Development and the 200-game mark


There’s an artificial cut-off that serves as a pretty iron-clad rule as to whether a prospect is of any real value. Basically, once he’s played 200 professional games in North America he’s either in the NHL or he’s a long-shot ‘tweener of no real importance.

Waiver Rules

waiver eligibility

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With some exceptions (college and Europe; more on those guys in a moment) there’s a five-year window from the moment a player is drafted to the point where he needs to be in the NHL. Because of an agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League (i.e. the WHL, OHL and QMJHL) players drafted out of major junior and under the age of 20 can’t generally play in the AHL, meaning they’re either in the majors or their contract slides forward a year.

That makes 20 years of age the usual rookie year for a prospect who needs minor-league experience, which also means that he has three seasons to establish himself as an NHL player before he’s exposed to the waiver wire and any team in the league can grab him.

So for a really patient organization, that means that a player coming out of major junior needs to be NHL ready by age 23 and with no more than 200-odd games of pro experience under his belt. Most teams are loathe to give a prospect an NHL job out of camp unless he’s proven he can keep his head above water in the majors, which means the last half of that third season of waiver exemption is usually spent on an NHL cameo.

The 200-game window applies to college and European players too, but in those cases they can be a little older. For example, a player who starts playing college hockey at 18 and spends four years there can graduate to the professional ranks at age 22 and still have three years to prove himself in the minors before he needs to clear waivers. Ditto for a player coming over from Europe at that age.

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The Limits of Patience

Quincey 1.23.15

It’s awfully hard to put together a really strong evidenced-based study of the development path for young players, because better players are ready earlier than lesser players. All one can do is look at teams that have a strong record of drafting and development and see what they do because they’re probably doing something right.

The gold standard for this in the NHL is Detroit, and general manager Ken Holland has made no secret of his approach:

I spent nine years in the American Hockey League, and what impacted [me] there as I got into my third, fourth, fifth year of pro, was that I was a veteran American league player who was kept around to provide leadership and to be a good player to help the team win. Hartford would bring all these kids in – and the organizations that I was with in Detroit and Hartford, they were struggling organizations. The minute a young kid would play well for six weeks, he’d get [called] up and [provide] a little bit of spark [to the parent club,] and then six weeks later they would [be sent back] down and they were just beaten up. The league was too tough. They couldn’t make a difference. It took you another few weeks, few months to get those players back to where they [had been] confidence-wise and playing-wise. So from a player-development standpoint – a personal-development standpoint – [I learned that] people are ready when they’re ready and [I learned about] the importance of building a foundation.

In short: Players are ready when they’re ready. It’s hard to be absolutely sure whether a player’s ready except in hindsight, so a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution, which is what Detroit does. The Red Wings tend to keep players in the minors until either their play is such that a promotion is impossible to argue with or they simply can’t because of waiver considerations (and sometimes even then, as in the case of Kyle Quincey).

But that patience has a limit. Quincey’s a good example; he’s nothing really special as a defenceman but he’s 400-odd games into his NHL career and Detroit ended up surrendering a first round draft pick (used to select Andrei Vasilevskiy) to get him back. They could have easily kept him rather than losing him on waivers if they’d been ready to give him an NHL roster spot and willing to move out a guy like Brett Lebda.

So even for a patient organization, three years in the AHL is pushing it. That’s why it’s silly to worry about further developing guys like Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson in the minors – they’re coming up to the point where they’ll either make the NHL or be exposed to waivers, free for the taking.

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There’s no contradiction between saying a team should be patient with its prospects and also saying that guys near the end of their third professional season need to make the jump.


  • Tikkanese

    Marincin and Davidson aren’t exactly lighting up the AHL. Nothing wrong with giving them a chance to gain some confidence instead of exposing them to the losing culture in Edmonton. Let them EARN a spot instead of giving it to them just because they will soon have to clear waivers.

      • Tikkanese

        That’s not high praise either for Marincin. 6A in 24GP in OKC doesn’t exactly scream he’s earned a call up either.

        Let him have at least half a chance at getting some offensive confidence at the pro level before going to the NHL full time. He won’t get it at the NHL level.

        I like the kid and expect him to be in Edmonton next season full time barring a trade. There’s no risk in losing him this season by leaving him in the AHL. Why risk his development?

        • It’s a fool’s errand evaluating an AHL defenceman based on his scoring totals. Here’s OKC’s head coach on him:

          Marty’s done a great job of defending his gaps, he’s been sensational through the neutral zone both offensively and defensively. He’s a rangy guy, he’s got a good stick, he deflects a lot of players off the outside, and his compete level has risen this year.

      • Exactly. So why not leave him down there?

        What is he going to learn here that he can’t learn in OKC? I’m not talking about tanking for a high pick. The team needs to win some games, which they are doing right now. What is the benifit of calling him up now? To put pressure on who?

  • Zarny

    I heard that Ken Holland interview a few weeks ago. He’s bang on and summarizes why all those who preached it was a waste to send Nurse and Draisaitl down to Jr or other prospects to the AHL were dead wrong.

    Holland also added that you can’t really over-ripen a prospect in the AHL.

  • Sassy:

    13-14: Eakins abandon the Pinch when Marincin Arived. He had a 2.08 EVGA/60 Top 20 for D in league. Facing top 10 toughest comp in league. He was third best in league keeping shots to the Perimeter behind Chara; Lovejoy.

    14-15: Eakins used a modified Pinch in the 12 games Marincin Played. Marincin faced the toughest Comp in League in his 12 games. Had a 48% Zone start.

  • bradleypi

    It all starts with a teams “draft” strength , which in the case with the Oilers [ out side the lotto picks] has been the schiltz.

    Fans make claim, “Oilers” are not very good at developing players.

    Guess what, you have to have decent players coming into the system to be able to have success with your prospects.

    There isn’t a single FORWARD. om OKC, that should be sent up to the Oilers. Why do you think MACT has to go out and get the likes of
    Roy, Col Klink, and Fraser for the NHL club.

    Lander, maybe, but I doubt it.

    OKC’s success comes from AHL lifers.

  • bradleypi

    With the exception of Nurse and Leon, I don’t think the oilers really have anything too special baking in the oven.

    I guess Yakimov is intriguing, but who knows how that’s going to turn out.

    Look at Calgary when they needed to call up a couple centers to fill injury time. Besides Nuge, their “call ups” would be our second and third best centers.

    We get players like Hunt.

    • toprightcorner

      Not sure which centres you think the Flames would call up So you know, The Flames top scoring C on the farm is a 22 year old AHL rookie with 21 pts in 39 games, their next highest is 12 points in 39 games and he has played 8 years in the AHL. Right now, Bennett is the only one in their system with solid NHL potential.

      Oilers have 6 players in the NHL that they drafted in the last 5 years (not including Schultz who was an NHL rookie in Edmonton), Calgary has 3. Edmonton also has 3 players that could potentially play in the NHL next year (Drai, Marincin and Nurse), Calgary has Bennett.

      When you always draft early in the 1st round and 2nd round picks only 30% chance of an NHL Career, its no wonder the Oilers don’t have a lot of quality depth on the farm pushing for NHL jobs.

      Edmonton still has to draft much better in the 2nd and 3rd rounds

      • Chainsawz

        I am no flames expert, but it was the stretch when Backlund (center) was out, Colborne (center), Raymond (wing) where all out for a long time together. All I know is they kicked some ass with their farm help that came up.

        I will leave it to you to figure out who is who on the flames. I don’t know.

  • toprightcorner

    Marincin value is not in points but in competency. Marincin was given a defensive shutdown role and succeeded last year and was succeeding prior to his demotion. He struggled to start the year from outset when he was asked to come in bigger and asked to play the wrong side. He was getting bad zone starts and playing fairly well. Schultz even was better when Marincin was his partner kinda like Klefbom is doing now.

    Someone has to get tough minutes. I imagine in OKC his role is the same. Offensive roles are going to Hunt, and Osterle.

    I think plus minus is a misleading stat. How can you decipher anything. 6 points and minus 3 to me screams defensive shutdown defenseman. Maybe I’m wrong. To some it means he is struggling. Plus Minus stats paints only half a picture and tells you nothing about a players role, who he plays with, who he plays against, etc.

  • billythebullet

    Oh yeah. And Matt Stagun (another center) was out too for the majority of the time. They Had 3 centers out of the line up, and still won games left and right.

  • billythebullet

    Please bring MM back to the show. He’s better then jultz. More predictable then niki and at the very least deserves another cameo. Like really what do we have to lose?

    Petry – MM
    Fayne – Klefbom
    Jultz – Ferance

  • billythebullet

    If Marincin was a better option Nelson would have gotten MacT to bring him up but there is something wrong going on there. As bad as Nikitin can be Nelson has him playing a little better just like everyone else. We will know for sure once Petry is moved and we see who is promoted from OKC.

  • billythebullet

    Marincin is developing in a development league.

    Translating stats is useless, he is playing a shut down role in that league, and will play easier minutes in the next league up.

    Once Petry is traded or NN is bought out let Marincin compete for a job at that time.

    Today he is in the right spot.

  • wiseguy

    We’ll see Marincin soon enough when petry is sent away for magic beans. We will all then lament that he isn’t ready to be in the nhl thus it being a sign of an intentional tanking.