On the road map to the NHL, there are many twists and turns and some closed trails. Oh and also, there is no map.
Major League Baseball players are seniors. It’s boom or bust in the NFL, as there is no true farm system. The NBA has a G League, which is created differently. All of the other three major North American men’s sports leagues rely heavily on those who have played in high school and college.
When he has to explain it in NHL terms for those unfamiliar, Thunderbirds coach Matt O’Dette said the problem often flares up when they want to compare hockey to another sport. With a strong mini-league system, it’s a bit like baseball.
“It’s its own unique path,” he said.
Team Kraken will be holding a rookie camp on Monday and Tuesday at the Kraken Community Iceplex before the start of training camp on Thursday. Here’s a look at some of the league’s common ways, including the rules, considerations, and possibilities facing these NHL aspirants.
Phenomenon: Shane Wright
I have seen , 2022 First Round Draft Pick, already signed a three-year entry contract with Kraken during the development camp. Given his skill level and Kraken’s depth chart, there’s a good chance he was one of the relatively few to become a regular player in the NHL when he was 18 years old.
“There are some players who are drafted, think they are there and are ready to make the jump to the NHL. This is few and far between,” said Troy Bode, former COO of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the new affiliate of Kraken.
“It’s just a giant step. Sometimes, you just have to tell them that it takes time to grow, mature and develop your skills. It’s not a rush.
“Our draft often happens at a younger time than a lot of these other drafts. Most players are drafted at 18, still physically immature enough to handle playing against the adults.”
When they are not, players usually return to their junior clubs in North America (league leagues with players aged 15-21), European professional or college leagues.
If he hadn’t made the Kraken roster when he was 18, Wright wouldn’t have been named to Coachella, one level down. Wright played in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) at the “junior-big” level – an umbrella circuit that includes the WHL (where the Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips play), the Quebec Major League and the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he starred with the Kingston Frontenacs. A CHL player can only join an AHL team if he is 20 years old or has played four years in junior hockey.
The base ostensibly maximizes player development while giving NHL club options, and retains talent in the CHL. But sometimes the player is left spinning his wheels.
“Sometimes a player is so good at a junior level that it just doesn’t make sense for him to play at that level anymore. He’s just wasting his time,” Odette said.
There’s always a handful of big potential customers who get the team out of the training camp, and the NHL “slide base” comes in.
If a player signs his entry contract and is either 18 – like Wright – or 19 before September 15, he can sometimes see limited NHL action without a greater commitment. A player can appear in the first nine games of a regular season, get a taste of the National Hockey League, and then return to junior hockey. They don’t count against the NHL’s 50-contract limit per season, and the experience doesn’t burn a year out of an entry-level contract — it just “slithers” into the next. In 10 games, that first year starts.
New York Islanders star Matthew Barzal appeared in two NHL games in the 2016-17 season at age 19, then returned to help the Thunderbirds Winning your first WHL Championship. Conversely and recently, the Carolina Hurricanes have had to decide whether Seth Jarvis will stay with the club or return to Portland from the WHL. The ten-game time limit has passed, and he contributed 40 points in 68 games last season.
Finn: Jani Niemann
For background, Amateur Scouting Director Robert Crone said the Kraken has more than a dozen Scouts spread around the world with specialized areas, although there is a crossover. They are very much planning themselves and communicating where they are headed.
Nieman, 2022 second round selectionHe happened to play in the same city as the Kraken Scouts in Finland, Kron said. Niemann spoke limited English, but Kron said the staff got to know him “from the inside out” and were excited to pick him one of their four selections in the second round.
“He is a big body and a good player. This league is a very good development league for young talents,” Kron said. “You can see all these players who play in the NHL who came from Finland and they are very successful players.”
Kron said Neiman was expected to play in Finland’s Liga, the country’s largest men’s league, in 2022-23 as he was still under contract. NHL teams have four years to evaluate European and college players and decide whether to sign them. However, other North American players got two.
“This rule is discussed a lot. Sometimes, it gives NHL teams a small advantage to drafting these players, because it gives you a longer runway to assess whether or not you want to sign them,” O’Dette said.
Europeans have the option of playing in the AHL as teenagers, so players like Neiman can end up there sooner than their CHL counterparts. They’ve often played against an older competition already but can get used to a schedule that looks a lot like the NHL for the minors.
“A lot of these European players have been drafted, and they are already playing professionally. It is a natural progression for them to play the North American pros when they are 19 years old. Not all of them are ready,” Odette said.
High school student: Ben MacDonald
An idea that really separates hockey from other US sports — if you’re a high school player anywhere other than Minnesota or New England, you likely won’t be wooing the draft.
“If you played high school hockey anywhere else, you probably aren’t a potential,” O’Dette said.
He grew up in Ontario and said that’s pretty much the case there too.
“If you’re good enough,” he said, “you’re probably playing a small part.”
McDonald’s, third-round pick for 2022, I played hockey in high school For the Nobel and Greenough School near Boston. He is set to play for the British Columbia Hockey League’s West Kelowna Warriors, and then Harvard.
“Usually if they come back to [a] “In the junior league they get a lot of icy time,” Kron said. “They can work on their confidence and all that before they go to college.”
Unlike major rookie players in the CHL, who receive regular money “salaries” as compensation and are somewhat controversially barred from playing in the NCAA, players like MacDonald who play in other junior leagues in Canada and the United States can maintain their eligibility to play later in college American.
College Boy: Matty Benners
This is more than an afterthought, as the Beners have played two seasons in Michigan before He made his NHL debut late in the inaugural season in Seattle. The 2021 first round selection came through the US National Development Program (USNDP), which “explores and selects the top 22 (US) players in two age groups (under 17 and under 18) for training and development in a competitive environment,” according to the organization’s website on web.
The USNDP, along with the two major US junior-level circuits – the Tier 1 US Hockey League (USHL) and the Tier 2 North American Hockey League (NAHL) – are considered the “college track”. According to College Hockey Inc. About a third of NHL players are NCAA graduates. For comparison, 84.5 percent of NBA players last season played college basketball.
Although it may take longer to see them wear the NHL uniform, some players need extra time.
“It’s almost better for some players who are late for their nights,” Boddy said.
“In no way will we look at a player who decided to go to university and think that he is less than another outgoing player who plays in a different league. There are different paths for everyone, there is good training and good development happening everywhere.”
A common rule among coaches is that defenders need more time to develop. They play for more minutes, and this is generally considered a bigger leap for the pros.
“Doing that often requires more than quick wits and a quick stick,” Boddy, a retired striker, said of guarding the Blue Line. “It takes someone big and strong to walk around clearing the net and not get bullied. It’s more of a physical type/maturity, whereas attackers can sometimes get by by being quick, skillful, and clever.”
Even if they can keep themselves in the NHL, attackers can use the extra experience as well.
“I thought Matty might have been ready, but his year in Michigan actually helped him a lot,” Crone said.
Late Round Pick: Barrett Hall
Hall, 2022 sixth round selection, was a high school player for four years in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was selected in the second-to-last round on July 8.
Hall split last season between Academy of Gents and NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness. Cloud State college hockey is also set and could become a professional before his eligibility expires, if that show reaches.
Bodie was another late pick and long flyer to get into the NHL. He was selected in the ninth round (278 overall) by Edmonton Oilers in 2003, two years before the draft was shortened to seven rounds. He played another three years in the juniors before he got too old and became a professional.
“I don’t consider myself a good junior player at that point, but I had potential,” Boddy said. “I had a bigger body and some skills, but it’s very raw.”
Five years after being drafted, he played in his first NHL game after trading his rights to the Anaheim Ducks. He went on to play another 158.
This is a story he tells to encourage prospects.
“There are a lot of stepping stones. You spend your time wisely and work as hard as you can, and it will come,” Boddy said.
WHL player: Jordan Gustafson
If college is for latecomers, then the CHL-based Big Three junior leagues are for early-colonies.
“If you’re a really good player in your age group, junior major hockey is a good route to choose,” O’Dette said.
Gustafson, who made his Thunderbirds debut in 2019 and played in 58 games for Seattle last season before being drafted by Vegas in the third round this year, was on the Golden Knights’ rookie camp roster. Strong performance may lead to a contract.
“They would decide whether to play him in the NHL season if he could play, play him in the American Hockey League — which is the AAA minor league of hockey — or send him to Seattle when he was 20,” Odette said.
Gustafson is not eligible to play in the NCAA, but the Thunderbirds offer school packages. Every year he plays for the team, he gets financial stipends for future studies if he chooses to go that route.
Free Agent: Ian McKinnon
The Firebirds had two players on their roster a week before Kraken’s junior camp, both unoccupied and AHL contracts. Defenseman Matt Tennyson has NHL experience, having played 173 games for five teams. McKinnon turned pro in 2019 but did not make an NHL game appearance.
“We are trying to fill in some of the age gaps by not having drafts that are many years old,” Boddy said in July. “We’re starting to fill out a very good roster of our squad of players that can give us some good depth at the NHL level and develop into full-time NHL players.”
Going without wording is not the end of the line. Kraken striker Yanni Gord has not yet been recruited. Kron also cited Martin St. Louis, the Montreal Canadiens coach, six-time All-Star and Stanley Cup champion as a player. The draft allows the team to share its claim, so to speak, but unspoken talent can rise to the top. Players like Gourde and St. Louis as free agents.
By sheer determination and faith in his talent, [St. Louis] She is a Hall of Fame. “There are different ways to get there,” Crone said. “Ideally, you want to be drafted, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything.”