Minnesota Wild Insider: James Sheppard's NHL Career Over?
With the lack of production, an injury that will sideline him for at least half of the season and a team roster that lacks a spot for Sheppard, his time in the NHL may be over.
The former first round pick (ninth overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, big things were expected from Sheppard and his junior numbers were there to back it up.
In the 2006-07 season with Cape Brenton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Sheppard registered 96 points (33-63=96) in just 56 games that season.
The season prior was not much different registering 84 points (30-54=84) in 66 games.
Sheppard was a standout player, he was selected to Canada's Under-18 team and played in the 2005 Junior World cup.
In 2006, he was selected to the QMJHL All-Star team for the 2005-06 Canadian/Russian Challenge.
In 2007, he was selected to the QMJHL second all-star team after registering 20 points (8-12=20) in 16 playoff games.
So what happened to this high powered offensive weapon that made him a top-pick center in the 2006 entry draft?
that's a good question, lets review his stats with the Minnesota Wild and see the difference from his junior years to the NHL.
As a rookie in 2007, he participated in 78 games, a franchise record tallying 19 points (4-15=19).
In 2008, he registered 24 points (5-19-=24) in 82 games accompanied with a -14 rating and last season wasn't much better grabbing six points (2-4=6) in just 64 games and again with a -14 rating.
A healthy scratch for much of his missed games last season, he received criticism from the coaching staff that he wasn't producing points.
After some late season injuries Sheppard got a chance to play consistently and seemed to play "solid" hockey, but still wasn't producing points.
After being drafted in 2006, former general manager Doug Risebrough said that he was the next big name to come into the NHL, and so far he has proven to be a stump.
With the current Wild roster set a four centermen when James Sheppard gets healthy will he likely be sent to the Houston Aeros? Yes.
Unless there is an injury in the Minnesota line-up Sheppard will most likely be in the minors pending his return from injury.
So what about his future beyond this season? Sheppard was only signed a one-year extension in the off-season and now with his injury taking up half the season he will not be trade material.
Question of the day however remains this: What team would pick up a young James Sheppard with his NHL play where it is now?
The answer is simply "Ask Chuck".
Let's not forget what happened to Guillaume Latendresse when he had a change of scenery. Coming over from Montreal in a trade for Benoit Pouliot, another high-pick the Wild did not get to produce, both players had better or in Latendresse's case breakout seasons.
Is this what Sheppard needs a change of Scenery? Maybe, but it wont be this season due to his injury teams will want to see him play first so the earliest he could move would be next off-season.
Could Sheppard get another extension from the Wild? Possibly, if he plays well given the opportunity after he recovers from a broken knee cap he could get another extension late this season or in the off-season.
However Sheppard will have to deal with the Wild's first round pick from this past NHL entry draft and that was explosive Mikeal Granlund.
From watching film from his time in Sweden, Granlund looks to fit more into the aggressive offensive style to Wild want plus his incredible scoring and play making ability seem to far out-match Sheppard.
Will all this in mind is Sheppard's career over? Its a definite possibility.
His time in a Wild sweater is definitely numbered to the remaining games after he returns from injury but he will likely end up in Houston where I believe he will finish out his career at least with the Wild.
Whether or not Chuck Fletcher decides to give him another opportunity or not, he will have a tough task at convincing other teams through free-agency he is a worthy offensive force.
His best opportunity would be through a trade, which as i said before will not be possible this season because of his injury.
If he does not even produce in Houston, he will likely be headed back to Nova Scotia without a professional hockey contract.
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