The young guns are taking over the NHL.
There are officially 206 rookies who have played at least one game in the NHL during the 2021-22 season. While most NHL rookies are at least age 20, there are four NHL players who are still in their teenage years.
Considering how young the game of hockey is becoming, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at the 10 NHL youngest NHL players in 2021-22 and the type of impact they’re making.
Here’s a list of the 10 youngest NHL players (descending order) in 2021-22. The list only includes active players on NHL rosters and excludes players who have been sent down to minor league teams.
10. Anton Lundell, Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers’ forward Anton Lundell is officially the 10th-youngest active NHL player in the 2021-22 season. Born October 23rd, 2001, Lundell has made a significant impact in Florida despite being only 20 years old. In 49 career games with the Panthers, Lundell has recorded 12 goals and 36 points to go with 88 shots on goal. Lundell is averaging 0.73 points per game despite playing on the third line and second power-play unit. Florida is the highest-scoring team in the NHL in 2022, averaging over four goals per game. They’re one of the few NHL rosters with at least three legit scoring lines.
As the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Lundell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. Not only is Lundell finding the back of the net consistently, but he’s also played a strong 200-foot game. Lundell is just as efficiency in the defensive zone as he is in the offensive zone. The Finnish center has an impressive plus-29 rating while ranking sixth among all Panthers’ forwards in average ice time at 16:21. While Florida is an overall powerhouse, Lundel’s play has definitely helped contribute to their dominant 35-13-5 record in 2021-22.
Lundell’s seamless transition to the NHL shouldn’t be that surprising considering his path to the big leagues. The two-way centre played as a 17-year-old in Liiga, which is Finland’s top pro league. Lundell scored 35 goals in 108 games in Liga playing against competition much older than him. Lundell was rated No. 3 among European skaters in the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for 2020. While Jonathan Hunderau and Alexander Barkov are the here-and-now for the Panthers, Lundell is a key piece of the future.
9. Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers
New York Rangers’ forward Alexis Lafreniere might be the biggest household name on this list of the NHL youngest players. Born October 11th, 20021, Lafreniere is still only 20 years of age. Lafreniere was a first overall NHL draft pick (2020), which comes with mammoth expectations. Although it’s very early, Lafreniere has underwhelmed in his NHL career to date. In his first 107 career NHL games, Lafreniere has only 24 goals and 37 points. Many New York fans aren’t pressing the panic button yet, however, as the NHL has seen a trend of younger players requiring extra years to fully develop.
New York is one of the biggest hockey markets in the United States, so Lafreniere’s play is under the microscope at all times. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Lafreniere is only 20 years of age. The Quebec native has struggled to find his place in the lineup on a talented Rangers’ squad. New York is one of the best teams in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and considered Stanley Cup contenders for 2022. There’s no shortage of offensive talent in the Big Apple with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider leading the forward group.
Lafreniere has averaged 13:50 of ice time and 1:17 of power play time in his NHL career to date. The youngster has typically played in New York’s bottom-six, but a position change has bumped him up the depth chart. Lafreniere — a natural left-winger — moved to right wing in February 2022 to get himself into a top-six role. Lafreniere is currently skating on the Rangers’ top line where he’s scoring at a much higher rate. Some hockey fans are labelling Lafreniere a “bust” already, but only time will tell if the Rangers made the correct selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
8. Dawson Mercer, New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils’ centre Dawson Mercer is the youngest NHL player born in the year 2001 currently playing in the NHL. Born on October 27th, Mercer is playing a key role for the Devils at the young age of 20. The Canadian forward is currently skating on New Jersey’s first line and top power-play unit alongside fellow 20-year-old forward Jack Hughes. In his first 53 NHL games, Mercer has recorded 13 goals and 31 points. The Devils have an average age of 25.07, which makes them the youngest team in the NHL.
Mercer is certinaly living up to expectations after being drafted 18th overall by New Jersey in 2018. His wrist shot has earned praise from coaching and opposing goaltenders alike. Mercer is an elite sniper who chooses his shot selection carefully. His 14.1 shooting percentage is fourth-best on the Devils. New Jersey doesn’t just rely on Mercer for offense, however, as they also utilize him on the penalty kill. Mercer plays a very strong two-way game, which is a big reason coach Lindy Ruff has given him a large role in his rookie season.
