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COVID collegiate fallout, Yzerman aids AHL return

August 2, 2020, 1:19 AM ET [4 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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Mike Babcock’s voluntary position at the University of Vermont isn’t the only impact the NHL is having on college programs.

Jack Drurywill be leaving Harvard to get some playing time in Europe. While Jack is a Hurricanes prospect, this is something to keep an eye on. (Morgan Barron is also leaving, the NYR prospect will be moving on from Cornell University). The reason this is worth noting is that some local schools (U of M in particular) have a fairly healthy roster of drafted players. Colleges in the Boston area also see many prospects signing up.

Collegiate sports are a mixed bag as far as motives go. Seen more in football, some schools are just a 1 year pit stop for players to get the recognition they need to go pro. For hockey, it’s not quite that simple. Major programs (Michigan, Boston, Wisconsin, Michigan State etc) don’t have a lot of “walk on” players. Luke Glendening made his way onto the Wolverines, but most players are scouted and put into place. Smaller Schools (Michigan Tech, Western Michigan, Ferris State) also attract talent, but the development is much more the focus. Most of your players are going to be there for the long haul and then transition to whatever comes next. Jeff Blashill was a goalie at Ferris, under Bob Daniels (one of the finest men and coaches I’ve ever met). He transitioned into an assistant coaching role. The big programs are more a place for drafted players to hone their craft.

It’s impossible to estimate how many players will move on from their college commitment. The CHL could well benefit from a minor exodus. Europe has some interesting options, but just as Yzerman worked to setup a situation for Zadina and Veleno, expect the other clubs to have some input on the best place for a player to go. A program that is cancelling all fall sports is going to see most of their players who want to get to the next level go and find another opportunity. The trickle down effect of COVID on collegiate sports programs may not be felt until next season. Rosters could have some major turnover, and coaching staffs may be forced to find other employment.

On the brighter side, and possibly connected, the AHL Is hoping for a December 4th start to next season. I’ve written before that Yzerman is an integral part of the process in helping the AHL navigate an uncertain future. This is potentially fantastic news, particularly for prospects that are on the bubble or need more time to develop. The AHL gives opportunities for call ups and benefits players and teams alike. But, nothing is guaranteed yet.

Unlike the NHL, there aren’t huge TV deals for the AHL. Most of the revenue comes in at the gate (as well as local sponsorship). It’s clear that the NHL is making a go of the “bubble” experience and have put together some entertaining games. For the AHL to float, fans have to be a part of the season.

The complexity of a full return to stadium events seems daunting, but people are working around the clock to see if and how it can be accomplished. It would be painful to see the AHL shut down, as some teams simply don’t have the resources to survive that. The impact on NHL teams seems minimal (some issues with the Islanders home for next season). Each level down struggles at a higher level to keep the doors open. Here’s hoping we can minimize the loss and see a healthy return on all levels.
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