Sculpting a junior hockey roster is an art

While most junior hockey general managers have the yearly task of remodeling their entire team, Mississauga St. Michaels Majors GM Dave Cameron has the fortune of having his roster largely set for the 2009-10 OHL season.

Like all junior GM’s this time of year, Cameron is missing some of his players as they attend pro training camps, but he expects most of his guys to return.

“I just happen to be in that cycle where I had a young team last year that had success and most of them are back this year,” Cameron said.

One exception may be centre Michael Pelech, who Cameron believes could be lost to the American Hockey League.

Pelech is currently auditioning with the Los Angeles Kings and Cameron suspects the young forward could earn a spot with the franchise’s AHL team, the Manchester Monarchs.

That’s all part of the junior hockey cycle, according to Cameron. If Pelech does move on to the next step in his hockey career, the Majors will be forced to replace from within.

“You usually replace [outgoing players] using the players over the last few years that you’ve drafted and have on your protected list,” said Cameron, whose Majors open their season Friday on the road against the Brampton Battalion.

Most junior GM’s have to deal with player turnover and a number of other issues as they sculpt their squads.

Concerns can include:

  • <!–[if !supportLists]–><!–[endif]–>Players choosing between the Canadian Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Skaters away at NHL training camps who may not return, or could come back later in the season.
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Overage players hoping to squeeze onto junior rosters. Teams can only use a maximum of three 20 year olds.

Somehow these GM’s have to find a way to balance all of these competing concerns to compile the best roster at their disposal.

If Pelech returns to Mississauga, he will be one of the overage players.

Cameron says although you’re allowed to carry three 20-year-olds, he doesn’t always keep the maximum number with the squad.

“You don’t have an overage player for the sake of having an overage player,” said Cameron. “If he’s not elite, you’re probably better off developing a younger player because you’re going to have him longer.

“So, your overage players have to be leaders. A general rule of thumb is that they either have to be a good offensive player or a solid defensive player or real tough, but they usually have to bring one of those elements.”

Even when the regular season roster is officially set, a GM’s job is far from over and there are many more decisions to be made during the course of the year.

Cameron and other junior teams carry many extra players with the team in case of injury or suspension and also have to be aware of the under-17 and world junior tournaments that can take away their top players for an entire month of the campaign.

“You never just carry the minimum requirement of players,” Cameron said. “You always carry two or three extra and generally, that’s your contingency plan.”