Here's our weekly look at the fortunes of some of the game's brightest young stars. Behold, the latest under-24 player rankings.
The Oilers are in a dogfight atop the Pacific Division, where they're tied with the Calgary Flames and trying to hold off the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. But Edmonton is hanging tough thanks in large part to the play of captain and resident superstar McDavid, who has three goals and eight assists in his past eight games. The 19-year-old continues to lead the NHL with 38 points and is threatening to turn the scoring race into a one-horse affair. Through Thursday, he had a nine-point edge over his nearest competitor. He even threw a little shade at Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning after Thursday's wacky 6-5 loss, which proves McDavid is human after all.
So what's the over/under on how many goals the Finnish sniper finishes with this season? Forty? Forty-five? It's going to be hard for rookie-of-the-year voters to ignore Laine if he keeps up this pace. The 6-foot-5 18-year-old has potted five goals and added two assists in his past eight games, and his 17 goals are one off the league lead, as he continues to joust with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the league's dominant goal scorer. Laine's contributions are one of the main reasons the Jets are remaining in the wild-card race in the Western Conference.
Talk about catching fire. The Bruins' 20-year-old winger has been white-hot, scoring eight goals and adding two assists in his past eight games. Pastrnak's two-goal effort in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday moved him into a tie for the league lead with 18 -- the same number collected by Crosby. Pastrnak's 14 even-strength goals are tops in the league. The emergence of Pastrnak, the 25th-overall pick in 2014, as an elite sniper has been a welcome tonic for a team that has struggled to consistently score.
The Hurricanes have struggled to stay in the playoff hunt, which is a function in part of how young this team is, especially on the back end. Take Hanifin, for instance. The fifth-overall pick in 2014 has one goal and zero assists in his past 11 games. The doesn't mean the 19-year-old isn't ready. It just means that the learning curve is steep. Carolina is tied for 21st in goals scored per game and is 12th place in the Eastern Conference. It's hard to imagine the Hurricanes closing the gap unless they get more offense from Hanifin and their other promising youngsters, as they did in an impressive 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
Injuries and slumps have presented a mighty challenge for head coach Dan Bylsma, who has tried to coax enough offense out of his talented roster to keep the Sabres in the hunt. At one point, Bylsma gave Carrier, a 21-year-old power forward who'd had success at the AHL level, a chance to play top-six minutes for a Sabres team that ranks dead last in the league in goals per game. Let's just say that the experiment has yet to bear fruit for the hard-nosed winger, who has one assist in his past seven games and has one goal in 16 games played in the NHL.
It hasn't exactly been a smooth transition for the Panthers in the wake of the controversial dismissal of coach Gerard Gallant. Florida is outside the playoff bubble and offense has been hard to come by -- especially for Trochek, who was looking to build on last season's impressive 25-goal campaign. The 23-year-old has one assist in his past nine games and just six goals on the season. He's also minus-11.
Young guns showdown
This game in Tampa features a tasty little rematch of last spring's Eastern Conference finals and again pits the two young goalies who squared off in that seven-game set after Tampa Bay veteran Ben Bishop was injured. Murray, 22, has picked up where he left off in guiding the Penguins to a Stanley Cup last June, running his record to 9-2 with a .934 save percentage after he missed time early in the season with a hand injury. The Lightning, meanwhile, are struggling and head into the weekend outside the playoff bubble. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old Vasilevskiy continues to prove he's the goaltender of the future in Tampa Bay with a 6-2-1 record and .929 save percentage.