Junior-eligible NHL players wait as 10-game mark nears Staff

10/26/2011 8:40:39 PM

It's almost decision time for some National Hockey League teams as they count down the games played for junior-eligible rookies on their rosters.

Some clubs have already made up their mind on what to do, as the Jets sent Mark Scheifele back to the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League over the weekend, and the Lightning made it official on Tuesday, deciding to keep winger Brett Connolly with the club.

Once a junior-eligible rookie appears in 10 NHL games, the first year of his entry-level contract is used up so the nine-game mark is decision time. Those decisions, however, do not affect any players' eligibility for the World Junior Hockey Championship. So even if a player were to stay in the NHL now, he could still be loaned to his national team for the holiday tournament.

That being said, there are still decisions that still need to be made:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The first pick in the draft in June has only been held off the scoresheet in three of the eight games that he's played in thus far. The 18-year-old  has notched five goals and three assists in that time and has regularly played on a line with 2010 first-overall selection Taylor Hall

"No. Still nothing," Nugent-Hopkins told the media on Monday about staying in Edmonton for the year. "Still just waiting. I'm going to go into (Tuesday) night and just play and see what happens after that."

On Friday, Nugent-Hopkins was told he would not be going back to the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

Gabriel Landeskog: The 18-year-old, who was taken second overall by the Avalanche in June's draft, has impressed his teammates so far.

"We've seen 18-year-old guys put up points and play on the power play and stuff like that, but for a guy to come and have the coach put him out there in the last minute on a faceoff in our zone and know that he's going to be responsible, I mean, you just don't see that every day," teammate Shane O'Brien told the Denver Post Tuesday. "He's a complete two-way player."

In eight games this season, he has four goals and one assist and appears to be a lock to stay.  "He's going to be with us," Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman told "He's going to stay."

Adam Larsson: Despite not recording a point in his first seven games, the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft is leading the all Devils' defencemen in ice time, logging an average of 23:52 per-game. 

Mika Zibanejad: The 18-year-old recorded one assist in nine games with the Senators.  On Wednesday, the club decided to send him back to Sweden.

Sean Couturier: The eighth overall selection in the 2011 Entry Draft has two goals and two assists in eight games with the Flyers this season and according to recent reports out of Philadelphia, he'll likely to stay past the 10-game threshold.

Ryan Johansen: The 19-year-old, who was taken fourth overall in 2010, has played in six games, recording one goal and two assists so far. And with the injury to Jeff Carter, he's been playing top six minutes at forward.

Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly, who was on the Memorial Cup All-Star Team after a great season with the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors last year, made the club out of camp and has played regularly on the third line, posting one assist in seven games.

Brett Bulmer: The third-line forward for the Wild has impressed the club with his work ethic and play.  He's played in eight games and picked up three assists. The 19-year-old, who was the 39th player selected in the 2010 draft appears to have an inside track on staying with the club.

"So far, he's a better player than he was two months ago," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday.  "He's continued to improve and continued to develop and continued to keep pace with the NHL players, and he's obviously making contributions to our team."

Erik Gudbranson: The blueliner, who went back to Kingston after training camp last season, has played eight games with the Florida Panthers. The 19-year-old, who was the third overall selection in 2010, has amassed 24 penalty minutes so far.