The Philadelphia Flyers’ 2020 draft class is showing plenty of early promise.
On Sunday, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League named Flyers’ fifth-round draft pick Elliot Desnoyers to its Second All-Star Team.
Breakout Season For Desnoyers
Before he was drafted, Desnoyers put up 35 points in 61 games with the Moncton Wildcats in 2019-20. An offseason trade saw him move from a deep Wildcats team over to the less-experienced Halifax Mooseheads.
Desnoyers immediately slotted into the role of top-line center and started putting the puck in the net. He finished the 2020-21 season as the Mooseheads’ leading scorer, with 21 goals and 49 points in just 37 games. That ranked him sixth in goals and seventh in points in the entire QMJHL.
Lauded for his ferocious tenacity, there’s more to Desnoyers than just his on-ice commitment to the game.
He earned the Mooseheads’ 2020-21 award for outstanding academic and athletic performance.
Extremely dedicated and responsible in both his approach to hockey and academics, Elliot Desnoyers is the winner of the 2020-21 @ScotiabankCtr trophy for Outstanding Academic & Athletic Performance 🏆⁰
Congrats @ElliotDesnoyers! #GoMooseGo pic.twitter.com/RlATvnmQfx
— Halifax Mooseheads (@HFXMooseheads) June 10, 2021
He also spoke out in support of Pride Month earlier this week.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) June 22, 2021
Signed To Entry-Level Contract
Liking what they saw from Desnoyers this season, the Flyers signed the 5-11, 172 pound native of St-Hyacinthe, Quebec to his entry-level contract on May 5.
“Elliot Desnoyers had a productive year in Halifax and played a strong, two-way game with lots of passion,” Flyers’ assistant general manager Brent Flahr said at the time. “As he matures physically and gets stronger, his game should continue to grow.”
In December, Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that Desnoyers first came onto the Flyers’ radar thanks to John Torchetti, the then-Wildcats coach who had worked with Flahr and general manager Chuck Fletcher when the three were all with the Minnesota Wild organization.
The tip led the Flyers’ scouting staff to keep a close eye on the high-energy pivot. At the draft in October, Fletcher sent two seventh-round picks to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the fifth-rounder that he used to select Desnoyers, who quickly made him look smart. Desnoyers tallied two four-goal games in his first 11 outings with the Mooseheads. He was named the QMJHL’s player of the week twice in a three-week span — for the week ending October 25 and the week ending November 8.
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A Return To Junior Hockey Is Likely
Desnoyers turned 19 in January. He’ll probably return to Halifax for a fourth QMJHL season next year. Normally, players drafted out of Canada’s Major Junior circuit can’t play in the American League until they turn 20. Last season, an exception was made for players from the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, who were permitted to join AHL teams while their leagues were shut down due to Covid-19.
That worked out well for two other 2020 Flyers’ draft picks — first-rounder Tyson Foerster and fourth-rounder Zayde Wisdom. Forwards drafted out of the Ontario Hockey League, they were both quickly signed to their entry-level contracts. And since the OHL was not able to mount a season, both players spent the entire year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Foerster dealt with some injury issues, finishing with 10 goals and 17 points in 24 AHL games. Wisdom had seven goals and 18 points in 28 games.
NHL/CHL Transfer Agreement Up For Negotiation
The NHL/CHL Transfer Agreement, which dictates the age restrictions on Major Junior players at the pro level, was originally up for renegotiation at the end of the 2019-20 season. Because of the pandemic, it was extended for one more year, which means it’s now up for negotiation again.
After so many junior-age players had success in the AHL last season, there has been speculation that the rules should be amended. At the very least, the U20 players who have already been in the AHL could be allowed to return.
It’s something to watch, but it seems unlikely that there will be significant changes.
Firstly, CHL teams want to hang onto their top stars as long as possible — they help sell tickets in leagues where gate revenue is important, and they help deliver organizational success, including playoff runs and championships.
Also, last season’s AHL was not normal at all. There were shortened schedules, playoffs in just one division, limited travel and each team seeing only limited opponents. Also, most of the league’s top players spent their seasons tucked away on NHL taxi squads.
The youngsters from Major Junior helped fill those open roster spots. This fall, players will want their jobs back.
So don’t hold your breath as you hope for big changes in the NHL/CHL transfer agreement this summer. Stakeholders have good reasons to keep things as they are.
Players like Foerster and Wisdom rightfully relished the opportunity to play and learn at the AHL level last season. But it won’t be the worst thing in the world if they end up going back to junior. There, they’ll get a full, normal 2021-22 campaign and will have the opportunity to play big minutes and serve as team leaders.