Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

There's a sense that the solution might be worse than the problem with draft manipulation in the Ontario Hockey League. Begrudge it, hate it, or wish there was a system where a 16-year-old didn't have to fib and obfuscate, it is the fourth wall in the OHL. There's a couple good columns on it that bear being pointed to; first, Patrick King spoke with OHL commissioner and Canadian Hockey League president David Branch about the idea of having the college-bound declare themselves out of the draft.

One source contacted by sportsnet.ca suggested the league issue a waiver these players can sign which, by signing it, would leave them ineligible to play major junior. By doing so, teams would find out quickly which prospects may be bluffing.

When asked whether this could be an option for the league, Branch said it only opens a whole new can of worms.

"I think that type of approach is fraught with a lot of other challenges and issues that are far greater than what you're maybe trying to address," [OHL commissioner and CHL president David Branch] said. "That's not something that our league feels is appropriate and players are entitled to have options. Players are equally entitled to change their minds."

And of course, it's that explanation which fuels conspiracy theorists when a player does end up playing major junior, since all will claim to change their minds. (sportsnet.ca)

There are always going to be conspiracy theories; the world seems to run on those. That suggested would have the desired effect of eliminating some of the facts-plus-fiction that percolates ahead of the OHL priority selection, which takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday (you can follow it at ontariohockeyleague.com). Would any player's adviser let him sign such a document and limit his options? Perhaps if they wanted to advertise themselves to a NCAA Division I school, but playing the game well would seem to do that just as well.

What it might boil down to is accepting players need options. One of the better takes in Patrick King's piece comes from Belleville Bulls coach-GM George Burnett, who noted that with the increased pace of communication, it's easier to get a read on a player's prioirities.

"I don't know that there is a foolproof system ... It's a system that continues to improve as we get more and more information. I'm sure it will continue to improve."

The second part to this is wondering whether it is that advantageous to try and land with one of the OHL's Big Three, the Kitchener Rangers, London Knights and Windsor Spitfires. Each has a sterling reputation for having players drafted high by the NHL (which sets up a whole nature-nurture debate), but it's not as if there are so many OHL teams which are absolute development hell.

That seemed to be the point of a superb column by Gene Pereira on Thursday.

Enough with the "if you did a better job running your organization players would want to play there" baloney.

Playing in small-market Owen Sound hasn't hurt Garrett Wilson or Joey Hishon this season, nor did it hurt Bobby Ryan a few years back. Ryan was selected second overall by Anaheim in the NHL draft, behind only Sidney Crosby.

Erik Gudbranson [the first defenceman chosen in the 2010 NHL draft — Ed.] was a fourth-overall pick in Kingston. Sarnia's import standout Nail Yakupov could be the NHL's first-overall pick next season. (Barrie Examiner)

That is a valid point, provided it takes it both the rare can't-miss talents and the might-be cases. It's also backed up by the fact the OHL has, in spite of everything that goes on before the priority selection, managed to have some parity come playoff time. Eleven teams, more than half of the league, have made at least one appearance in the final since 2005-06, with Windsor as the only two-timer. Perhaps it can work out; it's worth noting the presumptive No. 1 selection Aaron Ekblad didn't want to call the tune. This might be too optimistic by a factor of a dozenfold, but perhaps some will question whether it is even worth it to try to land with a select few teams.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).

Related Articles

Buzzing The Net

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Blog Roll

Featured Sports Video