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Who stays and who goes as rookies inch towards all-important 10-game mark?

As rookies eligible for the entry-level slide come up on their 10th game of the season, their respective teams need to decide whether they’ll stick with the big club or head to the AHL or major junior.

The Kings gave Jaret Anderson-Dolan a five-game audition, but that was enough for Los Angeles to make the call on where he will spend the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign. On Monday morning, they announced the 19-year-old pivot has been assigned to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs.

Returning Anderson-Dolan to the WHL comes as little surprise, mind you. Through five games, the rookie’s use had been infrequent at best. He was made a healthy scratch on the opening night of the campaign, in Los Angeles’ third game of the season and again sat out in Saturday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres. When he did get into the lineup, too, Anderson-Dolan was often among the least utilized forwards. He twice skated below 10 minutes and cracked the 12-minute mark in only one outing, playing nearly 18 minutes in an Oct. 13 contest against the Ottawa Senators.

There’s little downside, if any, in sending Anderson-Dolan back to Spokane. The Kings’ second-round pick, 41st overall, in the 2017 draft, Anderson-Dolan can head back to the WHL and continue to grow as one of the league’s elite players. Additionally, it opens up the opportunity for Anderson-Dolan to test his mettle on the World Junior Championship stage. He captained Canada’s U18 entry at the 2016-17 tournament, and he attended camp with the U21 squad this past summer.

There is an added benefit for the Kings, too. In shipping Anderson-Dolan back to Spokane before he played his 10th game of the season, the Kings effectively save a year on his entry-level contract, thanks to the entry-level slide.

Anderson-Dolan isn’t the only prospect eligible for the slide, however, which means the coming days and weeks will be important for a number of rookies who will see their teams make similar decisions about their fates for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign. So, who stays and who goes? Here’s a rundown of every slide-eligible rookie who has seen action this season:

Max Comtois, Anaheim Ducks
If there is a silver lining to the Ducks’ injury issues, it’s Comtois’ play. He’s tied for the team lead with seven points and he’s had a couple of games with top-six minutes. Anaheim would probably need to keep the 19-year-old with the big club regardless of his scoring given he’s a healthy body for a team that has very few, but he’s earned his place.

Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have actually done a good job of letting Dahlin get his feet wet without throwing him to the wolves. His ice time has remained firmly middle-pairing and he’s contributed to the offense. We knew from the start of the season that Dahlin would be in Buffalo all year, so let’s not waste time debating it.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Four points through his first four games in Carolina had Svechnikov looking like an early Calder Trophy frontrunner, but he’s been absent from the scoresheet in each of his past four games. Still, bank on the second-overall pick from the June draft to keep his spot in the lineup. He could blossom at any moment

Henri Jokiharju, Chicago Blackhawks
Seemingly a prime candidate to end up back with the Portland Winterhawks when he made the NHL out of training camp, Jokiharju has mustered five assists in eight games and he’s second in ice time among Blackhawks defensemen. He’s also playing alongside Duncan Keith, which is quite the pairing. He’s not going anywhere, it would seem, and that is indicative of a new era in Chicago.

Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
There’s a snowball’s chance in Texas that Heiskanen plays anything but the entire campaign in Dallas. He has been a revelation on the blueline. The Stars knew they had a special player in Heiskanen, but even they may have underestimated how quickly he’d catch on. He’s driving play, putting up points and is third in ice time among Stars defensemen, making him a lock to stay.

Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers
Based on ice time figures, one might expect Yamamoto to face a second nine-game cut, but chances are he sticks around this time. Thanks to Ty Rattie’s injury, Yamamoto’s ice time has actually increased in each of the past three games and he’s getting a look alongside Connor McDavid. If he can click with the Oilers captain, look out.

