Prospect Pulse: The Right Path

Posted by Kyle Kosior in Columns,Prospect Pulse,Prospect Pulse on August 11, 2011 — 3 Comments

Over the last month or so, I have been reviewing the Jets’ prospects and trying to get up to speed with each kid’s developmental path, issues that have come to light since they were drafted/signed and then trying to extrapolate where they are headed as a player.

Running parallel to this research is my interest in the ongoing battle between the NCAA and the CHL. The CHL has had a good summer on the battlefront, luring several big name draftees (Miller, Gibson et al.) away from their college commitments. The NCAA is obviously chagrined, and the usual war of words (better NHL-track, more games, money changing hands, etc.) has been keeping the dog days of summer interesting.

More on this ongoing battle in player development after the jump.

One of the oft-repeated charges (never actually leveled by the NCAA or its schools) is that the NHL clubs who draft the players will pressure them to sign entry-level deals and play in major junior or the American league (with college drafted players being exempt from some rules). To my knowledge, I have never seen this charge proven or even admitted to publically by an NHL executive. Nevertheless, I can certainly see it happening if the club does not want to wait long for said player to make his professional debut. And, I suppose the NHL team has every right to steer their draft pick towards what they feel is the best developmental path.

On the flip side, I also understand why colleges are upset at losing high end recruits. They have spent a lot of time and effort convincing these kids to play at their respective schools, and losing good players helps neither the level of play nor the prestige of college hockey. This is not to say college hockey always loses out, as they are able to recruit and retain some very high-level players who were actively pursued by CHL teams.

This brings me, finally, to my point. I personally subscribe to the notion that there is a “right” place for every player to play. If one kid is mature and ready to play major junior at 16, then that’s what he should do. If a player is a little behind developmentally or physically, perhaps college is better for him because it will feature fewer games and more practice/training time. In short, it’s a decision best left to the individual player.

Going forward, I am extremely curious to see how the Jets will handle these situations. It is my hope that they will not blindly subscribe to one developmental path or the other, but will rather assess the situation on a per-player basis. They have been proactive in looking at college free-agents and the Moose were formerly very good at finding undrafted gems in major junior. To cut off either of these pipelines would be detrimental to the team going forward.

Using my crystal ball, I would imagine that the Jets brain trust (based on their astute moves to date) would be prone to making the right decisions on each player. Using the example of a Daultan Leveille, the Thrashers drafted a tall and skinny kid with excellent offensive instincts and speed out of a Junior B league, and then let him continue on to Michigan State to grow physically and mentally. There was no pressure for him to join the OHL, and they have likely made the best decision for the player. I am confident that this decision will be the template going forward.

The purpose of today’s Pulse is to gauge the fan base and ask for feedback as to how you think these situations should be handled? I (and the IC Staff) would be very interested to have a good discussion on this situation in the comments.

As always, follow me on Twitter @ickylek for more discussion.
  • http://twitter.com/ICdave ICdave

    One of the guys from the Jets HF Boards made this point which I thought was worth sharing with our readers:

    From Hollywood3:

    One aspect often overlooked is that the CHL offers scholarships which in
    many respects are superior to those offered by the NCAA.

    I follow the Manitoba Bisons very closely (check my Bison Thread
    on these very forums) and in Canada West the vast majority of players
    on the leading teams are WHL grads playing on scholarships earned
    playing major junior hockey. Players get a year of scholarship for every
    year of major junior played. This can be better than an NCAA deal
    because:

    - NCAA scholarships are NEVER a multi-year commitment, i.e. if a
    player gets a 100% scholarship in year 1 there is no commitment that it
    will be 100% in year 2 and beyond. Since US tuition can be quite high, a
    player might not be able to afford the 25% or 50% which might not be
    covered. This happens because scholarships are like the salary cap in
    the NHL. Some conferences (or schools within a conference) have
    restrictions on their number. If a program changes coaches then to
    rebuild they might offer 100% to new recruits and might not care if a
    3rd or 4th year player has to leave as a result.

    - The CHL scholarship goes with the player. He can use it to get a
    degree at a school with a hockey team, and can keep playing hockey, or
    he can use it at a school which does not even have a team. Look at last
    year’s list at GoBisons.ca or CanadaWest.org for a full list of the 275 players and how they utilized their scholarships.

    - A CHL grad cannot lose the scholarship due to not getting along with a
    coach, being cut, or being injured. Once earned, he has it to use where
    he chooses. The school cannot take it from him.

    - A CHL grad can even give pro hockey a try. However, every year at
    Christmas time players have to make decisions as to whether to stay pro
    and let their scholarships lapse or dump pro (for now) and utilize their
    scholarship. Some guys figure they’ll see if they have a shot at the
    AHL and if it does not look good they turn to the CIS. The Bisons always
    have a player or two who has had a taste of pro hockey.

  • http://twitter.com/ICdave ICdave

    He also asked me to throw up a Bison Schedule so here it is;

    http://www.gobisons.ca/index.php?page=team_schedule&sport=hockey_m

  • http://twitter.com/IveGotYouPegged Kyle Spencer

    I think that is a great post.  People often make the argument that only a small % of players make NHL so the NCAA route gives them a back up plan. As this post identifies the CHL also provides scholarships to University.  
     
    I would also say that it likely quite difficult for NCAA players to give their classwork the focus it deserves while at the same time giving full commitment to the hockey side of things. I’m sure it can be done, but if your primary goal and passion is to make the NHL then your focus needs to be on hockey. In the same regard if your primary goal and passion is to get the most out of your degree your focus needs to be on your classes.  I’d bet that a very small % of NCAA players come out saying they feel they feel they they gave their all to both hockey & education.  I’m not sure what the downside is of taking your shot at the NHL and if you make it great, if not still in your early 20′s with a scholarship in your pocket & your whole life ahead of you & you can give full focus to what your passion will be now that your pro hockey days are behind you. Life goes on & a free University education is definitely not a bad consolation prize.
     
    As ICKyle says different leagues are better for different players depending on where they are at in their development as a player.  But if you are ready to play & you want to make the NHL it’s a pretty easy decision – the CHL is hands down the best route to the NHL.  If you choose the CHL route & don’t make the big show (which most don’t) you can still end up with an education, and at least you’re allowed to have a summer job and earn some beer…errr…pocket money for the year without breaking any NCAA scholarship rules.