Prospects News & Rumors: AHL, NAHL, Bednar & Mercer

The American Hockey League (AHL) is trying to figure exactly how they are going to return play. One of the members of the task force in charge sorting this out shared a possibility of how the upcoming season could shake out. Plus, a team from the North American Hockey League (NAHL) will not take part in the 2020-21 season. Finally, we head to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) for an update and the Prospect of the Day.

The AHL Still Sorting Out Their Season

The AHL is in a strange position as they look to get back to the ice. They have already announced that they plan on starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 4, 2020. But exactly how will it play out?

Back on June 15, the league announced the establishment of its “Return to Play” task force. This group is made of executives from both the AHL and NHL including the likes of Steve Yzerman, David Poile and Kyle Dubas. They were put together “for the purpose of providing expert leadership and strategic direction to the AHL in planning for the league’s return to play in the 2020-21 season.”

One member the task force, Lehigh Valley Phantoms co-owner Jim Brooks, recently shared his thoughts on what the upcoming AHL season could look like.

“At what point can we get fans in our buildings and to what level, so teams can really start to look at their budgets and make plans accordingly,” Brooks told Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey. “Then also from there, how can we safeguard our communities, our players, our staffs the best we can with different protocols we can take and different schedule setups.

“One thing we’ve discussed is looking at a potential modification to our schedule as far as playing more regionally, especially at the beginning of the season. We haven’t decided on anything there, but that’s just something that might make a lot of sense to do.”

In a normal season, the AHL tends to play mostly division games, with some intra-conference games and a handful of games inter-conference games, in order to cut down on travel expenses. Some divisional rivals play each other 12 times during the regular season. That number could climb for the 2020-21 season.

IceRays Suspend Operations

The Corpus Christi IceRays will not be taking part in the 2020-21 NAHL season. The team will suspend operations due to the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan on returning for the 2021-22 season.

The players on the current roster will be available in a dispersal draft, to be held in the near future.

IceRays President Cassidy Lange released the following statement:

The Corpus Christi IceRays have always operated as a community-focused organization. Our goal is to not only entertain our community, but also set an example for giving back to the people and organizations that have supported hockey in the Coastal Bend for 22 seasons. The IceRays are a family-owned and operated organization, and we consider anyone who supports and helps further our initiatives as such.

In times of turbulence, family comes first. After much consideration surrounding the developments of COVID-19, and for the health and safety of our organizational family, which includes our players, our coaches, our operating and arena staff, our billet families, and the fans that make up the greater Corpus Christi and Coastal Bend communities, we have made the difficult decision to suspend operations for the upcoming 2020-21 season and return for the 2021-22 season.

To our fans, our corporate partners and all those that have supported us for over two decades: thank you. We cannot stress enough how appreciative we are of your devotion to Corpus Christi IceRays hockey. This decision was not taken lightly, and we hope you understand considering the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will miss seeing all of you this season, but we are already looking forward to building toward the 2021-22 season and coming back stronger than ever.

The NAHL is the second tier of American junior hockey, just below the United States Hockey League (USHL). Some of its most famous alumni include Ben Bishop, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Ryan Suter and Justin Williams.

Bednar Signs in North America

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) announced that they have signed goaltending prospect Jan Bednar to a Standard Player Agreement. The Titan selected Bednar out of the Czech Republic with the second overall pick of the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

Bednar is the second-ranked European goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. He posted a .873 save percentage (SV%) and 3.26 goals-against average (GAA) with HC Banik Sokolov in the Chance Liga. The 17-year-old also played in 13 games for HC Energie Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic’s top professional league, where he had a .884 SV% and 4.39 GAA.

Prospect of the Day – Dawson Mercer

We will stay in the QMJHL and take a look at a player that will look to score on Bednar this upcoming season. Heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-foot forward is ranked 10th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. In his final rankings, THW’s Larry Fisher has him as the 16th best forward and 20th overall among all players.

Related – NHL Prospect Dawson Mercer: Family, Hockey and the Draft

Mercer split his 2019-20 season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. In 42 total QMJHL games, he scored 24 goals and 60 points. He also played for Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championships but didn’t find the score sheet in seven games.

Scouts have acknowledged some flaws in his game, yet feel that he is a very promising talent. He is a very good skater that can score goals as well as set up his teammates. Mercer has a knack for finding the open spots on the ice where he can use his excellent shot or show off his crisp passing skills.

Dawson Mercer Drummondville Voltigeurs
Mercer is likely to go in the first round in October.
(Drummondville Voltigeurs)

Many mock drafts have Mercer going somewhere in the first round of the draft. Our own Andrew Forbes had this to say about his future:

He may not come in as a top 10 pick, but Mercer’s ability to produce puts him in a position to eventually take on a top-six role. There is room to grow – both in defensive zone play and decision making – but that won’t keep him from being an important role player at some point in the near future.

Mercer has room to improve, like all players in the draft class. He struggles at times with shot accuracy and his decisions with the puck when under pressure. These are things that most junior players have a hard time with and can be corrected as he develops. His offensive talent is undeniable and, with some time, he could be a nice complementary player in the NHL.

Sign up for our regular 'Prospects Newsletter' for all the latest.