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Four top draftees, including RNH, are sticking around

by Adam Kimelman
Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 2 pick of the 2011 Draft, will play his 10th NHL game Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.

By playing, it will start the clock on his three-year, entry-level contract. Prior to the game, the Avalanche could have returned him to junior hockey and delayed the start of that deal by a season.

However, Avs General Manager Greg Sherman told he didn't need nine games to see that Landeskog was ready for the NHL.

"Right in that first week there," Sherman said. "We had things set up for him. He would be with us."

Gabriel Landeskog
Left Wing - COL
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 6
SOG: 36 | +/-: 2
"His play dictated (him staying)," Sherman also said.  "You have to weigh a lot of variables with an 18-year-old player, and I drew on the past with Matt (Duchene) and Ryan (O'Reilly) handling the rigors of an NHL season (as 18-year-olds) … we think that with Gabriel so far, things are all very positive. It's a good situation."

The same is being said for two other members of the 2011 Draft class, while a third learned his fate Friday morning.

The Edmonton Oilers waited until just before 2:30 ET to decide Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick of the draft, would be staying in the NHL for the rest of the season.

Not that his performance so far did anything to warrant a return to the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

The 18-year-old center goes into Friday's game against Colorado with points in three-straight games, leads the Oilers with 5 goals and is tied for the team lead with 9 points through his first nine games. He's also created a strong bond with linemates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Prior to the team's announcement, Hall cast his vote to keep the line together.

"He's a point-a-game player," he told the Associated Press of Nugent-Hopkins. "He's got 5 goals. It's pretty hard to say that's not NHL-caliber. He was brought in to produce offense, and he's done that in spades. That's what he wanted to do. I've said all along that if he came in and did what he did best, and he's even done more than that, he'd be a capable NHL player this year."

Two other teams already had decided their 2011 draft picks were just as capable.


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Philadelphia's Sean Couturier said no one told him anything regarding playing in his 10th game Thursday against Winnipeg, but that likely speaks volumes about his already important place on the team.

Couturier has 2 goals and 2 assists, but most impressive is his team-best plus-5 rating and his average of 4:06 of ice time per game on the penalty kill, which is second among the team's forwards. In Thursday's wild 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Couturier was a plus-1 in 11:29 of ice time.

"I've always taken price in taking care of little details," he said. "The coach has confidence in me and it's fun to see. I'm just doing whatever I can to help the team. … I've just been doing my little thing and trying to work hard and get better every day and do what I can to stay here."

"He's been really good," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said prior to Thursday's game. "He's been solid. Defensively he's been responsible, offensively he's given us what we've asked for. I think we put him in a lot of situations where he's handled it and done a good job."

The same can be said for New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson, the  No. 4 pick this past June. Larsson won't play his ninth game until Saturday in Dallas, but it didn't take Devils GM Lou Lamoriello that long to see just what kind of skill the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Swedish defenseman brings.

Larsson is scoreless through eight games with a minus-3 rating, but he's second on the team in average ice time at 23:36 per game, including 3:42 per game on the power play. He trails only Ilya Kovalchuk in both departments.

“He's not going anywhere," Lamoriello told The (Bergen) Record on Thursday.

"He's a big part of our team right now," added Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I am happy with how he's played. He's a young guy. There's going to be bumps in the road, but I like how he's rebounded from the down games the next night and that's critical."

The only player drafted in June to last this long and not stick with his team was Ottawa forward Mike Zibanejad, who was sent back to his team in the Swedish Elite League on Wednesday.

"We think, for the long-term development of him, to give him the opportunity to become what we believe he has a chance to become, and that is a quality NHL player, that this is the right step for him at this moment," Senators General Manager Bryan Murray told reporters.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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