Hot or Not: Vincent Trocheck, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews top under-24 rankings

ByScott Burnside ESPN logo
Friday, January 20, 2017

Here's our weekly look at the fortunes of some of the game's brightest young stars ages 24 and under.


Vincent Trocheck, C, Florida Panthers

It wasn't so many weeks ago that Trochek, the talented 23-year-old who enjoyed a breakout season a year ago for the defending Atlantic Division champions, was on our "not" list. But after some bumps in the road, Trochek is starting to heat up. He has eight goals and six assists in his past 11 games. The Panthers are still banged up -- and they still have the smell of chaos about them after the messy firing of coach Gerard Gallant and ongoing injury issues -- but Trochek's strong play of late could be a harbinger of better days ahead.

Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers

You might have heard of this kid. The 20-year-old is the NHL's leading point producer and remains the engine driving the Oilers toward their first playoff berth since 2006. McDavid has two goals and 10 assists in his past 11 games. All but three of those points have come at even strength, as Edmonton continues to dog Anaheim for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

It's an all-center list in the "hot" portion of the rankings, as Matthews continues to make a case for himself as the top rookie. The 19-year-old leads all first-year players with 38 points -- although a couple of other Leafs, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, are hot on his heels. Matthews has five goals and five assists in his past nine games, two of which were winners for a Leafs team that finds itself, improbably, in a playoff spot at the midpoint of the season. Matthews' four winners are tied for the rookie lead with theWinnipeg Jets'Patrik Laine.


Viktor Arvidsson, RW, Nashville Predators

It's been a breakthrough season for the skilled winger from Skelleftea, Sweden, who has 10 goals and 27 points. But, heading into his two-assist performance on Thursday in Calgary, it had been a struggle of late for the 23-year-old. He had just one goal and one assist in the previous 10 games for a team that has just now climbed into a playoff position in the Western Conference after a long stretch of inconsistent play.

Anthony Duclair, LW, Arizona Coyotes

It's been a season of hard knocks for the entire franchise, but no player has fallen as hard and as fast as Duclair. The 21-year-old -- while paired with Max Domi last season -- helped create a wave of excitement around the Coyotes, scoring 20 goals after being acquired from the New York Rangers in the Keith Yandle deal two years ago. Domi is out of the lineup for the long term with a hand injury, and this week the Coyotes sent Duclair, who has just three goals in 41 games this season, to their American Hockey League affiliate.

Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets

Hellebuyck was named to Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey and got the opportunity to lock himself in as the goaltender of the future for the Jets when veteran Ondrej Pavelec was sent to the minors before the regular season began. So things were looking pretty bright for the native of Commerce, Michigan. But the 23-year-old has struggled to remain consistent, and after being yanked in his past two starts and posting a mediocre .907 save percentage for the season, the Jets recalled Pavelec this week and reinstalled him as the starter -- at least for now.

Young guns showdown

Rickard Rakell, C, Anaheim Ducks versus Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild

Saturday, Jan. 21, in Minnesota

This is a great matchup between two red-hot, first-place teams in the Western Conference. It also features the surprising Rakell, 23 -- who leads the Ducks with 19 goals in 36 games -- and Dumba, who is having a strong season for Minnesota, the Western Conference's best team. A year ago you heard Dumba's name in potential trade discussion but you don't hear it anymore, as the 22-year-old with the booming shot has 20 points in 44 games for the Central Division-leading Wild -- almost half of them coming on the power play.