While it's not time to panic about the season just yet, it is time to panic when it comes to what to do with some of the junior-eligible players. You see, the rule is that the junior eligible players can play up to ten games in the NHL without their contract going into effect. However, if they do play that 11th game, they will have their entry-level contract "activated," while after 40 games, the player will have one-season under their belt and be closer to UFA status down the road.
This isn't so much a question about Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, both whom are pretty much guaranteed to stay up with their NHL club, it's more a question on whether guys like Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks and Nino Niederreiter of the New York Islanders will stay up with the club after that 11-game mark is achieved.
For a case like Niederreiter, I think it's a case of him being kept up because he does have the ability to stay with the club, he has the skill-set to stick in the NHL, plus-- injuries to many forwards on the team is something that helped rush his arrival in the NHL. While the Islanders seem to have the worst luck this year, you have to see the long-term goal of it all. If you keep a kid like that up for the entire year, can he contribute for the whole season or is the fact he's healthy and can play very well going to shade the fact he's still 18-years-old and may need time to season?? The Islanders are a wild-card team, so you never know what's going to happen over there.
When you talk about guys like Skinner and Fowler, it's definitely a different scenario. Reports on Skinner are that unless something goes horribly wrong, Skinner will stay in Carolina for the entire season.
With Fowler, he has been playing big minutes on a very thin Anaheim defense. If they continue to look as bad as they have been, do you want to keep a kid up on the roster, getting burned out on a team when he could be playing in juniors and keep getting better. Fowler is a case where the AHL age restriction is something that is idiocy for NHL teams. Fowler is too good, so to speak, to play in the OHL and it could be a hinderance than a help; but the NHL game could burn him out in his first season if the team around him continues to be craptastic and if he carries too much weigh on his shoulders in his rookie season. If he could get to the AHL, he may not get as burnt out on the workload, learn the system of the team more, and not be a big fish in a small pond. In the end, I think the Ducks will keep him around, but it may not be the ideal situation to be in.
This could be a class of junior players who could have a great output when the end happens. While you have the top two, the deeper picks could be the ones making the most noise and being closely looked at more than what Hall and Seguin are doing. The only way they should stick with the main club is when the development of the players is good enough and they're able to fit into the team dynamic without changing their style of game. If they can't do that now-- they shouldn't be up in the NHL and develop more elsewhere.