Is the NHL Getting Younger?
Short answer: yes. But that's just based on this single comparison between 2008 and today (data from Feb 26th 2018). We will have a more in-depth look at the data in a larger study on NHL demographics. For now, lets take a closer look at these general observations:
The oldest of the old are becoming extinct. Players aged 35+ are down 50% from 2008 when there were 72 players; today just 36 (Make that 37 once Gionta steps on the ice). This trend only makes the feats of Jagr and Chara that much more impressive.
The 30 to 35 group is also down from 21% of the league to under 18% (or 32 less players). That's about one player less per team. So the 30+ demographic is getting much smaller.
The largest gain in number of players is the 24-29 age bracket; generally considered the peak years of an NHL player. They account for almost 50% of the league in 2018.
Considerations & Cautions
Sample - we are only looking at 2 years in isolation, so it's dangerous to draw too many conclusion, or trends. (spoiler alert - i've seen the rest of the data; the NHL is "getting younger")
2018 is not done yet. Often younger players are brought up near the end of the year for a look-see. This should make a more significant impact toward higher percentages for the younger categories in the 2018 data)
This show the NHL getting younger; What are the factors?
Many NHL analysts point to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and cap restrictions that favour younger less expensive players, a faster game, and a more prepared (training etc) demographic of young players coming out of junior; more ready for the show.
Come to your own conclusions; explore the interactive data visual graph.
data source: hockey-reference.com