Youngest NHL Players of All Time

There was a time when you didn’t need to fulfill an age requirement to play for a professional sports team. Although the MLB still allows international free agents to sign before turning 18, most other leagues require players to be adults before they can suit up for their respective franchises. But those rules weren’t always in place, and some players were called upon to play against men at a time when they were still boys. This was most common in the early 1940s when men joined or were conscripted into wartime efforts. As a result, the NHL saw a rapid increase in teenagers in their ranks.

We’re running through some of the youngest players to ever play in the NHL.

Youngest NHL Players of All Time

1. Armand “Bep” Guidolin

Born in 1925 and playing in his first game in 1942, Armand “Bep” Guidolin is the record holder for the youngest player to make his NHL debut at the spritely age of 16. Remember that this was an unforgiving time in professional hockey, where breaking your stick on someone was still considered good sportsmanship, which makes Guidolin’s 53 penalty minutes as a 16-year-old look like a marvel. 

The Canadian forward would play nine seasons in the NHL, accumulating 278 points in 519 games to go along with 616 PIMs. Guidolin didn’t rest on his laurels playing professional hockey into the 1960s before embarking into the coaching realm. His coaching career is punctuated by a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with the Boston Bruins in the 1973-74 season. 

2. Ted Kennedy

Born December 12, 1925, Ted Kennedy’s career began at the end of the 1942-43 season, making him one of the youngest players to skate on an NHL rink. Kennedy would have one of the most productive careers, lasting 14 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

Kennedy led the Leafs to five Stanley Cups, participating in three All-Star Games and being named the league’s most valuable player in 1954-55. The Hall of Famer was the face of one of the mightiest dynasties in the NHL’s history and was an integral part of the Leafs through the 1950s.

3. Don Raleigh

The New York Rangers desperately needed help when they summoned 17-year-old Don Raleigh to the professional ranks. Raleigh played 15 games for the Rangers during the 1943-44 season, wrapping up his first year as a pro before his 18th birthday. 

It would be two seasons before Raleigh made it back to the NHL, but the centerman would enjoy an eventful ten-year career with the Broadway Blueshirts, tallying 101 goals and 320 points in 535 career games. Raleigh’s closest brush with glory came at the end of the 1949-50 season when his Rangers lost to the Boston Bruins in double-overtime of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

4. Ross Johnstone

Ross Johnstone cracked the league before becoming an adult, although his NHL career was much less fruitful. Almost unforgivingly, the Montreal native played two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a 17- and 18-year-old, never to play in the NHL again. 

Still, Johnstone had a moderately productive professional career, playing eight professional seasons, mainly in the American Hockey League. Across all leagues, the defenseman totaled 271 games, 25 goals, 53 assists, and a gentlemanly 67 penalty minutes.

5. Don Gallinger

Service time interrupted Don Gallinger’s brief NHL career. Gallinger broke into the league as a 17-year-old, playing two seasons with the Boston Bruins before a brief stint with the Winnipeg Royal Canadian Air Force Bombers at the end of World War II. 

Gallinger would return to the B’s the following year, playing three more seasons in Boston before concluding his career. The centerman would make the Stanley Cup Finals twice throughout his career, losing to the Detroit Red Wings and then Montreal Canadiens in four and five games, respectively.