The lockout will deprive North American fans of their top professional circuit, but it will provide some of the highest calibre AHL, ECHL and junior hockey possible. This is a result of the funneling down effect of prospects.
This funnel does not only affect the AHL and ECHL but all levels of junior hockey, possibly close as your local Jr. A and even Jr. B teams. For several Leafs prospects this hopefully short lockout will be more beneficial than a regular start to the season. However, on the flip side, several prospects may be forced to play in more marginal roles or at lower levels than they otherwise would have.
Let’s examine the Leafs’ prospects and determine where they stand as the lockout begins. Today you are presented with part one of this two-part series. This edition looks at the goalies and defencemen, while tomorrow’s edition will focus on forwards.
You can view part two here.
Mark Owuya: AHL Marlies – Team unchanged by lockout.
The lockout will have no effect on Owuya as he was destined for the Marlies with or without the lockout. Since Ben Scrivens was not assigned to the Marlies, he should receive the increased workload that was expected.
Owuya will fight Jussi Rynnas for playing time, but this competition was expected and puts the Marlies’ goal in safe hands.
Furthermore, both goalies should benefit from facing increased competition while the lockout is on. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that the two goalies will benefit.
Garrett Sparks: OHL Guelph – Team unchanged by lockout.
Sparks will return to Guelph and will carry a heavy workload unless there is an extreme slip in his performance. The lockout has virtually no effect on the young goaltender other than a lost rookie camp and tournament along with the values of seeing top NHL shooters in training camp. Like the goalies in the AHL, he should benefit from a slight increase in OHL calibre because of the lessoning amount of players jumping to the professional ranks.
Ben Scrivens: Locked out.
The lockout has placed Scrivens in an unfortunate position. He is too valuable to risk losing by assigning him to the AHL. Even if he could be safely sent there, he would only be stealing valuable development time away from Rynnas and Owuya. Therefore he is being left in limbo as the lockout begins.
Scrivens’ relatively unknown status makes it unlikely he could acquire work in Europe beyond a secondary league in which the calibre is unlikely to match the AHL. Consequently, the longer the lockout extends the greater the potential detriment to Scrivens.
Jake Gardiner: AHL Marlies – NHL Player.
Gardiner is one of the numerous young guns who will be forced to start the season in the AHL. This is great for the overall calibre of the league and the other prospects that get to face increased competition but for Gardiner and others it’s more or less a way to stay in shape.
Are there potential benefits for him? Yes. However, he would learn more playing 18-20 minutes a night in the NHL. Furthermore, the ice time he receives in the AHL will merely result in decreased development of other defensive prospects. It is good that he will be playing but a poor substitute.
Korbinian Holzer: AHL Marlies – Likely NHL Player.
For Korbinian Holzer the lockout could not come at a worse possible time. He is NHL ready and was so last season. He has nothing more to prove in the AHL so remaining at the level will be disappointing and only serve to take ice time away from other players.
Morgan Rielly: WHL Moose Jaw – Team unchanged by lockout.
The lockout could be a blessing in disguise for Morgan Rielly. He is super talented, there is no doubt about it, but he played in just 18 regular season games last season.
The pressure of training camp and the all-too-real possibility that he would have pushed and made the team is something I think is best avoided. Rielly will play in a slightly better than normal WHL and dominate. He will challenge for and, if the summer series is any indication, he will make Team Canada for the World Juniors. As well, Rielly will spend another year as a real teenager who can enjoy the quiet life of Moose Jaw and gain a year of physical development.
The lockout is good for Rielly.
Matt Finn: OHL Guelph – Team unchanged by the lockout.
The only real negative for Finn is missing an NHL training camp but like Sparks he should benefit from playing in a slightly improved OHL.
Stuart Percy: OHL Mississauga – Team unchanged by lockout.
Percy needs to play a full season. The opportunity to avoid the limelight of training camp should be beneficial and he can merely focus on dominating the OHL this season. Furthermore, it is hopeful he can stay healthy and play his way back into World Junior consideration.
Jesse Blacker: AHL Marlies – Team unchanged by the lockout.
For Blacker the lockout will have both positive and negative effects that balance out. Firstly, he will play in an improved AHL and he should receive solid minutes. However, with Gardiner and Holzer remaining his role will remain secondary and he will not receive as much responsibility as he could handle.
Simon Gysbers: Likely AHL Marlies – Team probably unchanged by lockout.
Gysbers will likely never be an NHL regular, but he is a solid organizational role player who could possibly provide NHL spot duty. The lockout, given the plethora of defensive depth on the Marlies, could see Gysbers relegated to the ECHL. That is a long shot, but it is almost guaranteed he will see a drastic reduction in playing time.
Viktor Loov/Tom Nilsson/Petter Granberg: Swedish Allsvenskan and Skelleftea (SEL) – Teams unchanged by lockout.
For Loov and Nilsson, the lockout offers one incredible benefit. The Allsvenskan will be littered with NHL players that will greatly improve the calibre of the Swedish second division. For example, Nilsson is now practising daily with Anze Kopitar.
Assuming their roster spots are not replaced, the lockout will help them see an improved opposition. For Granberg, the SEL originally limited the amount of locked out players, but have since had that ruling overturned meaning Granberg should see a beneficial increase in competition calibre during the lockout.
Max Everson/Eric Knodel/Andrew MacWilliam/Dennis Robertson: NCAA
These four NCAA prospects will see no change as a result of the lockout.