No. 1: Mark Stone (Reader rank: 1, Last year: 1)
The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in Silver Seven’s Top 25 Under 25 this year is quite wide. That’s nothing against Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the rest of the group; the Senators prospect pool and group of young NHLers hasn’t looked this good in three or four years.
Mark Stone is just that good.
At the ripe age of 24, Stone has already led the Senators’ forwards in points during his first two full seasons in the NHL.
After the 2014-15 campaign saw so many things come together from January to April for the team, last year was a completely different story. Because of the plague that was the injury bug last season, Stone carried a one-legged Kyle Turris around for a couple months, was without regular linemate Clarke MacArthur for nearly the entire year and ended up playing at least 250 minutes with six different linemates.
And still managed to crack the 60-point mark.
In 2015, he had the best all-around season for a forward on the team. In 2016, he solidified his role as best overall forward. Period.
It truly is outstanding to look back and realize how much ground he’s covered in so little time. Once told his skating was far below the NHL level, Stone has put in the work and has been one of the quicker skaters on the team the past two years. His stride still might look fairly unorthodox, but it gets the job done.
That really was the final piece of the puzzle; the one thing holding back the Winnipeg native from being a dominant player. He had the hands, his hockey IQ was off the charts and no one ever questioned his desire.
Though he will miss out on competing for his country at the World Cup of Hockey, the Senators’ 6th-round draft pick in 2010 had a chance to play for Team Canada at the World Championships this past spring. Stone finished the tournament with 10 (4, 6) points in 10 games and opened many eyes as he found himself playing big, important minutes for a stacked roster.
With 226 takeaways (63 more than second-place John Tavares) since the 2014-15 campaign, Stone has proven to be one of the best defensive forwards in the game. His possession stats were top tier on a struggling Senators team last season and his all-around game is above all in the nation’s capital.
Already with a Calder Trophy nomination under his belt, don’t expect it to be long before the Senators best forward receives a nod for the Selke in the near future.
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