New England has enjoyed an historic run since the start of this century. Championships, superstars, characters . . . the whole gamut. But who are the next crop of athletes that will replace the greats like Pierce, Brady and Ortiz?
For the past three years, CSNNE.com has counted down the best "20 Under 25" athletes for the local professional teams. Members of our Comcast SportsNet staff have ranked each qualified athlete on a scale of 1-10. A vote of 1 meant the player was going to make little to no impact on the franchise. A vote of 10 meant that the player would be a superstar/franchise type.
This year, we have added videos and the ability for fans to cast their vote (click here). Fan voting will be open through Thursday, with the results posted on Friday.
Here is the schedule for the countdown this week:
MONDAY: No. 20-No. 16
TUESDAY: No. 15-No. 11
TODAY: No. 10-No. 6
THURSDAY: No. 5-No. 1
The write-ups for each athlete on the last were done by our CSNNE.com Insiders: Sean McAdam (Red Sox), A. Sherrod Blakely (Celtics), Tom Curran (Patriots), and Joe Haggerty (Bruins). "State of the Revs" producer Adam Hart contributed for players on the list from the New England Revolution.
10) JACKIE BRADLEY JR., Red Sox outfielder
DOB: April 19, 1990
2013: Split time between Pawtucket and Boston. Hit .189/.280/.337 in 27 games in Boston. Hit .275/.374/.469 in 80 games in Pawtucket.
Bradley may not be the second-coming of Jacoby Ellsbury, but he will replace Ellsbury in center field in 2014 and, the Red Sox believe, for many years to come. He struggled in limited time in the big leagues in 2013, but the Sox aren't overly concerned by that, as it's common for young players to take time before adapting. Bradley is already an accomplished defender in the outfield, with sure instincts and a strong arm. In time, his power and base-stealing ability will improve. In the short-term, the Red Sox will protect him by having him hit in the bottom third of the order, giving him additional developmental time. For now, the bet is that his athleticism will get him through whatever adjustments he'll face.
9) SHANE VEREEN, Patriots running back
DOB: March 2, 1989
2013: Played in only six games due to Week 1 injury. 199 yards rushing, 381 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns.
It took some time, but Shane Vereen has taken the next step. The third-year back from Cal had his first two seasons marred by injury but a late-season explosion in 2012 whet the appetite for people expecting him to turn into the kind of third-down back who could do some damage. This year, the injuries have dogged him again, but the talent and explosiveness is undeniable. In just six games this year, he's got 43 catches for 381 yards and has carried 40 times for 199. He, like a few of the other young Patriots, can be a force but he carries a large "if" and that's his health.
8) DOUGIE HAMILTON, Bruins defenseman
DOB: June 17, 1993
2013-14: 3 goals, 4 assists, plus-9 in 28 games.
Dougie Hamilton isn’t going to be a superstar defenseman overnight, but the 20-year-old former first-round pick has a chance to be the heir apparent to B’s captain Zdeno Chara. Those are big shoes to fill, but the 6-foot-5, 210-pound defenseman is exactly the kind of oversized prospect who can do just that. Hamilton fell into Boston’s lap when he dropped to the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and remains the biggest chip the Bruins still have remaining from the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. Hamilton is a clever passer and an accurate, strong shooter from the point, he makes good decisions when he passes the puck and he’s beginning to find the strength and snarl to use his size in the defensive zone. With three goals and seven points this season, his offensive numbers are down a bit. But Hamilton has focused more on defense this season, and his plus-9 rating ranks just behind Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk on the Bruins. Hamilton is already a top-four defenseman, but in four or five years he will be the franchise defenseman on the Black and Gold.
7) KELYN ROWE, Revolution midfielder
DOB: December 2, 1991
2013: 7 goals, 8 assists, 26 starts in 33 games.
The former first-round pick made the leap in his second year, partially attributed to his better understanding of the demands playing professionally has on the body. Rowe became an integral part of New England’s attack, netting seven goals and riding a scoring streak from August into September. Should he continue on this track, he has the skill to be named an MLS All-Star.
6) JARED SULLINGER, Celtics forward
DOB: March 4, 1992
2013-14: 14.0 points, 7.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game
His health remains the biggest hurdle for him to overcome, it seems. He missed a game due to a bone bruise and then there's his back which hasn't been an issue for him this season, a good sign that the back surgery he underwent to repair it last spring was a success. His standing with the Celtics is strong, evident by them picking up an option year on his contract despite his involvement in a domestic violence incident in August in which the charges were eventually dropped.