Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

THE NCAA MINORS

From Seth...

Expect the college hockey game to get better and better.

Since the NHL put limitations on how long a team can hold a drafted player's rights without at least bringing him over to their minor league affiliate, the smart teams (e.g. Detroit and New Jersey) seemed to be focusing on college-bound American and Canadian players at this draft. The reason: you get more years to sign them (a concession the NHL made to the NCAA).

NHL teams can't have lots of minor league affiliates like baseball. Under the new rules, they retain rights to players for three years before they have to sign them or let them become free agents. But you can only sign so many guys to NHL contracts and only so many guys can be sent to the high minors (by purchasing or selling their contracts -- the agreement between, say, the Grand Rapids Griffans and the Wings is not formal).

The agreement with the NCAA is for two years, actually, but they also then don't count the last year of high school (players are drafted at 17 years of age). To maintain his college eligibility, the player can't play pro juniors before college. So essentially, you have 6 years after drafting the guy to let him develop without the team needing to pay him a dime. Contrast that with a European player, who must accomplish the same level of development in three years before the team has to make the financial (and space) commitment to bringing him to North America. You get one season of him being a kid and playing like one. One breakout year in an SM league. Then a disappointing follow-up season in the Elite League. Then what? You have a 20-year-old with talent who couldn't hack it in Elitseran, playing for his home crowd, and you've got to decide whether you've got the space and time to teach him the North American game for $1 million per season, plus whatever you have to pay SM Lilga to get back his rights.

With a North American player who goes into Major Juniors, it's kind of the same deal. This used to be a great option for a kid: get drafted out of juniors and get paid a decent sum to play in the QMHL with an additional salary from the NHL team that picked you. Sure, if you don't get an NHL contract after 3 years you can go to any team you want. But it's better to be a team's prospect, when they're invested in making sure you develop, rather than trying to sell your skills around the league and convince someone to toss another investment aside for you.

So if a team wants to have as many developing prospects as possible nowadays, rather than stock up on rights to Euros and hope one of them pops, you grab as many future college kids as possible. If a kid is taking awhile to develop, oh well -- he's getting an education, getting coached by a guy like Red Berenson, and costs nothing. And it's not like it's hard to check in to Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., to keep an eye on the kid.

And because of that, once other teams start picking up more college kids higher in the draft, more Canadian and American players will opt for college, giving the game better talent and thus a higher level of play.

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