TEPID TAKE: Hey, Look– Another Blackhawks Outdoor Game

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For Christ’s sake, the Blackhawks and Bruins playing in an outdoor game again??

Alright, well– I guess. Sure, the iconic situation of it being playing at Notre Dame Stadium ticks off another box that the NHL wanted to do in order to have complete world domination of the iconic non-hockey venues to host a hockey game and yes– you almost have to have the Blackhawks because of the proximity, but good lord do we have to keep having the same teams play over and again??

I don’t think that the Winter Classic was designed to have all the NHL teams play in it because if it’s a premier event, the NHL wants to put teams in it who will have a big ratings and attendance. That said, you need to have some sort of sight of what they does for the ratings overall. It’s the same argument made for having the same teams play on NBCSN all the time– people get sick of seeing it and with a gimmick that’s already been beaten to death with teams who have played more than their fair share– this can’t be that great for business.

Face Off Hockey Show had Greg Wyshynski on the show this past week and we asked him the future of these kind of NHL events, to which he said he’d like to see more neutral site games being played between teams to bring more fans in that wouldn’t necessarily see these teams unless they had a trip to do so.

Maybe this is the first step to get more out into neutral site games, but in all honesty– the teams that are in it sour the whole thing. Less of Boston because the Bruins don’t seem to be in these games all too much, but they are overexposed in the national TV side because they do have a big fanbase– not something to hate on, but it’s annoying.

But people will watch, the NHL will very much hype it up, and it will be some kind of success when all is said and done in spite of the teams that are playing in it and the disdain many people have for them.

The Need for More Rivalry Trophies in Hockey

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Photo via Orlando Solar Bears

You want to really get people into a rivalry?? If you’re the NHL, you put those rivalries on Wednesday nights because that’s when people are watching hockey and that’s when every Wednesday game is a potential rivalry even when it’s not. Yet, shockingly, it can get stale and people will grow tired of it. So– how to do you spice up a rivalry??

Give it a trophy. Give it some meaning for teams meeting over and over again.

That’s why when I see something about the Wawa Sunshine Cup, I’m intrigued and wonder why more minor league teams don’t do that. The Wawa Sunshine Cup is a trophy that battled between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and Florida Everblades with the team who has the most standing points earned in head-to-head match-ups being the victor of it and maybe getting a sweet Built-To-Order hoagies with it. It gives some pride and meaning to playing a team around 14 times a season and make it worthwhile rather than stale. You have to wonder when they’ll include the Jacksonville IceMen to their party, but whatever.

The point is that, especially in minor league hockey where teams are facing off against each other a lot and with my whole plan of regional leagues under a big league umbrella, maybe to make things not get so dull– throw some kind of arbitrary trophy in there to make things a little more fresh in the world of hockey. I doubt this would work on the NHL level because that’s all too corporate; but the minor leagues are ripe for this stuff.

In the NCAA, hockey has plenty of rivalry trophies– like the North Star College Cup between the Minnesota D1 schools, the Holy War on Ice of Notre Dame and Boston College for the Smith-Kelley Memorial Trophy, the Battle for the Gold Pan between Denver and Colorado College, and the Beanpot, which combines the Boston colleges. Of course, college sports have a lot of tradition with gimmick trophies– as we’ve seen in the football side of things with their rivalry trophies.

(Shockingly, I’m a fan of the Crabpot Tournament because of my bias, but what can you do??)

Yet in this new era of minor league hockey where some people drone on and on about seeing the same teams over and again– why not do something like the Wawa Sunshine Cup?? Hell, the California teams in the AHL could do a lot more than not play the same amount of games as everyone else in the league and get some sponsorship for a trophy. The Texas AHL teams, all the teams cropping up in the Northeast in the ECHL could have something, the teams in the Midwest AHL or ECHL– the sky is the limit, so long as you can sell it to the sponsors.

Granted, the game today is really more about in-arena entertainment as it is the game itself, this could be a nice cross-section of branding for the company sponsoring the rivalry trophy and actually will get people into a match-up they’ve seen for the ninth time in the season. It doesn’t take much to make something like this happen, especially when it comes to bringing people into the hockey domain and really promote the brand they are trying to push. Sure, they may have the audience in the stands already– but it will also make them brand loyal when they have a choice of things. I’m sure people will hit up the Wawa more often than other convenience stores because it’s Wawa and it’s awesome, but more importantly– because they support Solar Bears or Everblades hockey. That’s the kind of advertising that’s easy and may have a lasting affect on people’s purchasing choices.