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers
In some ways, Chytil’s second early stint in the NHL has been no different from his first. He’s playing limited minutes under coach David Quinn and has two points through eight games. There’s little reason to demote him to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, though. He played well in the AHL as a rookie last season, so the Rangers are likely to let him learn to translate that to the big league this season.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s decision to draft Kotkaniemi was questioned, but the pivot has proven his worth. He’s expected to stay with the big club once the 10-game mark comes and goes, and it might be for the best. As the season goes, he can grow into a larger role. For the time being, the Canadiens seem content for him to play sheltered minutes in the middle of the lineup.

Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
The likelihood of Tkachuk playing anywhere but the NHL this season? Zero. Zilch. Nada. Barring a conditioning stint, he’s with the Senators for the long haul. As he should be, too, given he’s scored three goals and six points in four games. He’s been as advertised, if not better, for Ottawa.

Isac Lundestrom, Anaheim Ducks
Lundestrom remains with the Ducks roster only due to injuries, making it doubtful he remains in Anaheim for much longer. He’s been the Ducks’ most sheltered center, yet has a poor relative possession percentage. The best thing for Lundestrom would be some time in the AHL or another season in the Swedish League. He’ll be better for it in the long run.

Urho Vaakanainen, Boston Bruins
Brought up to the big club on an emergency basis, Vaakanainen has seen action in just one game, patrolling the blueline for under 13 minute against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s bound for the AHL, where he was playing quite well and had two helpers in six games, as soon as one of Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug or Kevan Miller returns from injury.

Juuso Valimaki, Calgary Flames
Travis Hamonic’s face injury complicated matters. If the Flames blueline was at full strength, Valimaki would likely be heading down to the AHL. Instead, he looks primed to stick around. He’s on the bubble, though, and it might be best for his development to log heavier minutes than the 15 minutes he’s seen per night through eight games. If Hamonic is healthy sooner than expected, Valimaki could be packing his bags for Stockton.

Michael Rasmussen, Detroit Red Wings
Few would have expected Rasmussen to earn a spot on the club out of camp, yet he was in the lineup on opening night. His days are likely numbered in Detroit, however, and that would be the best thing for the big center. He’s barely seeing any ice time — 12:17 average over seven games — and there’s no need to rush him into Detroit with the Red Wings likely destined for the NHL’s basement this season. He’ll have to head back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, not the AHL, if the Red Wings demote him.

Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers
Bouchard impressed enough in the pre-season to come straight out of the draft and into the NHL. However, he’s been sparingly used on the Oilers’ blueline. He was made a scratch against the Winnipeg Jets last week and his season high is 14:36, skated Saturday against the Nashville Predators. Bouchard can gain more from playing big minutes in the OHL than he can sitting down or sitting out in the NHL.

Alex Formenton, Ottawa Senators
A concussion has forced Formenton to miss the past three games, but he looks at though he could be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Boston Bruins. Even if he is healthy, though, Formenton should be a prime candidate for a return to major junior. The Senators are performing better than expected, but that’s no reason to force Formenton into the lineup. He should go back to London, where he’ll likely get another go-round with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.

Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues
Healthy scratched for back-to-back outings and averaging 8:51 across five games. He’s the top prospect in the Blues’s system, but that doesn’t mean St. Louis has to rush him along. Unfortunately, he can’t head to the AHL, which means the only option is to send him back to being the frontman of Matchbox Twenty. Wait, wrong Rob Thomas…

Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
Necas got a seven-game audition to begin the season, though he hardly saw the ice. His average ice time was 10 minutes, which made sense given he was absolutely crushed in the possession game. He had a more than three-to-one ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone starts but a relative possession rate 11 percent worse than his teammates. Don’t count out a return for Necas at some point this season, though. He’ll be among the first names on the call-up list.

Kristian Vesalainen, Winnipeg Jets
Like Necas, Vesalainen was given a short audition with very little ice time. He skated less than six minutes in two of the five games he saw with the Jets. It seems likely Winnipeg takes the Kyle Connor or Jack Roslovic approach with Vesalainen, which is to say he’ll remain in the AHL for a full season before getting his shot to crack the big club on a full-time basis come the 2019-20 campaign. For cost controlling purposes, and for Vesalainen’s development, it’s probably for the best.


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