Look… there’s a lot we don’t know with regards to how things will work when life goes back to “normal”. The NHL has its own problems to deal with and that’s saying nothing for lower leagues like the AHL, ECHL and junior/college teams.
With respect to the next generation of players and specifically the players who hope to have their name called at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, things are complicated…
In his latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman raises the question of whether or not Canadian junior players in the CHL (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) will have an unfair advantage over NCAA college players in the United States.
Think about it… the CHL can open up whenever its executive boards sees fit. The NCAA’s re-opening will rely on rubber stamp approval from dozens of NCAA officials. This makes things murky for any players who are committed to the NCAA next season.
Check it out:
If the CHL does start before the NCAA, what will key prospects decide? The CHL can decide when to begin as an entity, while the NCAA’s decision is in the hands of college presidents. These players can attend CHL camps, as long as they pay their own way, but they cannot appear in so much as an exhibition game.
Junior expert Sam Cosentino says 19 of the WHL’s 22 first-round picks have signed standard player agreements, which is a higher pace than normal. OHL Sault Ste Marie is bidding for the Memorial Cup against Oshawa. The Greyhounds own the CHL rights to Boston first-rounder John Beecher (NCAA Michigan) and Montreal first-rounder Cole Caufield (Wisconsin). I’m not suggesting those players are considering leaving for Canada, but they (and so many others like them) have development choices to make. It’s a tough spot for them.
Consider you’re Montreal Canadiens 1st round selection Cole Caulfield and you’re iced out of playing for Wisconsin when the puck drops in the OHL. You’d be crazy not to play for Sault St. Marie, right? It’s either that or sit around and twiddle your thumbs while everyone else gets a year of development over you. Add in the fact that Caulfield’s father is from the Son and it seems like a slam dunk decision for the American sniper.
Caulfield is one example, but imagine you’re a 2021 draft eligible player and you’re sitting at home waiting for the NCAA to open up so you can prove your draft worth. You’re jumping ship to the CHL the moment you can, right?
It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out, but one thing’s for sure: If the CHL opens up before the NCAA you can bet that we’re going to see some of the best junior hockey in history as a result of the increase of talent from down south.