Here's our weekly look at the fortunes of some of the game's brightest young stars.
Look, the Sabres' season has become a train wreck, and you have to wonder what the fallout will be this offseason for Buffalo, which took a pretty monumental step backward in 2016-17. But the superlative play of franchise center Eichel, who is riding an 11-game point streak and has points in 14 of 15 games -- has almost flown under the radar. In spite of missing significant time with an ankle injury at the start of the season, the 20-year-old leads the Sabres in scoring, with 45 points in 46 games. And Eichel, who was selected second behind Connor McDavid in the 2015 draft has reaffirmed that he, too, is the real deal.
In a parallel universe where the Jets actually get decent goaltending and play a modicum of team defense, Scheifele might be part of the Hart Trophy discussion as the league's MVP. Instead, Winnipeg will wind down the season dreaming about next season rather than a playoff berth this year -- as they have for, oh, pretty much the franchise's entire existence. Still, the Jets have reason for optimism. Patrik Laine gets the ink, but it's Scheifele who drives the bus for the Jets. The 23-year-old has points in eight of his past 10 games, and his 68 points are the third-most in the league.
Speaking of seasons that have gone off the rails, the Coyotes have been flailing about for most of the season. But the return of Domi -- who missed almost two months with a hand injury -- to the lineup has been a rare bright spot and is a reminder of better days ahead. Domi, 22, has points in 10 of his past 15 games for the Coyotes. Now if they could just find a place to play.
Continuing with our doom and gloom theme, the Red Wings are about to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Detroit GM Ken Holland has to be eyeing his young talent and wondering whether that next generation is capable of starting a new streak anytime soon. Athanasiou has teased fans with his high-end skill, scoring 15 times this season, but it's been a grind for the 22-year-old of late. He is without a goal in nine games and has just two assists over that period.
The Panthers are slowly meandering their way out of playoff contention with a spate of disinterested play. Sure, missing netminder Roberto Luongo is a problem, and injuries have bedeviled Florida all year (as has ownership meddling and an ill-advised coaching change, but I digress). Among those who've never found a groove this season is Bjugstad, who had 24 goals in 2014-15 but who has just five in 37 games this season. The 24-year-old has just one goal in his past 10 games as the offensively challenged Panthers struggle to stay in the hunt for a wild card spot -- and head coach Tom Rowe continues juggle his lines in the hopes of finding some offensive chemistry at a crucial juncture of the season.
The 23-year-old Ducks netminder hasn't played since Feb. 20 because of a muscle strain. While the Ducks are no doubt being cautious with their young starter, Gibson's status has to be a concern with the playoffs now just a month away. The 39th overall pick in 2011, Gibson has battled injury at times in his young career. And while Jonathan Bernier has played capably in Gibson's absence, navigating the competitive Pacific Division -- with Calgary hot on the Ducks' heels -- will be a bigger challenge for Anaheim without the Pittsburgh native between the pipes.
Young guns showdown
Sunday, March 12, 12:30 p.m. ET in Chicago
This delicious matinee could determine which team ends up with the top seed in the Western Conference, as Chicago has moved to within a point of Minnesota atop the Central Division, and the Wild have hit a bit of a flat spot. It's hard to believe that Niederreiter, 24, is this young, given that he has been around since the New York Islanders drafted him fifth overall in 2010. He has evolved into a prototypical power forward and has now notched 20 goals for the third consecutive season for Minnesota. His eight power play markers lead the team. Meanwhile, Hartman, 22, has turned into a versatile weapon in his first NHL season for Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and can play comfortably up and down the top three lines for Chicago.