Most teams have played a half dozen games and we’re getting close to the nine game limit where teams have to decide whether to keep or cut high picks or risk having their contracts kick in. Aside from newly drafted players, there have been a few surprises both pleasant and not so pleasant.
Drop – Mark Scheifele – Winnipeg
Averaging about 12 minutes of ice time in seven games with only one goal, Scheifele hasn’t kept up his torrid pre-season scoring pace. Given that the Jets are 1-4-1 and will likely continue to struggle, the best thing for Scheifele and for the Jets would be to send him back to junior for another year while the Jets mature and improve.
Keep – Adam Larsson – New Jersey
Larsson has no points in four games but it’s clear he can handle NHL duties averaging 24 minutes per game. He won’t be a factor in fantasy leagues this season but he’s excellent defensively and is more NHL ready than any other 2011 draft pick.
Drop – Mika Zibanejad – Ottawa
Averaging about 13 minutes of ice time in seven games, Zibanejad is -3 on a team where -3 is average. He is defensively responsible and could probably contribute this season, however, the best thing for his development would be to send him back to Sweden. This Senators team is a mess and keeping him could seriously impact his confidence and attitude.
Keep – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton
Glen Healy on the FAN590 in Toronto made an interesting point that applies especially to a player of Nugent-Hopkins’ caliber. He said that since teams started signing their best players to large multi-year contracts to counteract the salary cap, it makes the nine-game limit irrelevant because the best players will be signed to those long-term contracts long before their original contracts expire.
This new long-term contract strategy means a team won’t lose a year of the player’s service on the back end of the contract if they keep him in the NHL as an 18-year old. Nugent-Hopkins has played 17 minutes a game in six games and has four goals and five points including a hat-trick against Vancouver. Nugent-Hopkins leads the team in scoring and although only 170 pounds, has managed to perform well defensively and appears to be able to avoid heavy traffic. Yes, Edmonton won’t win a lot of games this season, but unlike the pessimism in Ottawa and Winnipeg, there is a spirit of optimism in Edmonton because the team is loaded with young talent. Expect Nugent-Hopkins to stick.
Keep – Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado
Landeskog is playing 17 minutes a game and is used regularly in the top six. He has two goals and three points in seven games and appears NHL ready. He hasn’t produced as prolifically as Nugent-Hopkins so far, but he has twice as many shots on goal as the next best rookie. When those pucks start going in, Landeskog is going to explode offensively.
Drop – Ryan Johansen – Columbus
Johansen has averaged eight