It’s October and the hockey world is still turned upside down in North America. The only major development league that has started play is the Quebec Major junior Hockey League, and we’re starting to see games being postponed as COVID-19 cases rise in certain parts of Quebec and New Brunswick.
No one else has made this move - the OHL, WHL, NCAA, and USHL are still delaying the start of their seasons, watching outbreaks and virus spread to see if they can begin play before the year ends.
The Maple Leafs have several prospects that should be spending time in the developmental leagues around the continent, but when or if they’ll play games is up in the air.
Quebec Major Junior Jockey League
The QMJHL began play on time at the beginning of October with severely restricted travel schedules and play within divisions only. Two weeks into the season and games are being postponed for teams playing in areas designated “hot spots” for COVID-19 outbreaks. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Sherbrooke Phoenix, Saint John Sea Dogs, and Moncton Wildcats have all seen games set aside.
The Maple Leafs have two prospects playing in this league - 2019 draft pick Mikhail Abramov is playing with the Victoriaville Tigres and 2020 pick William Villeneuve is with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Abramov is off to a great start, scoring two goals and six assists for eight points in four games. Villeneuve has played three games for the Sea Dogs, scoring one assist.
The QMJHL had to make concessions to get aid from the Quebec government, which includes stricter rules around fighting, outlined in the link below.
Friday’s FTB: Is the OHL season DOA?
Ontario Hockey League
As noted in the link above, the OHL is facing severe restrictions from the Ontario government if they want to continue their plan to begin play on December 1st. No fighting or any player contact, makes it impossible to play high level hockey. These rules were set down for the returning to play period, not to gain any money for support from the government.
As of right now, there’s no news from the league about any changes to their plans - also no confirmation of a solid start date either. The US based teams would still need to find homes in Ontario as well, as there would be no favouritism for the league regarding the Canada/US border.
The Maple Leafs have the potential for two OHL prospects next season - both Semyon Der-Arguchintsev and Nick Robertson played with the Peterborough Petes last season, but neither could return. Nick Robertson is being slotted in as a cheap NHL option for the next season and Der-Arguchintsev is eligible to play for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL.
Western Hockey League
Back in August the WHL announced a potential December 4th start date. Like the OHL it has been working quietly on plans around this start, and hasn’t made any official announcement about changing this. They have a more difficult time than the OHL, as they have teams spread out across four provinces and two states. The W could split the teams up in province/state based schedules to restrict travel, but there is a lot of government approvals to get ahead of play resuming.
Riley Stotts could be an overage player in the WHL this season for the Calgary Hitmen, but if a player is AHL eligible that’s the preferred destination.
United States Hockey League
In July the USHL announced the intention to play a full schedule for 2020-21, and they announced on September 29th the schedule for the season, with a start date of November 5th for a 54 game season. Two teams, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and Madison Captiols are not participating and suspending operations for 2020-21. Like the Q, the USHL will operate on a regional schedule, restricting travel.
The Maple Leafs had several prospects play in the USHL last season and some are balancing between USHL play and the NCAA - waiting to see which league gives them the option to play:
Mike Koster - Tri-City Storm (committed to U. Minnesota)
Wyatt Schingoethe - Waterloo Black Hawks (committed to U. Denver)
Joe Miller - Chicago Steel, played high school in Minnesota last season.
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The NCAA is like the CHL, a governing body over several smaller leagues or conferences. The Leafs have a few prospects who would be playing in the NCAA this season.
Ryan O’Connell - Ohio State
Ohio State plays in the Big Ten conference who announced that their season will begin on November 13th, with a 24 game in conference schedule (plus 4 games per team against Arizona State).
Nick Abruzzese & John Fusco - Harvard
Harvard plays in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, and were one of the first college teams to restrict their teams play, then cancel, back in March. The ECAC hasn’t made an announcement since July 10th, saying their working on a schedule. Neither the ECAC website nor the Harvard website mention a start date for this season, and there is no schedule posted on the team website.
JD Greenway - U. Maine
Yes, Greenway is still technically a Leafs prospect. Maine plays in Hockey East, which like the ECAC, has no schedule posted or start date announced since a post made back in July.
Ontario Junior Hockey League (Jr. A)
Ryan Tverberg was drafted this year, and played for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the OJHL last season. He’s committed to Harvard for the 2021-22 season but has nowhere to play this fall as the OJHL hasn’t return to play. On September 5th the OJHL said they would hold off on starting the 2020-21 season until local governing bodies give the OK.
There are only two prospects playing right now in North America, but for how long we don’t know.
When others return to play, or announcements are made we’ll check in again, but the weekly prospect report is on hold for now. Just like everything else.