As the hockey world continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, we will discuss how the Western Hockey League (WHL) is hoping to handle the start of the 2020-21 season. Also, we will take a look at how the New York Ranger’s prospect pool is being affected by the pandemic and prospect Seth Jarvis.
WHL Return to Play Protocol
Under normal circumstances, the start of the WHL’s season would be only a few weeks away, with training camps kicking off in September. However, of course, this date is a bit up in the air at the moment.
As of right now, the WHL is still targeting October 2 as the start of the 2021-22 season. However, as said by Sean Larson of Dubnetwork.com, this may not be possible.
As a part of the WHL’s Return to Play Protocol, arenas must be allowed to be at least 50 percent full. Without fans paying for tickets, it simply wouldn’t be feasible for these teams to operate. While that likely won’t be a concern for the Canadian teams, it could be a different story in Oregon, and especially in Washington where four of the five U.S. Division teams play.
For junior ice hockey leagues spanning two countries like the WHL and Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the start to the 2020-21 season becomes even more of a logistical nightmare. Not only are you balancing bringing fans into reduced capacity stadiums and personnel safety but you also have to cross the border which will be a different and likely more difficult process than normal.
Given where we are at right now, it would be surprising if every league in the CHL is able to get going on time this year. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) may be able to start due to every team being in Canada, but that would cause the CHL schedule to desync.
As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to what will happen. We will just have to keep an eye on the situation and see what is decided as we approach October.
Rangers’ Prospect Pool
While every NHL franchise starts looking towards how the pandemic will affect their future, Steve Paulus of bluelinestation.com took a deep-dive into the Ranger’s prospect pool. Unsurprising, many players in North America are unsure when they will get back on the ice, but the bulk of New York’s prospects currently play overseas.
As said by Paulus:
The Rangers largest block of prospects are in Europe and that is good news for the Blueshirts… All of the team’s European prospects will be able to play a full campaign and then be in a position to move to North America when their season is over.
What makes this thought interesting is the fact that the Rangers are not alone. Over the years, scouting in Europe has become a bigger part of the NHL draft process, causing many franchises to become flush with overseas talent.
Related: Top 10 Best Ice Hockey Leagues
Due to this, many European prospects may get a leg up on their North American counterparts if they are able to play a full season during the pandemic. While this shouldn’t have long-term effects, they will at least be getting ice-time, making them more viable to play in the NHL when their seasons’ finish is Europe.
Similar to the start of the WHL, this situation is worth keeping an eye on as October approaches.
Prospect of the Day: Seth Jarvis
As we discussed the WHL earlier in this article, let’s now look at forward Seth Jarvis, one of their top prospects at the 2020 NHL Draft. After a slow start to the 2019-20 season, where he posted 35 points in 32 games, Jarvis took the second half of the season by storm. As said by Eddy Jones of THW:
He (Jarvis) came back after Christmas a completely different player and dominated competition. He posted 63 points in 26 games and finished second in WHL scoring with 42 goals and 98 points. With the increase in production, the Portland Winterhawks’ right-winger saw his draft stock soar. He’s now considered a consensus first-round pick, with a chance to crack the top 10.
While he may be one of the top offensive talents available, Jarvis is more than just a good shot. He has a full toolkit, with great puck control, skating ability and he isn’t afraid to play in the tougher areas of the ice despite his small size.
In a few years, he could be taking on playing time not only on the power-play but also on the penalty kill, making him one of those all-around players who should slot into any team’s top-six.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
If he were bigger, he would be an easy top-10 pick, but as a mid-first round selection, Jarvis will be a fantastic addition to any franchise’s prospect pool.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.