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The Curious Case of Tomas Jurco

Coming to an NHL rink near you. Sooner rather than later, apparently.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Lindenau and The Left Wing Lock. Thanks, Sarah!

On Monday, the Detroit Red Wings sent a few kids home from camp.

Among the first cuts were goaltender Petr Mrazek, forward Brooks Macek, and 2011 Draft Picks Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, and Alan Quine — to name a few. All of the players were Juniors-bound, and typically these are the first ones cut. They get to return to their teams in the CHL, train a bit, and start the season. The rule states that any player that was drafted from a Canadian Junior League (the OHL, the WHL, or the QMJHL), and is under twenty years old, must be returned to their Junior team if they don’t make the NHL team. In other words, you can’t be assigned to your team’s AHL squad until you’re twenty.

But there’s one name left on the Red Wings roster that — in theory — belonged in that group: the Wings’ top pick in June, Tomas Jurco, 18.

The Junior team that holds Jurco’s rights, the Saint John Sea Dogs, have begun their season without him. As of this writing, they’re 1-3, good enough for last in the league but it’s early. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock hasn’t been shy in heaping praise onto the youngster, and it’s evidenced by Jurco’s continued inclusion on the roster.

It gets a little weirder.

Tonight, when the Red Wings take the ice in their second exhibition game, Tomas Jurco will be in the lineup. That, in itself, isn’t all that odd. A lot of 2011 Draft Picks are getting their first taste of NHL action during the pre-season. What’s odd is that there are several players bound for the Grand Rapids Griffins that will be sitting out. And didn’t play last night. Players that, you’d think, are higher up the depth chart at this very moment.

Players like Andrej Nestrasil, Mitchell Callahan, Trevor “Coffbanger” Parkes, Jamie Johnson, former Penguin and Oiler Chris Minard, and the Wings’ top pick two years ago, Landon Ferraro.

All are signed to pro contracts. Tomas Jurco is not.

All are slated to play in Grand Rapids this season. Tomas Jurco cannot.

All hope that they get a call-up to sniff the NHL soon. Tomas Jurco won’t.

Not to make a bigger deal out of something than it is, but Tomas Jurco may be closer to making the Detroit Red Wings than anyone thought he would be three short months after being drafted. It’s still incredibly unlikely, considering that the Wings have 14 forwards on one-way contracts, and a couple of guys that are battling to make those decisions difficult for the braintrust — namely Chris Conner and free agent tryouts Fabian Brunnstrom and Ryan Johnson.

No one thought that Tomas Jurco would be making things difficult as a teenager. The situation is different than Tomas Tatar two seasons ago, who joined the Griffins at 18. Tatar wasn’t drafted from a CHL team (even though his rights were held by Kitchener, and traded to Plymouth), so he didn’t have to make the Red Wings to stay within the organization’s reach.

The fact is that Jurco can still be returned to Saint John, and in all likelihood he will be… as soon as this evening. But to be the last Junior-aged player left at Red Wings camp is nothing to sneeze at… and being a Junior-aged player playing above a half-dozen Griffins is even better. And maybe he’s only playing because he missed a few opportunities to show off during Prospect Camp with a hip flexor injury.

But wouldn’t it be something if our newbie bucked the trend?

Give Jurco a follow, @Jurky13.

14 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Tomas Jurco”

  1. Hard to question the kids hands, and his dedication to the game to this point. I still think he’s got at least 2 years of growing to do before he really gets a look to make the team, but everything I’ve seen about the kid puts him farther along than anyone expected.

    I love watching the Wings trade down, increase their number of picks, and then draft guys like Jurco, Tatar, and Ferraro. It’s really a credit to our scouts that the wings have been able to pick up a bunch of top tier prospects primarily in the second round of the draft.

  2. So what’s with that rule? Why is it acceptable for a European to join the AHL at 18 but a North American can’t? Is it just something to protect the junior leagues of having all their talent poached too quickly?

    That kind of sucks. If he isn’t quite good enough to make the Wings or they just don’t have room for him, I would love to see him with with the Griffins this year. But he has two years now before he can play in the AHL?

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s about. To allow the Canadian junior kids to mature in THEIR league, as opposed to YOURS. 

      You nailed it. Even if the Wings wanted him in the AHL — he can’t until 2013. The only way he WON’T be playing in the Q is if he’s playing with Detroit. 

      1. From my vast knowledge and experience playing the NHL video game series, can’t a junior-eligible player hold a spot on the NHL roster and be sent back to junior as long as he hasn’t played more than 5(?) games?  Also, what if he made the Wings roster out of camp, and then halfway through the year we decided to send him to GR?  Piggybacking on that rule I touched on in the first sentence, if he makes the NHL squad, his junior eligibility should be voided.  So what’s to stop them from sending him to GR after ~30 games?  If I’m completely wrong on this, please correct me.

        1. To the best of my knowledge following Los Angeles’ Brayden Schenn mini-saga at the start of last season, technically, the team can send down a junior player anytime they want. The self-imposed deadline would be before said player plays in his tenth game if teams want to avoid eating out the first year of his entry-level contract, but if, for whatever reason, the team decides to send a junior-eligible player back to juniors after 10 games, that’s all within the rules. IIRC, a few seasons ago, the Ducks sent down Luca Sbisa mid-season, and he was in junior for the rest of the season. Junior players can’t be called back up once sent down unless it’s an “emergency” situation. There are a few technicalities the Kings pulled in getting Brayden Schenn in one midseason NHL game before last season and in sending Schenn to the AHL instead of junior (“conditioning assignment”), but those were also all within the rules.

          Of course, take all this information with a grain of salt because I’m going from memory, not by hard facts or the CBA’s language.

        2. Yes and no… and uvgt2bkdnme summed it up pretty well.

          In order for Jurco to play for the Red Wings AT ALL, he’ll first need to be signed to a contract, which he is not. The signing deadline for him is June 2013, but the Wings are welcome to sign him whenever they like.

          If he plays half of the season with the Red Wings and they decide that he’s not quite ready yet, they CANNOT send him down to the AHL — he would have to be returned to Juniors. The problem, as uvgt says, is that once an entry-level player has played ten games, the first year is burned off of their contract. If they play nine or fewer, the first year of their deal slides to the next season (or, depending on their age, the season after that).

          It happened with Marc-Andre Fleury a few years back. He was CLEARLY the best goaltender the then-lowly Penguins had, but they didn’t want to burn a year of his contract on what was sure to be a sub-par season as a team, and sent him back to the Q after nine games. The following season, it was as if he had just been signed.

          Conditioning stints are almost always exempt from the wacky rules, but you really can’t send Jurco or anyone else down for a conditioning stint unless there’s a good reason why (meaning injury or prolonged scratching). In the case of the latter, Jurco would have been sent back to his Junior team instead of toiling in the press box for Detroit, anyway. 

  3. I bet this is Babcockian science in that he wants jurco to undersetand the game and feel like he was closer than he really was, to motivate him.

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