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Labour Day FTB: Is there any hockey this month?

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The short answer is yes, but it depends on how you define hockey.

NHL Prospects Tournament Day-4 Detroit vs Toronto
He looked so good in this event. Let that be a lesson to us all.
Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Today is Labour Day, the day when we’re supposed to be rewarded for our year of work with a day of rest. That seems so quaint now. Imagine a single day where people aren’t working or looking for work or running about doing the housework so they can go to work. What we all need is some hockey players to work so we can watch them.

Not a simple thing to find this month.

Europe

The Champions Hockey League features Roni Hirvonen on IFK Helsinki and Pontus Holmberg on Växjö, but neither play again until early October. Games are free, and streamed via their site, though.

If Dmitri Ovchinnikov returns to the MHL, those games are generally free on Youtube, but the time zone will have you watching with your breakfast. He’s starting out as a designated junior in the KHL, which means he likely won’t actually play.

Rodion Amirov would be playing in the KHL — they got underway on September 1 — except for that broken arm problem. The rest of the European leagues will be out of preseason and into real games very soon.

Traverse City

Next week, the Traverse City Prospects Tournament gets going, and that will feature some games, likely freely streamed, but there’s no official word on that.

Who will be there? Well, there has been a lot of leaks of the junior players invited, and we can make some educated guesses about the rest. The players who won’t be there are all those European draft prospects busy with their seasons or just in the late stages of their training camps. Actually able to attend in theory are the NCAA players, since this sort of thing doesn’t impact their status. But they may have conflicts with classes.

Expect players like Pavel Gogolev and Semyon Der Arguchintsev, but not Rasmus Sandin. It should be an AHL-heavy lineup with most of the invited players contesting for notice for AHL or ECHL jobs. This is not where you find a future NHLer more than once in the proverbial blue moon.

The first and last time the Leafs went to this event Teemu Kivihalme was there, older than almost everyone else, and he really stood out. Lesson learned. He’s a very good AHL defender, but that’s really all he is.

When that event wraps up, the NHL training camp should begin almost immediately — two weeks or so from now. The first preseason game is September 25, which is not even three weeks away, and that seems impossible.

Try-Outs

Given we’ll be getting news about rosters and invites and so on, it’s time for a little refresher on try-out contracts. The A is for amateur, the P is for professional, but otherwise an ATO and a PTO are the same thing.

The reason they exist at all is that no one is allowed to play in an NHL, AHL or ECHL game or participate in the official training camp without a contract. There is an exception for emergency goalies, but even then, they sign a one-day deal that affords them insurance coverage as its main function.

ATOs are usually used in the spring to bring on junior players to the AHL team for a look. There were a very few this past season, and some were signed to AHL deals. PTOs are usually used at NHL training camps for two very different purposes.

One is to take AHL-contracted players like Rich Clune or Antti Suomela, who have some NHL experience, and put them on PTOs with the Leafs so the fans can go loopy with conspiracy theories while they play in preseason games. All players in preseason NHL games have to have some kind of NHL contract. No, that deal they signed with the Marlies doesn’t count.

The second reason is to actually try out players who have no contract at all to see if the Leafs — or some other NHL team — want to sign them. The Leafs already have one of those — Josh Ho Sang. Do players on PTOs get NHL deals? Yes, sure, sometimes. Often with some other team. They sometimes get AHL deals out of it too. And the fans do indeed go loopy with conspiracy theories when some “good in the room” guy the GM knows is done a favour by getting in on some practices. (Not sure what he was ever good at in any room, but nevertheless...)

The Leafs have a stuffed-full roster, even in goal, so it seems highly unlikely they’ll load up on PTOs or sign anyone outright, unless they’re willing to sign a Spezza deal. But you never know. Don’t be surprised if some Traverse City invitees move right to the Marlies camp, though.

Try-out deals do not give a team exclusive rights, and a real contract always takes precedence. They have a time limit on them, but they can be renewed.

The Leafs currently have 47 SPCs of an allowed 50 with no one to be loaned to junior hockey, so they have room to sign a couple of players for the AHL on NHL contracts if they decide they need them.

Very soon, we’ll try to cover that roster at all three levels, which is brimming over with players so that everyone right now saying who the heck is Antti Suomela will get an answer. And when we have details about when and where the camps are taking place, or what the COVID-19 Protocols are, we’ll keep you up to date.

Happy Labour Day, everyone, don’t work too hard.