Most of Montreal’s professional prospects have been sitting out since March when the pandemic hit and they’ll be sitting for a while yet after the AHL announced on Wednesday that their new projected start date for the 2020-21 season will be February 5, 2021.
The reasons are basically self-explanatory at this point – the pandemic has wreaked havoc on professional sports worldwide and with all sorts of travel issues, it’s hard to get a schedule in place. On the other hand, some NHL teams were pushing to get the AHL going in December in an effort to get some prospects some development time. Clearly, that didn’t happen here.
One key question remains from a scheduling standpoint and that’s whether or not the AHL is forced to shift to an all-Canadian division whenever they do get up and running (if that happens). In some ways it makes sense but travelling to the West is expensive which is why Laval never plays those teams in the first place. But if travel between Canada and the US is still restricted, it might be their only option.
While the ECHL is hoping to get up and running with a staggered start in December and January, the Habs still don’t have their own affiliate (Trois-Rivieres still isn’t in that league) which doesn’t help much. They could be able to send a few players to ECHL Maine if they have another working agreement in place but it wouldn’t be their top youngsters at the very least.
All of a sudden, the decision to not try to loan many of their prospects overseas may hurt more than originally anticipated. While it certainly made sense at the time – asking them to start in September/October and then play a full AHL schedule afterwards would have been troublesome – it doesn’t hold up as well now. Most leagues don’t have openings anymore (barring injuries) so while an opportunity might creep up here and there, it’d be in a lower-level league in most cases. In the end, many of Montreal’s players earmarked for Laval will wind up going nearly a year between games…assuming things actually get underway in February.