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
Wednesday: 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.
5) TOREY KRUG, Bruins defenseman
DOB: April 12, 1991
2013: 8 goals, 10 assists, plus-3 in 34 games.
Torey Krug is the kind of young, electric offensive defenseman that the Bruins haven’t had since Ray Bourque. Clearly the 22-year-old doesn’t have Bourque's defensive abilities, and his career most likely won't land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But Krug has been an impact player for the Bruins on their previously deficient power play, and has given Boston a goal-scoring force from the defenseman position. Krug has 8 goals and 18 points in 34 games so far, and this after giving them an offensive jolt during last year’s playoff run. His agility walking the puck up and down the blue line, along with his bazooka slap shot, make him a dangerous scoring threat from the point spot. Clearly Krug is just scratching the surface of how good he can be, and he’s got the chance to be an All-Star level defenseman for the Black and Gold for a long, long time.
4) CHANDLER JONES, Patriots defensive end
DOB: February 27, 1990
2013: 73 combined tackles, 1 forced fumble, 11.5 sacks in 14 games
One of the offseason worry stones for Patriots fans was whether or not Chandler Jones would make the proverbial “next step”. He has; with 11.5 sacks in the first 14 games of the year, the long, explosive defensive end out of Syracuse is becoming what the Patriots hoped he’d become. A terror off the right edge of the defense. Born in 1990 (?!), Jones will likely be scaling this list in the coming years because the arrow is most definitely pointing skyward for the 23-year-old.
3) XANDER BOGAERTS, Red Sox shortstop
DOB: October 1, 1992
2013: Played the majority of the season in the Red Sox minor league system before joining the team late in the season and into the postseason. Hit .250/.320/.364 in 18 regular season games and .296/.412/.491 in 12 postseason games in Boston. Hit .284/.369/.453 in 60 games in Pawtucket.
Never mind the Red Sox' organization -- Xander Bogaerts may be one of the top three prospects in all of baseball. He is arguably the team's best position player prospect since Nomar Garciaparra almost 20 years ago. Red Sox fans got a sneak peak of his potential in the final five weeks of the season and again in the postseason; Bogaerts shined in the ALCS and World Series when he showed off his immense talents, along with tremendous poise. He has 30-homer potential, terrific defensive instincts and a discerning batting eye. The only uncertainty -- in the short-term, at least -- is where he'll be utilized. Bogaerts could play either third or shortstop in 2014. But this much is known: either way, he's likely to have a big impact.
2. DIEGO FAGUNDEZ, Revolution forward
DOB: February 14, 1995
2013: 13 goals, 7 assists, 28 starts in 31 games
The star of the New England Revolution at age 18, Fagundez has been worked along by Jay Heaps and his staff, breaking out with 13 goals in 2013. His technique, speed and finishing touch make him special. His drive and work ethic are what will make him great. Not just an offensive threat, he takes pride in his improved ability to track back and play defense. Fagundez is on track to be an MLS All-Star and play on the national team level.
1) ROB GRONKOWSKI, Patriots tight end
DOB: May 14, 1989
2013: Played in only seven games due to back and forearm surgery to start the season, and a torn ACL/MCL suffered in Week 14. 39 receptions, 592 yards, 4 touchdowns
The impressive part is the 39 touchdowns in three seasons. The scary part is the eight surgeries in the past four years. Rob Gronkowski may wind up being one of the best tight ends to ever play or he could end up being the NFL’s Bill Walton – a brilliant player who just couldn’t stay healthy. With Gronkowski down for the year with a torn ACL/MCL, he will spend the spring and summer of 2014 rehabbing. How will he spend the 2014 season? Will he be able to begin playing in September or will we have another summer of Gronk-related speculation as his convalescence drags on. The Patriots built their offense around Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. Now one’s in jail on a murder charge and the other is dealing with a serious, possibly career-altering surgery.