It’s not unusual for a player to need a fresh start and look to move on to sunnier pastures with another organization. But sometimes that fresh start is needed earlier on for some players as they have trouble making progress with their current teams, or the situation just isn’t ideal for both. Listed below are three young players from three different NHL teams in varying situations who could all benefit from a change of scenery.
Since being drafted ninth overall in 2009 by the Ottawa Senators, defenceman Jared Cowen‘s stock has dropped dramatically. Cowen has the enviable size at 6’5″ 228 LBS (according to NHL.com) that teams look for on the back end but concerns linger about his defensive awareness and hockey IQ. Cowen has been surpassed on the depth chart by Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch and even by Mark Borowiecki and Eric Gryba at times.
Injuries have played a huge role in Cowen’s NHL career so far as he missed large chunks of time with various injuries to his hip, knee and suffered a sports hernia. Bigger players can take more time to develop, while confidence is crucial for any player, especially young ones. Fellow big defenceman Tyler Myers struggled after his Calder winning year as he was no longer an offensive threat and his defensive game suffered. After a trade from the lowly Buffalo Sabres to the playoff bound Winnipeg Jets, Myers found his game again looking like the top defenceman he was supposed to be.
Cowen doesn’t have the same talent level as Myers but it’s wondered whether a different team could help turn his game around. Staying healthy has proven to be challenge for Cowen while some wonder if he is good enough to play at the NHL level. Barring a turnaround, it doesn’t look like there is much room on the Senators’ roster for him, but the fact that he was a top ten pick may give him another chance elsewhere.
After being selected to the All Star game and winning the Calder Trophy as an 18-year-old rookie, Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner appeared to be a star in the making. But so far, that immense potential he flashed as a rookie hasn’t materialized. Carolina hasn’t been a good team in Skinner’s time there but the fact his play has stagnated at such a young age is a little concerning.
Concussions have been a major issue for Skinner and head injuries can play a large role in a player’s career as symptoms can arise later on while players change their games in fear of sustaining another concussion. Skinner already has two 30 goal seasons under his belt and has worked with Gary Roberts and Andy O’Brien, two of the best trainers in hockey, so talent and fitness isn’t an issue with him.
The Carolina Hurricanes are more or less rebuilding and must decide what to do with franchise stalwart Eric Staal and his brother Jordan. With the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, Carolina will draft an excellent prospect to add to their growing stable of young players such as Elias Lindholm and 2014 first round pick Haydn Fleury.
Skinner is still young enough to be considered a building block for the Hurricanes but his performance hasn’t been inspiring. There are plenty of teams who are looking for a top six scoring winger and Skinner would slot in well on many teams and provide a team with some extra scoring punch. Skinner has proven in the past he can be a very effective player, but his health and inconsistencies are concerning.
It is not unusual for a rebuilding team to have such an influx of young players vying for spots that one is bound to be the odd man out. In Edmonton, Magnus Paajarvi was a top ten pick by the Oilers who looked like a future core player for them. But his play didn’t match that of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and was later surpassed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Currently in Buffalo, Mikhail Grigorenko is in danger of being shoved to the sidelines in favour of other prospects.
No doubt that Grigorenko’s development in his first two years with the organization was handled poorly. He stayed with the Sabres even though he wasn’t ready but it was clear that he outgrew the QMJHL. Grigorenko spent most of this past season in the AHL but has continued to struggle with effort and inconsistency. With Sam Reinhart likely to make the roster and the Sabres virtually guaranteed to draft Jack Eichel in a few weeks, Grigorenko is being pushed down the depth chart.
Grigorenko has the size and skill to succeed and he is still very young. With Eichel, Reinhart and Zemgus Girgensons as the future of the Buffalo Sabres down the middle, Grigorenko could shift from centre to wing and still be in a scoring role. But if he aspires to be a centre, it might not be with the Sabres. Grigorenko is a restricted free agent so it’s possible he could become trade bait or sign a one-year “show me” contract to prove his worth.
Teams are reluctant to give up on young players, especially ones who go in the top ten or fifteen in the draft. Management doesn’t want to realize they missed on drafting so high or worse, trade that player and have them break out somewhere else. Charting the development of young players is impossible as you see highly touted kids falter while ones that were under the radar become stars. The players mentioned above are only an example of development that hasn’t gone as expected and there are many more around the league and in the minors. Fresh starts are sometimes the best thing that could ever happen to a player and these three can definitely use one.