|1. Kyle Wellwood, C, Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs recalled the 22-year-old center when captain Mats Sundin went down with a facial injury. Since then, Wellwood has seen regular playing time on the power play but a limited amount in five-on-five situations. Wellwood would benefit if the team switched one of the 'big three" centers (Sundin, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros) to a wing position, but so far coach Pat Quinn has resisted the change. As a result, Wellwood could find himself in the press box or even back in the AHL now that Sundin has returned to action. However, Wellwood clearly has nothing left to prove in the minors.
2. Simon Gamache, C/W, Predators
Like Wellwood, Gamache is a smallish, skilled forward who is ready for the NHL. However, he may not get his big break in the Preds organization. Gamache made the opening-night roster because the franchise feared losing him if exposed to the waiver wire. However, he has seen very limited ice time with Nashville so far this season, and has even been a healthy scratch often. What separates Gamache from Wellwood is his ability to play all three forward positions, which makes him a more valuable player in reserve. Unfortunately, that could hurt his playing time.
3. Andrew Hutchinson, D, Hurricanes
Acquired from the Nashville organization in the off-season, Hutchinson began the season as Carolina's No. 7 defenseman and power-play specialist on the point. However, he hasn't seen any action since the third game of the season and continues to be a regular healthy scratch. Hutchinson has enough game to quarterback a power play, but that isn't likely to happen in Carolina with Oleg Tverdovsky and emerging superstar Eric Staal playing on the point.
4. Jiri Hudler, C/W, Red Wings
With the Red Wings off to a fantastic start, largely due to their patented scoring depth and killer special teams play, they're not likely to recall Hudler anytime soon. However, the slick Czech forward is currently leading the AHL in scoring and displaying his all-world ability to North American audiences. AHL fans may get used to Hudler this year, since it would probably take a few injuries in Motown to require his services. However, he may be outstanding trade bait.
5. Derek Roy, C, Sabres
Roy finished up 2003-04 as Buffalo's third-line center, so he was expected to crack the lineup this time around as well. However, both Tim Connolly and rookie Paul Gaustad outplayed him in training camp. As a result, Roy began the 2005-06 campaign as the Rochester Americans' No. 1 center. However, injuries have led to another shot with the big club. Roy will have to outplay Connolly or Gaustad during his latest NHL chance in order to make an impact this season.
6. Tomas Plekanec, C/W, Canadiens
The well-rounded Czech was unquestionably the best Montreal player in training camp, which earned him a job on the fourth line to start the season. With veterans Saku Koivu, Mike Ribeiro and Radek Bonk ahead of him on the depth chart, Plekanec may not see enough time at the center position to make an impact this season. However, the 23-year-old rookie is also seeing time on the wing, which may be a better short-term fit for both himself and the entire team.
7. Brad Boyes, C, Bruins
Like most players listed as part of the "Waiting Game", Boyes is a highly skilled playmaker with a strong pedigree for racking up points--but with modest physical attributes. Unlike most of his peers, the 23-year-old Boyes has seen regular ice time with the Bruins so far this season. However, that's mainly due to the injury to veteran pivot Alexei Zhamnov. When the latter returns, Boyes will probably have to find playing time on the wing because the B's are deep down the middle. In terms of talent, Boyes should remain in the lineup for the rest of the season.
8. Patrick Eaves, RW/LW, Senators
In only his first pro campaign, Eaves has already been recalled to the NHL twice by the highest scoring team in the league--Ottawa. Unfortunately, he's a natural right wing on a team littered with more experienced versions of the same model. To that end, he has seen time at left wing during his brief stints in the NHL--which could become a regular occurrence if he is to crack the Sens roster. For now, Eaves will probably continue to ply his trade in Binghamton of the AHL.
9. R.J. Umberger, C, Flyers
The Flyers have incorporated several young players into their lineup this season, so Umberger's arrival as an injury replacement for captain Keith Primeau was somewhat surprising. After all, Philly is always in win-now mode and coach Ken Hitchcock is known for his patience. That said, Umberger has already proven himself in the AHL and needs a new challenge. Since Philly already boasts too many centers, Umberger may have to prove himself as a winger.
10. Mike Zigomanis, C/W, Hurricanes
The 24-year-old Zigomanis was virtually out of the plans of the Hurricanes organization entering training camp, but enjoyed an outstanding preseason and won a job for opening night. Unfortunately, playing time with red-hot Carolina has been difficult to find. A natural center, he has played sparingly at all three forward positions. Since 'Canes coach Peter Laviolette prefers to dress seven defensemen nightly, Zigomanis won't provide a lot of offense in his rookie year.