The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe spoke with ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin regarding the number of AHL call-ups from the ECHL due to both COVID issues and the NHL’s reestablishment of Taxi Squads:
Currently, the Walleye are playing without six of their top 11 scorers, including three of their top five point producers as well as one of their top goaltenders.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Crelin said. “We’ve been hit with a lot of call-ups, and we’re certainly dealing with COVID issues as well. You can’t plan for a lot of this stuff and, when it happens, you have to deal with it. It certainly makes for some difficult situations. But our teams have responded well.”
The most recent hurdle came in the form of the NHL’s decision to reintroduce taxi squads to prevent more virus postponements. More than 200 roster spots opened because of the move with NHL teams drawing players from their AHL affiliates and then those teams dipping down into the rosters of their ECHL affiliates.
Walleye coach Dan Watson is well-prepared to deal with promotions to the organization’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids — a common practice in minor league hockey. However, Watson said the unprecedented number of transactions has led to more opportunities.
“We just roll with it,” Watson said. “Guys are getting opportunities that they typically don’t have, and we want to see guys step up. We love to see guys who are in and out of the lineup or who don’t get a ton of ice time — to see what they are all about.”