RADLEY: Why the OHL draft is about more than just picking the best player

Sports Apr 08, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

A dozen or so years ago when Patrick Kane was a teenage phenom in American minor hockey, the Barrie Colts wanted to make him their first-round draft pick in the Ontario Hockey League's Priority Selection.

He was everything they would have wanted. Arguably the best at his age anywhere, he was prodigious with the puck and had the makings of a player who could turn the Colts from a pretty good team to a powerhouse. Maybe even a Memorial Cup champion.

Just one problem. He wouldn't commit to coming.

"If a kid doesn't want to come to a franchise, he'll play the NCAA card," says Darrell Woodley who was director of player personnel for the Colts back then and is now head of OHL Central Scouting.

It's the tricky part of the league's draft.

Players at this level actually have more leverage to direct their future than kids being drafted into the NHL because they have options. If a young man doesn't want to play for a particular franchise, he can tell the organization not to draft him. If he has his sights set on one or two favoured teams, he can tell everyone else to skip him.

If they don't listen to his wishes and call his name anyway, he'll go play in the NCAA, the United States Hockey League, or in the United States National Development Program — known simply as The Program — leaving the team that took him high and dry.

"It definitely happens," Woodley says.

It's why the Hamilton Bulldogs don't simply have to find the best player available when they make their first pick Saturday, they have to find the best player who will play here. Because with the third selection overall, it's essential they land an impact player. This is not swing-and-a-miss time.

Because of this, they've been talking to any players they might be interested in drafting — as well as their parents, agent and any other advisor — for weeks now to receive assurances the player whose name they call will show up.

"It's totally incumbent on the team to do its research before," says Bulldogs assistant general manager, Troy Smith.

It also puts extreme pressure on franchises to build top-notch organizations that have great facilities, excellent coaching and elite training so top players want to come. And, teams that win, since the longer a team's playoff run goes, the more chances NHL scouts have to see its players and the better their chances of getting picked by a big-league outfit.

Do that, and good things can happen.

Back in 2004 when the Colts had doubts Kane would show up, they took Nathan Martine instead. He became a serviceable defenceman but no star. Kane slipped all the way to the fifth round before being grabbed by the London Knights. After a year in The Program, he joined London — seen by many as the league's gold-standard franchise — and won the OHL scoring title and rookie of the year award.

Smith and new GM Steve Staios both say the Bulldogs haven't yet had a player tell them he wouldn't come to Hamilton but would go somewhere else. This is encouraging.

Of course, even with good planning disaster strikes occasionally. When it does and a drafted player refuses to show, there's a safety net of sorts in place.

The snubbed team can declare their no-show a Defected Player and trade him between Sept. 1 and 15 getting whatever package it can acquire. It also gets an extra first-round pick the next year one spot later than its original position. In other words, if the fourth-overall pick won't show up, the team will get the fifth-overall pick the next year.

That would avert a mess. But, the Bulldogs aren't interested in calamity control. They want a great player now who can start helping them next season and then be ready to contribute in a significant way the next year when the team should be contending.

Then they don't want to be picking this early again for a long, long time.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

RADLEY: Why the OHL draft is about more than just picking the best player

The OHL draft isn’t just about picking the best player. It’s about making sure the player you take is willing to sign.

Sports Apr 08, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

A dozen or so years ago when Patrick Kane was a teenage phenom in American minor hockey, the Barrie Colts wanted to make him their first-round draft pick in the Ontario Hockey League's Priority Selection.

He was everything they would have wanted. Arguably the best at his age anywhere, he was prodigious with the puck and had the makings of a player who could turn the Colts from a pretty good team to a powerhouse. Maybe even a Memorial Cup champion.

Just one problem. He wouldn't commit to coming.

"If a kid doesn't want to come to a franchise, he'll play the NCAA card," says Darrell Woodley who was director of player personnel for the Colts back then and is now head of OHL Central Scouting.

It's the tricky part of the league's draft.

Players at this level actually have more leverage to direct their future than kids being drafted into the NHL because they have options. If a young man doesn't want to play for a particular franchise, he can tell the organization not to draft him. If he has his sights set on one or two favoured teams, he can tell everyone else to skip him.

If they don't listen to his wishes and call his name anyway, he'll go play in the NCAA, the United States Hockey League, or in the United States National Development Program — known simply as The Program — leaving the team that took him high and dry.

"It definitely happens," Woodley says.

It's why the Hamilton Bulldogs don't simply have to find the best player available when they make their first pick Saturday, they have to find the best player who will play here. Because with the third selection overall, it's essential they land an impact player. This is not swing-and-a-miss time.

Because of this, they've been talking to any players they might be interested in drafting — as well as their parents, agent and any other advisor — for weeks now to receive assurances the player whose name they call will show up.

