Canes face tough call on Hanifin, as do other teams with their rookies

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Teams that decided to include an 18 or 19-year-old rookie on their roster need to make an important decision in the near future.

This will count as the first season of his entry-level deal as soon as a rookie in that age range participates in a 10th contest in 2015-16 and while the decision to keep a player like Connor McDavid is obvious, Carolina has a much tougher call when it comes to Noah Hanifin.

As the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Hanifin naturally has a ton of upside, but the defenseman is logging a modest 16:57 minutes of ice time per game despite the fact that James Wisniewski suffered a major knee injury on Oct. 8. Is that enough playing time to justify keeping him when he could be serving in a much bigger capacity elsewhere?

It’s worth noting that Hanifin is a product of Boston College rather than the Canadian Hockey League, so he could spend the season honing his game in the AHL rather than junior level if the Hurricanes desire. That’s an opportunity many players around his age don’t get, although he’s certainly not the only example.

The fact that Carolina has a 2-6-0 record and isn’t projected to be a major competitor this season might also be a factor. Is it worth it to start Hanifin’s entry-level contract for the sake of this campaign?

All that being said though, if the Hurricanes feel that Hanifin stands to benefit the most from playing against this level of competition, then they might keep him around even if it means getting comparatively limited playing time on a losing squad.

Elsewhere Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers, and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin probably don’t have much to worry about as they approach the 10-game mark. However, Vancouver might not end up keeping Jake Virtanen or Jared McCann and Pittsburgh might decide to return Daniel Sprong to the QMJHL. Buffalo also needs to make a ruling on Sam Reinhart, who would play in his 10th game on Thursday.