OHL nixes draft plan

John Tavares (left) and George Armstrong pose during the unveiling of the new Marlies logo in...

John Tavares (left) and George Armstrong pose during the unveiling of the new Marlies logo in Toronto on Tuesday, March 22, 2005. The OHL has backed off the idea of drafting 14 year olds, like Tavares, who might play in the U.S. junior system. (Toronto Sun/Alex Urosevic)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

On second thought, let's not draft 14-year-olds, even if it is a select few.

A day after that controversial idea was skewered on the airwaves and in other parts of the public domain, the Ontario Hockey League's board of governors didn't even bother voting on the issue during a conference call yesterday morning.

"The challenge was put forward of how we deal with the exceptional player (at 14 or 15) and the governors were not supportive of the selection of 14 or 15-year-old players," OHL commissioner David Branch said. "Almost to a person, there was no support. We weren't comfortable with the image a draft of 14 and 15-year-olds would conjure up."

The league had been thinking of giving the four non-playoff teams -- this year being the Oshawa Generals, Sarnia Sting, Saginaw Spirit and Kingston Frontenacs -- the right to choose a player who was 14 or 15 with one of the first four picks in the annual priority selection.

The OHL's competition committee had recommended the league allow its non-playoff teams to make an exception to draft special players at 14 or 15. The timing of the issue is largely seen as the OHL's way of trying to ensure that 14-year-old John Tavares would play in the league.

Tavares, who also spent time with Tier II Milton this season, plays for the Toronto Marlie minor midgets. The consensus is Tavares, born in 1990, is a better prospect than any of the players born in 1989.

Tavares was wooed by the United States Hockey League this past winter.

Where the league goes from here is unclear.

"I wouldn't say he is a Sidney Crosby type, but more of a Mike Bossy," one OHL executive said.

"The kid can score."

Branch said the governors were not influenced by the negative backlash the idea received on Tuesday.

At least one owner, Mario Forgione of the Mississauga IceDogs, is in favour of bringing back the rule that 15-year-olds can play for their home-town team. After the first year, the player would be eligible for the draft.

The most recent example is that of Jason Spezza, who played for Brampton in 1998-99 and then was picked first overall by Mississauga.

"There's no doubt (Tavares) could probably play in the league right now," said Forgione, whose club would lay claim to Tavares, an Oakville resident, under the old residency rule. "If he wants to play at a higher level, should he not have the option to play (in the OHL)? The governors were good about keeping this open-minded."


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