As if this horse hasn’t been beaten to death already, it still remains that many view Flyers new head coach Alain Vigneault as a potential detriment to the plethora of young talent the Flyers system possesses. While those folks can go on and on about “the Rangers had all these young players who didn’t play,” and “the Canucks had too many vets,” the fact remains that many young, talented skaters contributed in big ways to both teams when Vigneault was the head coach.
We’ll start by defining the term “young.” For this instance, anyone 25 years of age or younger will meet that standard.
In his first year with the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault had two 25-year-olds, one forward and one defenseman, who played really well. Taylor Pyatt put up 37 points, good for fifth on a team with the Sedin twins, who took the top-two spots consecutively in scoring for nearly a decade. Kevin Bieksa was the top scoring defenseman and put up 42 points.
Fast forward to the 2007-08 season and Ryan Kessler posted the fourth-most points of any forward in Vancouver with 37 points at 23 years of age. Alex Edler burst onto the scene at 21 years old and scored 20 points, good for third-best among Vancouver defensemen.
The 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons saw more of the same. Ryan Kessler scored 59 points at 24 years of age, and 75 points at 25 years of age. This was good enough for third place among Vancouver forwards both years. Alex Edler continued his dominance on the blueline by being the second-best scoring defenseman those two years, and the 2010-11 and 2011-12 season as well. He posted 37, 42, 33, and 49 points respectively, all while being 22, 23, 24, and 25 years old. Every year he was the second-highest scoring defenseman, except for 2011-12, where he was the top scoring defenseman on the Canucks.
From 2010-2013, the Canucks saw three different forwards under 25 contribute. Mason Raymond in 2010-11, Jannik Hansen in 2011-12, and Zack Kassian in 2012-13. Raymond and Hansen were the sixth-highest scoring forwards for Vancouver, while Kassian was the eighth-highest scoring forward with the team for the 2012-13 season.
During that same season, Chris Tanev was the highest scoring defenseman under 25, putting up only seven points. That was good for fifth-best among Vancouver Canucks defensemen. The last year of Vigneault’s rein in Vancouver wasn’t great for young players, but that doesn’t erase six years of just the opposite.
Vigneault’s time in New York could be considered even more of a success in terms of getting the best out of young talent. In his first year with the team, 2013-14, 23-year-old Derek Stepan put up 57 points, good for second-best among Rangers forwards. The highest scoring defenseman under 25 years of age? 24-year-old Ryan McDonagh with 43 points. Good enough for the most by any defenseman in a blue sweater.
The very next year saw the same names, just a year older. Stepan had 55 points, good for third-best among Rangers forwards. McDonagh had 33 points, still the most among Rangers defenseman.
2015-16 was Stepan’s year as well, recording 53 points at 25 years of age, and good for third-best yet again among all Rangers forwards. Dylan McIlrath was the highest scoring defenseman under 25, with four points. Those four points were good for seventh among all Rangers defenseman.
2016-2018 saw the emergence of Brady Skjei on the blue line. Both years, Skjei was the second-highest scoring defenseman and posted 39 points in 2016-17 at 22 years old. He then recorded 25 points at the age of 23. J.T. Miller burst onto the scene at the age of 23 during the 2016-17 season as well. He posted 56 points for second-best among all Rangers forwards. The very next year, Mika Zibanejad post 47 points at 24-years-old, good for second among Rangers forwards as well.
Will this change the perception that Alain Vigneault is going to be detrimental to the young talent coming through Philadelphia? Maybe not. However, it should open some eyes at the very least. Vigneault isn’t the man that many have painted him to be. There’s solid proof to oppose those that argue he will be bad for the young skaters. Younger skaters won’t always outperform the veterans, that’s a fact. However, the younger skaters in many of Vigneault’s systems have played pretty well under AV, and that’s a fact.