During Week 3, we saw rookies all around the league try to make the most of their windows of opportunity to showcase their skills to their NHL clubs.
After a rookie's ninth NHL game, his team must decide if it wants to return him to junior or the minor leagues. If a player goes back to junior, he must remain there for the rest of the season. Once a rookie plays his 10th game, the first year of his NHL entry-level contract kicks in.
This year's rookie crop has been outstanding. Before the season even began, rookies like Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones and Tomas Hertl received votes of confidence from their teams and are expected to stick around all season.
Players on the bubble have done a good job of showcasing themselves and making the decision tough for their general managers. Olli Maatta has been a capable fill-in for injured Kris Letang in Pittsburgh. Morgan Rielly has been steady on the blue line for Toronto. Sean Monahan is making it very hard for the Calgary not to keep him around, providing the spark to the Flames' engine in the early going.
Teams have big incentives to send players back to junior. They save money, while the players get more minutes and allow their bodies to develop in a less dangerous environment. Most years, the majority of the youngsters get returned, but this season feels like it could be different.
In the next few days, we'll find out who makes the cut for 2013.