-- Here's our weekly look at the fortunes of some of the game's brightest young stars. Behold, the latest under-24 player rankings.
Auston Matthews'?ongoing scoring woes are dominating the conversation, but that goalless slump (now at 11 games) has been nicely counterbalanced by the play of right winger Mitch Marner, 19. Marner has four goals and four assists in his past six games and scored one of the prettiest goals you'll see in Thursday's 6-1 drubbing of the Florida Panthers. Marner's 16 points are second among all rookies.
The surprising Devils hold down the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 9-4-3 record. But with Taylor Hall out for a month because of a knee injury, the pressure will be on the young Devils not to let their good start go to waste. One of those youngsters, Severson, 22, has been a pleasant surprise. The 60th-overall pick in 2012 had 12 points through Thursday, putting him in the top 10 among all defensemen. He's also tied for the team lead in points. New Jersey wondered how it would fill the void created when Adam Larsson was dealt to the? Edmonton Oilers?for Hall. Severson has gone a long way toward answering that question.
Every week it's a challenge trying to determine which of the Rangers' high-flying young stars to highlight. Why? Well, the 13-4-0 Rangers are arguably the best team in the NHL, top to bottom, and lead all teams with a whopping 4.24 goals per game -- almost a full goal per game ahead of their nearest competitor. Leading the way for a speedy, talented forward corps is Miller, a 23-year-old left winger who leads the team with 17 points -- and has the sixth-highest point total in the league. The 15th-overall pick in 2011 has continued to earn coach Alain Vigneault's confidence and has been a model of consistency. Miller has never gone more than one game without picking up at least a point.
It's hard to think of the 2013 No. 1 overall pick as a kid because it feels like MacKinnon's been around forever. But he is just 21, so periodic dry periods are to be expected. Regardless, it's been a struggle for both MacKinnon and the Avalanche to achieve liftoff under rookie head coach Jared Bednar. MacKinnon, who is coming off a terrific turn at the World Cup of Hockey, did come up with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 loss to the? Dallas Stars?Thursday, but he has just three goals on the season and two in his past 15 games for an Avalanche team that is dead last in the Central Division and in danger of missing the playoffs once again.
The Flames have been trying to slowly drag themselves out of an early hole, and the struggles of young stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau have been well-documented as a key factor in that poor start. Now with Gaudreau is out long-term with a finger injury, that means everyone -- including Bennett, a 20-year-old center -- will have to step up. Bennett has had his struggles too. The fourth-overall pick in 2014 hasn't scored in nine straight games and has just one point over that span. The Flames, who were 7-10-1 and saddled with the NHL's worst power play, are looking for more from a lot of players, including Bennett.
The good news for the Coyotes is that there is light at the end of the arena tunnel. Plans were announced this week for a new home in Tempe. The bad news is that this is a young team that is playing very much like, well, a young team. The 'Yotes are dead last in the Western Conference, and their five wins are tied for the fewest in the league. One of the issues has been the slow start for promising young forwards such as Duclair, a 21-year-old left winger who is coming off a terrific rookie season that saw him score 20 goals and collect 44 points. This season has been a grind so far for Duclair, the 80th pick of the 2013 draft by the Rangers, as he has just one goal and three points. He has just one point, an assist, in his past six games, and the Coyotes have won two in a row just once this season.
Young guns showdown of the week
This game has a lot more panache than might have been predicted at the start of the season, thanks in large part to the play of a collection of top-end young players in Columbus, led by Werenski. The sixth-overall pick in 2015, Werenski is very much in the Calder Trophy discussion for rookie of the year. And the 19-year-old's 13 points are one off the lead for all NHL defenders this season. Burakovsky, meanwhile, has a boatload of skill and is just waiting for the tide to come in. Coming off a 17-goal season in 2015-16, the 21-year-old has scored just twice thus far for the defending Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals -- and, in fact, has not scored since his two-goal effort in the season opener against the? Pittsburgh Penguins.