Young Guns: Blue Jackets Defensemen Zach Werenski and Seth Jones Named Among NHL's Best Young Talents

By Jeff Svoboda on August 25, 2017 at 9:22 am
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are among the NHL's young stars

Today, the blog network SB Nation will name its top NHL player under 25 years old.
I regret to inform you it won't be a Columbus Blue Jacket.

Nobody appears ready to knock Connor McDavid, the reigning Hart Trophy winner and just 20 years old, off that perch for quite some time. But there is some good news: Bolsting its bona fides as a franchise on the rise, Columbus has two of the top 25 players on SB Nation's full 25 under 25 list.

It isn't shocking to report, but standout defenseman Zach Werenski checks in at No. 11 on the NHL list, while his defensive pair Seth Jones is listed 18th.

What more is there to say about Werenski that we haven't already said? Simply put, he's one of the games potential budding stars after a rookie season as a 19-year-old that put his name among some of the greats in the game. It's almost hard to believe he's not higher, but when the list includes the reigning MVP winner, a 40-goal scorer as a rookie in Auston Matthews, and a two-time Cup winning goalie in Matt Murray right above Werenski, sometimes you just have to roll with it. But his vision, skill and skating ability figure to make him a stalwart for the league and hopefully the Blue Jackets for years to come.

Jones has just as strong a lineage, of course, having been taken fourth overall in his draft year and coming in as one of the NHL's smoothest athletes and lankiest players as the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. With his ability to score from the blue line and also get the job done in his own zone, Jones looks like a steady NHL star in the making.

The Jackets could have had three players on the list, but the team traded No. 22 in the rankings, Brandon Saad, over the offseason. Despite the fact he's spent just two seasons in the NHL, the high-scoring Panarin doesn't quality as he is set to turn 26 in October.

Placing two players so high puts Columbus in elite company. A pair of teams in Toronto (No. 2 Matthews, No. 16 William Nylander and No. 17 Mitch Marner) and Winnipeg (No. 4 Patrik Laine, No. 6 Mark Scheifele and No. 19 Nikolaj Ehlers) have three players on the young stars list while Columbus is in a tie in the next tier. 

One thing that's worth taking home from the list is it might be a golden age to be an NHL fan right now given the young talent in the game. The pace of play seems to be going up and up, favoring young legs, and this isn't a game in which you necessarily have to pay your dues before becoming one of the top stars in the game.

With that in mind, the list of under-25 talent is something to behold. When Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin, two offensive talents that had scouts drooling when they entered the league, are listed at Nos. 25 and 24 respectively, you know there's some great young players in this league.

And for all of us who are hockey fans, that's a good thing.