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The AHL is not punishment

The Winnipeg Jets are no longer simply penciling players in before training camp.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets are at the point where young players are being sent to the AHL until they are ready and until that time they might get the odd call up. This is a change from previous years when young players made the team before they were ready thanks to the Jets lack of depth. This is most notable with Kyle Connor during his first year of professional hockey.

This is what the AHL is for. The league is there for young players to move to a level that is harder than junior or the NCAA, but easier than the NHL. The AHL allows for that. It is not a place to punish players, but a place to allow them to grow as players until they are ready for the NHL.

If the AHL is viewed as a place where a player is sent to develop, it changes the perception of what going to the AHL means. It means that a young player can have the ice time that is not available to them in the NHL. They can make mistakes and learn what it takes for them to play at an elite level.

One example of a player who benefited from the AHL is Kyle Connor. Connor made the Jets out of camp two years ago based on his early pre-season performance and he was not ready. After the Jets finally sent him down in December, he thrived in the AHL and should have made the team directly out of camp the next season. While he did not, an early call up allowed him to spend most of the season with the team and he showed that he is a very good player.

The AHL is a place where a young player can play on the first line instead of the fourth line. It allows for a young player to play more and make mistakes. While all teams should want to win, not winning in the AHL is less important than the same outcome in the NHL. It is about development down there and winning comes secondary.

The Winnipeg Jets have moved on to using the NHL as a development league and not having players in the NHL before they are ready. While Kristian Vesalainen started the year in the NHL, as soon as he showed he was not ready he was sent to the AHL. Yes, he eventually left for the KHL, but the Jets did the right thing by not having him in the NHL just to keep him in North America.

The AHL has long been the best place to develop players in North America and the Winnipeg Jets have used it that way for years. The difference is, they are no longer granting players NHL spots before they are fully ready. The next piece is for players to stop seeing the AHL as a bad place to play, but instead a place to learn and grow as a player.