In the 2020-21 season, with the OHL not playing at all and the other two CHL leagues playing shortened schedules, many prospects that would not normally be eligible for the AHL played in the minor leagues. According to the CHL-NHL agreement, many of those players would be forced back to junior for 2021-22, if they had not yet reached the age of 20. For a player like Cole Perfetti, it meant he would either have to make the Winnipeg Jets or return to the Saginaw Spirit, despite scoring 26 points in 32 games for the Manitoba Moose, clearly proving he can compete at the AHL level.
Special circumstances need special rules though, and Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the finishing touches are being put on an agreement that will allow junior eligible players who played 20 or more AHL games this season to return to the AHL in 2021-22. Perfetti, to stay with the same example, would not be required to go back to the OHL even though he is still just 19 years old.
The move would be a huge boost for the AHL, as the minor league could now have more young star power competing next season, but it is also a huge loss for the junior leagues, the OHL in particular. Players like Seth Jarvis or Connor Zary from the WHL didn’t have time to reach that 20-game threshold before their junior season started up again, even though they did play well in the short minor league stint.
One interesting case is Jamie Drysdale of the Anaheim Ducks. The 19-year-old defenseman played just 14 games at the AHL level, but that’s not because he went back to junior. Drysdale instead joined the NHL club for 24 games. Though he is likely to stay with the Ducks for next season, it is interesting to note that under the proposed rule, he would appear not to be eligible for AHL action if he struggles at all to start the year. Dreger does tweet that the eventual agreement will be a little more complicated, so perhaps there will be exceptions for players like Drysdale.