018: 18)

Embedded Image

The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Cole Caufield, RW Embedded Image Wisconsin (NCAA) 18 12 9 6 15
2. Alexander Romanov, D Embedded Image Moscow (KHL) 19 28 0 3 3
3. Nick Suzuki, RW Embedded Image Montreal (NHL) 20 22 6 4 10
4. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C Embedded Image Montreal (NHL) 19 15 2 1 3
 

Aged Out From 2018: Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin

Scoop: It’s incredible how the shape of the Habs’ Core 4 has changed in just two years. ‘Goal’ Caulfield has jumped to the top of the board on the basis of scoring goals like no one else. But there is also some concern about potential regression from Jesperi Kotkaniemi as he continues to find his way.

Click here for Montreal's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

Embedded Image16. Arizona (2018: 15)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Clayton Keller, C/RW Embedded Image Arizona (NHL) 21 23 4 9 13
2. Barrett Hayton, C Embedded Image Arizona (NHL) 19 10 1 3 4
3. Jan Jenik, C Embedded Image Hamilton (OHL) 19 21 19 27 46
4. Nick Schmaltz, C Embedded Image Arizona (NHL) 23 23 4 14 18
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: No prospect has burst onto the scene quite like Jan Jenik, the third-round pick (No. 65 overall) from 2018, who has been electrifying this season in the OHL. Jenik has notched a point in every single game this season, a 20-game streak to start the year. He has a long way to go to catch Doug Gilmour for the OHL record at 55 games.

 

 

Embedded Image17. Washington (2018: 23)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Jakub Vrana, LW Embedded Image Washington (NHL) 23 24 10 8 18
2. Ilya Samsonov, G Embedded Image Washington (NHL) 22 8 5-2-1 2.65 .912
3. Connor McMichael, C Embedded Image London (OHL) 18 18 20 23 43
4. Martin Fehervary, D Embedded Image Hershey (AHL) 20 15 2 6 8
 

Aged Out From 2018: Andre Burakovsky (also traded to Colorado)

Scoop: It’s the United Nations version of the Core 4 in the U.S. capital with a Czech, a Russian, a Canadian and a Slovak. Ilya Samsonov certainly appears to be showing enough to make the cap-crunched Caps think long and hard about Braden Holtby moving on as a free agent this summer.

 

 

Embedded Image18. Dallas (2018: 13)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Miro Heiskanen, D Embedded Image Dallas (NHL) 20 23 6 11 17
2. Thomas Harley, D Embedded Image Mississauga (OHL) 18 19 10 11 21
3. Roope Hintz, C Embedded Image Dallas (NHL) 23 16 9 2 11
4. Denis Gurianov, LW/RW Embedded Image Dallas (NHL) 22 19 4 4 8
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Miro Heiskanen may have finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting last season but he is one of just 11 players to earn a “AA” grade in the Core 4. Heiskanen controls the game from the backend for Dallas with a poise and pace that’s scary for his age. The Stars overhauled the Core 4 under Heiskanen this year, aided by the emergence of Roope Hintz.

 

 

Embedded Image19. Winnipeg (2018: 5)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Kyle Connor, LW Embedded Image Winnipeg (NHL) 22 23 8 10 18
2. Patrik Laine, LW Embedded Image Winnipeg (NHL) 21 21 6 14 20
3. Nikolaj Ehlers, RW Embedded Image Winnipeg (NHL) 23 23 10 7 17
4. Ville Heinola, D Embedded Image Lukko (SM Liiga) 18 4 0 0 0
 

Aged Out From 2018: Josh Morrissey

Scoop: No team took a bigger tumble in the Core 4 rankings than the Jets, who slid 14 spots from last year. That’s on the back of Patrik Laine, who scored 13 goals in a 10-day span this time last year. He has just 14 in the calendar year since, leaving plenty of questions about his rank and status in the Core 4.

Click here for Winnipeg's Core Four...Plus Four.

 

 

Embedded Image20. Columbus (2018: 17)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Zach Werenski, D Embedded Image Columbus (NHL) 22 21 6 7 13
2. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C Embedded Image Columbus (NHL) 21 21 9 7 16
3. Alexandre Texier, LW Embedded Image Columbus (NHL) 20 17 3 1 4
4. Liam Foudy, LW Embedded Image London (OHL) 19 12 10 8 18
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Remember that audible gasp inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo at the 2016 NHL Draft when GM Jarmo Kekalainen picked Pierre-Luc Dubois over fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi? Yeah, that’s the same one Oiler fans have been making into a paper bag over and over again since then.

 

 

Embedded Image21. NY Islanders (2018: 9)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Mathew Barzal, C Embedded Image NY Islanders (NHL) 22 20 9 11 20
2. Noah Dobson, D Embedded Image NY Islanders (NHL) 19 6 0 2 2
3. Anthony Beauvillier, LW/RW Embedded Image NY Islanders (NHL) 22 20 8 8 16
4. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW Embedded Image Bridgeport (AHL) 19 9 3 4 7
 

Aged Out From 2018: Ilya Sorokin

Scoop: Use this same scale two seasons ago and Mathew Barzal certainly would’ve been in the conversation for that prime “AA” grade. His production took a step back last season but seems to have returned to that level this season in Year 2 under Barry Trotz.

 

 

Embedded Image22. Florida (2018: 8)

Embedded Image

The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Spencer Knight, G Embedded Image Boston (NCAA) 18 11 7-4-0 1.91 .936
2. Grigori Denisenko, RW Embedded Image Yaroslavl (KHL) 19 23 3 3 6
3. Aaron Ekblad, D Embedded Image Florida (NHL) 23 21 4 9 13
4. Aleksi Heponiemi, C Embedded Image Springfield (AHL) 20 15 0 6 6
 

Aged Out From 2018: Aleksander Barkov

Scoop: Like the Jets, the Panthers also fell 14 slots year over year. But Barkov was also among the best players to graduate from the Core 4 program last year. The question now is whether Grigori Denisenko, who has just 12 points in 47 career KHL games, can help carry the Cats forward.

 

 

Embedded Image23. Vegas (2018: 19)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Cody Glass, C Embedded Image Vegas (NHL) 20 24 4 5 9
2. Peyton Krebs, C Embedded Image Winnipeg (WHL) 18 2 0 1 1
3. Jack Dugan, C Embedded Image Providence (NCAA) 21 12 5 21 26
4. Alex Tuch, RW Embedded Image Vegas (NHL) 23 7 1 1 2
 

Aged Out From 2018: Shea Theodore

Scoop: It’s still amazing to think that for all of the success the Golden Knights have enjoyed over three years, Cody Glass just became their first draft pick to play in the NHL this season. Don’t forget: the Knights also drafted two other players in the Core 4 in Ottawa’s Erik Brannstrom and Montreal’s Nick Suzuki. We’ll see how those trades pan out.

 

 

Embedded Image24. Detroit (2018: 11)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Dylan Larkin, C/LW Embedded Image Detroit (NHL) 23 24 6 10 16
2. Moritz Seider, D Embedded Image Grand Rapids (AHL) 18 18 1 9 10
3. Filip Hronek, D Embedded Image Detroit (NHL) 22 22 5 8 13
4. Filip Zadina, RW Embedded Image Grand Rapids (AHL) 19 17 6 6 12
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Steve Yzerman has already begun to put his stamp on the Red Wings, making 11 picks in last June’s Draft. The best part about picking Moritz Seider at No. 6 is that the Wings have been able to keep close tabs on the rangy German rookie in AHL Grand Rapids this season as an 18-year-old.

 

 

Embedded Image25. Los Angeles (2018: 30)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Alex Turcotte, C Embedded Image Wisconsin (NCAA) 18 10 6 9 15
2. Arthur Kaliyev, RW Embedded Image Hamilton (OHL) 18 24 25 21 46
3. Tobias Bjornfot, D Embedded Image Ontario (AHL) 18 12 2 4 6
4. Rasmus Kupari, C Embedded Image Ontario (AHL) 19 16 3 2 5
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: Slowly but steadily, Rob Blake is turning the page in Tinseltown. With four pick inside the Top 50 last year, Alex Turcotte, Tobias Bjornfot and Arthur Kaliyev (the OHL’s leading scorer) have turned over the Core 4 and given the Kings’ prospect cupboard a much-needed shot in the arm.

