NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, young core production index

ByTim Kavanagh ESPN logo
Friday, December 15, 2023

As teams go through their cycles of contention, the importance of having a high-scoring young core can wax and wane. Then again, in a league which has had a relatively flat salary cap in recent seasons, getting production from your players on entry-level contracts (or second deals) is critical.

So in addition to an updated ranking of all 32 teams, this week we'll take a look at how much point production is coming from each team's 23-and-under group.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors each send in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the previous edition, published Dec. 8. Points percentages are through the games of Dec. 14; young core production through the games of Dec. 13.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 75.00%

Next seven days: vs. BUF (Dec. 15), vs. OTT (Dec. 17), @ CAR (Dec. 19), @ TB (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 4.68%

Rank: 28

Kaedan Korczak and Pavel Dorofeyev have chipped in as needed for this team -- but as you can tell from those overall numbers, they haven't been needed as much as young players might be if they were on another club.

2. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 72.22%

Next seven days: vs. ANA (Dec. 15), @ BOS (Dec. 16), @ TOR (Dec. 19)

23-and-under points pct.: 19.34%

Rank: 15

Like the team just below them in the rankings this week, the Rangers have a roster with a nice balance between veterans and rising young stars, led by a resurgent Alexis Lafreniere and ever-improving K'Andre Miller.

3. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 69.23%

Next seven days: @ SEA (Dec. 16), @ SJ (Dec. 19), vs. SEA (Dec. 20)

23-and-under points pct.: 19.28%

Rank: 16

The Kings' rise up the NHL standings in recent seasons has been driven by a balance between the veteran leadership group that links back to the Cup-winning years and a vaunted prospect pipeline that is now bearing proverbial fruit. So the percentage (and ranking against other teams) makes sense.

4. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 74.07%

Next seven days: @ NYI (Dec. 15), vs. NYR (Dec. 16), vs. MIN (Dec. 19)

23-and-under points pct.: 10.26%

Rank: 21

Although he's been a bit up-and-down this season, rookie Matthew Poitras has been critical to solidifying the Bruins' lineup down the middle, and he and his young teammates have produced more than some probably expected heading into the season.

5. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 68.33%

Next seven days: @ MIN (Dec. 16), @ CHI (Dec. 17), @ NSH (Dec. 19), @ DAL (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 5.16%

Rank: 27

Nils Hoglander has a respectable 14 points in 27 games, but when the team as a whole has 310 points, he and his young cohorts aren't going to make much of a dent.

6. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 65.52%

Next seven days: @ WPG (Dec. 16), vs. SJ (Dec. 17), @ CHI (Dec. 19), vs. OTT (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 3.56%

Rank: 29

If we raised the bar to "25 and under" scorers, that would add Cale Makar and his 37 points to the mix. As is, it's unsurprising that this team on the cusp of another playoff run is driven more by veterans than youngsters.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 66.67%

Next seven days: vs. PIT (Dec. 16), vs. NYR (Dec. 19), @ BUF (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 7.38%

Rank: 7.38

Matthew Knies and Nicholas Robertson have both shown scoring flashes here and there, but the heavy lifting for this team is clearly done by the veteran core.

8. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 64.82%

Next seven days: vs. OTT (Dec. 15), @ STL (Dec. 16), vs. SEA (Dec. 18), vs. VAN (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 14.12%

Rank: 18

Another team driven mostly by veterans, it remains surprising to see Ty Dellandrea with only one point through 15 games.

9. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 62.07%

Next seven days: @ EDM (Dec. 16), @ CGY (Dec. 18), vs. STL (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 5.26%

Rank: 26

Anton Lundell is carrying the load for the youth movement for the Panthers right now -- though the leading scorers on the team (Sam Reinhart and Aleksander Barkov) aren't exactly ancient; both are 28 years old.

10. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 64.29%

Next seven days: vs. COL (Dec. 16), vs. MTL (Dec. 18), vs. DET (Dec. 20)

23-and-under points pct.: 9.64%

Rank: 22

Cole Perfetti is doing much of the work to generate those numbers, and his continued production will be especially critical for the Jets' top six while Kyle Connor is out.

11. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 58.62%

Next seven days: @ PHI (Dec. 16), vs. ANA (Dec. 18), @ WPG (Dec. 20)

23-and-under points pct.: 20.80%

Rank: 13

The Wings are not quite as youngster-laden as one might think. But the 23-and-under crew (Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren) has delivered this season.

12. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 62.50%

Next seven days: vs. BOS (Dec. 15), @ MTL (Dec. 16), vs. EDM (Dec. 19), @ WSH (Dec. 20)

23-and-under points pct.: 21.70%

Rank: 11

The Isles don't immediately jump off the page as a young team, but thanks to players like Noah Dobson and Simon Holmstrom, maybe we should start putting more stock in them in that way.

13. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Dec. 16), @ NYI (Dec. 19), @ NJ (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 0.40%

Rank: 31

The Oilers have made an astonishing turnaround since the firing of Jay Woodcroft earlier this season -- but it hasn't been due to the 23-and-under group on the club.

14. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 57.41%

Next seven days: @ CBJ (Dec. 16), vs. ANA (Dec. 17), vs. PHI (Dec. 19), vs. EDM (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 33.06%

Rank: 3

The wins haven't piled up for the Devils as they did last season, but the young group -- led by Jack Hughes and Luke Hughes, as well as Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer -- is holding up its end of the bargain.

15. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 56.90%

Next seven days: vs. NSH (Dec. 15), vs. WSH (Dec. 17), vs. VGK (Dec. 19), @ PIT (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 21.65%

Rank: 12

This hasn't been the greatest season of Andrei Svechnikov's career (and he's currently out injured), but Canes fans are certainly enthused by the continued development of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Seth Jarvis.

16. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 60.34%

Next seven days: vs. DET (Dec. 16), @ NJ (Dec. 19), vs. NSH (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 26.51%

Rank: 7

While the Flyers are probably another year away from making a real push for the playoffs, John Tortorella has shepherded this club to a fine spot thus far. That has included key contributions from young players like Joel Farabee, Bobby Brink and Cam York (in less ice time for the two forwards than some fans would like).

17. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 55.17%

Next seven days: @ CAR (Dec. 15), vs. WSH (Dec. 16), vs. VAN (Dec. 19), @ PHI (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 13.75%

Rank: 19

Luke Evangelista showed flashes of brilliance in a short stint during the 2022-23 season and at the start of this campaign but has cooled off a bit in December, leading to a lower-than-expected ratio for the Preds here.

18. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 61.54%

Next seven days: @ NSH (Dec. 16), @ CAR (Dec. 17), vs. NYI (Dec. 20), @ CBJ (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 17.68%

Rank: 17

The Caps have not been scoring to their usual high rate (a surprisingly low output from Alex Ovechkin is part of that), but the leveling up of Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas from the 23-and-under group is encouraging.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 53.23%

Next seven days: @ CGY (Dec. 16), vs. STL (Dec. 19), vs. VGK (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 0.00%

Rank: 32

Lightning players have scored 265 points through the games of Dec. 13; not one of them has been registered by a player 23 years old or younger.

20. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. SJ (Dec. 15), vs. BUF (Dec. 16), vs. OTT (Dec. 19), @ SJ (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 27.62%

Rank: 6

Although a serious push for the playoffs this season is perhaps too optimistic, one can see how the next playoff version of the Yotes will look based on the play of youngsters like Matias Maccelli, Logan Cooley and Barrett Hayton.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 51.79%

Next seven days: @ TOR (Dec. 16), vs. MIN (Dec. 18), vs. CAR (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 0.47%

Rank: 30

One of the NHL's ahem, more experienced rosters has had a grand total of one point registered by a 23-and-under player -- defenseman John Ludvig is the answer to that particular piece of trivia.

22. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 48.15%

Next seven days: vs. VAN (Dec. 16), @ PIT (Dec. 18), @ BOS (Dec. 19), vs. MTL (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 20.00%

Rank: 14

The Wild don't have a ton of players in the 23-and-under demographic this season, but three of their top seven scorers (Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi and Brock Faber) can be described as such.

23. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 48.28%

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Dec. 16), @ WPG (Dec. 18), @ MIN (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 32.99%

Rank: 4

Were it not for the injury to Kirby Dach, these numbers would surely be even higher. This will be a fun team to watch in the coming seasons.

24. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. DAL (Dec. 16), @ TB (Dec. 19), @ FLA (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 6.22%

Rank: 25

Another team where the percentage would be quite a bit different if we bumped the threshold up to 25, as that would've added Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou to the mix.

25. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 45.00%

Next seven days: @ VGK (Dec. 15), @ ARI (Dec. 16), vs. CBJ (Dec. 19), vs. TOR (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 39.82%

Rank: 1

A popular pick as a team to level up this season, the team results aren't quite there yet for the Sabres. But they have to be over the moon at how much the young core has been contributing, led by leading scorer Rasmus Dahlin.

26. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 45.00%

Next seven days: vs. TB (Dec. 16), vs. FLA (Dec. 18), @ ANA (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 7.44%

Rank: 23

These numbers would have (presumably) been a bit higher if not for the preseason injury to Jakob Pelletier. But, along with Matt Coronato and Connor Zary, Pelletier represents a captivating young wave that will be important as the team transitions back to contender status.

27. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 45.83%

Next seven days: @ DAL (Dec. 15), @ VGK (Dec. 17), @ ARI (Dec. 19), @ COL (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 24.88%

Rank: 9

This season has been a disappointing one for the Senators (on and off the ice), but they have to feel good about their young group, led by Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson. And if we bumped the cutoff age to 24, that would've led to the inclusion of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Erik Branstrom. The future is bright.

28. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 43.55%

Next seven days: vs. LA (Dec. 16), @ DAL (Dec. 18), @ LA (Dec. 20)

23-and-under points pct.: 11.16%

Rank: 20

In a season where the club as a whole has taken a couple of steps backward, the regression (to this point of the season) for Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers has been especially surprising: after 57 points last season, he's on pace for 36 this season.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 40.32%

Next seven days: vs. NJ (Dec. 16), @ BUF (Dec. 19), vs. WSH (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 34.93%

Rank: 2

This hasn't been the greatest season of Johnny Gaudreau's or Patrik Laine's careers, so the tilted scoring percentage here (driven by Kirill Marchenko, Adam Fantilli and Dmitri Voronkov) might be lower if the star players were delivering.

30. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 36.21%

Next seven days: @ ARI (Dec. 15), @ COL (Dec. 17), vs. LA (Dec. 19), vs. ARI (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 22.73%

Rank: 10

In a transitional era for the Sharks franchise, the team can hang its hat on the emergence of 21-year-old William Eklund, who is on pace to hit the 20-goal and 40-point marks in his first full season.

31. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 35.71%

Next seven days: @ NYR (Dec. 15), @ NJ (Dec. 17), @ DET (Dec. 18), vs. CGY (Dec. 21)

23-and-under points pct.: 29.95%

Rank: 5

Unsurprisingly, the Ducks have seen considerable contributions from their 23-and-under crew, led by Mason McTavish and rookie Leo Carlsson. And to think -- this is without much production to this point from Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale.

32. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 32.76%

Next seven days: vs. VAN (Dec. 17), vs. COL (Dec. 19)

23-and-under points pct.: 26.44%

Rank: 8

While it mightseem like Connor Bedard is the one doing all the heavy lifting for the Blackhawks, he has some company among young scorers in Kevin Korchinski, Lukas Reichel and Alex Vlasic.