Hot or Not: Auston Matthews powers latest under-24 rankings

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


Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

The current clubhouse leader when it comes to rookie of the year consideration has been on a tear, piling up points and making regular appearances in highlight reels. The Leafs are playing meaningful games with an eye on a playoff spot. Matthews, 19, has been a key contributor, with 11 points in his past seven games -- including six goals, two of which proved to be winners.

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have turned a corner and are back in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference after some up-and-down moments late in 2016. Ehlers, 19, has elevated his game, scoring eight goals in his past eight games and adding three assists. Ehlers also has two game-winners during that eight-game span.

Alexander Wennberg, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

Hey, the hottest team in the NHL is getting help from all kinds of sources. But the kids are clearly shouldering a significant load for what is still the NHL's No. 1 team, even after the Blue Jackets' 16-game win streak was stopped by the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Wennberg, 22, was the 14th-overall pick in the 2013 draft and has been centering the Blue Jackets' top line. During the past seven games, Wennberg has two goals (including a game-winner) and six assists, with three of those assists coming on the power play. So it shouldn't be surprising that the Blue Jackets own the league's top power play.


Oscar Klefbom, D, Edmonton Oilers

Klefbom, 23, has logged more minutes this season than any other Oiler and is second among Edmonton defenders in point production, with 13. He also leads all his team's defensemen in shots. But the 19th-overall pick in 2011 has had a dry spell in actual point production, as he has just one point -- a goal -- in his past nine games.

Brandon Carlo, D, Boston Bruins

The Bruins are third in the Atlantic Division as they try to redefine their identity on the fly. Carlo, 20, figures to be a key part of that future, and the 37th-overall pick in the 2015 draft ranks second on the team -- behind veteran captain Zdeno Chara -- in average ice time per game. He's also second in shorthanded ice time per game for coach Claude Julien. But if offense is to be an important part of Carlo's resume, he has some work to do. He has just one point, an assist, in his past 15 games.

Jimmy Vesey, LW, New York Rangers

It's been interesting to watch Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault try to keep his young forward group hitting on all cylinders. There have been plenty of ebbs and flows, especially with veteran players Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash out with injuries. Top college free agent Vesey, 23, has struggled of late. He has one goal and one assist in his past 11 games, but his team has stayed hot on the heels of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus in the Metropolitan Division.

Young guns showdown

Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota Wild versus John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

The Wild won their first game after having a 12-game winning streak stopped by Columbus on New Year's Eve in dramatic fashion. Minnesota came from behind on Thursday to beat the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank. The Wild will try to keep things rolling against the Ducks on Sunday at the Honda Center. Look for Granlund to again be a factor. The 24-year-old has three goals and eight assists in his past eight games. Meanwhile, Gibson, 23, is shouldering the bulk of the work in goal for the Ducks and is 4-0-3 in his past seven appearances -- including a monster 51-save performance in a win over the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year's Day.