It’s tough cracking an NHL roster and even the best players have felt the heartache of being cut in the past, but sometimes getting the chop has meaning in a bigger team sense. Sure, Leafs Nation is all a-twitter with the saga of rookie Nazem Kadri, but who are some of the cuts that were maybe a little more newsworthy than first thought? Let’s take a look.
John McFarland, C – Florida
A gifted young player who has excelled at times and maddened in others at the junior level, McFarland got his first dose of the real world when his draft stock slipped out of the first round. Having to spend Friday night of the draft in Los Angeles team-less was likely a humbling experience for McFarland, who once applied for the same exceptional status John Tavares got in order to enter the Ontario League early (McFarland didn’t get it). And while no one expected McFarland to crack the Panthers out of his draft year, he didn’t last long, either. The Sudbury Wolves center was returned to junior Sept. 20, eight days before 2010 first-rounder Quinton Howden. Third overall pick Erik Gudbranson is still with the team, so the Cats aren’t afraid of youth, but clearly they want McFarland to work hard this season.
Zach Boychuk, C – Carolina
The Canes are in a youth phase, which made it surprising to see Boychuk, who played 31 games for Carolina last season, sent down to the American League’s Charlotte Checkers this week. But this may be a case of the diminutive center getting passed by players who simply had better camps. Jeff Skinner, the seventh overall pick in 2010, has been impressive over the summer and is still in camp. Ironically, the terrible neck injury to Sergei Samsonov didn’t free up a spot either, because Patrick O’Sullivan, who signed a two-way contract with the Canes, has been lighting it up and playing on the top line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole.
Stephane Veilleux, LW – Anaheim
A hard worker with great leadership skills, Veilleux came to Ducks camp on a tryout basis, so certainly nothing was guaranteed. And given the depth Anaheim has at the forward position – Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant know a thing or two about penalty-killing and loud voices have never been a problem at the Honda Center – perhaps it was a foregone conclusion to begin with. So really, Veilleux is more a victim of the current NHL landscape, which dictates that veterans no longer have the cache they once did thanks to economics and great youngsters. Bill Guerin, for example, is still no lock to make the Flyers, while Andreas Lilja is headed to Europe with the Sharks without a contract in place.
Martin Gerber, G – Edmonton
Here is a case to watch over the course of the season. Gerber, who spent last season in the Kontinental League, is still a decent goaltender, but lost a numbers game in the Oilers crease. The fact Nikolai Khabibulin is healthy was the obvious death knell for the Swiss keeper, but given that the mortar has been crumbling from the ‘Bulin Wall’ lately, how can the Oilers be assured the Russian netminder’s health will hold up? Another back tweak and Edmonton is back to the AHL duo of Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers – and we all know how that turned out last season. Gerber would have been a nice insurance policy.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D – Colorado
Put Vancouver’s Jordan Schroeder in this category, too. Both players were sent to the AHL to suss out their defensive games, which hopefully gets straightened out in short order, since both will be excellent NHLers soon. The big picture here? The AHL is going to be fantastic to watch this year thanks to youngsters such as Shattenkirk, Schroeder, Jacob Markstrom and possibly Kadri, Cody Hodgson and Robin Lehner.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday.
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