We’re entering the college sports season, a realm logically dominated by 18-to-22 year olds.
But we’re also entering that glorious period during which MLB, the NFL, NHL and NBA are all either in-season or about to start. And when it comes to Minnesota, at least, those pro sports teams are increasingly being dominated by 18-to-22 year olds.
I’ve compiled a list of who I consider the best 12 local pro athletes in that age group. Players from the Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild, Twins, Lynx and Minnesota United were considered, and not all players 22-and-under made the cut. Here they are, in order of youngest to oldest, with ages and dates of birth listed:
• Tyus Jones, Timberwolves, 19 (May 10, 1996): The first-round draft pick of the Wolves and Apple Valley native just turned 19 a few months ago. It remains to be seen what he will accomplish in the NBA, but the potential is there.
• Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves, 19 (Nov. 15, 1995): The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft looks to have star potential and could be in the lead pack of a very promising core of young Minnesota athletes.
• Zach LaVine, Timberwolves, 20 (March 10, 1995): He was inconsistent as a rookie with the Wolves last season, but he won the Slam Dunk contest and averaged 19.6 points in his final 15 games.
• Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves, 20 (Feb. 23, 1995): The NBA Rookie of the Year last season is already a good two-way player in the league and has a ceiling somewhere between star and superstar. Wiggins scored in double figures in each of his last 29 games last season, averaging 20 ppg in that span.
• Matt Dumba, Wild, 21 (July 25, 1994): The young defenseman possesses a rocket of a shot, as was evidenced on many of his eight goals last season. Of the Wild’s young core, it could be argued that Dumba has the greatest potential to be an NHL superstar.
• Byron Buxton, Twins, 21 (Dec. 18, 1993): Though Buxton has struggled at the plate early in his major league career, his minor league track record suggests it’s only a matter of time before that part of his game smooths out. He has all of the tools needed to be great.
• Jonas Brodin, Wild, 22 (July 12, 1993): Brodin came onto the scene as a rookie in the 2012-13 season and already has played 195 NHL games. He’s skilled and reliable — and he should just get better.
• Miguel Sano, Twins, 22 (May 11, 1993): It’s hard to quantify exactly what Sano has meant to the Twins in his short time in the major leagues, but rest assured that he is the real deal at the plate and has transformed Minnesota’s lineup.
• Anthony Bennett, Timberwolves, 22 (March 14, 1993): His first year with the Wolves was a disappointment, but this still is a young player who was the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
• Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves, 22 (Nov. 13, 1992): A bit of the forgotten man after injuries derailed his season a year ago, but Muhammad is still young and full of potential.
• Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings, 22 (Nov. 10, 1992): Several prognosticators think the Vikings will take a big step forward this season, and one of the main reasons is their young quarterback. Bridgewater had a promising rookie season and has been sharp in the preseason this year.
• Nino Niederreiter, Wild, 22 (Sept. 8, 1992): He’ll lose his 22-and-under status in about a week, but Niederreiter’s production (24 goals last season, second on the team) certainly qualifies him for this list.