by PuckStopsHere on 12/17/13 at 12:04 AM ET
The World Junior Hockey Championships are upon us. Teams are being selected and preliminary games are underway. A question that comes up every year is how great it would be if all the junior aged players in the NHL were sent to play in the tournament. This year three NHLers look to be going to the tournament. Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild will be joining Team Canada, Elias Lindholm of the Carolina Hurricanes will be part of Team Sweden and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres will be joining Team Russia. All of these players are being sent to the World Juniors because they are struggling in the NHL.
Grigorenko has three points so far this season. This is his second NHL year. Last year he scored five points. His development into an NHL player has yet to happen. Buffalo threw away two years of his path the unrestricted free agency when he was ineffective. It is a poor bet. Grigorenko will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at age 25 as opposed to 27 like normal NHLers since he will have played seven NHL seasons by age 25.
Lindholm has three goals and seven assists in his rookie year so far in Carolina. He is yet to look like a legitimate NHLer. The Hurricanes too are wasting his cheap entry level years and letting him go as an unrestricted free agent earlier.
Dumba has two points on the Wild defence. He has struggled and been a healthy scratch. His entry level years are also being wasted and his progress to unrestricted free agency has been sped up.
I think that it should be very rare for junior aged players to play in the NHL. This is in part due to the CBA. It is almost always a bad move to give up the cheap entry level years on these players unless their team is a contender and the player in question is good enough to make a significant impact. Speeding up their path to unrestricted free agency is a mistake that may hurt the team significantly. Even `successful` junior aged players like Nail Yakupov have had significant growing pains that might have been solved with more time in junior.
I think sending your junior-aged players to play in the World Junior Championships is a mistake. It is an admission that you made a mistake by keeping a junior aged player in the NHL when he wasn`t ready. Even if he was ready it is quite likely a mistake to have kept the player in the NHL. I think it shouldn`t be an issue whether or not most junior players stay in the NHL or play in the World Junior Championships. They usually shouldn`t have been in the NHL in the first place. This year Buffalo, Carolina and Minnesota are admitting they made a mistake. Several other teams are making a mistake as well, but they haven`t sent their junior aged players to the World Junior Championships and are keeping them in the NHL to waste entry-level years on non-competitive teams.
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