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Fountain of youth

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – The latest wave of NHLers are making their mark at an earlier age than ever before.

Since the 2007-08 season, the average age of a hockey player in the NHL has dropped from 27.92 to 27.48-years-old. While that might not seem like much at first glance, those numbers still represent a drop in age of nearly half a year – a hint that players entering hockey’s top ranks are making their mark at an earlier age than ever.

Lars Eller and David Desharnais

Not only are younger players appearing around the NHL in higher numbers these days, but they’re also beginning to dominate the game – especially from an offensive standpoint – in a more impressive fashion than ever before. The average age among the league’s current top 20 point-scorers is 27.25-years-old. Take out a certain player by the name of Teemu Selanne who skews the stats a bit by still playing like he’s 27 despite actually being 41, and the average age drops to 26.5-years-old. That’s almost one full year younger than the average age of the league.

“Young players are coming into the league with more talent than ever right now. Just look at guys like Toews, Kane, Stamkos and everyone over in Edmonton – they’ve all gotten off to really strong starts in their careers. Not only is it cool to see, but it’s a huge source of inspiration too,” explained the Canadiens’ 22-year-old center, Lars Eller.

“I think it’s great to have so many young guys in the mix. It’s important to have a little bit of everything in a dressing room. Everyone adds something different to the equation and you need all those ingredients to create good chemistry,” added the Dane, explaining that while everyone on a team may pushing in the same direction, there’s always still a healthy level of competition between the veterans and rookies.

“You can see that competition come out on the ice. The younger guys always want to be improving and maybe even stealing some ice time away from the veterans. That pushes the veterans to try all that much harder on their end,” continued Eller, who for his part saw his ice time swell from 11 minutes per game last year to around 15 in his current campaign.

Things have been going well for the young center in 2011-12 after taking over highlight reels across North America thanks to a four-goal night that ended in a show-stopping spin-o-rama penalty shot marker.

“I’m doing my best to keep getting better and better. I think you can see that in my stats. I’m getting more responsibility, more ice time and more points,” said Eller, who has already equalled his point output from last season in only 43 games so far in 2011-12. “I feel like I’m heading in the right direction, even though sometimes I wish I was progressing faster – but I know it’ll come. I’m accomplishing new things all the time. ”

With Eller, all that’s left to do now is see how high he’ll have climbed once he reaches his peak.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Justin Fragapane.

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