I think that's only partially true. Because he's a rookie, I think Carlyle would want him to make the safe play, regardless of what pairing he was on, but he'd be allowed to make a sharp pass when the opportunity presented itself, he just better not screw it up. And just because he's on the 3rd pairing doesn't mean he won't get pp time.
Well that's kind of the point. Carlyle isn't gonna pair him on a top unit and then handcuff him. You can't defend the Thornton line if you aren't allowed to skate the puck or make s "sharp" pass, and particularly when you are 18 and the coach has said (as you say) "ok, but don't screw it up". So, the situation is that if he's gonna stay up you HAVE to let him play. Keeping him up and handcuffing him?
Like I said, I'm not arguing that he should or shouldn't be there, I'm just trying to put into words the traditional thought process on this. Last year early on Sbisa was sent back down because, though he played decent, it looked as if the top two pairings at even strength and the PP were filled. Sbisa would be getting 11 minutes a night, playing with and against 4th liners and 3rd pairing guys and he'd have got little PP time.
Unless Fowler proves good enough to play on the PP and play in the top 2 pairings, and unless he proves good enough to get the green light to play without constant fear of screwing up, the "thinking" is that you are wasting his time having him defend other teams 3rd and 4th liners.
What I've seen so far in two preseason games is that he's not ready for that. He'll be at best a Brookbank/Festerling presence on the team this year. Which is REALLY GOOD for an 18 year old. But he'll be the Scott Neidermayer of Juniors. If I had to make the decision today, it's an easy one for me ... he goes back. Like Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf all did. This last paragraph I am arguing that he shouldn't stay, but I've got 6 more preseason and probably 10 regular season games to change my mind. I just haven't seen in 2 games the kind of player that at age 18 is gonna benefit from playing "up".