NHL lockout may offer short-term gains for CHL

Individual development may be hurt in long-run

Dougie Hamilton, a Boston Bruins prospect and a Niagara Ice Dogs defender stands to lose a year of NHL hockey to the potential lockout 

In 2005, they were the likes of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf and Shea Weber.

In 2012, they may be Jonathan Huberdeau, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome.

Labour strife forced the first group to stay back in the Canadian Hockey League while labour strife gripped the National Hockey League.

And it could be happening again to the second group.

Although a lockout may benefit the quality of play in Canadian major junior hockey in the short-term due to the influx of more mature, NHL-ready talent, a work stoppage in the “show” is not welcome in the eyes of many CHL executives.

“Labour unrest in the NHL really long term doesn’t help anybody,” said Oshawa General’s GM Jeff Twohey, to the Toronto Observer on Wednesday.

“The longer it goes on it creates uncertainty because [we have to ask questions like] if [the two sides] settle, what happens to our NHL drafted players?

“I really hope it get’s settled soon.”

In the wake of the seemingly unproductive negotiations currently being conducted by the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, the CHL’s front office has acknowledged there may be problems.

Such as, the moment an agreement is in place and the NHL is ready to begin again, all drafted players in Canada’s top junior league are not obligated to remain with their CHL clubs.

Hamilton, a Boston Bruins first rounder and current Niagara Ice Dog, is unfazed by the situation.

“To play in the NHL would be a dream come true,” he said to NHL.com correspondent Ben Raby. “But if there is a lockout then I’ll be back in junior and I’ll just continue to work towards my goal.

“I mean, it doesn’t really matter where I start the year [because] the goal doesn’t change — it’s to play in the NHL and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

An NHL lockout potentially means something completely different for the many Europeans plying their trade thousands of kilometres from their homes in the CHL.

For example, Vancouver Canucks 2011 first-round pick and Denmark-native Nicklas Jensen has elected to pass on another year with the Generals in favour of a year loan agreement with AIK of the Swedish Elitserien.

Similarly, Russian forward and Boston Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev declined to return to the Windsor Spitfires, and instead signed a loan deal with Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League.

In cases such as Edmonton Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, where the player is of junior age but has a year of NHL experience, the American Hockey League is a valid option.

Back in 2005, the results of the lockout included what many consider the best Canadian World Junior team ever, and an epic Memorial Cup final between Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic and Corey Perry’s London Knights.

Officials believe there is no way to know for sure what the full effect of an NHL lockout in 2012 would be on the Canadian Hockey League and it’s stars.

About this article

By: Jamie Neugebauer
Posted: Sep 6 2012 7:49 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports