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.
Sean 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.
Brett 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.