Photo by Lisa McRitchie, all rights reserved.
Ex-Oiler Jason Strudwick posted a piece at Oilers Nation about raising the NHL entry draft age from 18 to 19 years old.
His basic premise is that these are important decisions for a hockey club, and that the extra year will give players a bit longer for the scouts to watch them. It’s his opinion that this will reduce the number of bad draft picks.
I see a couple of problems with this. First and foremost, it’s not the 19 year old season that makes or breaks most prospects. Generally speaking, teams don’t draft a player at 18 then regret it when the player is 19. Often times, it’s not until the player turns pro that teams realize that they’ve potentially wasted a pick.
Part of the issue is that unless the CHL (which generally has the highest number of 1st round picks) increases their age from 19 (+3 20 year olds) to 20, you aren’t going to learn any more from these players by having them play an extra year. All they are going to do, for the most part, is dominate like they previously have. As you age in the CHL, the older players leave the league and they are replaced by younger ones, which generally makes the competition that much easier.
From 2000 until 2011, CHL forwards drafted in the first 2 rounds who then played their Draft + 1 year in the CHL saw an average increase of 28.4% in their point totals from the previous season. For the most part, all these kids do is play better.
Yes, there are certain instances where a player’s 19 year old season might have seen them shoot up the rankings and get drafted higher. Jarret Stoll comes to mind here. His draft season saw him score 75 points in 71 games (1.06 PPG). His Draft + 1 season saw him post 106 points in 52 games (1.78 PPG), which lead all Draft + 1 CHLers that year. On the flip side, Logan Couture saw his scoring fall dramatically, going from 78 points in 54 games (1.44 PPG) to 58 points in 51 games (1.14). How far does Couture fall if he was picked a year later? Where does Schremp go after jumping from 1.15 points per game to 1.45 points per game (and being a top 10 CHL scorer)?
The problem with increasing the draft age is that the CHL is still the primary feeder system for the NHL, and adding their 19 year old totals doesn’t really add anything particularly valuable to the analysis. The NFL and NBA have a bit of an advantage in that they are drafting mostly young 20 year olds playing against mostly young 20 year olds. Adding a year to the NHL draft just sees a bunch of 19 year olds playing against inferior competition.