Minor League Monday: Checkers, Gladiators Streaking Upward, Bulls Not So Much

AHL

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-It may not be because of the move to the Eastern Conference, but the Charlotte Checkers are out to one of the best starts in the AHL this season. Despite only Lucas Wallmark being in the top-20 in points, they are tied for most goals in the league. Valentin Zykov and Warren Foegele are in the top-15 in goals this season, while Alex Nedeljkovic has taken over the reigns from Jeremy Smith and has not lost a game in his seven starts yet this year.

-After missing the playoffs their first two years back into the league, the Manitoba Moose are looking to change that this year. With points in eight of their last 10 games (6-2-1-1), the Moose are atop the Central Division. After finishing up last season with 11 points in 10 games, Jack Roslovic is continuing to lead the Moose with eight goals and 17 points in the first 15 games for the Moose.

ECHL

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-Following an 0-4 start, the Atlanta Gladiators have woke up and put together a 7-0-0-1 record since the first four games. Phil Lane and Thomas Frazee have been a huge factor, both of whom have had a nine-game scoring streak with Frazee’s being snapped on Saturday (4g, 10a), while Lane’s (8g, 6a) continues on.

-Despite being at the bottom of the Mountain Division, the Rapid City Rush have won four-in-a-row, including a weekend sweep of the Kelly Cup champion Colorado Eagles. Kenton Miller has been the offensive leader with seven goals and 11 points, but the real question going forward is how their goaltending is going to fare. Even with Adam Vay and Steve Michalek getting the last four wins, you have to wonder if they can keep up the solid play and lower that team GAA of 3.76.

SPHL

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-The start of the revamped Birmingham Bulls is probably not what everyone thought was going to happen…or maybe it was for an expansion team. Through six games, the Bulls are winless and only have six goals for the entire season while giving up 22. If there is a bright spot, it might– oddly enough– be in their goaltending. Mavric Parks has the most saves in the SPHL and is fourth in save percentage (.914) even though he sports an 0-5-0 record.

-Pensacola is still undefeated and it’s interesting that they aren’t the top scoring team in the league. Their balanced attack has put three players in the top-10 in points (Stephen Hrehoriak, Garret Milan, Jessyko Bernard) while also having a great goaltending tandem in Sean Bonar and Greg Dodds. If they can stay healthy– they will be the class of the league once again.

NASCAR: Xfinity Championship Four is What’s Wrong With the Series

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As we get ready to roll into Championship Week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the biggest thing shouldn’t be whether or not Martin Truex, Jr. can grab his first title or if Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch can get their second title or whomever gets into the final spot can pull off an upset– it really should be about how NASCAR needed to make the decision about the lower levels years ago.

If you hadn’t kept up to date with the Xfinity Series– and I can’t blame you if you haven’t– the Championship Four consist of Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, William Byron, and Daniel Hemric. All four of those drivers are Chevy drivers and three of them drive for the same company– JR Motorsports. It’s always fun when a development series has three drivers from the same team in the final– right?? Plus, in all honesty– Byron and Hemric are really the only development drivers of the four in there.

The point is that while Kyle Busch is being a piss-baby about NASCAR changing the rules to REALLY limit Cup drivers coming down and taking seat time from drivers– it needs to be done in order to save a fledgling series and to ensure the Cup Series sticks around. For those saying the Cup Series would never fold– Monster Energy, the new title sponsor, only is around for one more year and is hemming and hauling at an extension. The sport is in bad shape.

It’s of NASCAR’s own doing, though. They allowed Cup drivers to get into lower division seats and take away seat time for guys who could be developing for the Cup Series. NASCAR thought taking away points from those Cup drivers would be a big deal– but it wasn’t about the points. It was about the money and then maybe putting that money into their own teams. Of course, Kyle Busch proved that wrong when he said he’d pull his teams from the series if he personally couldn’t drive in said series.

