If replacement players are allowed to play for the NHL...which Ranger prospects would be allowed to play? All of them that do not have NHL contracts, right?
As mentioned in the post above mine, "anybody" would be eligible to play if the envisioned "union-busting" scenario goes down. There are some limitations due to exisitng agreements with IIHF, AHL, Juniors, etc.
For that to occur, there must be a strike by the NHLPA, which is not what is happening currently. There is a labor lockout, which means that until a state of "impasse" is accepted by the NLRB, no players may work for the NHL, regardless of where they're from or whether they belong to IIHF, let alone NHLPA.
Should the NLRB determine that the owners are entitled to declare an "impasse", only then are owners free to unilaterally draft a new CBA and ram it down the NHLPA's collective throat. Then ownership implements a schedule and sets about hiring replacement players.
At that point the NHLPA has a choice to make:
1) Accept the CBA and go back to work
2) Go on strike.
If the NHLPA goes on strike, ownership is then legally entitled to hire any players it wishes consistent with existing agreements it has with IIHF, AHL, Juniors, etc. Non-union players who sign contracts are called "scabs". Union players who cross the picket line are called "dead meat".
Rick Reed was a scab and look at the abuse he's faced, even years later. And that's in baseball where it's harder to directly inflict physical harm (you can always get beamed, but then you get a base and the pitcher might get tossed, it's easy enough to rough a player up in the corner relativly discreatly.) Not only is a scab gonna get roughed up, but no one will be detered from doing it becouse it's doubtful that any of his team mates are going to stick up for him.
No player who thinks they have a legit shot at making the NHL will play. If they do, like Rick Reed, they will never belong to the players association. Which will mean, no pension (for many players this is huge), no protection in terms of waivers, plus the non-business issues such as facing your teammates, your coaches (ex-players who would not want a scab playing for him), and your opponents. It will be like the baseball players. Players who are very good when compared to the everyday person, but far below the quality we are used to seeing.