Joke OHL draft lets down weak clubs

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

LONDON, ONT. - The Ontario Hockey League would pay consultants hundreds of dollars an hour for advice on any given subject. Today, here are some words of wisdom for free.

The topic? The OHL draft. The problem? It is becoming a joke.

While it's meant to distribute talent to the teams that need it most, it has become a roulette wheel. It's a game of chance and if you don't want to risk losing, you don't play.

It has become a springtime tradition. A number of players, potential high picks in the OHL draft, let it be known that they don't intend to report. They indicate they would rather play elsewhere (mostly NCAA university teams or in U.S. development programs).

Some players actually mean it.

But many throw out the "don't pick me because I won't show up" line, while letting the team they really want to play for know that they are available if that teams picks them.

The team then drafts the player and a miracle occurs. The drafting team manages to show the player the error of his ways and the player elects to play in the OHL.

Do you ever wonder what would make a player change his mind in the span of a few weeks when he has had years to think about it?

Players certainly wouldn't be enticed by a nice financial package. We all know that is against league rules and heaven forbid that an OHL owner would ever do anything the league doesn't know about.

We know how embarrassing it is to the league when a Top 5 guy says he isn't coming, then changes his mind when a rich . . . sorry, better . . . team, drafts him.

The Knights' Scott Harrington comes to mind. So does the Spitfires Cam Fowler.

OK, enough.

The OHL really doesn't care where the best players go as long as they come to the OHL. The league would much rather see a top player that should go to Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia, Sudbury or Erie -- to make them better -- instead goes to London, Kitchener or Windsor.

Fair? Of course it isn't fair. If the league were looking at fair, they would make real changes.

So here's the free advice.

First, let teams trade whatever draft choices they want, including first-round picks.

Secondly, stop the game being conducted by players, their advisers, parents and hockey executives.

Set a deadline of two weeks before the draft. A player must have declared by then if he wants to be eligible for the draft.

If a declared player is drafted by an OHL team and does not show up to play for that team, he is ineligible to play anywhere in the OHL for that year.

If after a year he wants to play in the OHL, he must re-enter the draft.

The team selecting the player who didn't show up should get a compensatory pick.

Take Max Domi, son of former Maple Leaf Tie Domi. He hinted he was going to the play in the NCAA. He was drafted by Kingston. There is already discussion he will be traded somewhere, maybe to London. If he is traded, Kingston would benefit by getting a compensatory pick next year and whatever they get from London.

London gets a good player and the teams below London and Kingston -- that might have picked Domi and improved their lot in life -- instead end up with sloppy seconds.

Under that scenario, Domi would have been forced to make a decision. Sign an agreement to be drafted or you don't play in the OHL for a year.

If he wanted to come back to the OHL after a year, he would go back into the draft. Kingston would get a compensatory pick only. They wouldn't benefit twice by drafting him, then trading him and getting a compensatory pick as well.

Sound equitable? That's why it won't happen.

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