Guys like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski did the right things for the lower series by investing in them thoroughly. Keselowski, sadly, had to shut down his team after the money just wasn’t there in the Camping World Truck Series anymore and it was hidden under the guise of him wanting to be a Cup Series owner. Dale, Jr., however, really had this thing sorted out. That #9 car has been a proving ground guys like Chase Elliott and Byron the past couple seasons, while he’s also had plenty of guys come though his team to help them develop– like Keselowski, Danica Patrick when she made the jump, and lesser known drivers like Shane Huffman and Mark McFarland.

Sure, JR Motorsports did have cars that had Cup drivers in them, but it was only one car– which was designated as such and never took over from one of the four drivers that had every-week spots. Not only that, but JR Motorsports also allowed drivers to try and reclaim their spot in the Cup Series by giving them good cars. You see that now especially with Sadler, Allgaier, and Michael Annett behind the wheel– all former Cup guys looking to get another break in the show.

There are teams out there who have spots for rookie drivers– like Richard Childress Racing has with Hemric, Stewart-Haas Racing has with Cole Custer, and Roush-Fenway Racing has with Ryan Reed– but by and large, it’s Cup drivers taking over seats where younger drivers should be developing– like other RCR cars and the majority of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity squad.

Not only is it taking away seat time– but it’s taking away sponsorships, as well. It’s already hard enough for young drivers to get noticed when they are in inferior equipment and running against Cup guys in top-of-the-line stuff, but it’s even harder when they have to pay for their seat by getting some sponsorship. It’s hard to get sponsor support when you’re never on TV because you’re only shown wrecking– so a bond and brand can’t be formed. You can say that’s why Roush-Fenway dumped Bubba Wallace.

In the new rules where Cup drivers can only drive in five Xfinity races a season, it actually allows young drivers to develop, it allows drivers to become faces of brands, it allows for fans to see the new faces of NASCAR before they get there….if they get there, rather. In any case, it makes the Xfinity Series stronger in the long run– so long as sponsors believe the vision of what NASCAR is doing and what they should have done years ago to keep the series healthy.

There’s a lot of problems in NASCAR– like….A LOT. But this change is one that is long overdue and probably has set the development of some drivers and teams back a good five years because of the insistence of having Cup drivers go down and steal money and sometimes points away from developing drivers and developing teams.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Gain Extra Point in Shootout After Up and Down Game

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Photo via @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the University of North Dakota will come out of this weekend much like they did last weekend– a win and a tie. UND and Miami tied Saturday 3-3, though UND took the extra NCHC point in the shootout.

“We’ll take it,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “To come back from 2-0, it shows a response from our guys. It’s a learning lesson as far as going down two goals, but the biggest thing is to come back from it.”

The first period was, by and large, a neutral zone affair, but Gordie Green broke the ice for Miami after a Jordan Kawaguchi turnover allowed Josh Melnick to pick it up and pass to Green, who put it high glove on Peter Thome for the lone goal of the frame.

Miami got out to a quick start in the second with Grant Frederic shooting the puck wide, but with the carom off the end-boards, it landed on Ryan Siroky’s stick with a wide-open net to give Miami a 2-0 lead. A minute later, UND cut the lead in half with a Colton Poolman one-timer off a set-up from Christian Wolanin to make it 2-1 and spark the crowd of 11,795 at The Ralph.

“(Wolanin) takes so much attention out there being such a creative player,” Poolman said of his goal. “He opened some space up for me and had a good screen and got it to go.”

“We just stepped up and stuck with it,” said forward Shane Gersich about the second period. “We weren’t hard on each other and we keep building. It’s something we got to keep in mind as we go forward.”

However, UND wasted no time in the third period, as Dixon Bowen went high-glove on Ryan Larkin just 33 seconds into the third period with assists going to Austin Poganski and Poolman. The game went back and forth for the majority of the third period before Shane Gersich potted his fourth goal of the year from an almost impossible angle from a lovely pass from across the back of the net from Grant Mismash to put UND ahead 3-2. However, with 1:24 left, Miami captain Louie Belpedio found Melnick backdoor with the extra attacker to tie the game at three.

With the game moving to overtime, both sides had decent chances to end the game, the closest happening when Johnny Simonson was whacking at a rebound in front of the net, but the puck stayed on Larkin’s pad and was determined to be no-goal, despite a camera angle making it appear to have the puck cross the line. The game officially ended in a tie game, but in NCHC play– a 3-on-3 period for five minutes was used to determine the extra point which solved nothing. The shootout then happened for the extra NCHC point, where Christian Wolanin slapped home the fourth round attempt to give UND the extra point.

