Gabriel Landeskog

Staying or going: Which NHL rookies should stay in the NHL or go back to juniors?

1 Comment

We’re approaching the nine-game mark for many NHL rookies with junior hockey eligibility and that means teams have potentially tough decisions to make soon. So who is staying in the NHL and who is going back to juniors or Europe? Here’s how we see it.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers:  STAYING

The Oilers are doing reasonably well and he’s had a lot to do with that. They let Taylor Hall stay under worse circumstances last season and while they tease that he might go back to juniors, he shouldn’t.

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche:  STAYING

Landeskog has looked very good for Colorado so far and he’s even gotten Matt Duchene to look bad by comparison. He skates hard, he drives the net, he scores goals… And he’ll keep doing that all season.

Adam Larsson – New Jersey Devils:  STAYING

Larsson is seeing the most minutes on the blue line and playing like a veteran in all facets of the game. He came into the season as the most NHL-ready guy and he’s showing it. If the Devils send him back to Sweden, we’ll drown our sorrows in Swedish Fish.

Mika Zibanejad – Ottawa Senators:  GOING

Zibanejad had a great training camp for Ottawa and looked like he’d be a potentially great fit immediately. While the Sens are pulling out wins, Zibanejad isn’t a part of it. He’s playing just over 12 minutes a game and has one assist and even Sens fans would rather see the team get it right than hurry him. Let him go back to Europe and get better.

source: Getty ImagesSean Couturier – Philadelphia Flyers:  STAYING

Couturier has been a defensive stud forward for Philly and he hasn’t looked out of place at all with the Flyers. The points will come, but for now he’s helping Scott Hartnell look expendable in Philly. Plus sources are already saying he’s staying so… Yeah, that’s that.

Ryan Johansen – Columbus Blue Jackets:  GOING

He’s averaging just over 10 minutes a game and while he got a healthy amount in Columbus’ game against Ottawa, he’s not learning or improving anything with the Jackets now. Send him back.

Erik Gudbranson – Florida Panthers: STAYING

Gudbranson has made his presence felt in Florida. He’s playing rough hockey, fighting guys that cross him, and his physicality is something the Panthers desperately need. He’s playing strong, let him stay.

source: Getty ImagesBrett Bulmer – Minnesota Wild:  STAYING

A cocky kid in Minnesota? There’s a team that needs a little attitude and Bulmer gives it. Hockey Wilderness raves about him and Bulmer has fit in seamlessly. He’s the perfect third/fourth line tough kid. No reason to send him back to Kelowna.

Brett Connolly – Tampa Bay Lightning: STAYING

Guy Boucher is giving Connolly every opportunity to make his mark with Tampa, and he’s doing well with that pressure. Boucher loves what he’s been able to do so far and there’s no reason to think they’ll send him back after all this glowing praise.

Devante Smith-Pelly – Anaheim Ducks: GOING

Smith-Pelly has done well as a 19 year-old kid in Anaheim on their third line, but the Ducks have J.F. Jacques back in the fold and Patrick Maroon floating around from Syracuse. His energy will be good in another year, but for now he should go back to Mississauga.

Nugent-Hopkins might be headed back to junior

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
1 Comment

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might lead the Edmonton Oilers in scoring, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be with the big club much longer.

Oilers coach Tom Renney says no decision has been made on whether to send the 18-year-old rookie back to junior.

“Have I told him he’s staying? No,” Renney said, according to the Associated Press.

Nugent-Hopkins has five goals and two assists in seven games — including a hat trick on Oct. 15 against the Canucks — while playing on a line with fellow phenoms Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

So why would the Oilers consider sending him back to the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League?

A couple of reasons:

First of all, the top pick in the 2011 draft has yet to fill out and there’s legitimate concern the 82-game NHL schedule will take too much of a physical toll. Basically the Oilers are worried he’ll break. Not get hurt. Break.

Secondly, the Oilers are still a ways from contending. Sending Nugent-Hopkins back to junior before he plays 10 games in the NHL means they won’t use up the first year of his entry-level contract. And if he plays fewer than 40 games, they won’t use up one of the seven years he has to play in the NHL before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Chances are, Nugent-Hopkins isn’t going anywhere. The last first overall pick who didn’t play in the NHL straight away was defenseman Erik Johnson (drafted in 2006). Since then, it’s been Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Taylor Hall. Plus all the other elite 18-year-olds that have stuck around and been stars, including Drew Doughty, Jeff Skinner and Matt Duchene.

“He’s a point-a-game player,” Hall said of Nugent-Hopkins. “He’s got five goals. It’s pretty hard to say that’s not NHL caliber.

“He was brought in to produce offense, and he’s done that in spades. That’s what he wanted to do. I’ve said all along that if he came in and did what he did best, and he’s even done more than that, he’d be a capable NHL player this year.”

Jets send 1st-round pick Scheifele back to junior

Mark Scheifele
1 Comment

After seven games and one goal, Mark Scheifele’s National Hockey League cameo is done.

Today, the Winnipeg Jets announced they’re sending Scheifele back to Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League. Scheifele, 18, was the first-ever pick of the “new” Jets, taken seventh overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

The news is noteworthy, but not much of a surprise. Scheifele was the NHL’s third-youngest player — a month older than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mika Zibanejad — and at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds, a tad overmatched when it came to the physical stuff. (That said, Nugent-Hopkins is thriving despite being built like a rake.)

The positive for both the Jets and Scheifele is that in Barrie, he’ll be under watchful eye head coach Dale Hawerchuk. Hawerchuk is a borderline demigod in Winnipeg and was highly visible as the city regained an NHL team. The situation has good “synergy” to it, a word I promise to never use again.