HERSHEY, PA – Two seasons ago, the Hershey Bears had to scratch certain players due to veteran status. While the issue did not pose a problem last season for the Bears, it seems it will be one Troy Mann may have to deal with this season. Waivers will be another issue facing the organization, too, once camp rolls around.
The AHL is a development league. Since a priority is placed on developing young players for the NHL, a rule regarding the number of games played by players was put into place. Specifically it states, “Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as ‘development players.’ Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.”
Coming into the season, Zach Sill and Aaron Ness were under contract and had both played in more than 320 games, earning them Veteran Status under the rule. Once Chris Bourque and Garrett Mitchell re-signed, that put Hershey at four players with Veteran Status.
Washington’s off-season signings also factor into the equation. Devante Smith-Pelly qualifies as a veteran as does Anthony Peluso. John Albert would be Veteran-exempt (having played in more than 260 games, but less than 320). Tyler Graovac has played in 259, so he will still technically be considered a developmental player for the entire season. If Washington were to send all four to Hershey along with the four vets currently on the roster, Mann would be required to scratch two of them every game.
That kind of situation makes it virtually impossible for Hershey to bring back Ryan Bourque and Tom Gilbert (July 21 – per Elite Prospects, Gilbert has signed to play in the German Ice Hockey League) as both meet the qualifications for veteran status. Additionally, AHL free agents Hubert Labrie and Christian Thomas meet the veteran exempt status and, as such, probably will not be back in Hershey. The chart below includes the projected status for this rule, the waiver status of the players currently under contract, and those UFAs from last year’s team who have yet to sign which are listed in red.
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Albert, John||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Barber, Riley||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Body, Travis||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Graovac, Tyler||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Gustafsson, Hampus||Waiver Exempt|
|WHL (age 19)||Forward||Malenstyn, Beck||WHL (age 19)||WHL (age 19)|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||McGauley, Tim||Waiver Exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Mitchell, Mason||Waiver Exempt|
|RFA unsigned||Forward||O’Brien, Liam||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Peluso, Anthony||Waivers Required|
|WHL (age 19)||Forward||Pilon, Garrett||WHL (age 19)||WHL (age 19)|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Sill, Zach||VETERAN||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Simpson, Wayne||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Smith-Pelly, Devante||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Stephenson, Chandler||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Vrana, Jakub||Waiver Exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Forward||Walker, Nathan||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Bindulis, Kris||Waiver Exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Bowey, Madison||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Djoos, Christian||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Johansen, Lucas||Waiver exempt|
|AHL||Defense||Labrie, Hubert||VET EXEMPT||AHL|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Lewington, Tyler||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Ness, Aaron||VETERAN||Waivers Required|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Siegenthaler, Jonas||Waiver exempt|
|NHL/AHL||Defense||Williams, Colby||Waiver exempt|
Both Pilon and Malenstyn are expected to return to the WHL for their last season of minors. An agreement between the NHL and CHL (which includes the WHL, QMJHL, and OHL) states that “Players drafted and playing for CHL teams are ineligible to play in the professional minor leagues (AHL, ECHL) until they are 20 years old (by December 31st of that year) or have completed four years in major juniors.”
Pilon won’t turn 20 until April of 2018 and has played two years in juniors. Malenstyn turns 20 in February of 2018. He’s played three full years of juniors. Johansen will turn 20 in November of 2017, thus he will be eligible for the AHL this season. Although, any of the three could make the Capitals roster and not have to return to juniors per the rule.
By Julie Beidler