Monday, September 17, 2007

Back to junior
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.



At 6:59 p.m., September 17, 2007, Blogger danae said...

Also important to note: if a junior player is returned to the CHL before he plays 10 games, the year does not count towards the player's contract and the contract itself does not count towards the team's 50 SPC limit.

At 11:02 p.m., September 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah, wouldn't want to rob the Sutter Mafia of the chance to charge $20 a ticket to watch adult hockey players play for $5 a day meal money, when they could be making $70K a year in the AHL.

At 11:26 p.m., September 17, 2007, Blogger sager said...

Now, would that apply to a non-drafted player? Suppose some AHL team that has some leeway with signing players not under contract to the NHL parent club decides to sign Tavares if he isn't allowed in the draft?

At 2:03 a.m., September 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is pretty simple and it's - once again - about money.

CHL and NHL have negotiated a deal that provides CHL money for players produced. In that same agreement NHL agrees to these rules because CHL needs their top players to make money for them.

It's a sort of "junior CBA" but in this case players doesn't have a voice. Nobody is looking after them.

European players used to be in much tighter bind because of these rules.

Any player entering NHL had to be drafted. No matter if they were 25 or 29 years old. Totally different from Canadian or US players.

Look at when Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena was drafted (2002), any North American would have been free-agent at that time.

Euros didn't have any voice until Alfredsson and some other Europeans told Bob/Ted that we need some respect.

Now CHL players need a voice...

At 9:11 a.m., September 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it may hold a junior player back from making money or hold him back slightly development wise, I am a big fan of the NHL/CHL arrangement. The CHL is very good at protecting their players and fostering an environment for them to grow up. Most of the 17, 18, 19-year olds drafted are just that: kids. The CHL, through their billet and education programs ensures that they grow up balanced. I would hate to see what would happen to some of these guys if they were suddenly exposed to living on their own at the age of 18 with 60 thousand dollars in their pocket in a city they've never seen before.
Development wise, the NHL/CHL agreement might not be the most popular option in the world. Bobby Ryan for example *should* have played last season in the AHL. But in the interest of developing not just hockey players, but young men, this is a better option.

At 9:31 a.m., September 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And as a side note: Bergfors was originally scheduled to play in the QMJHL. He even played preseason games with St. John's.
When he arrived in camp, he impressed Devils staff enough that they decided to keep him up at the pro level.

I simply fear that if it was open for teams to make that sort of decision all the time, then the players ultimately would not benefit.

At 7:36 p.m., September 18, 2007, Blogger Jamie Fitzpatrick said...

I'm pretty sure there are two deadlines for juniors in the NHL: 10 games and 40 games.

As danae mentions, once a kid plays 10 games it counts as a full year off his entry-level contract, regardless of whether they send him down after that.

40 games is when the clock starts ticking on free agency. An NHL player qualifies for free agency after 7 "accrued seasons." If he's sent back to junior after less than 40 games, it doesn't count as an accrued NHL season. Not sure what would happen if a team pulled this trick two years in a row.


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