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Report: Jonathan Huberdeau, other first round picks from 2011, could be AHL-eligible

Florida Panthers first-round pick Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea DogsSo this is certainly making the rounds today. Via a report from Patrick Caisse TVA Sports, in the event of an NHL lockout, certain exceptions could be made in the traditional CHL-NHL agreement. The agreement normally stipulates junior-eligible players must return to their CHL teams for their 19-year old season unless they make their NHL club.

Translation mine:

If National Hockey League players are locked out on September 16, a few 19-year old players could make the jump to the American League.

The rule normally states that a CHL player cannot play in the AHL until he is 20 years old.

TVA Sports has learned that certain influential members of the hockey world are working right now for an exemption for first round selections from the 2011 NHL Draft, players who would be prepared to spend their 19-year old season in the NHL.

Among the players affected by the possible exemption are notably forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome and Mark Scheifele, among defenders Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Murphy.

"I still don't know what's going to happen with all that," said Huberdeau, when questioned on the subject. "I know there's a possibility I could play with the Panthers' farm team, but there's nothing on that right now."

In the eventuality where players could quit junior hockey for the AHL, affected clubs will be compensated. [TVA Sports]

This is certainly a fun, and plausible, development, although it touches more than Huberdeau, Strome and the above mentioned players. Nicklas Jensen notably left Oshawa because he didn't feel like the competition in the CHL was close to his standards. There are all kinds of debates about keeping kids in junior for an extra year while they could progress with their development a league above.

And there are several players whose fates have yet to be determined. Sven Bärtschi wasn't at Portland Winterhawks camp, and he's among the age and calibre of player who ought to be expected to move up ahead in their career, but the lockout has affected a lot of plans for players going forward.

Consider even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog. No way would they return to the CHL despite being 19-year olds. They both had successful campaigns at the NHL-level, and if the AHL wasn't an option, there's the chance they'd go to Europe. Reasonable North American options don't exist.

The hope for fans of junior hockey, especially around Canada, is that these professional teams will allow Hockey Canada to use them for the 2012 World Juniors upcoming in December in Ufa. Team Canada's 2005 squad, that featured players like Patrice Bergeron and Jeff Carter who had already played pro-hockey, was bolstered by capable NHLers from the 2003 draft that had nowhere else to play but junior.

If there were an exemption this time around for a few exceptional players, it helps their overall development. Jonathan Huberdeau scored just under two points per game last season with Saint John. Why hold him back?

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