Mercer is often overlooked when it comes to players in the 2020 NHL Draft Class, but he’s a name you don’t want to forget. The Devils have fallen out of NHL relevancy with just one playoff appearance in the past nine years. Once New Jersey is back to being a playoff contender again, Mercer is exactly the type of player who can be an x-factor. Given how quickly Mercer has adjusted to the NHL, the Devils should be more than pleased with Mercer’s play in the big league to date.
7. Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg Jets’ centre Cole Perfetti is one of only a few 20-year-old centres currently playing in the NHL. Born January 1st, 2002, Perfetti just recently left his teenage years. The Whitby, Ontario native officially made his NHL debut on October 13th, 2022 before being assigned to AHL Manitoba after two games. Perfetti was recalled by the team in January 2022 and earned a seemingly permanent role on the roster due to strong play. In 18 career NHL games, Perfetti has two goals and seven points, to go with 21 shots on goal.
At the time of publishing, Perfetti is out with a lower-body injury. He’s expected to be inserted back into Winnipeg’s NHL lineup upon return, however. Perfetti has been playing in Winnipeg’s top-six alongside talented linemates such as Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler. Perfetti is on the smaller side at 5’11”, 177 lbs, but his speed and skill make him a top NHL prospect. Winnipeg selected Perfetti 10th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Although Perfetti has impressed in limited NHL action, the Jets are unlikely to rush his development. Winnipeg already has one of the best top-six forward groups in the NHL with Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers. Perfetti is an outstanding prospect, however, and a huge part of Winnipeg’s future. The 20-year-old recorded over 100 points in his final junior season in the OHL and is already impressing Winnipeg fans and management. It won’t be long before Perfetti becomes a household name in the Peg.
6. Tim Stutzle, Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators’ centre Tim Stutzle has already made a huge impact in the NHL despite being only 20 years of age. Born January 15th, 2002, Stutzle came into the NHL as an 18-year-old in 2020-21. While he didn’t earn a Calder Trophy nomination, Stutzle won over Senators fans, coaches and management alike with his play and personality. In his first NHL season, Stutzle recorded 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games. The German forward dazzled with creativity and several highlight-reel goals.
Stutzle is producing in the 2021-22 season at the same rate he did in his rookie season. The talented German is currently centering Ottawa’s top line with captain Brady Tkachuk on his wing. The Senators are going through a rebuilding phase and sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The Senators last made the playoffs in 2016-17. Ottawa immediately giving Stutzle a prominent role speaks to the confidence they have in him. Drafted third overall by the Sens in the 2020 NHL Draft, Stutzle is well on his way to becoming a franchise cornerstone for the black and red.
5. Seth Jarvis, Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes’ center Seth Jarvis is the fifth-youngest NHL player active in the 2021-22 season. Born February 1st 2002, Jarvis only recently turned 20 years of age. The Winnipeg native played most of the 2021-22 NHL season as a 19-year-old. Jarvis has been skating in a top-six role for the Hurricanes, registering eight goals and 19 points in 42 career NHL games. The Hurricanes are also deploying Jarvis as a quarterback on their second-power-play unit, where he’s netted one goal.
Much like many other players on this list, Jarvis was a top prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Hurricanes ended up drafting Jarvis 13th overall that year. He’s a smaller forward at 5′ 10″, 175, but his speed and skill makeup for the lack of size. The Hurricanes are loaded with offensive talent in 2021-22, which is one of the reasons they sit near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. With superstars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov doing most of the heavy lifting, the youngster Jarvis fits in perfectly as a secondary scorer.
4. Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings’ rookie Lucas Raymond has arguably been the most impactful teenager in the NHL in the 2021-22 season. Born March 28th, 2002, Raymond is only 19 years old and playing a huge role for the Red Wings. The Swedish sniper is skating on Detroit’s first line where’s he recorded 13 goals and 39 points in his first 52 career NHL games. Despite being a rookie, Raymond is third on the Red Wings in team scoring in the 2021-22 season.
Raymond is a key piece of Detroit future alongside rookie blueliner Moritz Seider. Raymond was drafted fourth overall by Detroit in the 2020 NHL Draft, while Seider was drafted sixth overall by the Red Wings the previous year. Even though expectations were massive for Raymond, it’s still impressive how quickly he’s adjusted to the NHL level. Despite being only 5′ 11″, Raymond hasn’t been pushed around and has dished out over 30 hits in the big league.
