should he stay or go

Carolina Hurricanes v Ottawa Senators

Should he stay or go? Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Next up: Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner

The basics

  • Skinner was the seventh pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He’s not tiny but he’s not big either; Skinner is listed at 5’10” and 187 lbs.
  • Skinner will play in his ninth game on Friday against the New York Rangers.
  • Stats: one goal and three assists for four points and a +1 rating in eight games.
  • His junior rights belong to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL

Useless fact

Skinner was the child of two lawyers, which bursts my bubble of every Canadian hockey player growing up on an obscure, ice-covered farm.

James’ take

I imagine that most of the time, I’ll be in favor of sending players to the minors or juniors. Skinner is one of the exceptions, though, for a couple reasons.

For one, he’s getting semi-decent playing time, averaging a respectable 15 minutes per game. The Hurricanes seem to be fairly impressed with his work so far, as well.

Being obnoxiously cap-obsessed, I had to check the Hurricanes’ salary cap situation once Skinner’s deal would expire if he stayed up. The only two contracts that extend past that period are those of Eric Staal and Cam Ward, so they don’t have many other commitments.

James’ verdict: If he can get solid playing time, then I’d say keep him up.

Joe’s take: Skinner’s been good. He’s looked outstanding at times, like the games in Finland, and he’s a slick puck mover through the zone with a knack for getting around the net. These are things you don’t see out of rookies who are struggling to find their way at a new level. Playing time-wise he’s seeing about the same amount of minutes as established top liners Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole so he’s getting as much opportunity to produce as anyone else in Carolina and he’s done all right with his goal and three assists to this point. He’s plugged in well and provided some offensive touch to a team that could use it.

It seems clear to me that his emergence last year in Kitchener was no fluke and he’s meant to be in the NHL.

Joe’s verdict: He stays in the NHL and makes an honest run at the Calder Trophy.

Should he stay or should he go? Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter

Nino Niederreiter

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Next up: New York Islanders forward, Nino Niederreiter

The Basics

  • Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Islanders
  • He’s a large, potential power forward standing at 6’2″ 205 pounds. He’s that big at 18 years-old.
  • He’ll play in his ninth game tonight against the Montreal Canadiens
  • Basic stats: One goal, one assists and a -2 rating in eight games.
  • Niederreiter is averaging 13:29 in ice time per game.
  • Niederreiter’s junior status belongs to the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL

What they’re saying about him

Islanders GM Garth Snow had a little bit to say about which way he’s leaning on whether or not to send Niederreiter back to the WHL. Perhaps playing poker is Snow’s strong suit.

“We haven’t made a final decision yet,” Snow said by telephone. “There are a lot of ingredients that go into making the decision: What’s in the best interest for the player, what’s in the best interest of the organization, how we feel about the organization we’d be sending him back to, and also the mental makeup of the player.”

James’ take:

This is another tough one.

For one thing, his name is awesome but can be used for and against him. On the plus side, Nino Niederreiter is just a cool and semi-hilarious sounding hockey name. At the same time, my inner pun lover also would love to write a horrible headline like “Islanders say ‘No’ to Nino.”

He’s the youngest player in the league playing for one of its biggest groups of young players. The thing is, that bunch is banged up, so he might get a decent chance to get some good reps. He’s also not a tiny player like Alexander Burmistrov; at 6’2″ and more than 200 lbs., he can take care of himself. Yet on the other hand, considering his average of 13:29 minutes per game, he’s not exactly getting a lot of ice time.

The one thing that stands out to me is that the Islanders shouldn’t have too many difficult contracts to deal with once Niederreiter’s deal expires after the 2012-13 season. For that practical reason and considering the fact that he has the size to play at the NHL level right now, I’ll lean toward yes. But if they keep him up with the big club, they really need to justify it by giving him more opportunities to grow.

James’ Verdict: A cautious yes, keep him up.

Joe’s take:

Niederreiter has done pretty well so far. His physicality is noticeable, he’s got some sweet skills and he’s broken through the scoring barrier already. You’d think that a team like the Islanders would be an ideal place for a young guy to break through and be able to make a name for himself right away in the NHL.

That said, the Islanders aren’t under pressure to keep him in the lineup and they’d ideally like to give him more time to develop on the ice. Playing 13 minutes a game and they’ve got an on-ice reminder of how it takes guys time to become big time players in the NHL in Josh Bailey. Bailey was rushed into action a couple seasons ago as a first rounder and just now is turning into the guy they need to be an offensive producer. Doing the same thing to Niederreiter isn’t necessary to do now that Bailey is producing and Niederreiter is playing third and fourth line minutes.

Joe’s verdict: Send him back to Portland to win a WHL title.

Should he stay or go? Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov

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As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

First up: Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov.

The Basics

  • Burmistrov was drafted eighth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He is tiny, at 5’1″ and 170 lbs.
  • He will play in his ninth game against the Rangers tonight.
  • Basic stats: zero points in eight games played.
  • He’s average a little under 15 minutes per night.
  • Burmistrov’s junior rights belong to the Barrie Colts in the OHL

What people are saying about him

If you ask Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, he’s almost guaranteed to stay at the NHL level. Here’s what Dudley said to the Sporting News.

“It’s 99 percent that we’ll keep him,” Dudley said. “There’s never been any talk of sending him back.”

There’s been growing speculation that Burmistrov, a center, might be headed back to OHL Barrie because he’s still looking for his first NHL point, but that speculation isn’t coming from the Thrashers’ front office. Dudley has been impressed with Burmistrov’s play without the puck, his efforts on defense and his strong play in key situations.

“He’s been one of our three or four top forwards every game,” Dudley said. “We’re not worried about points.”

James’ take:

I haven’t been able to watch every game very closely, so maybe Burmistrov really has been useful on defense and is “strong in key situations.”

It’s still difficult to get over that whole zero points thing. Why not let Burmistrov get an extra year of seasoning – and maybe improve his scoring confidence by playing in the minors – instead of burning an entry-level year in which the team is still a work in progress?

This isn’t a slam dunk, but I’m going with my gut on this one.

James’ verdict: Send him down.

Joe’s take:

Burmistrov is an interesting character. He hasn’t been thrown to the wolves to play on a top two scoring line. In fact, he’s been playing on the fourth line with a pair of grinders in Ben Eager and Chris Thorburn.  Burmistrov doesn’t have any points this season but he’s still played relatively well and it reflects upon his linemates as Thorburn has three goals and an assist  while Eager has a goal and a helper. He’s getting steady time on the ice, averaging over 14 minutes a game so he’s not being buried on the bench. Still, you’d like to see him do a bit more for himself offensively and that hasn’t happened as of yet. Perhaps he needs a few more games to get it going, but perhaps he just needs to grow up a little bit more. There’s a lot of hope and potential here for Burmistrov and getting him to develop the right way is important for Atlanta. The memories of former top pick Patrick Stefan failing to live up to his potential are still lingering as a reminder.

Joe’s verdict: Begrudgingly, send him down.