The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) is still hopeful to return to play at some point and they released a statement about their plans. Also, the American Hockey League (AHL) finally reveals the schedule for its Canadian Division, sort of. And finally, an Anaheim Ducks prospect who is turning heads speaks about his first taste of professional hockey.
OHL Updates Their Plan for 2020-21
After the Western Hockey League (WHL) announced that its U.S. Division will return to play last week, naturally, speculation began to grow about what the OHL was going to do. There were reports about a 24-game season to be played in four hub cities.
With the rumors flying around, OHL Commissioner David Branch released a statement on Thursday morning:
“First and foremost, the Ontario Hockey League is anxious to return to play and eager to get our players back on the ice to drop the puck on a 2020-21 Regular Season. As we have for many months, we continue to work hard toward ensuring a safe return to play for everyone.
“We are encouraged by our ongoing discussions with Government and Public Health agencies, but have not yet arrived at an approved Return to Play framework for the coming season.
“The League will share more information with our players, families, staff, billets and tremendous fans as a finalized plan for a safe return to the ice becomes available.”
Originally, the league wanted to begin play on Feb. 4, but strict COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario prevented that from happening.
AHL Canadian Division to Begin Play
It was those though restrictions that delayed the AHL’s Canadian Division from beginning with the rest of the league on Feb. 5. The reason for the delay was because the Belleville Senators and Toronto Marlies were not allowed to host games.
On Wednesday, the league released a divisional schedule for the rest of the month of February, which is set to begin on Friday night.
As you can see, the Senators and Marlies still do not have permission to host home games from government officials. They will have to spend their month on the road. Belleville will play a total of four games at the Laval Rocket. Toronto will play four games at the Manitoba Moose before another four-game set at the Stockton Heat, who are playing the 2020-21 season in Calgary.
The AHL will release the rest of the schedule for the division at a later date.
Trevor Zegras Makes Smooth Transition
The San Diego Gulls were back on the ice Wednesday night and beat the Ontario Reign 2-1 for their third straight victory to begin the year. Ducks fans have a vested interest as Zegras has been off to a red-hot start to his first professional season. He was held off the scoresheet for the first time in this young season, but his transition from college to the AHL has been remarkable.
Gulls head coach Kevin Dineen has been playing Zegras on the wing alongside veterans Sam Carrick and Chase De Leo. He won AHL Player of the Week honors for scoring two goals and five points in his first two games.
“It’s definitely a step up from what I’ve been doing,” Zegras told Patrick Williams of EP Rinkside about his first taste of the pro game. “I think the biggest thing for me, and probably the biggest adjustment that I’ve had to make, is probably those board plays in the D zone [with] big, heavy defensemen coming down [and] pinching.
“[Playing on the wing,] you’ve got to think through that stuff quickly, find your outs. That’s something I’m definitely working on the coaching staff here.”
It is not a matter of if Zegras will be in Anaheim playing the NHL, but rather when and many feel that he should already be there.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.