The Kootenay Ice head towards the 2015-16 Western Hockey League campaign with an overload of 1995-born, over-age players, and it’s a problem plaguing teams right across the league.
“We’re facing a problem like most teams in the Western Hockey League,” said Jeff Chynoweth, Kootenay Ice president and general manager, Tuesday. “There’s an abundance of 1995-born players available and most teams are already set with what they have.
“It’s going to be a tough age group to move.”
With 11 over-age players on the roster heading into the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft Thursday morning, Chynoweth hopes to find a return on some of his pending 20-year-olds, but isn’t holding his breath.
During the 2014-15 season, no team in the WHL deployed more 1995s than Chynoweth’s outfit.
Defencemen Tanner Faith, Lenny Hackman, Tyler King, Tanner Lishchynsky and Rinat Valiev join forwards Ryan Chynoweth, Jon Martin, Luke Philp, Jaedon Descheneau and Sam Reinhart, as well as goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, in the 1995-born age group.
Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) and Valiev (Toronto Maple Leafs) will likely turn pro, and both Faith (Minnesota Wild) and Descheneau (St. Louis Blues) stand to do the same, should they be offered contracts from their respective NHL clubs.
Even if all four move on to the professional ranks, that still leaves seven players competing for a total of three 20-year-old slots.
“It’s going to be tough, but if we can make the right deal and give us some prospects and some good picks, we’ll consider doing that this week,” Chynoweth said. “But I don’t expect that to happen.
“As good as our 20-year-olds are — I think they’re very good hockey players — there’s a lot of teams that are in the same boat.”
Based upon regular-season active rosters according to the WHL website, a total of 150 players born in 1995 suited up at some point during the 2014-15 season. That’s an average of 6.8 players per team, but considering you can’t split a player into fractions, we’ll call it an average of seven 1995-born players per squad.
With a total of 689 players listed on WHL rosters at some point, the 150 soon-to-be over-agers accounted for 21.8 per cent of all players in the league last season.
That’s a number far too big to simply redistribute across the league.
There will be a number of 1995-born players graduate from the WHL and on to the professional ranks, while some will fall back to Junior A clubs, but that won’t necessarily be enough to free up opportunities for 1995s before training camp.
With all 22 of the WHL’s member clubs congregating in Calgary for the 2015 WHL Awards Wednesday afternoon and 2015 WHL Bantam Draft Thursday morning, there’s no better time for trade talks and negotiations.
Whether that brings a flurry of movement remains to be seen.