The outlook for 10 junior-eligibles
So, this is how bad things have gotten for
Most times, that would be a real pat on the back. But when the point of comparison is Jumbo Joe's rookie season, well, let's just call that faint praise indeed. Thornton may be one of the game's most explosive forces today, but as a freshman he got less ice time than the national anthem singer and scored nearly as often.
Instead of unleashing the first overall pick, the Bruins forced Thornton to learn the NHL game slowly by osmosis. You can't argue with the results now, but at the time there was an argument to be made that he would be better served by a return to junior hockey than a season spent polishing big league benches with his behind.
Like Thornton, Stamkos is struggling to recreate the success that made him the top choice last summer. Through his first six games, he was averaging barely 10 minutes of action and had yet to register his first point. With the Lightning stumbling out of the gate, coach
But as was the case with Thornton, that option is not really in play.
The Bruins, coming off a league-worst 61-point campaign in 1996-97, built their summer marketing campaign around Thornton and
Stamkos is in the NHL for good. And for better or worse, the mollycoddling that's marked the first few weeks of his career looks to be over. With
While Stamkos' job is safe, the fates of several other junior-eligible players will be determined over the next week as teams steam toward the 10-game mark.
The only rookie who has been subjected to the same scrutiny as Stamkos is Schenn of the Maple Leafs. The fifth overall pick has been victimized by more than his share of bad bounces --
Working against Schenn is Toronto's blueline depth. When
Doughty, on the other hand, might want to ask his teammates for the name of a good realtor. He's gracefully assumed a significant role on an L.A. blueline that desperately needed him to step up in the wake of
Winger Moller is making a strong case to share a pad with Doughty, overcoming questions about his size with some creative playmaking and solid positional play. Moller is carrying a decent load -- about 15 minutes a night -- and has looked more comfortable with each successive game. But the Kings have other options at forward, notably
Injuries may force the hand of the Flyers when it comes to defender Sbisa. With
The Blues face a tough call with the fourth-overall choice. The defender showed off his offensive potential -- and defensive shortcomings -- in the team's first three games, but has yet to return to action after being hit from behind by Toronto's
The decision seems a little clearer in Atlanta, where Bogosian was scratched for Tuesday night's loss to the Lightning. Prior to that, he was being used sparingly by coach
Boedker can't earn a more ringing endorsement than a promotion to the Coyotes' first line. And he can't prove his value in the role more effectively than by scoring the goal that ignites a third-period rally, as he did Thursday night against the Caps. With three goals in six games, Boedker's been an efficient sniper, but the two-way ability that has him playing on both special teams will ensure he'll be around after game 10.
Canada's best junior team, the Windsor Spitfires, is about to get a whole lot more dangerous with the impending return of Bailey. The 19-year-old center has been nursing a hip injury suffered during training camp and has yet to dress for the Islanders. While there's a chance he'll get a taste of NHL action when he recovers, don't bet on it. There's no real upside to throwing a teenager who's not in game shape up against NHLers who've been at it for a month.
The bell's already tolled for Hurricanes forward Boychuk. The 14th overall pick last June, he was returned to Lethbridge (WHL) on Monday even though his departure left the Canes with just 11 healthy forwards. The undersized center missed the entire exhibition slate while recovering from off-season wrist surgery, and the rust was evident as he went pointless in two games. The development of the crafty center is better served by another season of junior, but his early return was sealed by the need to create roster space for