As NHL training camps get underway Wednesday, here’s a look at 10 junior players with CHL eligibility remaining who could stick with their NHL teams:
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The top pick in June’s draft doesn’t have any uncertainty. He’s going to Denver and will be a big piece of Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy’s Avalanche facelift. MacKinnon collected 32 goals and 43 assists in 44 games last season for the Halifax Mooseheads. The bigger question than if he’ll be in the NHL is how Colorado will juggle things around with Ryan O’Rielly, who’s expected to move to the wing, and Paul Stastny. A year after former QMJHL star Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers won the Calder Trophy, MacKinnon goes into this season as the rookie-of-the-year favourite.
Seth Jones, Nashville Predators
Jones slipped to fourth in the draft behind MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Drouin, but the defenceman won’t be eased into the NHL. It’s possible he’s a top-four player taking on big minutes for the Predators, maybe even paired with captain Shea Weber. Jones had 56 points for the Portland Winterhawks last year, his first and very likely only season in the WHL after two years in the U.S. National Team Development Program. He’ll live with Weber for a few weeks during training camp as he settles into life in Nashville.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drouin was even more of a prolific scorer for the QMJHL’s Mooseheads than MacKinnon, and the Lightning will count on him right away. Vincent Lecavalier is gone after being bought out, and his offence will need to be replaced. Drouin is a left-winger, but just assembling a lot of young talent up front seems to be the plan for Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman. At 18, Drouin has the skill to make a difference quickly.
Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers
Caught in a numbers game coming out of the lockout last January, Laughton could fit right in with the Flyers like Sean Couturier did in 2011-12. Laughton can play with the kind of edge general manager Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette want to see, and the natural centre has said he’s willing to move to left wing if it means making the team. His talent was enough to earn him a brief stint in Philadelphia last season but after another impressive showing for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals he might be ready for a full-time role.
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
Youth is the name of the game for the rebuilding Flames, so Monahan stands a good chance of sticking around in the NHL and playing valuable minutes. The two-way skill player will be an important piece of Calgary’s future at centre, and the future is very much now with the Flames. Monahan, the sixth overall pick and the first of Calgary’s three first-rounders, had 78 points in 58 games for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s last season.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are in a tough spot with Rielly, who could go back to the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors but may have outgrown the usefulness of development at the junior level. The mature, 19-year-old defenceman has the puck-moving skills to play in the NHL, but there might not be room for him in Toronto. He’s too young to be eligible to play for the AHL’s Marlies, so perhaps a nine-game trial with the Maple Leafs is the likeliest course of action.
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals
Wilson is one of those players every NHL team needs to have, according to London Knights coach Dale Hunter, who coached against the power right-winger in the OHL. At six foot four and 210 pounds, the 19-year-old is a monster at the junior level and showed he could hold his own among grown men in three playoff games last spring for the Capitals. General manager George McPhee thinks highly of the 2012 first-round pick, but Wilson is hurt by Washington’s depth on the right side.
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks
General manager Mike Gillis didn’t get a king’s ransom when trading goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils, but he may have acquired a player who can help the Canucks right away in Horvat. The centre who was the No. 9 pick in June’s draft was almost a point-a-game player for the London Knights of the OHL last season and helped them reach the Memorial Cup for the second straight year. He’ll need a strong training camp to show new coach John Tortorella he belongs.
Mathew Dumba, Minnesota Wild
Dumba, the No. 7 pick in 2012, earned a good, hard look from the Wild in training camp coming out of the lockout. Ultimately he went back to the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, but at 19 he’s on the cusp of being NHL-ready. Dumba’s a hard-hitter who could eventually be part of a strong blue-line with Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, but for now he’ll have to impress Minnesota’s staff to earn a spot.
Max Domi, Phoenix Coyotes
It would take a stellar training camp and pre-season, but Domi is a pure playmaker whose skills should transfer over well to the NHL. His size might keep him from sticking around with the Coyotes just yet, but if Dave Tippett wants a player who can provide a spark and Domi can prove he deserves more than a handful of minutes a night, the No. 12 pick in June could find a niche. The 18-year-old Domi had 87 points in 64 games for the OHL’s London Knights last season.
Maybe next year: Hunter Shinkaruk, Vancouver Canucks; Griffin Reinhart, New York Islanders; Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins.