Jim Nill put an 18 year old Valeri Nichushkin on his NHL roster. Did he play him as a third or fourth liner? No. He played him on the top line with Benn and Seguin and placed him straight into the role his talent seemed to make him destined to fill.
Did this stunt his growth. No, or at least not in a noticeable way so far
Did he look overmatched at the NHL level? No
Does he look like a force in the making for the Dallas Stars? Most certainly
Anthony Mantha is another big forward with great hands and a nose for the net. He's actually a half year older than Nichushkin. Anyone else think his development would be best served if Holland and Babcock took a page from Jim Nill and placed him on a top line roll with a lot offensive zone starts? Burying him in Grand Rapids while he works on his 200 foot game for several years just isn't going to cut it in my book. Let the kid who seems destined to be a top line winger be a top line winger. We'll win in the long term and I believe it will accelerate his growth as a 2 way hockey player playing alongside players like Pavel and Z and watching how hard they compete every shift.
I think he's good enough to coast a bit in the AHL on his talent alone. In a top line winger role in the NHL he'd have to work his tail off to compete and in the long run I think he'd become a better player faster.