Prospects Rambling: Sticking in the NHL takes as long as it takes (Feb. 18)

Mark Allan

2017-02-18

Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore is singing that old Otis Elevator hit Baby I've Had My Ups and Downs.

 

Shea Theodore is getting a sense of how difficult it used to be to crack an NHL lineup in the Original Six days.

True, there were no international players (with the rare exception of someone like Czechoslovakia-born Stan Mikita), but there were NHL jobs on just six squads.

Competition was fierce, and many NHL-caliber players had to just keep working hard in the minors and wait for their chance to stick in the big league.

For the third time this season, Theodore has been promoted by Anaheim, only to be returned to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. He was displaced among this week’s NHL transactions by Sami Vatanen, who missed five games with a lower-body injury (LBI).

Theodore, a 2013 first-rounder, undoubtedly has an NHL future as a poised, two-way, playmaking blueliner.

He has, however, just eight points in 30 NHL games this season and a minus-11 rating has regressed badly from plus-7 in 19 games with the Ducks last season. Until Anaheim trades one of its many NHL-caliber defensemen, the Ducks are as deep along the blueline as any NHL team.

In other NHL transactions this week:

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • LW Carl Hagelin missed five games (concussion)
  • RW Josh Archibald assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
  • RW Bryan Rust placed on IR with upper-body injury (UBI)
  • D Olli Maatta placed on IR (hand surgery)
  • D Justin Schultz day to day (concussion)
  • D Cameron Gaunce recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
  • D Steve Oleksy recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL).

Archibald scored twice in his first game after being called up to help offset the loss to injury of Conor Sheary, Hagelin and Rust. However, Archibald didn’t dress for the next two games before being returned to the AHL.

 

An opportunistic Josh Archibald scores a shortie, his second NHL goal and his second in the same game.

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It’s an understatement to say Pittsburgh is deep up front, which is also unfortunate for Rust. He was clicking with Sidney Crosby in Sheary’s absence when he was hurt, possibly for the rest of the season.

Expect swift forward Jake Guentzel to continue to capitalize on his current opportunity and make it impossible for GM Jim Rutherford to demote him the rest of the campaign.

With Maatta expected to miss six weeks and Schultz’s return date uncertain, Gaunce and Oleksy were summoned to bolster the Penguins’ blueline. They are stop-gap measures, and it’s interesting that the organization seems determined to ensure Derrick Pouliot is truly ready for his next promotion.

Washington Capitals

Although a 61st-overall pick in 2013, the less-heralded Sanford dressed for a 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit as the Capitals returned from their bye week.

The 6-4 Sanford actually scored while Vrána, Washington’s sniping 13th-overall pick in 2014, was a healthy scratch. Both should be closely monitored, although Vrána’s scoring has regressed in his second AHL season, likely because he’s working on his defensive game.

Both should play in the NHL for a long time, and Vrána could be a star.

Los Angeles Kings

At first glance, Kempe didn’t deserve a promotion because the Kings’ 2014 29th-overall pick has only 11 goals, eight assists and is minus-7 in 43 games in his second AHL season. If anything, the Swedish power forward’s scoring has regressed since his pro debut.

Although he played on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli, the 20-year-old was scoreless Thursday and minus-1 in his NHL initiation, a disappointing 6-3 loss to the visiting Coyotes.

LaDue was plus-1 Thursday in 12:53, mainly on a third pairing with Brayden McNabb. Intriguingly, he had 50 seconds of PP time.

How long Kempe and Ladue, 24, stay up is to be determined, but the struggling Kings have apparently made room for them and become younger by demoting RW Devin Setoguchi, 30, to the Reign and trading D Tom Gilbert, 34, to the Washington Capitals.

Kempe and LaDue are valuable properties in keeper leagues, although expectations should be muted for the rest of the season.

 

Mark Allan

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