10 Developing Players the NHL Lockout Is Hurting the Most
Young players and prospects who need more NHL experience to further their development have been hurt by the this year's lockout.
Playing in the AHL or in overseas leagues is better than players just staying home during the work stoppage, but these leagues don't fully prepare young players for NHL competition.
Let's look at 10 NHL players whose development has been hurt by the lockout.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
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Braden Holtby hasn't been able to build on the impressive success he achieved with the Washington Capitals during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs because of the lockout.
The 23-year-old goaltender surprised everyone with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save percentage in 14 playoff games for the Capitals last season.
The Capitals haven't had a franchise goaltender in quite some time, so the hope among hockey fans in the Washington D.C area is that Holtby can give the team a solid presence between the pipes for many years.
Until the work stoppage ends, we won't be able to find out if Holtby is the answer to the Capitals' long-term plans for the goaltending position.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
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New York Rangers fans are very excited to see Chris Kreider play in his first full NHL season, but the lockout has forced the 21-year-old forward to play with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL instead.
In 25 games for the Whale this season, Kreider has scored four goals with six assists.
Kreider played well as a rookie in last year's playoffs, and is expected to play a major role in the team's offense during 2012-13.
Playing a full season with the Rangers would have given Kreider some needed experience at the NHL level, and a better understanding of what it's like to be a young player on a contending team in a major media market like New York.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
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Tuukka Rask has waited a long time to become the starting goaltender of the Boston Bruins after he lost the job to veteran Tim Thomas at the beginning of the team's Stanley Cup-winning season in 2010-11.
The lockout has forced the Rask to wait a little longer to take over the starting job following Thomas' surprising decision not to play in 2012-13.
Rask is not signed beyond the 2012-13 season, and to make himself a lot of money in the summer, he needs as many games as possible to prove that he can stay healthy and play well on a consistent basis.
The 25-year-old goaltender played at a high level in the Czech Republic over the last few months, but Rask needs the lockout to end quickly so he can establish himself as an elite NHL goaltender.
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
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Brayden Schenn is fully healthy and ready to make a strong impact on the Philadelphia Flyers' offense, but the lockout has forced him to spend the last few months with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL.
Schenn is eighth in the league in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists in 25 games. After raising his game to another level during last year's playoffs, Schenn was probably looking forward to continuing that success as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for Schenn, he will have to wait a little bit longer to resume his promising NHL career.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
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Vladimir Tarasenko is arguably the top NHL forward prospect, but the young winger's NHL debut has been delayed due to the lockout.
The St. Louis Blues' defensive style of hockey is not an easy system to learn, especially for a young player like Tarasenko, who has primarily focused on his offensive talents throughout his career.
He will need to adapt to the NHL game quickly to become a productive top-six forward as a rookie.
That won't be easy for Tarasenko, but he definitely has the offensive talent needed to thrive as a first-year player.
Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
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Brendan Smith is expected to help bolster a Detroit Red Wings blue line that will have to deal with the losses of two important defensemen (Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart) this season.
Smith played in just 14 games at the NHL level last year, which isn't a lot of experience for someone who could play on one of Detroit's top two defense pairings for most of the 2012-13 season.
The 23-year-old defenseman has played 23 games for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this season, and has scored four goals with nine assists.
Smith has impressive size (6'3" and 198 pounds) and a good two-way game. He will be under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level as a rookie this year, which will be a tough situation for him during an intense shortened season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will captain Team Canada during the World Junior Championships if the NHL lockout continues into the New Year, which will be an exciting experience for the young star.
However, the lockout has prevented the Edmonton Oilers center from building on his very successful rookie season.
Injuries limited Nugent-Hopkins to just 62 games last season, but after watching him score 20 points (eight goals and 12 assists) in just 19 games for the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL this season, Oilers fans cannot wait for him to begin his sophomore season in the NHL.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
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The lockout has delayed the beginning of a new era in Edmonton, which will include the future success of former No. 1 overall draft pick Taylor Hall.
Hall has been a point-per-game player for the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons with seven goals and 13 assists in 17 games this season.
The Oilers winger missed 17 games during his rookie season and 21 games last year because of injuries, and now that he's healthy, Hall probably wants to resume his promising NHL career as soon as possible.
After signing a seven-year, $42 million contract in the summer, Hall will be under a lot of pressure to have a great season in 2012-13.
Hall has 95 points in 126 career games at the NHL level, and for him to keep improving at both ends of the ice, he needs more NHL experience alongside his talented Oilers teammates.
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
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Many hockey fans expected Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene to take another step toward super-stardom last season, but injuries resulted in the young star playing in just 58 games.
The 2012-13 season is an important one for Duchene, who will have to prove that he is still one of the best young forwards in the NHL.
Duchene isn't benefiting very much from playing in Sweden during the lockout, and to get his career back on track, he needs the work stoppage to end as quickly as possible.
Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks last season at the trade deadline to give head coach Alain Vigneault some more size and toughness for the team's bottom-six forward group.
The young winger has a lot of potential, but he had a disappointing 2011-12 season and has a lot to prove this year. Kassian scored just one goal with two assists in 17 games for Vancouver following the trade.
He didn't make the kind of impact offensively or physically that the Canucks expected from him in the final months of last season, and because of the lockout, the amount of opportunities he will have in 2012-13 to impress his teammates and coaches has decreased.
Kassian needs the lockout to end as soon as possible so he can help the Canucks get back to the Stanley Cup Final and prove that he will be an important part of the team's future.