It's the rare 18-year-old that can play against the best in the world in the National Hockey League, but at the start of the 2010-11 season, six of them have earned the right to measure their skill level in the best hockey League in the world.
Six players from the 2010 Entry Draft were among those listed on the opening-day rosters for the 30 NHL teams.
On that list is Carolina Hurricanes
forward Jeff Skinner
, the seventh pick in the draft. He became the first to play a game when he had two shots in 16:26 of ice time in the Hurricanes' 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild
on Thursday as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Series in Helsinki. He didn't register a point, but played well and was robbed by Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom
on his best scoring chance.
Skinner rose through the draft ranks and continued his stellar play during the preseason.
"Certainly based on his skill level and his hockey sense, I would be surprised if he's not here all year."
-- Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford on rookie Jeff Skinner
"Certainly based on his skill level and his hockey sense, I would be surprised if he's not here all year," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told NHL.com.
Also making the cut were the Oilers' Taylor Hall
(No. 1), the Bruins' Tyler Seguin
(No. 2), Nino Niederreiter
of the Islanders (No. 5), Alexander Burmistrov
of the Thrashers (No. 8) and the Ducks' Cam Fowler
Hall, the lynchpin of the Oilers' rebuilding plans, will make his debut Thursday night. Born in Calgary, Hall will get his first on-ice taste of the Battle of Alberta when the Oilers host the Flames (10 p.m. ET, CBC).
After a summer rush of hype, he's ready to get on the ice and start doing what he does best -- play hockey.
"It is very special," he said of his debut finally arriving. "In saying that, I still have to go out there and perform. That's the biggest thing. If I go out there and (don't play well), it's not going to be very good."
While was a near-lock to make the Oilers, the same couldn't be said for other members of his draft class. Seguin, who will play his first game Saturday, earned his spot with a strong training camp and outstanding play in the Bruins' European preseason games. He had a pair of goals against the Belfast Giants and a power-play goal against Czech club Liberec.
Not only that, he's impressed the Bruins with the way he's picked up the defensive side of the puck.
"A few times on the backcheck he's done a great job through the middle," coach Claude Julien
told NHL.com. "Even on breakouts, our centermen have to be a little more patient and come from underneath and he has really caught on to that. We see a lot of good things that he has done. Definitely, he is catching on."
The same can be said for Niederreiter, who became the highest Swiss-born player ever drafted when the Islanders selected him. Though the Isles are stocked with young forwards, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder played well enough in camp to earn a spot to start the season.
"He's more than capable of playing (in the NHL)," coach Scott Gordon
said. "We have to make sure that it's the right decision in that he can get the right amount of ice time and the right amount of opportunity to be able to justify our decision to keep him here."
is in the same situation. After dazzling Ontario Hockey League fans last season with the Barrie Colts, he did the same thing to Thrashers management.
"The first thing about Alex is his attitude," coach Craig Ramsay
said. "He has one of the best attitudes I've had around in a long time, especially for your perception of a Russian player. They're generally pretty quiet. He's a bubbly personality. That part is good."
"Alex gives you everything he's got," Ramsay added. "He's extremely attentive. He still tries to do some things that are incorrect, just like everybody, but boy, oh, boy, he competes. He's fun to have around so we're really excited about the prospect of having him on our team and around our team."
Fowler, who became the story of draft day when he slipped to the Ducks at No. 12, becomes the only one of the seven defensemen taken in the first round to play this season.
Part of that comes from the Ducks' lack of depth on the blue line following the retirement of Scott Niedermayer
, the trade of James Wisniewski
and the injury to Toni Lydman
. But a major part is the skill set that earned Fowler such high regard heading into the Draft, when he was NHL Central Scouting's fifth-ranked player.
"He seems to have made the transition that as the games got more intense, the level of his play rose also." -- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle on Cam Fowler
"It's pretty easy when you watch him play that he's in control," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
, himself a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman. "He knows where everybody is out there. Not too many times he gets rattled. He's able to skate the puck in small areas and get away from people. He doesn't seem to be overwhelmed by the pace of the game, with is critical early in your career.
"He seems to have made the transition that as the games got more intense, the level of his play rose also. It's a huge positive."
While everything is positive right now, the fact that the six players made it to opening night is just the start. Teams have nine games to decide if their 18-year-olds are going to stick all season or return to their junior clubs without burning a year off their entry-level contracts.
"I think I have to show a lot," said Niederreiter -- whose words could apply to his fellow 18-year-olds. "It's a big battle out there, and anybody can make the team. I know a spot's open and I'd love to use a spot. At the end, it's the coach's decision and the general manager's."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com