Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Tough Job: Evaluation and drafting of big time Assets

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At the professional level, a critical question in player development is: Who to draft and when?

If this question were asked currently with respect to this year’s draft for any given major North American sport could you answer and give a reasonable argument for who you picked and why?  Many can identify a World Junior Hockey tournament star or the Heisman trophy quarterback as projected draft picks for the NHL and NFL respectively, but what about when the draft progresses beyond 10 or 15 big name “blue-chip” prospects?

The NHL draft year is young compared to both the NBA and NFL. It follows that more NHL draft picks  are either “busts” or “late-round gold”, both for the same reason: there is insufficient, or a lack sufficient predictive data to accurately project which player will be impactful at the highest level.  When drafting an 18-year old, there are too many factors in play that can, and will, influence that player’s development into an NHL

Is it impossible to argue that the NHL may at some future date take after the NFL and NBA model and draft players at an older age?  I am hoping to make a career out of scouting and player personnel and I can see that if the NHL finds itself consistently missing on draft picks, (and therefore wasting money on players that do not develop), there may be a movement towards an older draft year.  Professional sports teams are big money businesses and securing a more mature and productive asset to employ could make good business sense.

This hypothesis brings up a number of further topics that would need to be discussed and examined in depth such as:

  1. What to do with players between the 18th and 20th years of age if the draft year is moved to 20?
  2. Would these players stay in the Major Junior or NCAA ranks or would there be a migration to European pro leagues?
  3. How would the new age of entry to the NHL affect entry-level and ‘bridge’ contracts?

I am not arguing for or against moving the age of the NHL draft; rather I am merely highlighting that there may be some positives in the identification and drafting of an older player. The NFL and NBA seems to have found success in implementing rules regarding player age. I think has produced better, more predictive draft picks and a more stable system. There are numerous factors and conditions to be taken into account, but I think it is worthy of greater discussion.

One thought on “Tough Job: Evaluation and drafting of big time Assets

  1. Although I agree that hockey, similar to the MLB draft has found less success in hitting on draft picks that end up becoming NHL regulars I cannot see the NHL moving back the draft year to 20. In today’s NHL, teams are more so than ever relying on young talent to play a role on the NHL team due to their cheap salary and greater emphasis on speed. Perennial Stanley Cup contenders such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington, etc., stay competitive year after year by relying on young players with cheap salaries to offset the high costs of their superstar players.

    Also, pushing the draft year to 20 would really hurt the development of players entering the CHL Being unable to make the jump to the NHL would result in the CHL being full of 19-20 year olds that would dominate the ice time over the majority of less mature 16-17 year olds.

    The main reason why the NFL has their age limit pushed back so far has more to do with the physical nature of the sport. Until you are almost fully developed physically it is unsafe to play in the NFL. With the style of play in today’s NHL you don’t need to be a physical phenomenon to play the game as long as you have the speed, skill and smarts to protect yourself.

    If the NHL really wanted to push back the draft age I would recommend that they first try 19 years of age instead of 20. I also think that they would have to alter the rules of North American born players not being allowed to play in the AHL until they are 20. Moving back the draft year but allowing them to start off in the AHL may help give scouts an extra year to see how the prospects have developed without negatively affecting the younger prospects playing in the CHL.


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