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Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Coach (Dane) Jackson looks at the guys after those three missed dekes and was like, ‘How about somebody try shooting it’,” mentioned Wolanin of his shootout slapper. “I said, ‘I’ll take a slapshot’ and saw he was backing up a little as I was coming in with speed so I change the speed and just ripped it.”

Despite the extra points, the main message for the weekend– as it is with every weekend– is to sweep the series. It’s something that UND has only done once this season when they played St. Lawrence in the home opening weekend.

“Obviously, we’re not excited over it,” Poolman mentioned about not being able to sweep the weekend, “But to go unbeaten is not a bad thing either. We’re trending in the right way and I like where we’re going.”

“We’re happy,” offered Wolanin of the weekend. “Five out of six points is as good as you can get without the sweep. We would have liked to get the sixth point, but we showed a lot of adversity out there. We didn’t have any panic in our game, no bad energy on the bench, and we just picked right up.”

UND will be put to the test next weekend, as they will face the reigning National Champions in Denver University at Magness Arena. Denver swept #1 St. Cloud State over the weekend and could very well regain their #1 seeding to take on the current #2 UND.

Annapolis Stadium Series Game Gets Logo….Finally

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The Caps and Maple Leafs Stadium Series game has some kind of logo identity, as the Caps revealed the logo for the game, as well as the logo the teams will use of the event this afternoon during the Navy/SMU football game. Both John Carlson and Matt Niskanen were on-hand during the unveiling for the game happening on March 3rd.

Of course, I’m on the side of this game not being one of the top priorities of the NHL until it happens (much like the games this weekend in Sweden), but I’m glad it is happening in my home state.

From the NHL:

The 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ logo builds upon the legacy of the NHL Stadium Series brand, drawing from the rich history of the Naval Academy, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, and Navy inspired indicia. A focal element of the mark is a stoic and proud eagle that is widely used throughout the graduating class plaques that adorn the stadium. Enclosed in the eagle’s wings are the iconic archways of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and at the top right of the mark, the north star – a subtle nod to the Navy brand. A bold and strong military inspired typeface was incorporated that can be seen on Naval ships. The overall color palette of navy and gold is directly tied back to the U.S. Naval Academy. At the base of the mark is an anchor, one of the most iconic of Naval symbols. The mark will serve as a regal and patriotic symbol of the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ and the events surrounding it. The 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ logo was designed by NHL Creative Services.

We’ll see what the jerseys bring, but the event logo is spot on and very localized. For all the grief I give the NHL, their logos for their events have that touch of local flavor, which is a nice thing to see. I wonder what the jerseys will look like for the Caps (because the Leafs usually have the same thing over and again), but as a whole– it’s decent.

The one thing I’m really just ticked about is how they went about rolling this thing out. Granted, it’s Veterans Day weekend, so it’s a nice way to put that out there– but why not have the release in a solo press conference like everyone else?? When I went to the Calgary Heritage Classic event in 2011, it was in the summer all by itself at McMahon Stadium, and all the media was there to cover it. Sure– the coverage in Canada and Maryland/DC isn’t really comparable, but how about you try to give the area a chance to give a damn about this big event on the NHL schedule??

With stage one done, now the race for the jerseys and time to see how the Caps and Leafs will be able to make this game bigger than it’s getting press for.

UND HOCKEY: Thome, Jones Lead UND Past Miami

GRAND FORKS, ND– In front of 11,389 of his newest friends, Peter Thome got his first home win of his college career, while helping the UND Fighting Hawks overcome a slow first period to beat Miami University (of Ohio) 4-1 in game one of their weekend set.

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Peter Thome/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It was awesome,” Thome said of playing in his first game at The Ralph. “I couldn’t sleep during my pre-game nap. I was bouncing off the walls of my dorm I was so excited. And it was a great atmosphere and it was great to get the win.”

The first period was a sloppy one for the Fighting Hawks, as they were only able to muster four shots on Miami’s Ryan Larkin and eight chances overall. Miami, however, has 21 chances at goal with nine hitting Thome. UND was lucky not to get burned on the ice, especially after an overt amount of turnovers in their own end and not being able to wrangle in passes from out of the zone. The one big chance for UND came with a slight 5-on-3 advantage when Shane Gersich was at the side of the post and almost buried a cross-ice pass, but was stoned by Larkin– even with the goal horn and fireworks going off from the arena staff.

