As the National Hockey League is preparing to get back to action, junior leagues across North America are still trying to figure out when they can return to business as usual. The top junior league in the United States is hoping to start on time while a top showcase received some bad news.
USNTDP Showcase in Trouble
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entire globe on its collective ear over the past few months. The entire hockey world has been on pause since March and the effects have been felt from all the way from the NHL down to youth leagues and everywhere in between.
One of the bigger events for the American-born players hoping to play internationally, the 2020 World Junior Summer Showcase, could be in jeopardy. According to a report from Craig Custance and Kate Strang of The Athletic, COVID-19 has reared its ugly head again.
At least three players from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) have tested positive for COVID-19, multiple sources have confirmed to The Athletic. The players had been participating in on-ice skills training at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., the venue for USA Hockey’s 2020 World Junior Summer Showcase later this month.
One source close to the players said the cases have been mostly asymptomatic. Additional participants in the on-ice skills training who are not members of the USNTDP have also tested positive, according to a source.Source – “USNTDP players test positive for COVID-19; Summer Showcase in question” – Craig Custance, Katie Strang, The Athletic – 7/10/20
The Summer Showcase was scheduled to take place at the arena between July 24 and Aug. 1.
While Canada, Finland and Sweden have all pulled out of the event, Team USA is still hoping to host it as a camp for some of its top candidates for the 2021 World Junior Championship squad. With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the nation and in Michigan, everything is still up in the air for this event.
USHL Release 2020-21 Plans
While the national team’s schedule is uncertain, the countries top junior league, the United States Hockey League (USHL), is hoping to return to action as originally planned. The league’s Board of Directors met on Thursday to discuss the upcoming season. On Friday, the USHL released their statement of not only playing a full schedule but starting it in the fall, as well.
Per USHL President and Commissioner Tom Garrity:
Our Board of Directors meetings have been another great example of how in a time of uncertainty across sports, our Clubs are coming together to provide the best opportunity for our players to continue their development in the safest manner possible. Each of our Member Clubs was represented as we discussed the best way to return to play for the 2020-21 season while ensuring the safety of everyone involved in returning to the ice.
Obviously, this is just a goal at this point with so much uncertainty across the world of sports. This plan could change at any time based on the direction this pandemic heads over the next few weeks.
Prospect of the Day – Drew Commesso
Since we’ve mentioned both the USNTDP and the USHL, it is a good time to profile Commesso. He is the second-rated North American goaltender, by NHL Central Scouting, behind Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Commesso made huge strides in this game during the 2019-20 season. In 27 games for the USNTDP, he posted a .920 save percentage (SV%) and 2.05 goals-against average (GAA). These numbers were a big improvement over the .886 SV% and 3.48 GAA he put up in the previous season.
While is not nearly as highly rated as USNTDP alumni and 2019 first-round pick, Spencer Knight, he has the frame and tools to be an NHL goaltender.
Our own Eugene Helfrick believes a team that can invest time for development will be interested in Commesso.
Right now, Commesso appears to be a mid-round selection, somewhere in the fourth to fifth-round range. However, if there’s a run on goaltenders, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him go in the late third-round to a team in need of long-term depth. Think someone like the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are set in net right now, but could use a player in four to six years to start learning from their starter.
Commesso is committed to play for Boston University this upcoming season. This could be an attractive reason for a team to select him as they know he is headed to one of the top NCAA programs where he will develop against good competition.
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.