Rink Fries: NCAA considering next steps in allowing CHL players

Luke Fox joins Shawn McKenzie to discuss whether the Maple Leafs should get credit for making a seven-game series, what this team will be remembered for, and how much change this team will undergo in the offseason.

The American Coaches Association held their convention this week in Naples, Florida and among the topics discussed, the status of CHL players in the NCAA held the most curiosity for many.

And while most of us were expecting a vote to determine if CHLers would be eligible to play in the NCAA, it didn’t happen.

Essentially, what we’re looking at here is NCAA bylaw, which identifies all CHL players as professional athletes and therefore ineligible to play with the ‘amateurs’ in college hockey. But as we’ve discussed before here and on the 32 Thoughts podcast, with the ushering in of NIL (name, image and likeness) in college sports it’s only a matter of time until NCAA hockey is forced to accept major junior players from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL. It’s a move that would forever change the development structure of hockey and would place the NCAA on top of the development pyramid.

Mike McMahon, who publishes the excellent College Hockey Newsletter, reported this weekend that only between 15-20 per cent of college coaches were interested in changing the bylaw. However, most coaches from Atlantic Hockey and CCHA were in favour.

Most, it sounds, were interested in learning more. Instead of a vote they formed a committee to monitor and discuss how a potential move like this would be implemented. That group includes coaches Grant Potulny (Northern Michigan), Bill Riga (Holy Cross), Ben Barr (Maine), Andy Slaggert (Notre Dame), and Kris Mayotte (Colorado College) along with commissioners/administrators Doug Christiansen (ECAC), Steve Metcalf (Hockey East), Michelle Morgan (Atlantic Hockey), Adam Augustine (Big Ten), Heather Weems (NCHC) and Don Lucia (CCHA).

What needs to happen sooner than later is all parties who have a dog in this race need to get together and figure out how this can work, starting with the NHL.

As someone close to the story told me Saturday: “This is going to happen, it’s only a matter of when and how.” It sounds like the NCAA is now getting out in front of the issue if the “how” turns out to be litigation, which would end the rule quickly.


Despite protests from the players, it’s time for this Maple Leafs team. No more doubling down on the core, no more talk about learning and gaining valuable experience through adversity. This is as far as this group can take you. It’s been proven again and again.

Consider players and teams existing in two states – potential and actual. While this group was starting out, the only question was ‘are the kids getting better?’ and they skated in a state of potential where results weren’t as important as growth. But those days are long gone. This team is what it is, these players are who they are, existing in a state of ‘actual’.

Brad Treliving has never been hesitant to pull the trigger on big moves and I’d expect this off-season we’ll see him flex.

But perhaps the bigger question here is how new president and CEO of MLSE Keith Pelley feels about the Maple Leafs’ state of affairs? It’s not Pelley’s MO to sit around quietly like a church mouse.

Buckle up for a wild couple of weeks in Leafs land.

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With Nashville exiting the playoffs you can fire up (once again) the Juuse Saros rumours. With star netminding prospect Yaroslav Askarov poised for full time duty in the NHL, attention at the draft this year will be focussed on what the Predators do with their top netminder who’s on an expiring contract next season.

Last year at the draft the Preds dangled Askarov to try and move up and it sounds like a package was discussed with San Jose that would have seen the Preds move up to fourth to select stud centre Will Smith. Preds GM Barry Trotz has been searching for an elite, young scoring centre and that hasn’t changed.


Speaking of netminders the Buffalo Sabres’ negotiations with their RFA goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen should be fascinating to follow. It’s no secret UPL has been miffed at times with how he’s felt skipped over and for good reason.

As the Sabres enter a phase where their big contracts all kick in and they need to watch every dollar closely, let’s see where the decimal point lands for their No. 1 goalie. I’m guessing somewhere between $4-5 million on a five-year deal. We’ll see.


This was a week where we all had a swing at the Pierre-Luc Dubois pinata after the Kings lost to the Oilers in the first round for the third season in a row and the centre’s playoffs were as underwhelming as his regular season.

This is Dubois’ third team where there have been significant performance issues and while he said last week he’d “do anything to be better” it sounds like patience is already thin. And while we wonder if the Kings would get a special carve out to buy Dubois out at 1/3 instead of 2/3 the fact we’re even having the discussion after year one of an eight-year deal is telling. If nothing comes of all the buyout talk and he goes back to the Kings next season, does he do so not as a centre, but rather a winger?

Further on Dubois, I got a note from someone from an NHL team (not LA or Washington) wondering if a Dubois for Darcy Kuemper deal could make sense for both teams. The Kings are searching for goaltending and the Caps could use the help up front.


Very much looking forward to Vancouver and Edmonton hockey Twitter/X behaving in a polite and respectful manner towards each other in the second round here.

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