In most walks of life, 25 years old is still quite young (despite the protestations to the contrary by 25-year-olds).
But with players reaching their peaks these days around that age and being out of the game at 28, in hockey 25 is downright middle-aged. By the time Alex Ovechkin turned 25, for example, he'd already tallied 269 NHL goals and 529 points.
This list is by no means intended to be definitive - in fact, for other takes on similar topics, we'd strongly suggest checking out the incredible jobs done by Corey Pronman over at Hockey Prospectus and Corey Masisak at NHL.com, and the work done by the good folks at Hockey's Future. The rankings are wholly subjective and are primarily based on current and projected skills and value, upside and the likelihood of reaching it and, quite frankly, hearsay - the opinions of respected folks who have had more opportunities to see some of these kids than we have.
With that out of the way, here's our ranking of the Caps' Top-25 under 25:
Honorable mention: Connor Carrick, D (18.5-years-old as of October 12, 2012; drafted 137th in 2012), Thomas Di Pauli, W (18.5; drafted 100th in 2012), Christian Djoos, D (18.2; drafted 195th in 2012), Steffan Soberg, G(19.2; drafted 117th in 2011)
25. Riley Barber, C (18.7; drafted 167th in 2012) - The son of a former NHLer, Barber does a lot of little things well and has a good work ethic, which helps us to look past the fact that he's from Pittsburgh.
24. Zach Hamill, C (24.1; acquired from Boston Bruins on May 26, 2012 in exchange for Chris Bourque; drafted 8th in 2007) - That's Hamill with one "m," two "l's"... and not a whole lot more to help a good bit of skill translate to production in the pro ranks. How'd this guy go eighth overall? (Joke lovingly borrowed, btw.)
23. Garrett Mitchell, D (21.1; drafted 175th in 2009) - A third-line energy type who does the things that third-line energy types do, Mitchell had a successful first full year in Hershey and will look to improve upon it in 2012-13.
22. Mattias Sjogren, C (24.9; signed as an undrafted free agent June 1, 2011) - Sjogren took his stick and went home rather than report to the AHL last fall after not making the big club, at which point GM George McPhee seemed ready to burn that bridge. Fast forward a few months and Sjogren was back with the Caps during the playoffs and is now in Hershey playing out the lockout. No hard feelings?
21. Garrett Haar, D (19.2; drafted 207th in 2012) - Haar, like some other blueliners on this list, lacks size but plays a positionally sound game and can skate... and if you're good enough, you're big enough.
20. Brett Flemming, D (21.6; drafted 145th in 2009) - The smallish Flemming skates well and isn't averse to contact, but will need to improve in some areas of his game if he wants to continue a rise up the organizational depth chart after a decent AHL debut in the middle of last season.
19. Tomas Kundratek, D (22.8; acquired from New York Rangers on November 8, 2011 in exchange for Francois Bouchard; drafted 90th in 2008) - Kundratek had a five-game cup of coffee for the Caps last January and didn't look out of place in limited minutes, as he has good size and skates well. He was even better for Hershey, where he potted a dozen goals in 62 games, but don't expect that kind of production going forward - he'd scored just eight in his previous 186 North American games.
18. Sergei Kostenko, G (20.1; drafted 203rd in 2012) - The Caps keep taking chances on drafting European goalies and so far, so good. Kostenko - who ditched the KHL for North America, unlike one of his more celebrated comrades - fits the Dave Prior mold, and will likely split time in the ECHL (when healthy) with the next guy on the list.
17. Philipp Grubauer, G (20.9; drafted 112th in 2010) - The lockout will likely keep Grubauer in the ECHL (as opposed to the AHL), where he went 23-13-5/2.22/.918 as a rookie last season. He'll look to build on that success and get his chance in Hershey if and when the NHL gets back to work and Braden Holtby heads back to D.C.
16. Patrick Wey, D (21.6; drafted 115th in 2009) - A stereotypical stay-at-home defender (good size, physicality and defensive awareness; not-so-good skating and puck skills), Wey will play a fourth season at Boston College before presumably turning pro, heading to Hershey and continuing his development.
15. Cam Schilling, D (24.0; signed as an undrafted free agent March 27, 2012) - Perhaps the most NHL-ready defenseman in the organization who has yet to debut at that level, Schilling was finishing up at Miami (OH) just last fall before debuting for Hershey in the spring. He doesn't have much offensive upside, but could be a solid defensive defenseman in time.
