Friday, December 14, 2007

The Friday Night Report

The Prospect Report

He hardly ever draws much attention to himself and is playing on a second year team in the Ohio Junior Bluejackets in the USHL. The 2007 7th round pick of the Rangers is a long way from the NHL as he is heading to UMass next season but he does show some possible potential.

It has to be frustrating for Hobbs to play on a last place team but the Junior Bluejacket record is rather deceiving as no other USHL team has as many overtime or shoot out losses as they do (5). Even fewer have as many one goal losses (7) as they do.

The Junior Bluejackets are very close to being a decent team if they could just catch have a few breaks. They are a competitive team who tries very hard but long term we look forward to seeing Hobbs make the jump to the next level so we can get a better idea as to how good Hobbs might be.

For now we watch as Hobbs netted his 5th goal of the season as his Junior Blackjackets fell to the Omaha Lancers 5-2. It was another frustrating loss for Hobbs and his team as they fell to 4-12-5 on the season.

Hobbs is now 5-6-11 which is good for 3rd on his team.

Ryan Hillier was held scoreless as his Halifax Mooseheads dropped a road decision 4-2 to the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Bobby Sanguinetti also was held scoreless as his Brampton Battalion continued their hot play wining their 7th in a row a 6-3 win over the Kingston Frontenacs. With the win the Troop also became the first seed in the OHL's Eastern Conference with 43 points.

Jordan Foote also did not score as his Michigan Tech Huskies settled for a 1-1 overtime tie on the road against Northern Michigan.

The IIHF/NHL Transfer Agreement Breaks Down

This is a story that is still developing as we are getting to hear more and more about why both the IIHF and the NHL want to reopen this agreement. However from our point of view what is being said in public is not really why both sides want changes.

Ken Campbell of the Hockey News wrote that this breakdown is more about youth development more than anything else but we disagree. It is as most arguments are about money; one side wants more and the other wants to spend less.

See the European Feds say that they are not happy to see a lot of their young talent being signed by the NHL and winding up in the AHL. They claim they can develop better if they return home rather than playing in the AHL. We disagree.

What the NHL is not happy about is paying 2oo,ooo for each of these Europeans prospects to come over and then discovering that they are not close to NHL ready and having to send them to the AHL. We will agree here but at the same time have zero sympathy for the NHL owners here.

That is what everyone is reporting but here is what I believe is really the truth behind both sides. For the NHL it is that they made several mistakes in the last CBA starting with agreeing to limit how long they can hold on to the rights to European prospects.

Under the current CBA, NHL teams have 2 years to sign prospects from Europe instead of the old ways where they held on to those rights almost forever. What the NHL is discovering is that most of the European prospects who have no CHL experience are not NHL ready.

However they are finding this out after they have signed these prospects and paying the transfer fee. According to IIHF, the NHL signed 64 Europeans but only 7 are in the NHL, the rest are in the AHL which means the NHL paid 11,400,000 for AHL players.

Not everyone can make a quick adjustment to the smaller ice rinks, the more rugged physical play and the amount of games each team plays. The Europeans want the NHL to send these players back to them instead of keeping them in the AHL.

The Europeans say their studies show that players who remain in their elite level leagues will develop faster and better to be able to play in the NHL. However from our own experience with European prospects that is not what the prospects are thinking.

More and more Europeans are coming over to play in North America whether it is in the Canadian Juniors, the NCAAs or even in the USHL. Those who have offer basically the same reasoning behind their decision; they are wanting to come over to North America to gain the experience needed for NHL careers.

David Skokan is one of those Europeans as he came over from Slovakia and played 2 full seasons in the QMJHL before being drafted by the Rangers. When we asked David why he left Slovakia even though he had not been drafted this is what he told us:

"It was my dream to play hockey in North America and it is the first step to the NHL"

That is the typical response one gets from the Europeans who do come over to North America these days. Those Europeans who want a career in the NHL are realizing that the smarter path is to learn the North American style of play.

Carl Hagelin came over from Sweden and in response to why here is his response:

"I decided to attend Michigan 2 summers ago. I knew that college hockey would give me an opportunity to play hockey at a high level and at the same time get an education. That is impossible in Sweden, you either go pro or just concentrate on getting a degree"

Of course there is the opposite point of view from someone like David Kveton who returned to Europe because he felt the quality of play was superior than in the CHL. Had Kveton performed better at the CHL level he would have offered more of an argument to his case.

What we believe is that the European are wanting to see their younger players kept in Europe for as long as they can keep them. They see that the Russians are not a part of the transfer agreement so they can talk directly to individual NHL teams to bargain a deal for each individual player.

They want a bigger part of the pie and let us also recall that when this deal was first worked out not everyone in Europe liked this deal. Several club teams fought their federation but eventually gave in but remained unhappy about getting just 200,000.

The NHL on the other hand is not very happy having to pay 11 million for players to play in the AHL. However changing the transfer agreement is not going to be all that simple. Any changes they make to the transfer agreement will be watched carefully by the NHLPA.

The NHL one has to believe is regretting agreeing to only holding the European born player draft rights to just 2 years. The very first question one has to ask is what is in it for the NHL to send back European prospects rather than keep them in the AHL?

It is hard to believe that the NHL will be so generous to allow prospects to return to European after paying for their transfer rights. Sending them back does not help them adjust to the NHL game since they would be playing the European brand of hockey.

If anything this is a very dangerous gamble for the members of the IIHF as if both sides decide to get territorial with their players then the game will lose. What hockey as the sport does not need now is for the hockey world to split off into the NHL against the rest of the world.

Both sides need each other but it is also clear that changes are needed. However the NHL will also have to work out some issues with the NHLPA like the draft limits for Europeans.

This could get ugly over the next few months as both sides sit down to try and iron out what they believe are their differences. In the meantime we expect to see more Europeans wanting to come over to North America for the same reasons that Skokan and Hagelin gave.

Stay tune folks it is going to get interesting.

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