Sven Baertschi

The end of Svensanity: Flames send Baertschi back to juniors

There is no joy in Calgary. Rookie phenom Sven Baertschi is headed back to junior hockey.

Baertschi was an emergency call-up and for five games he thrilled Flames fans, giving them a glimpse of what his future in Calgary will look like scoring three goals in his abbreviated time with the big club. Now that Lee Stempniak is healthy enough to play, however, Baertschi’s headed back to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

Flames GM Jay Feaster explains why Baertschi has to go back from whence he came.

“The agreement between the CHL and the NHL is very clear regarding the conditions and circumstances under which a player from major junior may be recalled to his NHL team, as well as when he must be returned to his major junior club,” said Flames General Manager Jay Feaster.

Meanwhile the Flames are very much in the playoff race and Baertschi had a hand in helping that out. Now it’s up to Stempniak and Blake Comeau to make sure the Flames’ good fortunes continue or else Flames fans will be looking forward to next season for a few other reasons.

Minnesota sends prized rookie back to junior

Brett Bulmer

In a move that signals a different approach for how the club handles young prospects, the Minnesota Wild sent 19-year-old Brett Bulmer back to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League today. Bulmer had three assists in nine games this season with the Wild, averaging just over 11 minutes a night.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep a 19-year-old around an NHL team when he’s not playing regularly,” Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher told the Minnesota Star-Tribune (the Wild had scratched Bulmer for Saturday’s game against Detroit.) “He played really well for us in the last month and we believe it was a good learning experience for him, but at this point, the best thing for him in his long term development is to get back to playing junior hockey and playing a big role on his team there.”

Minnesota had been criticized in years past for rushing its draft picks to the NHL. Colton Gillies, the Wild’s first-round pick in 2007, joined the team as a 19-year-old but quickly fell out of favor with then-head coach Jacques Lemaire. Same thing with James Sheppard, the ninth overall selection from 2006 that jumped straight from junior to the NHL (and then jumped straight into Lemaire’s doghouse.) Gillies has spent most of his career in the AHL while Sheppard is now with the San Jose organization.

Bulmer’s return to Kelowna is much more in line with Minnesota’s current approach to draftees. The Wild’s last three first-rounders — Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips — are all currently playing with their respective European/junior teams while Charlie Coyle, who Minnesota acquired in the Brent Burns trade, is still at Boston University.

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

Gabriel Landeskog
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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
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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
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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.