August 26, 2010
The Canadian Hockey League is drawing a line in the sand with 19-year-olds being called up to the AHL. How else would one read into the CHL is trying to reroute The Jet, challenging whether the Chicago Blackhawks can move Kitchener Rangers 47-goal scorer Jeremy Morin up to minor pro?
"Morin, who turned 19 in April, was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers — 45th overall — in 2009 out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, though he had agreed to join the Rangers the following season.
" 'Jeremy was not drafted as a member of a CHL team, however there are certain provisions in the NHL-CHL agreement which contemplate what happens in terms of where a player may be assigned to etc. based on where he’s drafted from,' CHL president and OHL commissioner Dave Branch told Yahoo! Sports. 'So we’re working through that with the NHL and waiting to hear back from them.
" 'The very fact that we’ve asked the NHL for their position and their thoughts on it certainly in our mind there is some question (about his eligibility).' "
"Branch, in Toronto attending the World Hockey Summit, says he expects to hear from the NHL shortly with their decision.
"Morin’s NHL rights were traded by the Thrashers to the Chicago Blackhawks in June as part of the deal for winger Dustin Byfuglien. According to sources, the Blackhawks – who are planning to develop a number of young prospects in the AHL this season – expected to have Morin with their minor league affiliate in Rockford, Ill., instead of returning him to Kitchener.
" 'Jeremy, for us, would be an impact player — I had assumed that he would be coming back to junior,' said Rangers head coach and GM Steve Spott.
" 'However, I am led to believe that he may be eligible for the American Hockey League, but I do know that the CHL is looking into it to see if he is in fact eligible.' "
Branch and have the CHL have a lot to lose by making Morin a legal test case. It sets a precedent if the proof is that a player had to have actually skated for the team before being selected in the NHL draft. That is the letter of the law. Some would argue the spirit of the law might go that Morin was a Kitchener Ranger in mind, body and spirit prior to his NHL draft day.
There are similar cases across the CHL. The recent one, of course, was Morin's Team USA teammate, John Carlson, whom the Washington Capitals called up to the AHL's Hershey Bears for his age-19 season.
A couple other cases in the hopper involve a pair of high draft picks from last June. The Dallas Stars' first-rounder, goalie Jack Campbell, was a NTDPer, but he had agreed to join the Ontario league's Windsor Spitfires before his draft season ended, decommitting from Michigan in the NCAA. What if Dallas puts him in the AHL next season? Then there is Edmonton Oilers second-round pick Tyler Pitlick, who played for Minnesota State but was already bound for the Western league's Medicine Hat Tigers before he was selected.
The CHL is right to try to at least get some clarity. It hurts to have players who can help the calibre of the league hauled up to play a secondary role on a Triple-A team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.