Gudbranson, Couturier get good news
DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency
|Panthers defenceman Erik Gudbranson skates against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Que., Oct. 24, 2011. (CHANTAL POIRIER/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The Florida Panthers took a classy approach to giving defenceman Erik Gudbranson some news that would have been welcomed no matter how it was delivered.
Gudbranson, one of the teenagers on the bubble to stick with their NHL team this season, was told Thursday during the team's pre-game skate in Ottawa that he wouldn't be returning to junior. The way coach Kevin Dineen broke the news -- Gudbranson was surrounded by his teammates in his hometown rink, with his father, Wayne, watching from the stands -- made it such a feel-good moment.
"I thought about doing it after the game, but playing in your hometown there's enough stuff going on already so I picked the right call to let him know," Dineen said. "I think the right call was to let him know in front of his teammates ... it's great news not only for Erik, but it's a reflection on his family as well."
According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wayne Gudbranson was so emotional over hearing the news, he couldn't speak to reporters. The magnitude of the Panthers' decision, which came just before he played his ninth game of the season, wasn't lost on the 19-year-old Gudbranson.
"It was nice my dad was in the crowd for the morning skate, so he got to see it," he said. "As much as it's a dream for me I'm pretty sure it's twice as exciting to see his kid do that and I give (my family) all the credit in the world."
Gudbranson joins fellow rookies Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Brett Connolly of the Tampa Bay Lightning as full-time NHLers this season. Landeskog and Connolly already have been told they won't be going back to junior.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier played his 10th game Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets, so clearly he isn't going back to Drummondville of the QMJHL even though the Flyers haven't made it official.
"I sort of figured it out," Couturier said on NHL.com. "I haven't talked to anyone. I'm doing what I have to do."
Five others with junior eligibility are approaching the 10-game threshold -- if they play 10 games, it burns a year on their entry-level contracts -- but no decision has been made on them.
The safest bets to stick are 2011 first overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has five goals in eight games for the Edmonton Oilers, and defenceman Adam Larsson, the fourth overall pick of the New Jersey Devils.
But the futures of Anaheim Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly, Minnesota Wild winger Brett Bulmer and Columbus Blue Jackets centre Ryan Johansen are a little more cloudy. Johansen played just his seventh game Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres so the Blue Jackets don't need to make a decision yet.
Bulmer played his ninth game Thursday against Anaheim but Smith-Pelly was a scratch, buying the Ducks more time.