Thursday, April 2, 2009

AHL may return to dressing 17 skaters a game

Prior to this season, the AHL had dressed 17 skaters a game, one fewer than the NHL. For this season, they increased the number to 18. But the economy may push it back down to 17, as everyone tightens their belts.

From the Patriot-News (Hershey):

Economics played the prime role in the AHL's traditional use of 17 skaters. Adding a player to the lineup adds to costs (contract, health care, equipment).

The economic downturn ultimately could mean a return to 17. It's a topic that likely will be addressed at upcoming AHL meetings.

"There could be contraction and reducing it to a less number for next year," [Hershey Bears president-GM Doug] Yingst said. "My sense right now is that the vote would be to reduce the number.

It sounds like Hershey rolls four lines regularly, which is good for the rookies, who do get the experience they need. But not all teams use all four lines regularly, which means that a lot of rookies don't get much playing time. Some would be better off in the ECHL where they would see more situations.

It's interesting that the ECHL just broke its own record for number of players graduating to the NHL in a season (49 players) during a year in which the number of prospects sent by NHL teams went down. Surely there's a delay effect -- the guys who played in the NHL this year largely played in the ECHL last year or the year before. If the 18-skater rule doesn't change in the AHL though, that record will probably stand because fewer prospects will have seen time in the ECHL,

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