NHL Coaches Starting to Use Top Draft Picks as Fourth-Liners

The Los Angeles Kings and Atlanta Thrashers have one thing in common: Rookie sensations Brayden Schenn (Los Angeles Kings) and Alex Burmistrov (Atlanta Thrashers) are starting the season centering their respective team's fourth and final offensive line.

Brayden Schenn was the fifth overall draft pick of 2009. The almost 6'2'' center impressed in the 2009 training camp but was given one last year of junior hockey in the WHL. 

Burmistrov, also, was a top-10 draft pick. Selected eighth overall in 2010, Burmistrov tiptoes in at 5'11''. Last year he was a member of the Barrie Colts of the OHL. 

The Kings and Thrashers met head-to-head October 12th, featuring the young rookies. The Kings won the battle 3-1, while Schenn and Burmistrov were held off the score sheet.

But what is so strange about rookies earning their stripes grinding?

Traditionally, the fourth line is reserved for defensive specialist, role players and fighting heavyweights. For top-flight talent to be on the fourth line is new, and somewhat questionable.

Nazem Kadri is a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who was once again sent down, despite a solid training camp and preseason. The seventh overall draft pick in 2009 was placed in the AHL because Brian Burke, GM of the Leafs, did not want Kadri to play fourth-line duties. 

I believe that a player chosen in the top 10 of the NHL Draft—or even in the first round—with top-line potential, playing anything but top lines, whether in the AHL or NHL, will only hurt that player. The fourth line is a different role; it requires different focuses. A player once primed to light the lamp may spend two years focusing on playing a fore-checking game on the fourth line before he sees top-six minutes.

The transition will be less than smooth, as it will take more growing pains to revert back to goal-scoring form. Just like it takes players time to l...

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