It’s September now, which means that we’re in for a month of relentless focus on training camp battles and the opening night lineup, with occasional breaks to just sit and enjoy the fact that hockey is being played again (even if it is in rookie tournament/preseason form).
So instead of focusing at the start of this season, let’s use WWYDW to take a few minutes and look ahead. If you were the general manager, what would your development plan look like for the prospects with an honest shot at NHL minutes as the year goes on?
Obviously, individual performances are going to matter a lot, and we won’t know how these players perform until they are actually on the ice. With that caveat noted, what should the development plan be for the NHL-ready and nearly-NHL-ready prospects?
- Connor McDavid: In the NHL, at centre, from Game 1. Easy.
- Griffin Reinhart: He’s had a year in the AHL, and I think he’s ready to take the next step, even if it means carrying eight defencemen.
- Leon Draisaitl: This one is tough. He could make the team out of training camp on the wing, and I lean towards him doing so. It’s not a bad thing if he starts the year in the minors, but I don’t expect he’ll be there very long if at all.
- Tyler Pitlick: I expect that he cracks the opening night roster, but I’m not sure he stays in the majors all season.
- Darnell Nurse: I would plan to follow Oscar Klefbom’s arc from a year ago. Start him in the AHL to show what he can do and get used to the size and speed of pro hockey, then graduate him once he’s clearly dominant at that level and room can be cleared on the major-league roster, probably at some point in November.
- Iiro Pakarinen: Waiver exemption may mean that he starts the year in the minors, but he’d be at the top of the list of possible recalls and I imagine he’s a fixture on Edmonton’s roster by the new year.
- David Musil: He’s entering his third pro season, which means his waiver exemption is getting close to its end. He’ll probably spend most of the year in the AHL but if all goes well will join the team late in the year and establish himself as an NHL’er at that point.
- Andrew Miller, Brandon Davidson, Anders Nilsson: I don’t expect these players to make the roster, but if they clear waivers, they’ll be recall candidates all season and could work their way into the plans.
- Jordan Oesterle: I’d be surprised if he hasn’t pushed his way into a significant NHL cameo by the end of the season.
- Laurent Brossoit: If all goes well, he should contend for the backup job next season, which suggests that he might get a shot this season.
- Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira, Dillon Simpson: Possible recalls, but these players are probably going to spend most of the year in the minors.
- The rest of the prospects: Not likely to see NHL action
That’s my list. Where am I wrong, and who do you think deserves an earlier NHL graduation or won’t make the cut at all?