Now that Montreal Canadiens prospect Owen Beck has been eliminated from the Memorial Cup, the team has a decision to make.
However, the playing options for Beck are limited given the current NHL-CHL transfer agreement.
The agreement stipulates that NHL teams must return CHL players drafted and signed to an Entry-Level Contract to their CHL club if the NHL club does not retain that player on its active roster. The Agreement applies solely to CHL players ages 18 and 19.
In other words, any player drafted from the Canadian Hockey League (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, Westen Hockey League) that is 18 or 19 years old cannot be sent to the AHL.
Beck, 19, only has two options if he’s to play in North America next season: the NHL or the CHL.
And while there’s an argument to be made that Beck still needs to improve his offensive output, it must be noted that prior to the trade to the Peterborough Petes, Beck had scored 17 goals and 24 assists in 30 games for the Mississauga Steelheads, where he was used in a primarily offensive role.
Owen Beck completes the hat trick in overtime to give Mississauga the 4-3 win pic.twitter.com/zMhyWJU0Hk
— Costa Rontzocos (@Rontzeeez) November 13, 2022
Following the trade Beck’s production suffered a downtick, with seven goals and 18 assists in 30 games, however, his responsibilities centered on playing a defensive role rather than racking up points.
His goal, Rob Wilson, used Beck during every important faceoff, not to mention, against the opposing team’s most potent goal-scorers.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why some expect Beck to make the jump to professional hockey next season, perhaps even with the Montreal Canadiens.
He’s a great skater that uses his cerebral approach to quickly absorb information and put it into practice. He’s excellent in the defensive zone, has an underrated shot, and has shown flashes of brilliance as a playmaker.
#GoHabsGo prospect Owen Beck wins the faceoff and eventually sends a perfect pass to Brendan Othmann, who makes no mistake.
2-1 Thunderbirds. pic.twitter.com/lrq1AdRReW
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) June 3, 2023
Much like Victor Mete before him, Beck is stuck in a situation where he was very little to learn in the CHL. But you’d also be hard-pressed to argue he’s ready to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
He isn’t. At least not yet. Thrusting him into the spotlight could end up hurting his career, much like it did to Mete.
Wetting his toes in the icy waters of professional hockey at the AHL level would be the perfect way to ease Beck into the next step of his career.
The Laval Rocket are the ideal landing spot.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option.
The NHL-CHL agreement makes sense for the vast majority of the players drafted from the league. But every once in a while there’s the need for an exception.
A one-player per NHL team exception would easily solve the issue.
Not only would it be used sparingly, which would mitigate the chance the league would lose significant talent, but it would also allow a handful of players in the league an opportunity to take a route to professional hockey that would serve them better in the long run.
If the NHL and CHL are truly concerned about the development of these young men, the exception clause presents very little downside. We’re talking about players that have little to nothing left to learn in the CHL. It would also open up opportunities for players who would have otherwise not earned a roster spot due.
Without delving into whether the agreement is legal or not, we also have to consider that forcing these players to remain in the CHL prevents them from earning gainful employment in their career of choice.
For the most part, the NHL-CHL agreement ensures that some prospects will not be rushed to the big show.
But every once in a while, it holds talented prospects back, which is far removed from setting them up with an ideal development path.