Raymond has been particularly impressive for Detroit on the power play. The youngster leads all NHL rookies with four power-play goals in 2021-22, while also contributing nine assists on the man advantage. Overall, the Red Wings couldn’t be happier with Raymond’s play in the NHL thus far. We can’t be too surprised by Raymond making such an immediate impact, either. The Swede made his SHL debut at only age 16 and was a top performer for Frolunda’s U-20 team in the SuperElit league.
3. Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks’ rookie Jamie Drysdale is currently the youngest defenseman playing in the NHL. Born April 8th, 2022, Drysdale is the only 19-year-old currently playing defense for an NHL team. It’s also interesting to note that Drysdale has played more NHL games (53) than any other active NHL rookie in 2021-22. Drysdale suited up in 24 games for the Ducks as an 18-year-old in 2020-21. If Drysdale had played 25 or more games, he wouldn’t be considered an official “NHL rookie” in 2021-22.
Drysdale has made a very significant impact in two seasons with Anaheim. The young bleuler is skating on the Ducks’ first defensive pairing with Hampus Lindholm, while also quarterbacking the first power-play unit. Despite being only 19 years of age, Drysdale is already averaging around 20 minutes of ice time per game. In 77 career NHL games, Drysdale has recorded six goals, 24 assists and 108 shots on goal.
Drysdale is a member of a talented young core in Anaheim that also features 21-year-old forward Trevor Zegras, 24-year-old Troy Terry and 25-year-old Sonny Milano. The Ducks are contending for a playoff spot in 2021-22 after missing the postseason for three straight seasons between 2019-2021. Drafted sixth overall by Anaheim in 2020, Drysdale is certainly living up to expectations in his young NHL career.
2. Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings
Born August 19th, 2002, Los Angeles Kings’ centre Quinton Byfield falls just short of being the youngest active NHL player. Byfield is still one of only four 19-year-olds playing in the NHL during the 2021-22 season. It comes as no surprise Byfield is playing in the NHL at such a young age, as the prized prospect was drafted second overall by Los Angeles in the 2020 NHL Draft. His 6″5, 220lbs frame doesn’t hurt, either.
There was an incredible amount of hype surrounding Byfield entering the NHL Draft, but he’s yet to truly find his footing in the NHL. The Ontario native has battled through injury and AHL demotions/call-ups. In 17 career NHL games, Byfield has one goal and one assist while averaging 13:00 of ice time. The Kings aren’t rushing Byfield’s development and are easing him into the NHL.
One big reason Byfield has played limited minutes in the NHL is due to the Kings’ center depth position. Los Angeles already has talented veterans Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault at center, so Byfield automatically has a bottom-six role due to positioning. Byfield does get some power-play time, however, averaging 30 seconds per game with the man advantage in 2021-22. Byfield has scored at every level he’s played at, so expect to hear his name plenty in the coming NHL seasons.
1. Cole Sillinger, Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets’ rookie Cole Sillinger is the only 18-year-old playing in the NHL during the 2021-22 season. That means Sillinger is officially the NHL’s youngest player. Born May 16th, 2003, Sillinger has made quite the impact in the NHL considering his young age. Sillinger is currently centering Columbus’ second line and has recorded eight goals and 17 points in 48 NHL contests.
Sillinger is listed at 6″2, 203 lbs, so he certainly has the size to compete with the big boys. The Columbus rookie still had a “Welcome to the NHL moment” in February 2022 when he was laid out by Florida’s Sam Bennett while trying to score on an empty net. Sillinger’s ability to bounce right back up after the violent collision speaks to his toughness. Silliger is averaging almost one hit per game in the NHL, so he can dish it and he can take it.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Sillinger was drafted by his hometown Blue Jackets 12th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Sillinger’s early success in the NHL shouldn’t be surprising considering who his father was. Cole’s dad, Mike Sillinger, played in the NHL for 17 seasons with 12 different teams, including CBJ. Mike Sillinger was very productive in the league, notching 240 goals and 548 points in 1,049 career NHL games. As the saying goes…like father, like son.