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The 'no teens in the minors' rule
I had an interesting question from J.P. from Japers' Rink today that's worth passing along (and if you haven't seen it yet, check out some of his coverage of Capitals' camp so far):
You know a helluva lot more about Canadian junior hockey than I ever will, so I wonder if you could answer a pretty simple question for me - why does a guy like Francois Bouchard (19 years old, 20 in April) have to go back to the Q once the Caps cut him, yet Michal Neuvirth (same age) can be sent to the AHL? I mean, I know the answer - Bouchard is North American, Neuvirth is European. I guess my real question is why does the rule differentiate like that and, more to the point, why does it even exist? Why can't the team send their guy wherever they want to?We saw this with Nicklas Bergfors in 2005-06: He was 18-years-old and playing in the AHL, something that is exceptionally rare. He didn't go through the Canadian junior system, however.
Players have to be 20 years old by December 31st, 2007, if they're coming from major junior, but the distinction is that players who are not drafted from the CHL do not qualify. Generally, when a kid like Neuvirth is picked outta Middle o' Nowhere, Czech Republic, the NHL team wants him to face North American competition and finds a junior home for him. There are strict limits on Europeans in junior — two per team, I believe — so it's not all that common, but it does happen.
The distinction is made because, if NHL clubs couldn't send them to the AHL whenever they wanted, their prospects would simply be left over in Europe and dumped directly into minor pro the next year — something teams would prefer not to do.
It's a weird rule, that's for sure, and it's one that even applies to players from the U.S. who play major junior after they're drafted (Patrick Kane comes to mind). The CHL doesn't want its 18-year-old stars going to toil in the AHL; that's not good for business.
I think it's probably a good idea to keep teenagers out of the minors, anyway.
N.B. Bouchard is the younger brother of Wild forward Pierre-Marc.
Labels: junior hockey