By Allan Muir
With their sixth games looming and the choice of burning a contract year to be made, Minnesota and Philadelphia brass chose to return the promising pair to their junior hockey teams today.
Neither decision was a surprise. Dumba, the seventh overall pick in 2012 saddled with an unfortunate number was no surprise. He failed to get in a game, but heads back to Red Deer with a first-hand perspective on what it takes to get to the next level. "Just having this experience under my belt, I should be steps ahead of others guys throughout the [WHL]," he told Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune. "I’m going to go back there with that confidence and that swag to play my best game and be confident and play with poise and be good. Hopefully next year it sets me up well."
Laughton, made for a tougher decision after performing well in a five-game audition, but there was a sense that his development would be better served with heavier minutes in Oshawa.
That leaves seven players waiting for the final decision on their fate. It's not always an easy call. A player may look ready to contribute physically, but he might lack the emotional maturity to survive the grind. Conversely, a player may be ready, but there might not be an opportunity to get the ice time he needs for proper development.
Here's what to expect:
Dougie Hamilton, Boston (fifth game, Tuesday): It was expected the Bruins would keep Hamilton for the season, but his First Star performance in Boston's win over the Isles on Friday removed any niggling doubts. He's sticking.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo (sixth game, Tuesday): He got his first NHL point against the Caps and seemed more comfortable in a slightly expanded role made possible by Tomas Vanek's absence. Could go either way, but the fact that he seemed more effective with more responsibility says something. I think he stays.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida (sixth game, Tuesday): It's been a rough start for the Panthers but the wheels officially flew off in Saturday's 7-1 loss to Philly. They're having a tough time selling tickets in South Florida, so a regular glimpse at a promising future might be reason enough to keep Huberdeau around. His three-point debut shows he can produce at this level, so look for the Panthers to let him stick around and take his lumps.
Alex Galchennyuk, Montreal (sixth game, TBD): Galchenyuk has been used sparingly by the Habs, skating in just three games, but with top liner Max Pacioretty expected out for a month or more, there's a real new for his offensive talent. Another year in junior wouldn't hurt (he missed most of his draft year with a knee injury), but Montreal doesn't have a better offensive option to fill the hole. It'll come down to how he plays in these next couple games, but I think he'll stick.
Stefan Matteau, New Jersey (sixth game, TBD): Another 2012 draftee, Matteau has skated in three games as he's been in and out of the Devils' lineup. He's averaging less than eight minutes a game, playing mostly on the fourth line although he did practice with the first unit ahead of tonight's game in Montreal. Barring a breakthrough performance against his hometown Habs, he's better served playing with a Memorial Cup contender in Blainville-Boisbriand. Rickard Rakell, Anaheim (sixth game, TBD): He's an exciting offensive talent, but his spot usage suggests the Ducks know he's not ready for the NHL yet. Look for him to be sent back to Plymouth shortly.