Photo Credit: OHL Images

The 2020/21 Schedules could lead to opportunities sooner for Leafs prospects

Now that the NHL is close to finalizing it’s return to play and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement some timelines are beginning to become a bit more apparent. We know the intention is that we see hockey start being played in August and that it will run to mid-October. We know the intention is that November 1st is the start of free agency, and as a result of that we’re probably looking at early January as the start of training camps. We also know a few things more prospect centric.

  • August 10th will be the second draft lottery
  • Mid October is the target for the draft itself

What we don’t know is a lot. All of the prospect laden leagues completely shutdown. There is no return to play to finish up their years, it will be a fresh start, and presumably that fresh start could come as soon as September/October, although if the NHL isn’t playing hockey in Hub cities until August, it seems like a stretch to believe buses of teenagers will be driving from town to town to play in empty arenas.

If the junior hockey season were continuing as normal, a timeline could look something like this…

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For draftees, they could be playing in the days leading up to the draft and you’d have to imagine that would have some significant impact on a lot of draft lists in the 11th hour.

For all reserve list prospects there is the interesting aspect of a potential midseason hiatus from their junior team in order to attend NHL camps. For some of them this could mean reporting directly from a World Junior team to a NHL team, but of course there’s no guarantee we see the World Juniors this year either.

Assuming some of those players make their NHL team out of camp, and earn at shortened tryout with their NHL club they might not be returned to their junior team until the CHL playoffs. And oddly enough, as soon as those playoffs end, they’d be eligible to rejoin their NHL team again.

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The Nick Robertson scenario

Take Nick Robertson as an example. He’s in an interesting position of playing in the Leafs training camp for the return to play and could potentially join Toronto’s playoff roster. He could (hopefully) be playing with the Leafs up until October, then rejoin his junior team for a couple of months, attend the World Juniors, go to the Leafs camp, return to Peterborough, finish their season and rejoin the Leafs potentially giving him around 12 straight months of hockey.

There’s also no doubt that having Robertson around the Leafs this summer helps his case for the next training camp in January, and gives him a better shot at being a Leaf sooner rather than later.

The biggest benefit if the CHL starts at their usual time

There is no doubt that the biggest benefit for NHL teams is that the CHL season would end fairly early in the NHL campaign and give teams a collection of entry level, affordable players to join their rosters and offset any injuries they will have incurred at that point. Not only would Nick Robertson be an option for the Leafs at that point, but players like Mikhail Abramov or Semyon Der Arguchinstev could be fits as well. That’s not even considering the situations in the European leagues or the NCAA which could give the Leafs access to those prospects as well.

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While it isn’t a huge change, it could be a significant one, as a couple of months of development for a young player could change their fate at the draft or training camp. The idea of bringing up a prospect as a midseason injury replacement and being able to give them time in the AHL instead of worrying about how they fit into a playoff race situation will also make opportunities more readily available.

Initially it looked like a tough time to be a NHL prospect, but it is seeming more apparent there are chances to make the most of a bad situation.

(Thanks to Tom Hunter of Mile High Hockey for suggesting this topic)

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