Question of the Week: The NHL Entry Draft and College players

Tonight marks another NHL Entry Draft, where teens from North America and Europe will be selected and tied to NHL franchises for the foreseeable future. Some of the players selected will never ink a deal with their NHL teams either by the club's decision or their own. Others will opt to remain in foreign countries - Sweden, Russia, Finland, etc - and remain property of the NHL club that drafted them for the duration.

And then there are the High School and Junior players who opt to play collegiate hockey in the United States or Canada. Some of these guys have been drafted by NHL teams (and those teams retain their rights). But the undrafted ones? The guys passed over and who develop into players that catch the attention of the NHL? They can opt to end their collegiate careers at any time and enter unrestricted free agency in the NHL... Or, they may opt to finish their college careers and (again) become unrestricted free agents when their playing time for their university is over.

Is that really the fairest of ways to disperse the talents of the college set, to let them go to the highest bidder?

The Raw Charge question of the week: Should previously undrafted college players, regardless of when they end their playing career at their school, be exposed to the NHL Draft like other amateurs-going-pro?

We'd love to hear your thought sin the comments too... But read on to see what members of the Boltosphere have to say about that idea:

Justin Godfrey - The Hockey Writers

My short answer is no. At this point I think the process works rather well, or at least better than some aspects of player movement in the NHL (cough, banishing big contracts to the minors, cough). Allowing non-draft eligible college players to sign with teams early not only gets them playing in the professional level sooner, it also allows some of the teams that consistently win, and therefore always have a mid-to-late first round draft pick, a shot at signing top-tier, young talent to reasonable contracts. So it's a win/win for both sides.

Besides, the vast majority of these players signed don't provide a significant impact to the teams that sign them with two or three weeks left in the season. For every Chris Kreider, the Ranger signing who provided a boost in the playoffs, there are a dozen players like Brady Lamb or Scott Arnold who sign and don't have any impact at all.

The biggest complication would be teams engaging in bidding wars over these players that lead to escalating salaries. However, the hard salary cap in the league helps to avert that issue since it would be awfully risky for a GM to justify tying up a lot of cap space for an unproven college player.

Adding these players to the NHL draft or conducting a second, supplemental draft would complicate what is now a rather benign process.

Michael Gallimore - Electric Blue Hockey Test

I like the status quo. I think all players (including collegiate players) at least 18 by September 14th and no older than 20 by December 31st should continue to be draft-eligible, regardless if they were not selected if previously eligible for a past draft.

Cassie McClellan - Raw Charge

In theory, I like this idea. But in practice, it has some holes in it. Well, one big one, anyways: age.

I'm assuming that you're talking about American colleges and university players. In which case, since NCAA rules currently prohibit major junior players from transferring to US schools as the NCAA doesn't see them as amateur, the upper age limit for those players would typically be 24 years old (start college at 18, freshman red shirt one year, possible medical red shirt another). This isn't a bad deal, really.

However, NCAA rules do allow junior players to play in those schools, so long as it's not from a major junior team. Junior A leagues and below in Canada, as well as Tier I in the United States and below, still qualify as amateur in the eyes of the NCAA. The age limit is still 20 years old for the overagers, however, so if a player finished out their junior career, they would start their college career at 21 years old.

So, if you follow through with a five to six year plan including one or two red shirt years, that would mean that a college player would be eligible for the draft - if a college career was the only distinguishing factor - up until they're 27 years old.

Current rules are that a player must turn 18 by September 15th following the draft, and must be no older than 20 years old by December 31st following the draft. Now, would NHL teams be interested in drafting a 27-year-old? And if much older players were available, would that hurt the 18-year-olds in the draft?

In all likelihood, draft scenarios probably wouldn't change drastically, but I don't see Hockey Canada liking it very much.

Mike Hopey - The Bolts Independent

I don't think that the whole system is entirely fair. Undrafted players can just sign with who ever when they decide to leave school. These players went undrafted at the time for a reason, teams didn't think they were good enough. So when they come out of school, obviously better, the 29 other teams are essentially punished by not getting a chance to add them to their team. I don't think players should be able to pick where they go, that right is earned in free agency through years of service. College player also shouldn't have to reenter the draft after they leave school. Instead I think the fairest most logical solution is that when an undrafted college player signs a contract they should have to clear entry waivers. It would allow these players to enter the league and give every team a fair shot at the player. The whole system is tricky. The NCAA has rules that make it challenging to treat college players the same as junior or European players. I think putting these guys through waivers is the simplest explanation. The league should work with the CHL and NCAA to make things more consistent across all the development paths for players.

Alexis Boucher - Sons of Andreychuk

I see no problem with previously undrafted college players re-entering the draft as long as they are age 20 or under. Anything older than that would be unfair in a few different ways. Older players will obviously be bigger, stronger, and have experienced play on a higher level. It's hard for an 18 year old draftee to compete with that.

My only real problem with the draft this year is that I didn't renew my subscription to "The Hockey News", so I feel woefully unprepared.

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