Among the many new elements being introduced in the NHL season is the creation of taxi squad rosters. Understanding the rules surrounding such will be important as the year wears on. Who can be on a taxi squad? What needs to happen in order for them to be called up to the NHL? Will they travel with the NHL club or the AHL team? Those are just a few, as we’re just getting started.
Let’s tackle some of the most important points for reference:
– Opening Night rosters are due to the NHL office by 5pm on Tuesday, January 12. Along with a 23-man NHL roster, teams will need to submit their taxi rosters.
– Teams can make adjustments to both as the season progresses. However, on game days, the 23-man game roster and a corresponding taxi roster must be submitted to the league office by 5pm EST. Thus, if a coach wants to make a last minute lineup decision, the only skaters he could select from would be outlined on his 23-man roster (which is no different than any other year in the NHL). Goalies are excluded from this rule.
– An NHL taxi squad is a group of no less than four and no more than six players. Essentially, they are a small group of players who are assigned to the AHL, yet they’re allowed to travel and practice with the NHL club.
– One of the most important elements about the taxi squad to understand is who can (and cannot) be placed on it. Basically, all the normal rules that apply to removing a player from your 23-man NHL roster apply. For example, Adrian Kempe cannot simply be placed on the taxi squad. Why? Because, per the regular rules, in order to send Kempe to the AHL he would first need to be placed on waivers and clear. Typically, only younger players on Entry Level Contracts are exempt from waivers. Bottom line, if a player can’t be sent to the AHL without going through waivers first, then he can’t be placed on the taxi squad without going through waivers either.
– Between their 23-man NHL roster and 4-6 man taxi squad, all NHL teams must carry three goaltenders this season. Meaning, a team can have two goalies on their NHL roster and place a third netminder on their taxi squad… or they could simply carry three goalies on the NHL roster. In the case of the Kings, they will have Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen on their NHL roster and place a third goalie on the taxi squad. If you’re wondering why they’ve elected to go this way it’s because they don’t have an ‘extra’ spot on the NHL roster to carry a goalie. Their 23-man roster is full – 12 starting forwards, 6 starting defensemen, the two goaltenders, and then for their three ‘extra’ spots they want to carry one defenseman and a pair of players who can’t be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers. This is explained in greater detail here.
– With one of LA’s 4-6 taxi spots taken by a goaltender, they would only have 3-5 other spots to fill.
– From what we understand, goalie Troy Grosenick will start the season at the Kings taxi goalie. As we’ve previously reported, the rough plan is for LA to rotate players between the taxi squad and AHL in an attempt to keep everybody playing, while also maximizing their time with the Development Staff, as well as giving them an extended opportunity to practice with the big club.
– Determining who will go on the taxi squad for LA is sort of a two-step process from this point. First, you have to look at who is on the projected Opening Night roster. We did that, with detailed explanations and reasons offered, in an article here. For reference purposes, the 23-man roster is expected to look like this:
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe – Gabe Vilardi – Martin Frk
Andreas Athanasiou – Blake Lizotte – Jeff Carter
Trevor Moore – Mike Amadio – Austin Wagner
Carl Grundstrom – Matt Luff
Olli Maatta – Drew Doughty
Mikey Anderson – Matt Roy
Kurtis MacDermid – Sean Walker
Now back to the taxi squad discussion…
The second step here involves looking at the remaining players available to fill the aforementioned 3-5 taxi spots, alongside Grosenick.
And there are actually two subsets of players to consider.
First, are the players who have attended training camp, yet are expected to be assigned to AHL Ontario rather than make the Kings Opening Night roster:
Boko Imama *
Mark Alt *
Daniel Brickley *
* players will be on waivers in the next 48 hours, for the purpose of assigning them to the AHL and/or taxi squad
The second subset of players involves four prospects who recently returned from the World Juniors:
The original hope was that the four players would be allowed to join the team for camp about 48 hours after returning from Edmonton. However, that wasn’t the case after all, and they’re currently quarantining for about a week. With the exact timing of them being cleared still a little bit murky, they might not end up even being eligible for the taxi squad because they won’t have been cleared in time before the Tuesday afternoon deadline.
The latter comment ends up being a moot point, from what we’ve come to understand. Barring a last minute change in direction, the Kings plan to keep only four players on the taxi squad — and want all of their high-end prospects sent to the AHL for the purposes of participating in Reign training camp (currently scheduled to being around Jan. 18). We’ve also learned there is hope the Reign can play a few exhibition games, perhaps against the San Diego Gulls or Bakersfield Condors.
Kings GM Rob Blake confirms – the plan is to maybe get Byfield, Turcotte, Kaliyev, etc. a few NHL games. However, don't look for them to burn a year off of their ELCs by giving them 7+ games.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) December 30, 2020
Quick update – AHL Pacific Division teams are targeting a 38-game regular season, roughly 2/5 – 5/15. Details still being finalized.
Will be an 8 team division (now including VGK), so Ontario Reign would play unbalanced schedule.
Maybe, vs 5 teams x 6 GP and vs 2 teams x 4 GP? https://t.co/azATG3w9Z2
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) January 8, 2021
With an apparent 38-game AHL regular season scheduled to start Feb. 5, squeezing in some exhibition games before then could be critical for management to get a look at Byfield and Kaliyev. Both are eventually targeted to be returned to the OHL this season. However, the exact date they must be returned by hasn’t been established yet because the OHL hasn’t announced their official start-up date. And this is where there is a little bit of a loophole. As players drafted out of the CHL, Byfield and Kaliyev are too young for the AHL. They must be on the NHL roster or returned to the OHL. Until the OHL is playing, though, they can be assigned to the taxi squad or join the Ontario Reign.
Getting them onto the NHL roster will be tough enough considering they don’t have any open spots without putting a player on waivers (covered here). Thus, maximizing their time in the AHL will be be helpful to management, who are eager to see the duo in action before any decisions have to be made. The more exhibition games the better, if you will, because the clock is ticking on an OHL announcement.
Again, back to the taxi squad…
Over the past few days, MayorsManor has learned the Kings plan to open the season with a four-man taxi squad.
In light of all the information laid out above, we believe LA will be selecting from the following:
Boko Imama *
Mark Alt *
Daniel Brickley *
Assuming all players with a ‘*’ clear waivers on Tuesday morning, we see at least one of Alt/Brickley on the taxi squad. We think Imama is much more likely to join the Reign for camp, especially if exhibition games are going to happen.
One option would be to use Rymsha, Alt, and Brickley as the three (along with Grosenick), which would allow Andersson and Eyssimont to go to the AHL.
However, you have to look at what the purpose of the taxi squad is… it’s to have backup players with the Kings should there be a need to insert additional players into NHL games, beyond the normal 23 guys teams normally carry on their roster. For the Kings, they catch a bit of a break, as they open the season with four games at home. So, players can be shuffled between taxi and AHL, as needed. Once they leave for their first road trip (Friday, Jan. 25), though, now a bigger question comes into play. Which players would coach Todd McLellan feel most comfortable slipping into an NHL game, should he need them? We don’t see Rymsha currently fitting the bill there. At that point, he’s likely want Andersson or Eyssimont at forward, along with the two defensemen.
Andersson gives them more flexibility, as a center.
So… Kings taxi squad projection:
Finally, a quick fun note. If you’re unfamiliar with the origin on the taxi image used at the top of this article, it comes from an episode of the Dewy Show, a short-lived web series based upon the life of Drew Doughty. See below for more info.
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