It’s time to raise the age of draft eligible players

With the draft rapidly approaching, managers league wide are huddling with their scouts trying to put together a draft list that will fill their teams up with talent for years to come. They look at each player and try to project what he will become in two, five or ten years’ time.

The league is so young now that it is very important that teams draft well and develop their own players. Did the average fan know the names of their favorite team’s head scout or development coach ten years ago? Hell no! There was a better chance they would know the organ players name.

These drafts are big decisions, especially if you have one of the top five picks. A manager will be crucified if he makes a mistake with a very high pick. But is it really that easy a choice to make? Think of yourself at the age these kids get drafted? How much did we all change in the next five or ten years. Big time!

I think it is time to raise the draft age by a year. This will allow young players to develop longer before a team has to make a big decision on drafting them. The number of bad draft picks would go down (but not be totally eliminated!). Take a look back at any draft. Many teams would like a do-over and the extra year of seasoning for potential draft picks would make the drafting process clearer and hopefully result in a higher number of solid picks.

I have no doubt the NHL would go for this. Each team would become more confident in their choices. The NHLPA would be the bigger issue. They would argue players could miss out on an earning year. But when you consider only a handful of fresh draftees play a full year in the NHL, it isn’t a huge issue.

With the CBA expiring, a work stoppage is possible. If the NHL misses twenty games or a whole season it would be the perfect year to skip the draft. The following year the draft lottery resumes but now all draft eligible players are a year older.

It is also time to look at allowing younger players to play full seasons in the AHL. Players that are nineteen would be eligible to play there under my new plan. This would guarantee major junior leagues that they would keep their stars in the leagues for three full seasons. Then players who aren’t ready to play in the NHL but are too good for junior would continue their development at the AHL level.

This plan is a winner for everyone in my eyes. NHL teams get a more mature group of youngsters to draft from, major junior leagues keep their big stars for an extra year and the players themselves can move on to the AHL younger which will help with their development.

If anyone has Mr. Gary Bettman’s email please forward him this article!

Loving this guy!

Tim Thomas, gotta love this guy! First he snubs the White House and now he is taking a year off! Kudos. He is a good goalie but unpredictable as hell off the ice. He has really put the Bruins in a bad place with the cap space he will take by not playing.

I can’t see how he thinks after a year off to work on his Facebook page that he can come back and play but I will be watching to find out! Can’t wait T-bone!

Previously by Jason Strudwick

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    P.S. Jason, you were made to be on radio. Keep the stories coming – they’re funny as hell! Your work on here is top-notch as well, and I enjoy reading your stuff. I guess I meant you are made for the media world, in general – but when I heard you talking about fighting Steve MacIntyre and the other toughies in New York the other day…well it was super-interesting – and I nearly busted my gut laughing during that whole segment!!

    Great work, Jason!! Thanks for bringing us in on what it’s really like to be a pro – and what’s going through the mind of a player when those situations arise.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    that is funny, misfit…but I do agree with you Jason. The year to do it would be a strike-shortened or God forbid, a non-existent year.

    I remember the last stoppage I was thinking that this was the perfect time to do it, too. Instead doing it strictly on a lottery basis…and having the Pens get Sid with no record at all to base it on was weird.

    I would love to see the players get picked at 19 instead…it wouldn’t eliminate all the mistakes but it would help clear things up by picking a year closer to when they would actually play. Besides, who says you would have to keep the same month of eligibility if you’re going to do that. You could add on an extra month or two if that is what you’d want. (It wouldn’t be based on a player having to be available to play precisely at 18 years old, anymore) So you could make it a little earlier, and drop the age by 10 months instead of a full year.

    Sorry Archeology, there are too few guys who play immediately in their draft year to say that you are writing off a year of ‘their’ careers. 98% of them or so would never have had that year.

    And I love the idea of letting players play in the AHL at 19 or so, too!!!

  • misfit

    I gotta say, I really like the idea.

    I could see the CHL being ok with letting players go to the AHL a year earlier if it means they get to keep their stars who would be in the NHL right after the draft for another year.

    I really don’t see any way the NHLPA would get on board with it though.

    Also, the year the transition is made from 18 year olds to 19 year olds would be the worst draft year in history. The only draft eligibles would be players who were passed over the year before. Could you imagine Tanner Pearson being the #1 overall pick?

    • Jason Strudwick

      From all reports there hasn’t been a lot of dialogue between the two sides. If it doesn’t start soon I can’t see the season starting on time. The owners would like to drop the percentage of revenue the players get and I think they would also like to eliminate guarrenteed contracts. I can’t see the players taking this laying down. Looks like a fight to me. Again.

  • dawgbone98

    Reg Dunlop, I agree with you. I think it would be awesome to do 1 round of 17 yr olds. If we already know who are going to be the top prospects for next year why not allow the opportunity to draft them this year?

    I think our current system is stunting players development. I don’t believe an NHL team should have to decide between sending their 18 yr old players back to junior or keeping them in the NHL. Nuge would not have benefited at all from another year of junior, but may very well have benefited from a year in the AHL. Obviously he did well anyway, but if they had that option it may very well change the decision.

  • dawgbone98

    They are considered adult at 18 in most provinces and should be treated as such . The opportunity to persue their craft and be paid should remain their right . Leave it as it now is .

  • dawgbone98

    Do you really think adding a 19 year old season will clear things up?

    I mean would Alexandre Daigle’s 19 year old season in the QMJHL have somehow made him look worse and drop him down from #1 overall?

    Rob Schremp at 19 finished tied for 4th in OHL scoring. Would that have dropped him down the list of some scouts?

    The problem isn’t just the draft age, it’s where these kids are drafted out of.

    When you draft a kid out of junior hockey, it’s often picking a man playing against boys. You start at 15 or 16 and get picked at 18. Adding an extra year is just another year where you are able to get bigger and stronger vs your competition.

    This is not like the NBA draft or NFL draft where these guys are matching up against other men. There’s a significantly smaller difference between physical maturity in a 22 vs 20 year old than there is in an 18 vs 16 year old. That’s why the NFL can pick guys in the 7th round that see playing time the same season they are drafted.

    So in terms of weeding out the bad picks, I don’t think this will have any effect. In fact, I think it will actually hurt it. What it will do is reduce the number of 18 year olds in the NHL, but increase the number of 19 year olds, especially ones that maybe shouldn’t even be in the NHL.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I’m going to go the other way on this. Although it negatively impacts the CHL, I think an underage draft should exist, maybe 1 round of just 17 year olds. An elite player at 17 is just as likely to succeed in his pro career as an 18 year old that has elite talent. Look at the underage players in the WHA. Ramage, Linseman, Gingras, Vaive, Goulet and a guy named Gretzky. They were identified as elite, turned pro and it didn’t damage their future.

    • Reg Dunlop

      You mention players that all had successful careers. The historic average of players who play more then 400 games is roughly 33% through the first three rounds of the draft.

      Those aren’t great odds. I think another year of seasoning for players would raise those odds.

  • If they roll back the draft age my concern would be for European players being grabbed by the KHL.

    A possible solution to this might be to allow only the first round to include 18 year olds (or only one round that is only 18 year olds). If their talent is good enough at 18 then each team has a chance to grab one (unless they trade it away…yikes!)

  • Would it mean then, that the draft age from midget to major junior is changed as well?

    I like to see something where players could spend a year with the AHL,instead of being sent back to Jr. Better development in most cases at the AHL for some players.

  • This article, detailing the plan Hockey Canada submitted a year ago to raise the draft age is likely of interest. It also answers the question I had about this proposal:

    The draft allowed 18 year olds in the 1970s following several legal challenges, but [NHL VP Bill] Daly says legal precedent has since been set to ensure a 19-year-old draft would be acceptable legally as long as the union and league agreed to it in their CBA.

  • vetinari

    You can easily skip a year but when you resume, to make up for the extra year, run a 14 round draft (only for the first year)– rounds 1 to 7 are based on the fist year’s standings and rounds 8 to 14 are based on year two’s standings.

  • Craig1981

    Is part of the fun watching playiers develope. Watching Eberle surpass many choosen before him has been a blast. Plus for people complain about tanking, this only encourages this more so. The same playiers will play in the NHL so let good managed teams get rewarded for it

  • 24% body fat

    problem is the team that gets shafted by winning the lottery and no good picks left. The age needs to be raised a year over the course of 4 years. 3 month increments at a time.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Could be good timing on this if they could phase this in during the next work stoppage. It would also differ the path to free agency as well.

    Another issue with these 1st yr 19 yr olds would be to have 1 or perhaps even 2 players per team eligible to spend part of their first yr as a pro in the AHL, rather than be forced back to their jr. club.

  • The last 2 CBA’s have seen changes to the ELC system, it will be interesting to see what happens this time.

    Like most I’m in favor of raising the draft age, in some way or another (and I’ll be posting something on that fairly shortly, Jason beat me to the punch!)

    They could probably do it over the course of two seasons without completely killing the draft pool – I think I’ve read that more than half of the drafted players in any given year are born from Sept 16-Mar 15 anyways.

  • 50 in 39

    I think raising the age is a good idea but let’s look for another year to try and implement it. Even though a lost season to a work stoppage would be a perfect time for the change, the Oiler’s would likely be inline for another top draft pick.

  • Dipstick

    Really good read, Jason. What do you think about allowing a select few 18 year olds to be picked? Maybe only in the first 5 picks? Like him or hate him, Tim Thomas makes the league interesting.

    • vetinari

      Exactly what I was thinking. This allows for the very top players who can step right in. No use keeping Syd or Gretz in junior another year, or Hall and Nuge for that matter. Otherwise I like Jason’s idea.

  • RexLibris

    Interesting idea, and I agree that trying to chart the course of an 18 year old is near impossible.

    That being said, does the league do this by gradually knocking back the month of eligibility every year? It would take six years if they did it by two months at a time.

    Of course, if the NHL did it in one fell swoop, where they just cancelled a year of the draft, is there any chance that could be the year that either Toronto or Calgary get their franchise-first 1st overall pick?

    Oiler fans might laugh themselves sick if that were to happen.

    I’m not entirely sure whether the PA would go for this or not. I have to think that they like 18 year olds getting a paycheque in the NHL, but at the same time they haven’t hesitated to negotiate away the rights of this unrepresented workforce in previous negotiations.