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 player.
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:
- What to do with players between the 18th and 20th years of age if the draft year is moved to 20?
- Would these players stay in the Major Junior or NCAA ranks or would there be a migration to European pro leagues?
- 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.