All lockout threats and CBA news is depressing enough for the diehard NHL fan, but we can't avoid going into the potential implications. Among those are top junior prospects staying with their CHL clubs rather than reporting (at least briefly) to NHL camp, and other prospects and NHL hopefuls starting in the AHL from day one of 2012-13.
But there's one intriguing scenario that could touch both of the above: Could Ryan Strome be a Bridgeport Sound Tiger this year?
A TVA Sports report, translated here by Yahoo blog Buzzing the Net, suggests "certain influential members of the hockey world" -- you have to love people of influence, don't you? -- are working on an arrangement where otherwise NHL-bound 2011 picks could be assigned to the AHL instead.
The primary focus of this report is Panthers top pick Jonathan Huberdeau, a prospect who really does scream "nothing more to learn in juniors," but you can't help carrying the implication to Strome and others. (In fact, the report does mention Strome as well.)
The debate about "proper development" vs. "he was rushed!" could sustain a watered-down light beer campaign for years. But one thought many in both camps can agree on is that players who "have nothing more to learn" in juniors, in the parlance of our times, would benefit from an AHL internship if only the CHL-NHL rules allowed.
Who doesn't think Nino Niederreiter's 2011-12 would've gone better if the Islanders had been able to stash him in the AHL for the first 40 games or more? Who among those on the fence about Strome's readiness wouldn't feel more comfortable with deputizing him in the NHL if he were allowed to transition "against men" in the AHL first?
Recent Islanders youngsters who, albeit one year older, gained from a quarter or half season in the AHL before their NHL callup include Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic. Many of us who think a player like Strome or Niederreiter probably isn't NHL-ready in September suspect three months of transitional development could do them good. At this young age, players mature and develop in leaps and stalls over mere months. (Let's face it: The year-by-year demarcation of a player's development is, frankly, arbitrary after all -- although please don't tell Helios I said the calendar his daily chariot ride inspired is arbitrary.)
Left unsaid, but presumably worked out by influential people, would be what happens if the lockout ended. Would the graduated prospects then be grandfathered into AHL eligibility even while NHL games were going on? And if not, would any NHL team seriously send them back to juniors after they got a taste of playing against real adults?
Perhaps more pertinently to Islanders fans: If a scenario like this played out, is there any way we wouldn't see Strome in an Islanders uniform by the end of this season, whenever it begins?
Oh, and while we're on it ... if and when a lockout comes -- what of Jesse Joensuu and his European out clause?