14. Chandler Stephenson, LW (18.5; drafted 77th in 2012) - Pronman is quite high on Stephenson, so we'll let him sell the Saskatoon native: "Stephenson is a good skater with a solid top gear, nice acceleration, and impressive balance. He's got a ton of puck skills, arguably high-end in that area, and can dazzle observers with his style of play. Stephenson has the impressive offensive brain to be a creative puck-handler, but he also has good overall offensive instincts to make plays to his teammates and make good off-the-puck reads. He can play center and wing effectively." Pronman goes on to note Stephenson's lack of size and tendency to play a perimeter game, something that will likely have to change some going forward.
13. Caleb Herbert, RW (21.0; drafted 142nd in 2010) - Pronman also likes Herbert quite a bit, so we'll again yield the e-floor to him: "Herbert is an above-average skater who generates good explosiveness from his first few steps and can get to a desirable top speed. He's light on his feet and can really be a pain to check because of his shiftiness. Herbert has good hands and shows some flash with his individual moves along with good hand-eye coordination while moving at top speed." Herbert isn't big and doesn't have high-end skill, but what he does have might be enough.
12. Tom Wilson, RW (18.5; drafted 16th in 2012) - The overtly physical Wilson may have been a reach where the Caps took him (he's not Milan Lucic quite yet), but he's got better hands and is a better skater than he's given credit for in some circles. It's too bad that the lockout (perhaps) robbed him of an NHL training camp - it would've been nice to see him matched against more guys his size.
11. Mathieu Perreault, C (24.8; drafted 177th in 2006) - Perreault made the most of his minutes in 2011-12, but still seems to be something of an afterthought in the organization. The lockout won't help him, as a young player potentially on the cusp of a breakout... with nowhere to play, for now.
10. Michal Neuvirth, G (24.6; drafted 34th in 2006) - Neuvirth took a step backwards in 2011-12, but with more than 100 games of NHL experience (including a nine-game playoff run) and two Calder Cups under his belt before turning 25, expect a bounceback - dude flat-out wins games when they matter.
9. Stanislav Galiev, LW (20.7; drafted 86th in 2010) - After an outstanding career for a CHL juggernaut (Saint John of the QMJHL), the highly-skilled Galiev will go from facing boys to lining up against men as he moves up the ladder to Hershey and the AHL. He'll likely need to add size and strength to make the transition successful, something of which he's keenly aware.
8. Marcus Johansson, C/W (22.0; drafted 24th in 2009) - Dale Hunter's system and Nicklas Backstrom's injury didn't do Johansson any favors in 2011-12, as he struggled to center the top line in a passive-to-a-fault system. That's not meant to absolve the young Swede, however, of his culpability - he needs to be stronger and more willing... the upside is there.
7. Filip Forsberg, RW (18.2; drafted 11th in 2012) - Likely one of the steals of the 2012 draft, in Forsberg the Caps got a skilled playmaker who isn't afraid of contact (and could rocket to near the top of this list in no time).
6. Braden Holtby, G (23.1; drafted 93rd in 2008) - NHL history is littered with goalies who shone bright early and then faded; Holtby's task will be to sustain a high level of play at the highest level of play, though, to be sure, there will be bumps in the road for the confident netminder.
5. Dmitry Orlov, D (21.2; drafted 55th in 2009) - Arriving ahead of schedule, Orlov has an arsenal that includes a booming slapshot and a devastating hip check, and he looks to be ready to be an NHL regular when play resumes.
4. Karl Alzner, D (24.1; drafted 5th in 2007) - Already a rock-solid rearguard, Alzner looks to be the defensive conscience of the Caps blueline and a team leader for years to come.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C (20.4; drafted 26th in 2010) - Committed to stay in Russia for the next two seasons, Kuznetsov might be the most-talented player in the world not currently in the NHL (well, no one's currently in the NHL, but you know what I mean). Long on both skill and drama, it's Kuzya!
2. John Carlson, D (22.8; drafted 27th in 2008) - The first 82 games of Carlson's sophomore season was a rocky one (somewhat a microcosm of the team's 2011-12, for that matter), but he rebounded with a strong playoff performance that put him back on the development track towards becoming an all-around stud blueliner.
1. Nicklas Backstrom, C (24.9; drafted 4th in 2006) - An elite two-way pivot, Backstrom was playing some of the best hockey of his career before being sidelined for half of the 2011-12 season following a concussion. If he can return to that form and stay healthy, the sky's the limit.