2020 1st overall pick Alex Lafrenière signed his three-year NHL entry level contract this past Monday. Since then, three other NHL first-round selections have inked contracts including LA Kings 2nd overall pick Quinton Byfield, Philadelphia Flyers 23rd overall pick Tyson Foerster, and San Jose Sharks 31st overall pick Ozzy Wiesblatt.
Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, all four signed players are from CHL clubs. Of course, Lafrenière became the third Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL) player to be chosen as the NHL’s 1st overall selection. Byfield is a member of the Sudbury Wolves (OHL), Foerster is from the Barrie Colts (OHL), and Ozzy Wiesblatt is a Prince Albert Raider (WHL).
In Lafrenière’s case, the plan was that the young star would not return to the QMJHL. Considering the QMJHL is one of the few leagues in North America that has started the 2020/21 season, could Lafrenière head back to the Océanic? Highly doubtful, especially considering the league is having more than its fair share of Covid issues at the moment. There will be plenty of interested onlookers on what eventually unfolds in the QMJHL.
In direct contrast with the QMJHL, the WHL and OHL initially postponed their 20/21 seasons with similar opening dates in early December. However, the WHL recently postponed the upcoming season again with a new start date of January 8th, 2021. The OHL has not yet decided or made any announcement about any further delays to the season. That said, they have said that body contact will not be allowed when the OHL does finally return to play.
Because these two junior hockey leagues are being forced into starting at later dates is there any chance that these now NHL prospects are loaned to European teams to ensure development? If so, the impending talent drain would have significant consequences to the junior hockey business.
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