Sat Jun 04 12:43pm EDT
The longer we went without hearing of Nathan MacKinnon committing to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the less likely it seemed he would report to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. MacKinnon has made good on his vow to at least explore his NCAA options.
The can't-miss Cole Harbour, N.S., native (pictured) was, as per TSN's Bob McKenzie, skating with the USHL's Omaha Lancers when the Drakkar called his name as the No. 1 pick in the QMJHL entry draft.
McKenzie, without saying it, pretty much confirmed that MacKinnon evidently never intended to report to the Drakkar — which is his right — tweeting, "Think we all know where this goes. If BC [Baie-Comeau] doesn't trade him when window opens Aug 1, he'll play in USHL next season, go NCAA unless traded."
In other words, you want to praise Baie-Comeau GM Steve Ahern's guts or wonder about his common sense. (That's head scout Pierre Desjardins holding the Drakkar jersey with a MacKinnon nameplate, a potential jersey foul.) Wait, can't it be both?
Ahern said he won’t take a day of vacation this summer unless it’s to Halifax, and will put everything he has into winning over the MacKinnon family.
"We'll continue to work until training camp and we’ll see,” Ahern said. “We have all summer."
... Baie-Comeau is coming off a second-to-last-place finish and has lost 149 of its last 204 games. Its .269 winning percentage is second worst in the Canadian Hockey League over the past three seasons, which is better than only the Halifax Mooseheads’ .254.
But Ahern believes his team is on the upswing after a rebuilding process, and he beefed up his roster this weekend with the acquisitions of 37-goal scorer Jonathan Lessard, 56-point man Tomas Filippi, defenceman Samuel Carrier (50 points, plus-40) and goaltender Antonio Mastopietro (3.07 goals-against average, .894 save percentage, 43 starts). (Metro Halifax)
There is some public loss of face for the QMJHL — which is already done in damage control, perhaps to its credit, with the Lewiston dissolution — if this is just a stall tactic by MacKinnon and adviser Pat Brisson to force a trade. Thing is it's probably not as bad for the QMJHL as not having him in the league entirely, just as it would have been egg on the league's collective face if Sidney Crosby had never reported eight years ago.
MacKinnon, as many have argued, is risking a backlash across the league if he forces a trade, but that's honestly not such a big deal. Players have to have more control of the process now, especially since it's such a big life move.
Meanwhile, some would wonder if the USHL is such an attractive option compared to a Junior A league in Canada. The USHL, on average, has had 15 players selected in the NHL draft since the first post-lockout selections in July 2005, so that seems fairly self-explanatory that the league is of good quality.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.