If you’re under 20, drafted out of the CHL and currently playing in the NHL, you’re about to have some sleepless nights.
We’re looking at you Brayden, Nino, Cam, Alexander and Jeff. You too Taylor and Tyler.
The NHL season is nearly an eighth over, and Schenn, Niederreiter, Fowler, Burmistrov, Skinner, Hall and Seguin are all aware of what looms over them.
18 and 19-year-old rookies drafted from and eligible for the CHL are allowed to play nine games for their respective NHL clubs before the first year of their three-year, entry level contract kicks in. A player on the active roster for 41 games brings the young star a year closer to unrestricted free agency. Few teams are willing to burn a contract year on a youngster with questions surrounding whether or not they can play at hockey’s top level.
And so some executives are burning the midnight oil deciding whether or not to keep their bluechippers in NHL silks, or sending them back to ride the pony express in the WHL or OHL.
Some decisions seem easier than others, to say the least.
Atlanta Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley has an easy decision in regards to Alexander Burmistrov. Atlanta’s latest Russian sensation has proved to be a crafty pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and has already established himself as a regular threat in the Deep South. While he’s yet to register his first NHL point, and that isn’t for a lack of chances or effort, Burmistrov is averaging more time than veterans Nik Antropov and Fredrik Modin, and has had more icetime than leading scorer Anthony Stewart.
Judging by the way the Thrashers have been praising the former Barrie Colt, Bumistrov will stay and play.
Cam Fowler, one of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft’s big tumblers, looks like he’s solidifying his NHL career at the tender age of 18. Only Toni Lydman and Lubomir Visnovsky are averaging more time on the blueline than the Team USA standout. In fact, Fowler leads all Ducks defensemen in points with three in six contests so far.
With a paper-thin blueline and the hot start for Fowler, the former Windsor Spitfire will not be returning for a third consecutive Memorial Cup run.
His former teammate and first overall pick Taylor Hall could. The much-advertised Hall has struggled in his NHL debut, recording just one assist in four games. Though he’s averaging 15 minutes per game in Edmonton, Hall hasn’t been able to get into a groove at the professional level and his inability to play a similar style to the same success he has been used to is causing frustrations.
With the rebuilding Oilers able to wait a year for Hall to mature and the desire to save an all-important year on his contract, Hall could very well play out his season in Ontario instead of Alberta. The best thing Hall may have going for him is in fact his junior career. Hall has nothing left to do at the CHL level, which should keep him in the NHL.
Los Angeles Kings forward Brayden Schenn wont get a chance to avenge his Memorial Cup loss to Fowler, Hall and the Windsor Spitfires. While he’s seeing just over 11 minutes of action per game and has been held pointless in his young NHL career, Schenn has impressed both fans and Kings brass alike. He’s shown a quick adaption to the NHL in any role he’s been placed in.
Schenn wont see the most minutes of a rookie forward this season, but he’ll certainly be one that suits up for all 82 games.
Another player who may be eyeing a Memorial Cup bid this season is the New York Islanders’ Nino Niederreiter. Drafted fifth overall in June, Niederreiter has seen limited minutes in his young NHL career. While he appears physically mature enough to handle the rigors of an NHL, and six-foot-two, 205-pounds will prepare you physically for the NHL, Niederreiter needs more time with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks to ripen.
Not all would be lost in a WHL reunion. The Winterhawks, led by fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen, are definitely in the thick of teams to come out of the Western league. Niederreiter’s presence only helps what could be a magical year in Portland.
It will be a warm winter for Hurricanes pick Jeff Skinner. Carolina is sure to be a lot warmer than Kitchener.
On an offensively challenged club, Skinner is being utilized in an offensive role. Despite being behind Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter, Skinner can provide a pop like few others on the club. Couple that with an endorsement from general manager Jim Rutherford and the seventh overall pick in 2010 has already been told to start the apartment hunt.
Tyler Seguin can start the shopping process too. The former Plymouth Whaler and second overall pick in 2010 has shown a quiet maturity on a deep Boston Bruins squad. Aided by the injury to Marc Savard, Seguin has shown in his short stay that he should be a regular in the Bruins lineup. He’s managed two points in three games, but more than that the Brampton, On. native hasn’t skipped a beat in jumping to the NHL.
While the likes of Burmistrov, Fowler, Schenn, Seguin, Skinner can rest easy and look forward to more than 10 games of NHL action this season, it’s sure to be a long couple of nights for the likes of Hall and Niederreiter, that is, until each knows their NHL fate.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickersFC. Follow the official Future Considerations Twitter Feed at www.twitter.com/FCHockey.