The Contrarian – Rookie Orientation Program

by Demetri Fragopoulos on September 13, 2015
Jack Eichel - USA Today Sports Images

There are some obvious benefits to the NHL/NHLPA's Rookie Orientation Program that was recently held with little fanfare.

There is no catchy phrase or play on words in the title this week. Rookie camps and tournaments have started everywhere. While the focus is on where players line up, who scores their first goal and who receives their first pro bodycheck, a little event occurred and barely a word was mentioned.

The NHL/NHLPA’s Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) was held in Washington D.C.

No, this is not to be confused with the NHLPA Rookie Showcase that began on August 31 and ended on September 1. That event was held in Toronto and was mostly for Upper Deck to take some pictures for future trading cards.

The Rookie Orientation Program was to be held just after that event, and as mentioned in the NHLPA feature, “About half of the group will depart for the Rookie Orientation Program, while others will return home, and some will get settled in their NHL cities.”

Half of that group would be approximately 20 players, but each team is allowed to send three players on entry-level contracts. There could have been as many as 90 players in attendance.

Despite my best searches for more information, I could not come up with much, but I will share with you what I did find. These players attended:

Mitch Marner as per LFP.com, Jack Eichel as per The Buffalo News, Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen as per Galiev’s Instagram photo and Twitter post; and Curtis Lazar, Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau as per the Ottawa Citizen.

So what is the ROP?

It was bargained for during the last set of labor talks. As Liz Mullen on sportsbusinessdaily.com explains about the very first one, “Players were to partake in three days of training, including media training, and hear presentations on health and safety issues, as well as information on how to manage personal finances and general life skills guidance.”

Seeing what has happened over that last season, this is a good program to have for both the players and the league. Here is a promotional video that the NHL created of that event in August of 2013. Spot any particular players in that video?

A post (look at #3) on hockeysfuture.com attempted to list the players that were in attendance for that event. They got up to 25 names.

Well why is this important to me or you?

From Mullen’s article: “The program is not only for those players drafted in the 2013 NHL draft, but also for players drafted in 2012 and before who are likely to see their first significant NHL action this coming season”.

If you are getting all caught up in the years that were mentioned, then Wayne Scanlon of the Ottawa Citizen sums it up as being for players “who are expected to be playing in the NHL for a significant period of time in the upcoming season.”

Isn’t that nice to know?

The rookies Eichel and Marner obviously have not played in the NHL yet. While expectations are that Eichel will play, we were not so certain about Marner’s chances. They have bumped up a notch now but still too early to give the green light on him yet.

Each of the three Senators played over 50 games in the NHL last year. Jurco participated in 63 but Pulkkinen only 31.

The last player, Galiev only played two regular season games last year.

Galiev was mentioned as being a dark horse to make the Capitals way back in 2012 as the Washington Times suggested. Three years later it seems like he has a real chance to do so now.

If I were in need of selecting players that were deemed prospects, but the league or my team is geared to win for this season I would have loved to know who else attended the ROP last week.

I am perplexed as to why this was not made more of by the NHL and the NHLPA. A simple little communication with a list of attendees would have been sufficient but in light of the recent events I would think a bigger announcement would have put a good spin on things. Hey everyone… we are trying to mentor our players to ensure they make good decisions off the ice and we have been doing this since 2013.

The one thing that I would like to know is if a player can attend more than once? It would help me ascertain how seriously a team was when they select which players are to go or if it is a numbers game and everyone ends up going eventually.

In any case, if you have knowledge about other players that attended this year’s NHL/NHLPA Rookie Orientation Program, please feel free to share your info with the rest of us.

Meanwhile, let us hope that all the players who do go through this program learn from it.