Should There Be An “NHL Summer League”?

The NBA right now has its annual “Summer League” event going on in Las Vegas this week. It’s an event that features teams putting together rosters made up of rookie, sophomore players along with prospects that each team has in their “G-League” (the NBA’s AHL-like developmental league) Summer basketball leagues have existed for decades, but it’s only been in the last ten years or so that they have gained in popularity with the advent of internet coverage and streaming services that have helped capture the attention of even casual basketball fans. This is the first year all 30 NBA teams will be involved in the Vegas Summer League and the attention it has been getting has made hockey fans wonder… Would such an event work for the NHL as well?

The NHL has their summer events designed for prospects and rookies. Just this past week, pretty much every team had development camps right after the draft which not only involved the most recent picks teams had made, but also players who have been in their team’s system for the last few seasons. NHL teams will also be involved with different prospect mini-tournaments such as the one the Winnipeg Jets have been in the last few years in Penticton, BC in the “Young Stars Classic” along with the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

But said mini-tournaments are strictly team ran affairs and can change every year. This year for instance there won’t be the same tournament in Penticton as both the Oilers and Flames have pulled out and the week long event has now been reduced to a two game event between the Jets and Canucks along with two other games featuring a pair of U-Sports teams.

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Again this is similar to how the NBA used to do things as well. Back in the 80’s and 90’s teams would run un-official camps or tournaments in various locations around the US. It wasn’t really until the turn of the century that the NBA started to invest in its own development/feeder league and in 2004, attached it’s name to the annual summer league that was running in Vegas.

The NHL has differed in that there has always been a developmental league – two of them in fact until the IHL folded / merged with the AHL back in 2001. Technology has also improved in ways that allow for rinks to have sheets of ice even through the months of July and August and not have them be complete slush after just one game, so the idea of playing hockey year round isn’t quite as crazy a concept as it may have been 20 to 30 years ago.

All of which begs the question, should the NHL look into a Summer League of its own?

There are pros and cons to such a venture. A gathering of all the teams for one event to work out and in some cases showcase their prospects would perhaps help teams with their scouting and could fuel more trading and player movement. Such an event would be televised as well – or at the very least put on internet streaming services which would help generate interest with media and fans alike.

But the arguments against also have merit.

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So which side of the fence are you on? Would you like to see the NHL run a summer prospect league or would it be too much and are things fine the way they are now?

Let us know by continuing the debate on Twitter, or you can sound off in the comments below!

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  • KB

    It would be a great idea, especially if they modelled it like the NBA’s where you could get free agents to play for your team. This would essentially give a tryout for players that were overlooked at the draft. It would be a great opportunity for them as well as the rookies to make an impression during a real game instead of drills. Plus it’s only for two weeks, it doesn’t last all summer. Definitely a great idea if the NHL wants to utilize it.

    • I agree with KB comment about giving free agents, undrafted and on the bubble vets an opportunity to get their teams to see them in action before training camp. This would give them a couple of months to work on things they need to improve in order to be signed or be unfortunately released.