Here's our weekly look at the fortunes of some of the game's brightest young stars ages 24 and under.
It's crunch time for the Jets, who are soaring and scoring in bunches. Winnipeg is now among the top 10 most prolific teams in the NHL -- with Scheifele, 23, leading the way. The No. 7 overall pick in 2011 paces the team with 53 points in 51 games, including a two-goal performance in a key come-from-behind win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday, which helped keep the Jets right in the thick of the wild-card battle in the Western Conference. Scheifele has scored five goals and added five assists in his past six games for Winnipeg, which has never won a playoff game in franchise history dating back the franchise's days in Atlanta.
After a rough patch that saw him go 17 games without a goal in December and January, the young Czech has picked it up again -- and at just the right time for a Bruins team that is trying desperately to hold on to a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division after missing the postseason the past two years. Pastrnak, the 25th pick in the 2014 draft, has become more of a playmaker of late. While often skating alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak has eight points (a goal and seven assists) in his past six games. Four of those helpers have come on the power play.
Talk about streaky. After scoring just two goals during a 16-game stretch in November and December, Forsberg has reverted to form. The 22-year-old has 10 goals in his past 18 games -- and points in seven of 10 -- for a Predators team that has surged into third place in the Central Division. Forsberg, the 11th overall pick in 2012 by the Washington Capitals, leads the Predators with five game-winning goals and 15 overall, ranking him second only to James Neal on the team. Forsberg's ability to continue to produce consistently will go along way toward determining whether the Predators can meet their high preseason expectations come playoff time.
As bad as the Panthers have been, they are still very much in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. But with key players Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov having been injured (they are to return Friday night), it's a safe bet that the playoffs remain a pipe dream unless Ekblad emerges from his season-long offensive slumber. The 2015 rookie of the year had a three-game point streak in mid-January, but that was sandwiched by a stretch in which he had just one point in 13 games and his current four-game pointless streak. The 20-year-old -- who was the first overall pick in 2014 -- is also minus-18.
I only included Sheary, a talented youngster who has spent most of his career playing successfully on a line with Sidney Crosby, in this list to note the unfortunate circumstances this week that saw Sheary go down with an upper-body injury in the Penguins' first game back after the All-Star break. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said that the diminutive Sheary, 24, who was undrafted out of UMass-Amherst, will miss four to six weeks -- which will open the door to another youngster (or two) and perhaps allow either Scott Wilson or Jake Guentzel to make his mark playing with Crosby. Sheary has been dynamic this season (he appeared on our "hot" list just last week, in fact), with 35 points in 42 games for the Pens. He was called up from the minors midway through last season and was a significant contributor during the Pens' Stanley Cup run.
Both players are on this list simply because Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has given the young stars a dose of tough love with seats in the press box, including during Thursday's big 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Gostisbehere, of course, was a finalist for rookie of the year honors last season and a key part of the Flyers' surprise run to the playoffs, while Konecny got off to a meteoric start during his rookie season with the Flyers last fall. Quite simply, both need to get better, Hakstol told reporters. Those are hard lessons for Konecny, 19, and Gostisbehere, 23, but if I had to guess I'd say we'll see both back in Flyers orange in short order.
Boston, Saturday, Feb. 4
Sure, Auston Matthews is getting all the ink when it comes to the surprising Maple Leafs -- but no one should overlook the contributions of the slick, 19-year-old Marner. The fourth-overall pick in 2015 is in hot pursuit of the rookie scoring title, with 42 points in his first 49 NHL games. It's possible Marner will see time with Carlo who at 20 has established himself as a key part of the Bruins' defensive core moving forward. And did I mention that this game has serious playoff implications, especially with the Leafs, losers of three straight, sagging after the All-Star break and the Bruins dealing with injuries? No? Well, it does.