This is Tyler Pitlick. He spent only one year in junior after his draft, then headed to the AHL in Oklahoma City. Once there, he didn’t play a lot, during a period where he should have been playing big minutes every night. The leap from junior to the AHL is difficult, especially for players who arrive without the maturity and skill set to force a more experienced player to the bench. In Pitlick’s case, a fairly substantial injury history was about to impact his hockey career and the wasted early time in the AHL didn’t help at all.
I write this every three or four years, hoping one day we see some movement but resigned to the reality we won’t see it again in my lifetime. We are going to talk about the CPHL. The Central Professional Hockey League was designed as a feeder league for the AHL. 20-year olds fresh from junior who couldn’t handle the AHL pace would settle in at the ‘Double-A’ level (to borrow a baseball term) and establish themselves.
We are about to see a great example of why a second tier minor league club could help a team. If the Edmonton Oilers had a second minor league team (completely under their control) management could move Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Ryan Mantha up and down the overall depth chart and ensure each received a full season’s worth of playing time. As it is, with only 68 games available (times six defenders) chances are these men will see 45-55 games with the Condors.
- It was a de facto development league.
- Each club carried only 15 players and 10 of those had to be under 23.
Players in the CPHL (like Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire) played a ton, developed their skills and had mentors to help in development. It was a fabulous idea, as the kids played at this level without the older AHL players crowding playing time (because they were ineligible).
Q AND A
- Isn’t this what the ECHL does? No, not really. The Oilers don’t send top prospects to their ECHL team. Last year in Norfolk, prospects with some connection to the Oilers included Ben Betker (five games), Joey Benik, Jaedon Descheneau, Zach Pochiro and Mikael Tam. The CPHL had higher end prospects, here’s Montreal’s team in 1966-67.
- Which Oiler prospects last year would have been candidates? Jesse Puljujarvi, Nick Ellis, Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase, Braden Christoffer, Mitch Moroz, Matt Benning until he moved up. Guys like Griffin Reinhart wouldn’t be on the CPHL team but maybe he needed it year one pro and that might have helped his development.
- What would be the positives for the players? They’d be getting playing time at the pro level and developing in a league where about 70% of the opposition is in the same age range. Their status as regulars (and the small roster size) would guarantee playing time. We don’t have TOI totals for the AHL, but it is a certainty that someone like Platzer would have played more in the ECHL (and had a bigger role) than he did in the American League. A player like Mantha might be able to get his bearings during a 20-game stay and then move up to the AHL without getting run over ala Taylor Chorney when he arrived. That has value to player and team.
- What would be the positives for the team? Teams would be able to sign more minor league veterans and therefore have better depth in the organization if injuries occur. The overall quality of the league would be better since the depth would be much better.
- Anything else? The batting average might improve in terms of drafting success (fewer failures) and their AHL clubs would be stronger and better able to overcome a rash of injuries.
- Anything else? Yes. I think the second tier might be a good spot for junior players who are overqualified for the CHL but are ineligible to play in the AHL. It would require a rule change, but the NHL does that kind of thing to suit their needs all the time (get Lou to do it).
- What leagues would be affected? Aside from the CHL (mentioned above), the Euro leagues would be impacted at some level since NHL teams would be adding as many as 15 roster spots.
- From the current group of Oiler pro players, recent pro signings and CHL/Euro/college bound prospects, which 10 players would you nominate for this season’s experiement? G: Shane Starrett. D: Ryan Mantha, William Lagesson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear. F: Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson, Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase, Braden Christoffer.
- From the current group of Oiler pro players, which 5 players would you nominate in the “veteran” group for this season’s experiment? G: Eddie Pasquale. D: Ryan Stanton. F: Patrick Russell, Brian Ferlin, Brad Malone.
- You’ve listed some very good young prospects. If those players can’t make the AHL as rookie pro’s then there isn’t much hope for them. It is a matter of changing your perspective. Lets take Kyle Platzer as an example. Last year, he was sheltered in the AHL at age 21 and would have been better served by playing more minutes at the pro level against players (mostly) his own age. You can make the argument it would have been better for his development. More sorties, more knowledge.
- Can you give examples of players who “got away” who might have benefited from this kind of thing? I didn’t mention him earlier but do believe Tyler Pitlick would have benefited from time in a CPHL-type league. He was used sparingly during the early part of his first season (didn’t turn 20 until November 1), perhaps more playing time during the first six months of his career would have helped.
A second minor league would give these kids another rung on the ladder, and perhaps cause fewer prospects to fall. I’ll remind you again down the line.