Nail Yakupov, the third jewel in the offensive jewel of the Edmonton Oilers youth movement, saw his NHL debut officially delayed Thursday. Ditto for at least 10 other promising prospects who have yet to play a meaningful NHL game, but have little, if anything, left to prove at any lower level.
A smattering of other rising players performed in at least one momentary stint in 2011-12 and thus set up a springboard for what ought to be their first full campaign in The Show. If that campaign is to be 2012-13, it will now be a less-than-full campaign for all, but the prospects in question will be in on it nonetheless.
For the purposes of this slideshow, a “prospect” shall be defined as a player who has already appeared in less than 15 regular-season or postseason NHL games. Translation: Chris Kreider and Gustav Nyquist are ineligible, although they should be a lock for their respective teams, just as each of the following 20 are.
Upon turning 20 this Friday, Baertschi is officially eligible to graduate from the major juniors and officially enter the Calgary Flames farm system. A momentary NHL work stoppage could be a disguised boon for him as he will bridge his way to a full-time roster spot by whetting his blades with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.
Regardless of which league he is in and for how long, Baertschi will be raring to translate a staggering two-point-per-game output from last season in the Western League. He also has a three-goal, five-game call-up to Calgary to build upon.
As a first-year professional with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2011-12, Donovan tallied a team-leading 35 assists and placed second among defensemen with a plus-11 rating. Barring a colossal sophomore stumble this autumn, he should be ready to be phased in full time to the Islanders’ ongoing youth movement.
Like the aforementioned Baertschi, his fellow Western League alumnus, Etem can reap rewards from a temporary focus on the NHL’s top development circuit. His Anaheim Ducks will have him co-piloting the offense of their new AHL farm club in Norfolk, Va.
Anything remotely reminiscent of his US NTDP and Medicine Hat Tiger days will only tighten his grip on an active position in Anaheim.
As a professional rookie in 2011-12, Foligno filled in commendably when the Buffalo Sabres were plugging injury-induced cavities on their depth chart. All he did was sprinkle six goals and 13 points over a span of 14 NHL twirls.
The No. 12 overall pick by the Sabres last spring, Grigorenko is among those inevitably resorting to a return to the Canadian League while the lockout is in session. In the process, he is using his size and output (12 points in five games) to verify the notion that he has outgrown the teen leagues.
The Boston Bruins have left a vacancy in their sixth active defensive slot, which is their 2011 first-round pick’s to lose. His chief competition consists of a couple of AHL/NHL journeymen in Garnet Exelby and Aaron Johnson plus a pair of unproven youngsters in Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug.
Even if he does not become a nightly game-time fixture in his rookie season, Hamilton should at least be the seventh blueliner, rotating in as needed. As evidenced by his point-per-game start to this season with the Niagara Ice Dogs, there is practically nothing more major-junior competition can do for his development.
Granted, Irving’s stats have not been the most sparkling, but he has garnered satisfying bottom-line results over his last two years with Abbotsford, accumulating a 52-37-4 record.
The playmaking point patroller reportedly would have been the Winnipeg Jets go-to replacement for the ailing Zach Bogosian this season.
Another budding blueliner in the Islanders’ system, the 18-year-old Reinhart’s physical maturity already speaks for itself with his 202-lb. frame. His less tangible, but no less valued, personal maturity was recently underscored when he was named the captain of the defending Western League champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
Before his 2011-12 season was interrupted by injury, Rielly was on a perfect point-per-game pace with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He returned for the Western League playoffs and pitched in three assists over five games.
If the start to this season (five points in five games) is any indication, Rielly has not lost his touch even after a pair of four-plus-month stints away from authentic game action within the last year.
Rather than round out his four years of eligibility at the University of Wisconsin, Schultz has elected to pursue a spot on the Oilers defense, which needs to catch up with its offensive counterpart in the way of building up a winning youth movement.
There is no guarantee he would be in action on a game-by-game basis right away, but top-seven status should be attainable.
Silfverberg came across the ocean this past spring and debuted with the Ottawa Senators in the midst of their seven-game thriller with the top dog New York Rangers. A month or two with the farm team in Binghamton to start his first full campaign in North America ought to make for a smoother acclimation process.
St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the only training camp line combination he had already settled on was Tarasenko working with Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen.
The dense presence of locked-out, established NHLers will naturally heighten the KHL’s competitiveness and should, in turn, help Tarasenko’s preparedness for the Blues all the more.
Like Tarasenko, Yakupov will benefit from returning to his Russian homeland and working amongst established NHLers who are passing the time in the KHL.
Even without a lockout, though, the Oilers’ third consecutive No. 1 overall draft choice would have been primed for an immediate top-six or top-nine slot.