"It's totally incumbent on the team to do its research before," says Bulldogs assistant general manager, Troy Smith.

It also puts extreme pressure on franchises to build top-notch organizations that have great facilities, excellent coaching and elite training so top players want to come. And, teams that win, since the longer a team's playoff run goes, the more chances NHL scouts have to see its players and the better their chances of getting picked by a big-league outfit.

Do that, and good things can happen.

Back in 2004 when the Colts had doubts Kane would show up, they took Nathan Martine instead. He became a serviceable defenceman but no star. Kane slipped all the way to the fifth round before being grabbed by the London Knights. After a year in The Program, he joined London — seen by many as the league's gold-standard franchise — and won the OHL scoring title and rookie of the year award.

Smith and new GM Steve Staios both say the Bulldogs haven't yet had a player tell them he wouldn't come to Hamilton but would go somewhere else. This is encouraging.

Of course, even with good planning disaster strikes occasionally. When it does and a drafted player refuses to show, there's a safety net of sorts in place.

The snubbed team can declare their no-show a Defected Player and trade him between Sept. 1 and 15 getting whatever package it can acquire. It also gets an extra first-round pick the next year one spot later than its original position. In other words, if the fourth-overall pick won't show up, the team will get the fifth-overall pick the next year.

That would avert a mess. But, the Bulldogs aren't interested in calamity control. They want a great player now who can start helping them next season and then be ready to contribute in a significant way the next year when the team should be contending.

Then they don't want to be picking this early again for a long, long time.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

RADLEY: Why the OHL draft is about more than just picking the best player

The OHL draft isn’t just about picking the best player. It’s about making sure the player you take is willing to sign.

Sports Apr 08, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

A dozen or so years ago when Patrick Kane was a teenage phenom in American minor hockey, the Barrie Colts wanted to make him their first-round draft pick in the Ontario Hockey League's Priority Selection.

He was everything they would have wanted. Arguably the best at his age anywhere, he was prodigious with the puck and had the makings of a player who could turn the Colts from a pretty good team to a powerhouse. Maybe even a Memorial Cup champion.

Just one problem. He wouldn't commit to coming.

"If a kid doesn't want to come to a franchise, he'll play the NCAA card," says Darrell Woodley who was director of player personnel for the Colts back then and is now head of OHL Central Scouting.

It's the tricky part of the league's draft.

Players at this level actually have more leverage to direct their future than kids being drafted into the NHL because they have options. If a young man doesn't want to play for a particular franchise, he can tell the organization not to draft him. If he has his sights set on one or two favoured teams, he can tell everyone else to skip him.

If they don't listen to his wishes and call his name anyway, he'll go play in the NCAA, the United States Hockey League, or in the United States National Development Program — known simply as The Program — leaving the team that took him high and dry.

"It definitely happens," Woodley says.

It's why the Hamilton Bulldogs don't simply have to find the best player available when they make their first pick Saturday, they have to find the best player who will play here. Because with the third selection overall, it's essential they land an impact player. This is not swing-and-a-miss time.

Because of this, they've been talking to any players they might be interested in drafting — as well as their parents, agent and any other advisor — for weeks now to receive assurances the player whose name they call will show up.

"It's totally incumbent on the team to do its research before," says Bulldogs assistant general manager, Troy Smith.

It also puts extreme pressure on franchises to build top-notch organizations that have great facilities, excellent coaching and elite training so top players want to come. And, teams that win, since the longer a team's playoff run goes, the more chances NHL scouts have to see its players and the better their chances of getting picked by a big-league outfit.

Do that, and good things can happen.

Back in 2004 when the Colts had doubts Kane would show up, they took Nathan Martine instead. He became a serviceable defenceman but no star. Kane slipped all the way to the fifth round before being grabbed by the London Knights. After a year in The Program, he joined London — seen by many as the league's gold-standard franchise — and won the OHL scoring title and rookie of the year award.

Smith and new GM Steve Staios both say the Bulldogs haven't yet had a player tell them he wouldn't come to Hamilton but would go somewhere else. This is encouraging.

Of course, even with good planning disaster strikes occasionally. When it does and a drafted player refuses to show, there's a safety net of sorts in place.

The snubbed team can declare their no-show a Defected Player and trade him between Sept. 1 and 15 getting whatever package it can acquire. It also gets an extra first-round pick the next year one spot later than its original position. In other words, if the fourth-overall pick won't show up, the team will get the fifth-overall pick the next year.

That would avert a mess. But, the Bulldogs aren't interested in calamity control. They want a great player now who can start helping them next season and then be ready to contribute in a significant way the next year when the team should be contending.

Then they don't want to be picking this early again for a long, long time.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML