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A Proposal for the CHL-NCAA Battle

Kyle makes a proposal on how the CHL-NCAA battle can be rectified.

Summer time invariably brings hot weather, vacations, sunburns and the annual battle between the CHL and the NCAA over hockey players choosing to forgo the college-route and sign with a team in the NCAA.

The same writers publish the same articles either denouncing or defending the CHL, and the same teeth are gnashed and the same hands are wrung over what to do with big-time colleges losing blue chip recruits to CHL powerhouses. Both sides trumpet their successes and adamantly declare themselves the best option for player development and the surest path to the NHL.  (Just ask Jets 1st round pick Jacob Trouba).
Jacob Trouba1

I personally take no side in the issues, as I am of the belief that there is a right path for everyone and circumstances will often help decide that path. Recent first-overall selection Nail Yakupov was likely better suited to the CHL as his development path was accelerated, while late bloomers will likely have a better chance to succeed using the collegiate route.

That said, I feel the hockey world has advanced to the point where the old barriers between the CHL and the NCAA should be broken down. Considering the CHL to be a “professional” league while the USHL plays a similar schedule and style without gaining the pro designation does not fit the reality of the situation. Keeping the barrier in place is somewhat damaging to hockey in that it forces very young players to make very large life-decisions at a time when they should be having fun playing the game. I can’t imagine sitting down at 15 to make a potentially life altering choice, with two separate factions each trying to convince of what was best…

In light of this situation, I am proposing (and I am sure I am not the first to do so) that the two sides work out a cooperative framework based on this idea. Allow players to skate in the CHL while they are still high-school eligible (or perhaps one year past high school eligibility) and provide a one-time transfer option for those wishing to move on to the college game. The proposal would cover players who are of an age where they are too young to enter into a contract and are being committed to a potentially irreversible course by their parents.

Using a local example, if Jets’ 2ndround selection Lukas Sutter decided that he had nothing left to learn in Saskatoon, he could go to play for a college team (say for a minimum two year commitment, though that would have to be flexible. This system would ease the transition for players who, under the current system, cannot go directly to the American Hockey League but rather have to return to junior hockey. Allowing these select players to gain a slight bump in competition (based on the older players in the college game) would provide a good intermediate step before they moved onto the professional game (at whatever level).

The system is not perfect, granted. The one-time rule imposes another big decision on a teenager and colleges would have to be willing to take on a player for a potential short period of time.  The benefit, at least in my mind, is that it would somewhat level the playing field in which the NCAA seems to be consistently on the losing end in terms of losing players. I can’t say that this idea would be an air-tight solution, but it would help to create a give-and-take scenario where college coaches could work to get players back from the CHL, instead of losing them outright.

I am extremely interested in hearing what Jets’ fans have to think about this issue. The two drafts under the new regime have seen a healthy number of collegians or future collegians chosen, and the Jacob Trouba story is not the last time we will hear about a Jets’ draft pick deciding between the CHL and the NCAA.

If you think it’s a good idea, a bad idea or have some constructive comments on how to better the idea, lets hear it in the comments or on Twitter, where I can be reached @ICKyleK.

For Illegal Curve, I’m Kyle Kosior.