If it comes down to the NHL experiencing a long lockout–as opposed to, perhaps, the one theory that has the season starting with the Thanksgiving Showdown, or the potential of an 11th-hour deal–then it is possible that 19-year-old junior players could find themselves able to make the AHL a year early.
The agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League set the minimum age for CHL players coming to the big league at 20. It’s the reason why Alexander Khokhlachev has decided to spend his 19th year in the KHL instead–he’s done so much in his junior career that he doesn’t feel like he’d be properly challenged by spending another season in Sarnia.
However, unnamed figures in the hockey world are reportedly working to amend this rule by giving first-round selections in the 2011 Entry Draft a pass to the AHL at age 19 if they wish. This would include players like Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dougie Hamilton, those who have not yet played at the NHL level and who are all 19 years old.
In Hamilton’s case, he may be better served by taking advantage of an exemption like this. He’s done very well in his two years of junior, putting up 58 points in 67 games for his first year and 72 points in 50 games during his second. Keep in mind that he’s scored all of these points as a defenseman. Winner of the OHL’s Bobby Smith Trophy for the scholastic player of the year and the Max Kaminsky Trophy for the OHL’s most outstanding blueliner, before the labor negotiations started to sour, Hamilton’s junior coach said that he didn’t expect to see him back in Niagara this season.
The Providence Bruins might provide a stopgap for Hamilton to use in honing his skills until his eventual rise to the NHL. However, of course Bruins fans would much rather see him take the ice at TD Garden instead of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at the beginning of a proper-length NHL season.
Interestingly, the CHL is also thinking of forming a players’ union and the league is beginning to take note of revenue gaps between big-market teams and smaller ones. That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?