 

 

Embedded Image26. Anaheim (2018: 24) 

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Trevor Zegras, C Embedded Image Boston (NCAA) 18 11 4 9 13
2. Troy Terry, RW Embedded Image Anaheim (NHL) 22 22 2 2 4
3. Ondrej Kase, RW Embedded Image Anaheim (NHL) 24 17 2 7 9
4. Sam Steel, C Embedded Image Anaheim (NHL) 21 19 1 8 9
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: What the Ducks might lack in top-end talent outside of Trevor Zegras, they make up for in organizational depth. They have approximately 12 total NHL-bound players under the age of 24 waiting in the wings, by our estimation.

 

 

Embedded Image27. Minnesota (2018: 28)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Kirill Kaprizov, LW/RW Embedded Image Moscow (KHL) 22 26 14 13 27
2. Matthew Boldy, LW Embedded Image Boston (NCAA) 18 11 1 0 1
3. Kevin Fiala, C/LW Embedded Image Minnesota (NHL) 23 17 4 4 8
4. Ryan Donato, C/LW Embedded Image Minnesota (NHL) 23 20 1 2 3
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: The search for a game breaker rages on in Minnesota, where none of their recent first-round picks have proven to be difference makers. Kirill Kaprizov remains a unicorn for now, still under contract in Moscow, where new GM Bill Guerin plans to visit him this month.

 

 

Embedded Image28. San Jose (2018: 30)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Timo Meier, RW Embedded Image San Jose (NHL) 23 23 6 8 14
2. Kevin Labanc, RW Embedded Image San Jose (NHL) 23 23 7 6 13
3. Ryan Merkley, D Embedded Image London (OHL) 19 17 6 15 21
4. Mario Ferraro, D Embedded Image San Jose (NHL) 21 20 0 2 2
 

Aged Out From 2018: None

Scoop: The Sharks were one of the few teams to not have any Core 4 changes in either player or their order. No player bet on himself more than Kevin Labanc last summer with a one-year, $1 million deal to see whether the Sharks will open up the bank for him.

 

 

Embedded Image29. Nashville (2018: 27)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Dante Fabbro, D Embedded Image Nashville (NHL) 21 21 2 2 4
2. Eeli Tolvanen, RW Embedded Image Milwaukee (AHL) 22 18 2 2 4
3. Philip Tomasino, C/RW Embedded Image Niagara (OHL) 18 23 12 17 29
4. David Farrance, D Embedded Image Boston U (NCAA) 20 11 9 7 16
 

Aged Out From 2018: Juuse Saros, Kevin Fiala (traded)

Scoop: Eeli Tolvanen has quickly arrived at the crossroads his career. Just two years ago, Tolvanen was considered the best prospect not playing in the NHL, starring for Jokerit in the KHL as an 18-year-old. He’s now played just seven NHL games and isn’t yet producing in the AHL.

 

 

Embedded Image30. Pittsburgh (2018: 31)

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The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Samuel Poulin, C/LW Embedded Image Sherbrooke (QMJHL) 18 21 16 21 37
2. Marcus Pettersson, D Embedded Image Pittsburgh (NHL) 23 22 1 6 7
3. Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D Embedded Image W-B Scranton (AHL) 20 6 0 1 1
4. Nathan Legare, RW Embedded Image B-Comeau (QMJHL) 18 22 10 12 22
 

Aged Out From 2018: Tristan Jarry

Scoop: Who said Jim Rutherford was allergic to first-round picks? Samuel Poulin became Rutherford’s first, first-round draft pick (No. 21 overall) in his five-year tenure as Pens GM last spring. Hey, the Hall of Famer can do so without judgment, since the focus is clearly on wringing out as many Cups with Sid and Geno still skating.

 

 

THE FINAL FOUR

 

Embedded Image31. St. Louis (2018: 29)

Embedded Image

The Core Four

 
Player Rating 2019-20 Age GP G A PTS
1. Robert Thomas, C/RW Embedded Image St. Louis (NHL) 20 18 3 5 8
2. Vince Dunn, D Embedded Image St. Louis (NHL) 23 23 4 3 7
3. Jordan Kyrou, RW Embedded Image San Antonio (AHL) 21 8 4 5 9
4. Ivan Barbashev, C Embedded Image St. Louis (NHL) 23 23 2 5 7
 

Aged Out From 2018: Robby Fabbri (also traded to Detroit)

Scoop: This year’s ranking is a little bit easier to swallow after hoisting Lord Stanley. All four players - and Sammy Blais (not ranked) - were contributors to last spring’s Cup run; it’s just that none of them are likely to be front-line players in the next number of years.