“They came out really hard right off the hop, you have to give credit to them,” Thome said. “It’s not that we were slow, but they had an extra jump. The guys keep a lot of the shots to outside and they were making sure that there were no second chances.”

In the second frame got off to a rocky start, as Nick Jones got a hooking penalty early in the period, but redeemed himself when he stepped out of the penalty box to pick up a Colton Poolman outlet pass, outwait Larkin and bury his fourth goal of the season.

“It was just a fortunate bounce,” Jones mentioned of his first goal. “(Poolman) was just trying to get it down the ice and didn’t go as fast down the ice. He didn’t really see me.”

Late in the second, UND went up 2-0 after Rhett Gardner picked up a failed wrap-around attempt by Shane Gersich, which ended up more of a pass than a shot. The power play goal was his third of the season and first since October 20th in the first game against Minnesota. Even later, Nick Jones got his second of the game after he picked up a loose puck that rattled around Jordan Kawaguchi’s skates to put UND up 3-0. That was Jones’ ninth point in the last six games.

“When (Jones) was in the BCHL, he was used in a lot of scoring situations, head coach Brad Berry said after the game. “He was a vital force in the BCHL, but we also knew he’s an unbelievable two-way player. When you have someone new coming to your organization, sometimes it’s surprising, but he’s an experienced guy. He invests in his game– whether it’s the weight room or in practice– so there’s no surprise”

The third was a safe period for UND, which saw them give a goal to Karch Bachman of Miami– getting his second of the year. After that, UND fought back and Grant Mismash got UND’s tallied the 4-1 goal after an odd happening where the officials didn’t know if a whistle went or not. After audio review, the goal counted and gave Mismash his fourth goal of the season.
With Thome’s second win in three games, the loss of Cam Johnson doesn’t seem as bad. Of course, Johnson has been a vital part to UND over his four seasons, but with Thome blooming as he has been, the injury to Johnson is something that the team isn’t too concerned with thanks to Thome’s play.

“It’s allowing our team to grow under another goaltender,” mentioned coach Berry. “It also gives him experience. It’s a good situation for him to be in and helps build a team, as well.”

Thome and the Fighting Hawks will look to sweep Miami on Saturday night.

Fixing the Minor League System

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Photo taken from N2B Goal Horns’ YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BCELxhOAFw)

Yesterday, I talked about the Draft system in the NHL and how it is a broken system when it comes to the player’s rights and actual development with the team overall. However, the only real way to fix this system is to totally overhaul the minor league system as we see it today.

The idea to have a 31-31-31 system is a great idea for hockey– but are there 93 markets out there that are strong enough to keep things solidified for a decent amount of time and are there enough prospects out there to fill that team and make the pipeline system viable and valuable overall to the landscape?? You can say that there are a good amount of markets that are stable as hell, but you can’t assume that all 93 markets will be very strong if they stay across three leagues.

First, you have to make the minors mean something– especially if you change it to a point where players have to choose between their amateur status (in a world with Major Juniors is considered amateur and you have to leave there to start a pro career) and their pro career starting. You’d need a strong first step. Elements need to be taken from the SPHL– not saying that they’d be a jumping off point, but their regional presence is something that minor leagues need more of.

Second, take that regionalism and then create leagues that way. The problem with minor league hockey in the late-90s/early-00s is the fact that while there were a wide array of hockey leagues– they were all in competition with each other trying to be the Alpha League. The ECHL was in competition with the WCHL, UHL, CHL– but ultimately the ECHL won out. The AHL had to compete against the IHL, but the IHL’s owners were too enamored with competing with the NHL that they lost the plot and then the AHL won out.  The thing in this day in age– especially with a stress being put on development– is to take a page out of baseball and have multiple minor leagues in different regions, but a uniform classification for them to battle it out playoffs wise; almost like the NCAA and their conferences.

(In this scenario, amateurs are in my consideration Major Junior and NCAA, with the same rules applying that if you declare and sign a pro contract, you can’t go back to those teams– as a point I suggested with the post on Thursday. You can bet that the CHL will have plenty of push-back on that because they’re trying to run a youth-pro league off these kids; but it’s my imaginary situation– so get over reality for a bit.)

As great as the SPHL has been– they almost have to be considered independent to this whole scenario I’m putting together since I don’t believe there’s any official affiliation with the NHL and the SPHL clubs. Not only that, but I doubt there’s enough prospects for each team to sustain quality hockey across 31 Single-A teams. The SPHL is better off as its own entity anyway because they wouldn’t be held to the hard and fast rules of the NHL in their trickle down theory.

Therefore, the current ECHL is the entry-level point for players who declare and sign their pro contract. However, you can’t have the ECHL as one league anymore– you almost have to have the two conferences as two leagues under the AA banner of hockey. Hell, if they really wanted to get into it– make it three leagues under the banner and then the top teams meet in a final eight– the two top teams from each of the three leagues and overall wild card to win the AA title.

When it comes to the AHL– or AAA level– you can do what baseball does since teams are moving more westward with their teams. Especially with Loveland, Colorado coming into play next season, it just adds to that flavor. Again, you could have three leagues with an Eastern, Midwest, and Pacific leagues under that AAA banner to have all three meet akin to what I suggested with the AA league.

While minor league hockey does have its niche, the fact that people believe that one league is needed seems a little stupid, especially with how the NHL made sure to move their teams closer to them and then held the AHL hostage to make their games/travel less than the rest of the league or they threatened they would start their own league. In all honesty, they should have started their own league and started this upheaval quicker than what I’m suggesting.

Granted, some teams in some areas may want promotions, but at the same time– it’s knowing their market and knowing what they can be capable of doing in those markets with that league. An idea of relegation or promotion– which is sexy in a gimmick sense– won’t do much for stability in a cutthroat business of sports. It’s a nice idea, but when put into reality does more harm than good.

There’s a lot to enjoy about minor league hockey– but when you look at a successful and sustainable league, the regionalism of the SPHL is the front-runner for solid business model. They know their communities, they know their role in hockey, and they don’t get too ahead of themselves thinking they’re going to be the next big thing. They play to what they know and it pays off for them overall. If all minor leagues and minor league teams could see that and realize that regional hockey is a solid money maker/travel saver– then the divided leagues under the same classification could work out very well in order to save minor league hockey decades down the road.

On the Topic Of Changing the Draft Rules

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On this week’s Face Off Hockey Show, we debuted our new Patreon Pick segment where contributors of our Patreon who hit the donation tier picked a subject we would go long-form on. This week, one of the selections was the return to Major Juniors to two big names in the start of the season for their teams.

Kailer Yamamoto was sent from the Oilers back to Spokane, while Owen Tippett was moved from the Panthers to Mississauga. These two made enough of an impression to make the team out of camp, but due to their youth, inexperience, and the loopholes of an entry-level contract, they were allowed the ability to go back to Major Junior and grow more there.

This sparked a questions from our own Marc “with a ‘C'” who wondered if there was a way for players to lose their eligibility once they declare for the draft, which would also lead to the building of a new minor league system in that aspect. While I think this is something that could be an interesting test, I don’t know how much it could work in practice.

By in large, the NHL (and hockey in general) is very odd when it comes to the set-up of their draft, in that the rights of the player is held even if he’s not in their organization– like Junior and College players. For Major Junior players, they have two years to get signed or else they go back into the draft, however– if they sign a deal– they can play up to nine games before their first year is burnt up in their contract. For college players, they have all four years to decide if they want to stay or go. Yet we have seen in situations like Will Butcher, Jimmy Vesey, and Corban Knight where the college guys pick their poison once they get out of college and don’t have to sign with the team that drafted them– which is almost a waste of a spot for those teams that did pick them.

In other drafts, players have to declare and then lose their amateur rights when they sign a professional deal. Also, the NBA makes players aren’t eligible until a full year after their last high school year (though that may change), NFL is three years after your last high school year, while MLB is odd in that they draft players— but if the player steps into a college classroom, their rights are immediate withdrawn (see point 5 on that link). However, MLB has such a deep area of minor leagues that it’s not something hockey as a whole could take on unless they wanted to really, really shrink the size of each minor league. My belief is that minor league hockey “heads of state” are too bull-headed into doing something like that because for some reason they feel that a league has to have a 31-31-31 situations rather than what baseball has where the minor leagues are spread out.

