Hockey fans like most sports fans can be too hard on athletes in my opinion and when it comes to hockey especially hard. When you look at football, or baseball chances are the athletes are in the early to mid 20 by the time they are a rookie and those few extra years can make a big difference when it comes to life under a microscope and the pressure of being a highly paid athlete. However in hockey, rookies are often nothing more than young adults who are 18-20 years old and perhaps new to the spotlight and pressures of being a pro athlete.
Let's take Jeff Skinner for example. Before you read any further or do any research, what do you think of? A player who had a good start and fizzled because of injuries? A player who just never reached his full potential?
Now, let's look at the Jeff Skinner I see, first of all he's only 25 years old! That's right, 25. Jeff can easily have another decade of hockey ahead of himself if he stays healthy. Truth is he did have a few concussions over a couple years early in his career but these past 3 years he's only missed 6 games in total. This past season Jeff scored 37 goals on a pretty weak Carolina team and was a huge reason why they were flirting with a playoff spot. His 37 goals this past year was good enough for 6th in the entire league. Over the past two years he's averaged over 30 goals a season and I truly believe the best is yet to come as he reaches into his prime. True 3 seasons ago Skinner's numbers were pretty pedestrian with him only scoring 18 goals and 31 points but the team as a whole was a disaster too.
After 7 NHL seasons Jeff Skinner has scored 20 or more goals 5 times and 30 or more goals 3 times. I believe he can easily reach 30 over the next 5-6 years and perhaps even has a 40 goal campaign or two in him. At 25 there's so much hockey left in this kid I am excited to see where his career will take him. As a Skinner fan, I hope I've convinced you the reader he is worth all the hype he once had back as a Calder Trophy winning 18 year old and might be worth grabbing a card or two of if you don't already have some in your collection.
10-11 Upper Deck Jeff Skinner Young Gun
While I am trying to stand up for Jeff Skinner and his career, I know I am guilty of getting down on prospects who just don't mature as quickly as hoped or panic a bit when that sophomore slump trickles into their 3rd/4th season but patience will always win out with most of these kids because they are indeed humans like the rest of us and the game is a world unlike anything we live in.
Some other players who might be worth a look and some added patience are: Dylan Strome, Mikko Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by and if you have a player you'd like to say still has star potential I'd love to hear about it!