Who is the youngest NHL player?
The NHL is witnessing a remarkable youth movement, as emerging talents redefine the landscape of professional hockey.
There are officially 130 rookies who have played at least one game in the NHL during the 2023-24 season. While some NHL rookies are at least age 20, there are nine NHL players who are 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 NHL youngest NHL players in 2023-24 and the type of impact they’re making.
Here’s a list of the five youngest NHL players (descending order) in 2023-24. The list only includes active players on NHL rosters and excludes players who have been sent down to minor league teams.
5. Kevin Korchinski, Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie Kevin Korchinski is currently the youngest defenseman playing in the NHL. Born on June 21, 2004, Korchinski is one of only two 19-year-olds currently playing defense for an NHL team. Drafted 7th overall by the Blackhawks in 2022, Korchinski has had a solid rookie campaign so far in 2023-24. Through 44 games, he has two goals and seven assists for nine points, while averaging 20:19 of ice time per game. Although he has struggled at times defensively, currently sitting at a -22 plus/minus rating, he has shown promising offensive ability from the blueline.
Korchinski started the season in the NHL after an impressive training camp, cementing his spot in the top defensive pairing next to Seth Jones. His smooth skating and puck-moving abilities have been assets, helping to drive possession and transition play. Despite having only two goals, his 53 shots on net demonstrate a willingness to jump into the rush and create offense. On the power play, he averages 2:14 per game and helps quarterback the second unit.
The Blackhawks are firmly in rebuild mode and have struggled significantly this season with a 15-28-4 record. Korchinski’s -22 rating reflects those team struggles, as do his 44 giveaways. As an offensively gifted 19-year-old, defensive lapses are expected as he continues to develop. His 30 blocked shots indicate a willingness to improve on that end.
Looking forward, Korchinski projects as a future top-pairing, two-way defenseman for the Blackhawks. His offensive upside is apparent, but refining his decision-making and defensive positioning will be key. As he matures and the Blackhawks acquire more talent, his production and plus-minus should improve. For now, Korchinski’s rookie season has shown promise amidst a losing situation in Chicago.
4. Adam Fantilli, Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli is the fourth-youngest NHL player active in the 2023-24 season. Born on February 1, 2002, Fantilli recently turned 19 years of age. The rookie center was drafted 3rd overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2023 NHL Draft. Through 44 games this season, he has put up impressive numbers with 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points. He is tied for 3rd among rookies in goals and tied for 2nd in points.
Despite his young age, Fantilli has already established himself as a core piece of the Blue Jackets’ offense. He centers the top line alongside wingers Justin Danforth and Johnny Gaudreau, using his speed, size, and skill to drive possession and create scoring chances. His points-per-game pace of 0.57 leads all Columbus forwards. Fantilli also sees heavy usage on the power play, where he has notched 2 goals and 5 assists.
The Blue Jackets are struggling in the standings with a 12-18-8 record, but Fantilli’s strong two-way play provides a bright spot. His creativity and vision have brought a dynamic element to the attack, while his commitment to defense and forechecking have earned the trust of head coach Pascal Vincent. Fantilli’s possession metrics rank near the top among Columbus forwards as well.
3. Leo Carlsson, Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks’ rookie Leo Carlsson is possibly the most interesting name on the list of youngest active NHL players. Born on December 26, 2004, Carlsson was drafted 2nd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2023 NHL Draft. As a 19-year-old rookie this season, he has shown flashes of his potential, but the Ducks are carefully managing his development. In 31 games played so far, Carlsson has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points. He has a -6 plus/minus rating and averages 18:27 of ice time per game.
The Ducks are limiting Carlsson’s games to keep him fresh and avoid injury, a plan that Carlsson and his agent are on board with. He has sat out several games this season as part of this workload management program devised by Ducks GM Pat Verbeek. When Carlsson has been in the lineup, he has often skated on Anaheim’s top line and first power play unit. He has shown good vision and playmaking ability, using his large 6’3″ frame well to control the puck.
Carlsson missed nearly a month earlier this season with a knee injury but looked strong upon returning ahead of schedule. Ducks coach Greg Cronin credited Carlsson for making the team more competitive, saying he “makes games more winnable” for the rebuilding squad. Cronin compared Carlsson’s cerebral play to a young Mike Modano.
The Ducks have struggled this year with a 15-30-5 record, last place in the Western Conference standings. But Carlsson’s development has been a bright spot and reason for optimism. If he continues to progress and fill out his frame, Carlsson has the potential to become an elite, first-line center in the NHL capable of scoring at a high level. For now, the Ducks seem content to bring him along slowly as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the best hockey league in the world at just 19 years old.
2. Zach Benson, Buffalo Sabres
Born on August 19, 2002, Buffalo Sabres’ forward Zach Benson falls a few months short of being the youngest active NHL player. Benson is still one of only two 18-year-olds playing in the NHL during the 2023-24 season. It comes as no surprise Benson is playing in the NHL at such a young age, as the prized prospect was drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Despite his small stature at 5’10”, 170 lbs, Benson has not looked out of place in the NHL as a teenager. His smarts and compete level have allowed him to be an effective two-way player. Benson started the season on the Sabres’ third line but recently earned a promotion to the top line alongside centers Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch. His responsible defensive play and ability to drive possession were cited as reasons coach Don Granato felt he could “stabilize” that line.
Benson missed a few games earlier this season with a minor lower-body injury. But he came back strong, tallying a point in three straight games in late November. The highlight was scoring his first career NHL goal on a spectacular between-the-legs shot against Washington.
With 36 games under his belt, Benson has clearly proven he belongs in the NHL. His 14 points rank 8th among rookie forwards league-wide. Playing on a rebuilding Sabres team near the bottom of the standings, Benson’s emergence has been a bright spot. If he continues his strong play, he looks poised to be an impact top-six forward for years to come in Buffalo
1. Connor Bedard, Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie phenom Connor Bedard is the younger of the two 18-year-olds playing in the NHL during the 2023-24 season. That means Bedard is officially the NHL’s youngest player. Born on July 17, 2003, Bedard has made quite an impact in the NHL considering his young age.
In 39 games played, Bedard has tallied 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points. He leads all rookies in goals, points, even-strength points (23), takeaways (30), and shots on goal (105). His points per game average of 0.85 also leads all rookies. Bedard has shown creativity and skill beyond his years, scoring highlight-reel goals like his “Michigan” lacrosse-style goal against the St. Louis Blues.
Despite Bedard’s strong individual performance, the Blackhawks have struggled as a team with a 12-26-2 record, last place in the Central Division. Bedard has played primarily on a line with veterans Nick Foligno and Philipp Kurashev. He also spent some time alongside Ryan Donato, with whom he found good chemistry. Donato has arguably been Bedard’s most effective linemate so far.
On January 5th, Bedard suffered a devastating injury – a broken jaw from a hit against the New Jersey Devils. He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action. The injury is especially unfortunate as Bedard was named to the All-Star Game. At the time of his injury, the youngster led all rookies in major scoring categories.
Make sure you also check out our list of the Five Oldest Active NHL Players.