One of the top players in the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) is getting some action with his National Hockey League club and taking in the experience. Also, another European prospect is being loaned overseas and a Junior A league in Canada targets a starting date for the 2020-21 season.
Robertson Getting a Taste of the NHL
Nick Robertson tore up the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He scored a league-leading 55 goals in 46 games for the Peterborough Petes. He has been working out with the Toronto Maple Leafs as they prepare for their Stanley Cup Qualifying Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Robertson said after a recent day of training camp. “So much has been thrown at me. A lot of curveballs, a lot of stuff I didn’t really expect. But I’m trying to adapt to all that and learn as much as possible and be like a sponge and a student while I’m here, and just try to be as competitive as possible.
“It’s a lot faster pace. You can have a lot of skill, but you have to think and you have to work within the system and find ways to take advantage of not only your skill, but your mind.”
The Maple Leafs drafted Robertson in the second round (53rd overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and was signed to an entry-level contract in September. If he can earn his way into a game during the postseason, he would be the second member of the Robertson family to make his NHL debut this season. His older brother Jason had an assist in three games with the Dallas Stars this past season. He also led the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League (AHL) with 25 goals and 47 points.
Sushko Loaned to KHL
We are starting to see a trend with NHL teams sending some of their prospects over to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the 2020-21 season. The Philadelphia Flyers are the latest team to make this sort of move. On Friday, they announced they have loaned forward Maksim Sushko to Dynamo-Minsk for the upcoming season.
With the uncertainty of when the 2020-21 season will begin for the AHL and ECHL in North America, Sushko will be far from the last European prospect loaned back to their home country to make sure they are playing.
The Flyers drafted Sushko in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After a successful career with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL, he made his professional debut with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this past season. In 53 AHL games, he scored 11 goals and 21 points.
BCHL Targets Starting Date
The British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), a member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), has set a tentative date for a return to action. They are hoping to start their 2020-21 season on Dec. 1, pending approval from government health officials.
“The reality is that, for us to be able to operate, we need to have fans in our buildings,” said Chairman of the BCHL Board of Directors Graham Fraser. “It became clear from our discussions with the PHO (Provincial Health Office) that the best way to accomplish this would be to delay the start of our season to give them time to assess the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.”
The BCHL is a Junior A hockey league that has been in operation since 1961. Some of the NHL stars who have played in the league include Glenn Anderson, Tyson Barrie, Jamie Benn, Geoff Courtnall, Curt Fraser, Scott Gomez, Brett Hull, Ryan Johansen, Paul Kariya, Duncan Keith, Andy Moog, Mark Recchi, Cliff Ronning and Kyle Turris.
Prospect of the Day – Will Cranley
We started today’s column with Robertson, so we will stay in the OHL and take a look at one of the goaltenders he terrorized. Cranley is from Peterborough and spent the last two seasons with the Ottawa 67’s. He appeared in 11 games during his rookie season of 2018-19, posting a .868 save percentage (SV%) and 3.46 GAA.
Cranley saw more action this past season, playing in 21 games. His numbers improved with a .894 SV% and 2.81 GAA. Standing at 6-foot-4, he has the big frame that NHL teams look for in their goaltenders. He moves very well for a big netminder to take away scoring angles and uses his size to give very little to shoot at.
Related – 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Our own Eugene Helfrick feels that Cranley could be a late-round pick this year or might have to wait until the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to hear his name called.
Everyone knows that there’s no more difficult position to project in the NHL than goaltending, especially when it comes down to a player in the later rounds of the draft. For his part, Cranley already possesses the intangibles of an NHL-caliber goaltender, meaning that in five years or so, he could develop his skills to match his size and become a full-blown starter.
At the very least, Cranley has the potential to be vying for a starting AHL role in a few years, which isn’t a bad outcome for a potential sixth or seventh-round selection.
Goaltending is the hardest position to draft for. Young netminders need a lot of playing time in order to develop. Cranley has the foundation to be a professional goaltender one day and how he endures the ups and downs of his development will determine how far he gets.