Near the end of each hockey season, there is an infusion of young talent at the American Hockey League level as players in junior leagues and the NCAA finish their seasons and have the opportunity to join AHL clubs for a brief look at life as a professional.
For the college guys, it means they signed a pro contract and are done with school. For the junior players, it is possible their brush with pro hockey is not permanent, as those who are eligible end up back with their junior teams the next season -- unless they make it in the NHL.
This specific collection of players often makes up a portion of the AHL's rookie class, and because of the NHL lockout, that group will be a little bigger this season when the league opens play Friday.
Those players have an advantage over other rookies because they've spent time with AHL teams in the past and know what to expect, and in a few cases they actually have NHL experience, as well.