It can be confusing amid the COVID-19 pandemic to track which hockey leagues are playing and which are not; it is not just not the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the ECHL that are works in progress in terms of trying to get their 2020-21 seasons underway or keep them ongoing once they've eagstarted. The following is a status update on the Canadian junior, U.S. collegiate, and European (including contracted Flyers/Phantoms players on loan) leagues in which Flyers prospects currently play.
Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, WHL, OHL)
Among the three leagues affiliated with the CHL, only the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's 2020-21 season is officially underway. Currently, the Maritimes-Division teams are the only competing clubs in the QMJHL. The Quebec-based teams have been on "pause" from regular-season play since Oct. 14 because of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the province. The suspension of all games for the East Division and West Division teams will remain in effect until at least Oct. 28.
The QMJHL regular season started on Oct. 2. Subsequently, there were two widespread coronavirus outbreaks on West Divisionteams. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada soon learned of 18 positive tests on the team. Shortly after the Sherbrooke Phoenix played the Armada in back-to-back games on the first weekend of the season, the Phoenix had eight positive COVID-19 tests. Both teams had to suspend all activities with all players, coaches and club personnel with potential exposures going into quarantine. More recently, the Drummondville Voltigeurs had a single positive test. That team also had to suspend practices and team activities, with players, coaches and staff being tested for coronavirus and quarantining.
Affected Flyers QMJHL Prospects: Flyers 2020 fifth-round Draft choice Elliot Denoyers, who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Maritimes Division is the only Flyers CHL-affiliated player whose team is currently active. Coming off a four-goal game, Desnoyers has 12 points (6g, 6a) through his first eight games. There is one other Flyers prospect in the QMJHL; right winger Egor Serdyuk (2019 sixth round pick) of the Victoriaville Tigres. His team is currently in temporary"pause mode" with the rest of the Quebec-based QMJHL teams. Serdyuk posted one goal and one assist through the team's first four games.
The Western Hockey League is not slated to start the 2020-21 season until January 8. The WHL figured out a workaround to the border-crossing issue of having teams both in Canada and the United States. Since there is one entirely U.S.-based division in the Pacific Northwest, all four WHL divisions will play an entirely in-conference schedule during the regular season.
Affected Flyers WHL prospects: The Flyers have two prospects in the WHL this season; 2019 sixth-round goaltending prospect Roddy Ross of the Regina Pats (formerly with the Seattle Thunderbirds) and 2020 sixth-round right wing prospect Connor McClennon of the Winnipeg Ice.
Prior to that league's targeted start date announcement, as well as shortly prior to the NHL Draft, McClennon and close friend Mark Greig (Ottawa Senators 2020 first-round pick) reportedly planned to sign together to play for Karlskrona HK; a club in Sweden's third-tier pro league. The hope was to at least have the chance to play hockey while awaiting a Western Hockey League season.
According to Elite Prospects, McClennon and Greig signed contracts with Karlskrona. However, the two players' respective Western Hockey League teams, the Winnipeg Ice (McClennon) and Brandon Wheat Kings (Greig), denied the players' requests to temporarily play overseas. Thus, both players are in the same boat as every other WHL player; hoping the subsequently announced Jan. 8 start date comes to timely fruition.
The WHL figured out a workaround to the border-crossing issue of having teams both in Canada and the United States. Since there is one entirely U.S.-based division in the Pacific Northwest, all four WHL divisions will play an entirely in-conference schedule during the regular season.
The Ontario Hockey League does not officially have a targeted start date but has reportedly been aiming for an early December start. The have a border-crossing issue among other things to sort out. The OHL's border issue cannot be resolved identically to the WHL's. There are only three U.S.-based organizations leaguewide (Erie Otters, Saginaw Spirit and Flint Firebirds) and they are spread across two divisions. Erie plays in the Midwest Division while Saginaw and Flint are in the West Division.
Affected Flyers OHL prospects: There are three Flyers-affiliated prospects slated to play in the OHL in 2020-21. These include 2020 first-round right winger Tyson Foerster (Barrie Colts), 2020 fourth-round pick Zayde Wisdom (Kingston Frontenacs) and 2019 fourth-round defenseman Mason Millman (Saginaw Spirit).
Different NCAA conferences are on different timetables to begin their 2020-21 seasons, and all are in fluid situations that could change depending on the COVID-19 situations specific to their regions. Here is the most recently available information that affects Flyers-drafted prospects.
Hockey East does not yet have a formal scheduling announcement, nor does the ECAC. The Boston Unversity men's hockey program, featuring Flyers 2018 first-round pick Jay O'Brien is currently on a voluntary one-week pause of all team activities. There have not been any reported positive tests on the team itself, but there has been a spike in on-campus cases. Meanwhile, two weeks ago, Yale University, featuring Flyers draftee Jack St. Ivany, had 18 positive cases on its men's hockey team.
Across the NCAA, the outlook for beginning the 2020-21 season is uncertain. Some conferences have targeted "circa" dates to get going, while others are still in wait-and-see mode.
The ECAC (Yale's conference) and Hockey East (which includes Boston University) have yet to make any formal scheduling announcements. The Big 10, featuring Cam York's University of Michigan team, has a circa date of Nov. 13 but no actual schedule has been set yet. Flyers 2019 seventh-round pick Bryce Brodzinski's University of Minnesota team is also a Big 10 club.
The NCHC, which is the conference in which Bobby Brink's University of Denver team, Noah Cates' University in Minnesota Duluth, Ronnie Attard's Western Michigan team and Gavin Hain's University of North Dakota team all play, announced a 26-game schedule with a "mini-bubble" setup in Omaha with all games to be played between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately, that announcement was made prior to the revelation of a sharp recent increase of coronavirus cases in Nebraska. This rise in cases has cast some doubt on the viability of the conference's plan.
Sweden (SHL, Allsvenskan)
Thus far, the top pro league in Sweden (the SHL) and the top minor league (Allsvenskan) have been able conduct their 2020-21 seasons on schedule. Below are the Flyers unsigned prospects and contracted players on loan to Swedish clubs until the NHL conducts training camps; at which time the players will be recalled to North America to join the Flyers' camp.
SHL: Flyers-contracted winger Linus Sandin is playing for HV71 during the NHL offseason. Also in SHL are various unsigned draftees including 2020 second-round defenseman Emil Andrae (HV71), 2018 fifth-round goaltender Samuel Ersson (Brynäs), 2018 second-round defenseman Adam Ginning (Färjestad) and 2017 sixth-round winger Olle Lycksell (Färjestad).
Allsvenskan: The Flyers currently have two contracted players on loan to clubs in the minor-league circuit. Phantoms/Royals goaltender Felix Sandström is playing for Västervik, while incoming Phantoms rookie defenseman Linus Högberg plays for HC Vita Hästen. Additionally unsigned 2018 seventh round center/left wing Marcus Westfält is Sandström's teammate with Västervik.
For the most part, the KHL has been able to go about its 2020-21 season, with a couple of exceptions. Excluding Flyers/Phantoms restricted free agent center Mikhail Vorobyev, who signed a three-year contract this offseason with Salavat Yulauev Ufa, the Flyers have two affiliated played on loan to KHL teams: German Rubtsov with HK Sochi and Maksim Sushko with Dinamo Minsk.
There was a rampant Covid-19 outbreak on Sushko's Belarus-based team that saw 18 players test positive. It is unknown if Sushko was one of the affected players but he finally returned to the lineup on Oct. 25 (after a 24-day absence), skating 17:29 and being credited with three hits and one shot on goal. The team had been filling out its roster with junior team call-up players. Sushko has scored one goal in his first 10 games this season.
Rubtsov missed time due to a facial injury after being struck by a puck but has worked his way back to his regular ice time over a couple games since his return. Statistically, he has two points (1G, 1A) in his first 13 games played. Sochi returned to action on Wednesday of this week, hosting Kazakhstan-based team Barys Astana.
Flyers unsigned goaltending prospect Ivan Fedotov (2015 seventh-round) has made six starts for KHL team Traktor Chelyabinsk this season, plus one on loan to their VHL (minor league) feeder team Chelmet Chelyabinsk. Roman Will is the primary goaltender for Traktor, while Fedotov (3-2-1, 1.83 GAA, .938 SV%) is the backup.
The Flyers recently loaned Phantoms/Royals second-year goaltender Kirill Ustimenko to HK Gomel of the Belarus Extraliga (also sometimes called the BHL). He has made two starts to date.
Phantoms/Flyers winger David Kase is on loan to HC Karlovy Vary during the offseason. His team is currently in a Covid-19 related pause to the young season. Kase had three assists and a traditional minus-two rating (+2, -4) over his first four games this season before a coronavirus outbreak forced the suspension of team activities. Leaguewide, teams have played from between two to seven games.