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Blackhawks’ NCAA prospects could play 2020-21 season in junior hockey

If their schools do not play hockey during the fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic they can play in juniors.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 03 Beanpot Tournament - Boston College v Boston University Photo by Mark Box/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Blackhawks could have more of their prospects playing in junior hockey this coming season.

Jake Wise (Boston University/Hockey East) and Slava Demin (University of Denver/NCHC) are set to start their junior seasons, while Alex Vlasic (BU) is preparing to enter his sophomore campaign and Dominic Basse (Colorado College/NCHC) plans to start his collegiate career. If those conferences or schools decide not to play this coming season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the trio will be allowed to play in junior hockey during the fall 2020 term, according to the latest NCAA rule changes.

“These student-athletes may compete on an outside team while remaining enrolled in their NCAA institution, which typically would not be allowed,” according to the NCAA. “An institution or conference may not provide expenses for such competition and the student-athlete must be in good academic standing. A student-athlete who remains enrolled at the institution may not miss class to participate in outside competition. All competition should adhere to federal, state, local and other applicable guidelines related to COVID-19.”

You only listed four players in the NCAA. What about Josh Ess (Wisconsin), Josiah Slavin (Colorado College) and Parker Foo (Union College)?

All three players are 21 years old and are ineligible for junior hockey, which caps eligibility to start the season at 20 years old.

Can they play in the Canadian Hockey League?

The short answer is no.

According to the NCAA Division 1 manual about major junior ice hockey, “ice hockey teams in the United States and Canada, classified by the Canadian Hockey Association as major junior teams, are considered professional teams under NCAA legislation.”

CHL teams fall under this ruling as “professional teams,” so while CHL teams do own the rights to Demin (WHL Portland), Vlasic (OHL London) and Wise (QMJHL Halifax) they will not be able to play for them.

Where could they play?

The Canadian Junior Hockey League and United States Hockey League will be the top two options. Players will have to do online courses to stay enrolled and not miss classes, or find a team close to their university if they wish to do on-campus learning.

The CJHL has 10 leagues with 132 teams across Canada: British Columbia (17), Alberta (16), Saskatchewan (12), Manitoba (11), Superior International in Northwestern Ontario (six), Northern Ontario (12), Ontario in Southern Ontario (22), Central Canada in Eastern Ontario (12), Quebec (12) and Maritime (12). The USHL has 16 teams throughout the Midwest, including the Chicago Steel in the western suburb of Geneva.

The Steel work with skills coach Darryl Belfry and Adam Nicholas of Stride Envy Hockey to help develop players, which helped them win the regular season championship, the Anderson Cup, this past season. The Blackhawks would love for their prospects to play close to them so they could monitor their progress closely and with elite development coaching.

Another USHL tie to the Blackhawks is general manager Stan Bowman, who is part of the five-person ownership group for the Tri-City Storm in Kearney, Nebraska.

Basse (2019 sixth): The goaltender had a 3.48 goals-against average and .887 save percentage in 37 games for the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL this past season. He had the majority of the starts with 2020 draft prospect and UMass commit Colin Purcell as the No. 2. Basse, a Maryland native, could return to Youngstown.

Demin (2018 fourth via trade with Vegas): The defenseman played two seasons for the Wenatchee Wild in the British Columbia Hockey League (which is part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League). The Des Moines Buccaneers own his USHL draft rights.

Vlasic (2019 second): The defenseman played for the United States National Development Program and likely won’t go back there. The Wilmette native could opt to play close to home with the Steel.

Wise (2018 third): The closest USHL team for the Massachusetts native is Youngstown. The center, who played for the USNDP before BU, could also pick one of the four Ontario leagues or the Quebec or Maritime leagues to stay close to Boston.