By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The Covid-19 virus continues to be a thorn in the side of humanity but also in the sports world that many of us loved following on a daily basis before the pause. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel as numbers are dropping in North America, and some pro leagues such as the National Hockey League are looking to get back to work. The NHL has a 24-Team playoff format laid out to start in the next two months in an effort to return to the ice and award a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion.
Leagues below the professional level are projected to not start their regular seasons on time because they don’t have the financial gain the best hockey league in the world has. Take, for instance, the scenario in the NCAA and the Canadian Hockey League made up of three different entities. The Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League are rumored to start in late October, but the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League may get started months later even as far as January per source.
I was listening to the 31 Thoughts Podcast hosted by Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek a few weeks ago, and Mr. Marek brought up an interesting thought in when talking about the NCAA. Jeff pointed out that if the collegiate level of hockey has a late start with the continued virus concerns, some athletes may defect to the CHL for an opportunity to play sooner. Listen to the whole podcast and subscribe, of course, but if you’re looking for a timestamp for the start of the topic, it’s at the 33:30 below.
🏒 New 31 Thoughts Podcast 🏒@JeffMarek & @FriedgeHNIC are joined by @BDillon04 to talk about playing with Jumbo Joe & Ovi, Yusuf Ahmed of @conquercovid19, and Mike Vernon talks about the Battle of Alberta and more!
🎧 LISTEN: https://t.co/7g4vDKfkFx
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 6, 2020
Bringing this to a Boston Bruins related article, Marek mentioned 2018 first-round selection John Beecher and his loophole to possibly defect to the CHL. This might be a bit of a stretch after Beecher just finished his freshman year at Michigan with the Wolverines, but it’s a sneakingly good way to keep his development going and on time. I know some are thinking of waiting it out for the NCAA to get back on track and return to a Mel Pearson coached Michigan club.
I’m a huge fan of whatever decision Beecher, his agent, and Bruins organization see fit for his development moving forward, but the OHL might be an enticing landing spot with increased opportunity. Beecher was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft but with all intentions of committing to Michigan. The benefitting factor by defecting is the increased games that the OHL plays compared to the mandated 34 in the NCAA. If he decides to cross the border into Canada, and in fact, join the Soo Greyhounds club, his games per season would almost double.
College Hockey Playing In 2020-21 May Take A Lot of Creativity … Imagining a Temporary, and Necessary, Re-Alignment – https://t.co/aWdisvs6Qi
— College Hockey News (@chnews) April 20, 2020
Another thing that Jeff Marek brought up on the aforementioned 31 Thoughts Hockey Podcast was another highly profiled prospect in the Montreal Canadiens organization could do the same. Under the keen eye of former NHL’er and Head Coach Tony Granato of the Wisconsin Badgers is Cole Caufield, who had a tremendous 19-17-36 season in 36 games. Caufield, as Marek mentions in the podcast, was also selected in the OHL Priority Draft, but unlike Beecher in 2017, Cole was selected the following season (2018) by the same Greyhounds club.
There are so many avenues and logistics that have to be considered here about this topic but can you imagine an OHL Greyhounds team with the additions of Beecher and Caulfield with such mainstays as current Soo roster players who had five 25 goal scorers accompanied by six 50 point go-getters in the 2019-20 regular season campaign that had the Hounds appear in 64 games before the arrival of the Covid-19 virus. The Soo ended last season with a record of 29-31-3-1, and if the worlds line together to see this though, if both want to leave the NCAA, of course, they would be solid additions to a potential 2020-21 Greyhounds roster.
I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to the difference between the CHL and the NCAA, but when it comes to the games played a factor that always wins for me in the speed of development. If the Boston Bruins see a serious fit for Beecher in the next season or two, this aggressive approach might be beneficial to that avenue. Also, keeping in mind that as a 19-year-old, Beecher, even though drafted in the CHL would be eligible for the American Hockey League before the age of 20-year-old.
Like I have mentioned several times before, this is a stretch, but it’s something to consider when thinking about the player and progression timeline. Most Boston Bruins prospect gurus have Beecher making an impact in the next two or three seasons regardless of this article topic, but a planned full 76 game year with the AHL’s Providence Bruins wouldn’t be out of the question and has to be accounted for.
Take B’s prospect Jack Studnicka who also plays up the middle, had a decent first-year pro season in the AHL, and looks to lock up a roster spot when the 2020-21 campaign officially starts. Patience has been key lately for Bruins management when inserting younger talent into the lineup but has also been smart to re-sign team members to give some of that mentioned youth more time in the minor-pro system.
Wolverines Head Coach Mel Pearson has put Beecher in areas to succeed with his versatility. Not sure if this is the idea from Bruins management passed down to the coaching staff of the NCAA club, but it creates a few options moving forward in the forever battle of planning ahead and prospect NHL timelines. Just think of the possibilities at the center positions in the next few seasons with the additions of Studnicka, Trent Frederic, and now Beecher awaiting in the midst. The Bruins have been unreal at identifying what’s needed at center and seemingly build around them, and there’s no doubt about that when you think of current members like Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci.