The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced that it has delayed its season beyond the previous proposed start date of Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. Florida Panthers prospect and third-round pick Ty Smilanic registered his first NCAA goal for Quinnipiac University and Dallas Stars fifth-round pick Daniel Ljungman scored his first career Swedish Hockey League (SHL) goal.
WHL Delays Season Further
Back in October the WHL has announced that their 2020-21 regular season is slated to begin on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. However, due to the the increasing public health restrictions across Canada, the decision has been made to delay the season further. No new start has been determined and the Board of Governors will meet in January to determine an appropriate start date. The news doesn’t bode well for the return of junior hockey in Canada with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League still on hiatus and the Ontario Hockey League’s proposed start date of Dec. 1 having come and gone without results.
In a press release from the league, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison had this to say about the situation:
We continue to make every effort to get our season started, but our first priority has always been the health and safety of our players, and everyone associated with the WHL. Given the public health restrictions that are currently in effect, we are not in a position to determine a new target date for our season. We will continue to consult with health authorities to determine when it is safe and responsible to get our season started.
We’ve already seen the exodus of high-profile WHL prospects such as Carson Lambos and Dylan Guenther to Europe and the Alberta Junior Hockey League. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more players opt for playing time elsewhere with the 2021 start date undetermined.
Smilanic Scores First NCAA Goal
It only took Panthers prospect Ty Smilanic two games to register his first career NCAA goal. He scored the opening goal for Quinnipiac University in their 2-1 overtime victory over Sacred Heart, a beautiful solo effort shown below. Smilanic failed to register a point in his first NCAA game on Dec. 14, a 9-2 victory for Quinnipiac over Sacred Heart. Drafted 74th overall by the Panthers in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, he spent the 2019-20 season in the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP).
The Denver, Colorado, native played in 46 games for the USNTDP, amassing 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points. Injuries held him back last season, but he still managed an impressive season, which culminated in a third-round selection at the draft. Smilanic originally committed to the University of Denver, but a sudden coaching change resulted in him de-committing from the program. He is the highest rated prospect that Quinnipiac University has ever been able to recruit.
Ljungman Grabs First SHL Goal
Stars prospect Daniel Ljungman grabbed his first career SHL goal yesterday for Linköping HC. His promotion to the SHL this season was the first of his career and prior to that he had been playing in Sweden’s J20 Nationell. He was clearly too good for the J20 circuit amassing 12 goals and five assists for 17 points in 12 games played. His goals-per-game rate of 1.00 was the best in the league before his promotion. Through 11 games in the SHL, his goal on Monday was his first point of the season.
At the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he represented Sweden and led the team with five points (four goals, one assist) while winning a bronze medal. He wasn’t able to keep up that pace during the 2019-20 regular season in the J20 SuperElit, registering only 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points in 40 games played. He could’ve snuck into first-round consideration if he had kept that consistency from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He ended up getting drafted 154 overall by the Stars in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.