Western Canada’s ‘Junior A’ hockey scene may hit an all-time level of competition for the 2020-21 season, something never before seen in the country’s widespread Canadian Junior Hockey League. Teams within the Manitoba (proposed start date of September 25), Saskatchewan (proposed start date of October 9) and Alberta Junior Hockey Leagues (proposed mid-October start date) are expected to see serious help by way of major-junior personnel.
With the Western Hockey League publicly announcing its proposed later start date of December 4, 2020 last week, WHL players, coaches, trainers, agents and families alike have begun dissecting the possibilities of finding new homes for the late-summer to early-winter months of the 2020 calendar.
It’s no surprise that hockey players want to play hockey, especially those in the junior ranks – no matter the level. However, with leagues such as the MJHL being keen on maintaining an early-October 2020 start date, the possibility of piggybacking off of neighbouring seasons has become a reality for many star players within the major-junior circles.
With nearly each and every one of western Canada’s WHL players officially belonging to a ‘Junior A’ hockey team (by way of protected lists, past drafts or the owning of player rights), the COVID-19 pandemic very well may have some serious implications on the upcoming MJHL, SJHL and AJHL seasons – positive implications at that (the BCHL earlier announced a tentative December 1 starting date).
Take the WHL’s second-highest leading scorer from the 2019-20 campaign, Seth Jarvis, for instance. Jarvis, whose rights are owned by the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons could very easily suit up for Paul Dyck in Automobile City and absolutely terrorize MJHL players across Manitoba for two months, before rejoining his Winterhawks teammates in Portland in December.
“That was definitely something that I had been considering,” the 18-year-old told Game On. “Obviously, everyone wants to get back to game shape and playing hockey. So anywhere you can kind of get your feet wet and get back into the swing of things is something that has been pretty interesting to me. It was pretty enticing, especially with a top-notch organization like the Steinbach Pistons.”
After thoughtful consideration over a number of days, Jarvis – with the help of many others – has come to a conclusion on where he will play out the 2020-21 season.
“My family and I – with the help and assistance of my agent – decided that it is probably best for me just stick with Portland and the delayed WHL start, and not try to play too many games this year,” Jarvis said. “Just in talking with my coaching staff with the Winterhawks, we will still be playing a 68-game season already. With the chance of also playing in the World Juniors and other kinds of development camps, there is a possibility that I could be playing over 100 games this year. So in all fairness, there is really no need to be pushing my limits, especially when I don’t need to. I’ve been making big strides in the gym the past few months and hope to continue doing so the next while here, which has been my No. 1 focus.”
But Jarvis isn’t the only Manitoban WHLer to be toying with the possibility of suiting up in the MJHL this September… he’s just the best of the pack.
“I’ve been talking with a bunch of different guys that I’ve been working out with and training with here this summer,” he said. “They have all been looking into what junior teams hold their rights and whether or not they would consider playing there. It seems like for the most part, a lot of the guys are just planning on staying the course. They will probably just stay with the summer training regimen and skating with our summer groups and hopefully just plan to wrap it up that way. But the talk has definitely been there. It would be a way to get in quite a few more high-level hockey games before our season starts, that’s for sure.”
In hoping to be an early first round selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Jarvis may not even get to have a say in where he plays his hockey this year, as his future big-league club would have control over the situation. Although a new possibility for many, the chance of numerous high-end WHL stars taking over the MJHL is rather slim. But only time will tell.