Without the pandemic, Connor McMichael would have likely spent the entire 2020-21 season in the OHL with the London Knights. Instead, the OHL season never began and Connor has played games with both the Washington Capitals and the AHL Hershey Bears.
Teenage hockey players that play junior hockey in Canada are subject to the CHL Transfer Agreement with the NHL. Players drafted by an NHL team usually cannot play for an AHL team until their age 20 season. The prospects must either be on an NHL roster or play with their Canadian junior team. That has put Connor in a weird spot.
The OHL is trying to get permission from the Canadian government to play an abbreviated season. If the league starts up again, Connor would be forced to return to the OHL according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
If it were up to Connor though, he would stay in Hershey.
No decision has been made. The OHL remains hopeful it will be able to return. The approval process is taking longer than expected which will force the league to reconsider its return to play strategies. The season hasn’t been called yet. https://t.co/09m17XG4WZ
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 24, 2021
“I honestly want to stay here and just play pro hockey,” McMichael told NBC Sports Washington’s JJ Regan last week. “I think it would be best for my development, but if I do go back to London I’ll have to take the things that I learned here back there and try and keep those going, try and take the pro hockey experience back and keep playing the same way.”
Friedman wrote about McMichael’s predicament in his 31 Thoughts column on Monday.
29. Capitals’ 2019 first-rounder Connor McMichael, who is playing at AHL Hershey, told NBC Sports Washington, “I honestly want to stay here and just play pro hockey. I think it would be best for my development.”
If he’s not on the NHL roster, the CHL Transfer Agreement states that McMichael must go back to the London Knights. He’s not the only one. Los Angeles’s Quinton Byfield (Sudbury), Montreal’s Jan Mysak (Hamilton) and Carolina’s Ryan Suzuki (Saginaw) would be in the same boat. (Looks like Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras are Anaheim Ducks now.)
Other junior players have already migrated back to Quebec and Western League locations, but the Ontario government’s dilly-dallying over a start date to the OHL season is extremely challenging for these particular players. Even though they’d be eligible for the shortened quarantine if crossing the Canadian border, it sure sounds like McMichael isn’t alone in this thinking. Some already did an extended quarantine prior to the World Juniors and say it’s unfair to be asked to do another one, citing mental health.
It’s unclear what the Capitals would do if this happens. But for now, they would have only two options: call Connor up to the NHL or send him back to the OHL.
McMichael’s season has seen him play for three different teams so far this year. In December and January, he participated in the 2021 World Junior Championship, where he won silver centering Canada’s first line and being an alternate captain. He then flew to Washington and reported to the Capitals for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, making his NHL debut on January 24 against the Buffalo Sabres. Once the AHL season began, McMichael reported to the Bears and has stayed there since. The 20-year-old has 10 points (6g, 4a) in his first 17 professional games, which includes a hat trick.
Headline photo courtesy of the Hershey Bears
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