Not only that, but it’s not as if hockey has the development situations the other sports have, since high school kids are in Major Juniors at 16 and don’t develop through an actual school team, but by a team within a leagues that is pulling in multi-million dollars a year. Those Major Junior leagues are run like a pro league, without having to pay the pro prices for players– but that’s another story for another time and another writer who has better knowledge on the inner workings of that kind of hockey.

So, what do you do to help the development so that 18-year-olds aren’t rushed in when they are not ready to do so?? The one thing people keep coming back to is raising the draft age to 19 or 20 years old, which is what the NBA did a couple years back.

It only makes sense to raise the age. The maturity of the player will be able to show through more, the player would get even more time in their development, and the teams won’t be playing roulette all that much because you’d be able to see a kid three-years into his playing cycle and maybe get some trends on how he plays. Of course, this is only for Major Juniors.

The college side is a little different. Players can get drafted by NHL teams and still play college because they have “advisors” which, according to the NCAA, aren’t agents and still allows the student-athlete to keep their amateur status and NCAA eligibility. It goes with the weird NHL thing where the kid isn’t property of the team until they sign a pro contract, but their rights are held for “x” amount of time until they decide to sign or wait it out to be a free agent. A great cheat sheet about the CBA and NCAA and Draft Rules is right here.

Personally, I don’t think it’s fair for a kid to have to lose their eligibility to play in college or major junior if they get drafted in the NHL, I also think the system is broken in that the whole “rights” ideal is something that is really antiquated. When you look at it, raising the draft age would fall in line with the age limits that the AHL has, where a player who is drafted out of Major Junior and still has eligibility has to be 20-years-old to play in the league– which would mean that they would be done with their Major Junior eligibility just as they’re ready to go to the next level. That makes sense.

However, if you actually want to put stock into the player and have their lose eligibility if they declare early– the need would be to totally revamp the minor league hockey system as we see it. How do you do that?? I’ll bring about that idea tomorrow.

Minor League Monday: Streaking Teams, Odd Scheduling, and Shaky Defense

AHL

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-With three wins in a row and won five of their last six, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers seem to be maturing as the season goes on, especially in net. Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis have posted shutouts against Providence this weekend alone. Rookies have also taken a big role with Scott Eansor, Mitchell Vande Sompel, and (the other) Sebastian Aho being in the top-five in team scoring. The addition of Josh Ho-Sang to compliment Tanner Fritz up front will definitely make them offensively stronger moving forward.

-Despite his point-streak ending on Saturday, Andrew Mangiapane is making a name for himself in his sophomore season. With 16 points (6g, 10a) in 11 games, Mangiapane has helped the Stockton Heat lead the way in goals-for in the Pacific Division and second in the Western Conference. As a rookie, Mangiapane, along with Mark Jankowski, were the only 20-goal scorers in the Stockton, which helped Mangiapane build off of two 100-point seasons to end his OHL career. A sixth-round pick, Mangiapane could be a diamond in the rough that Calgary found to help their offensive growth.

ECHL

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-During their current four-game winning streak, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits have scored 23 goals in that span. Allan McPherson and Adam Chapie are both atop the ECHL scoring board, while Caleb Herbert is on an 11-point scoring streak from the start of the season. The only issue could be the team defense. The Swamp Rabbits are tied for the most goals given up this year. While Ty Rimmer has turned his game around a bit, the development of Brandon Halverson seems to have hit a rough patch with his 5.06 GAA in six appearances so far.

-The schedulers of the ECHL only seem to have slotted the Jacksonville IceMen to play in five games in the month of October. The IceMen are winless in those five games, but their inexperienced line-up (13 of 21 rostered players are rookies) give them a little leeway. The inexperience is showing with Jamie Phillips being 0-4-1 and a 4.21 GAA after an impressive rookie season last year in Tulsa. The upside for Jacksonville is that Alexandre Goulet has points in all five games and five goals in four of those games.

SPHL

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-While the Fayetteville Marksmen haven’t gotten much puck luck this season, the play of Jake Hauswirth, John Schiavo, and Kyle McNeil should be something to help ease the blow of being in 7th place. Hauswirth’s 11 points are a league-high, while Shiavo and McNeil are tied with Evansville’s Justin MacDonald for the league-high in goals with five. If Peter Di Salvo can get back on track, the the Marksmen could be a threat as the season goes on.