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The OHL's under-18 draft: what's the point?

It's a draft meant to make people, and minor hockey, feel good. Which is fine. But it serves no real purpose
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The OHL Under 18 draft took place Wednesday night, with 54 players being chosen.

With all due respect to these young men and their families, it is likely the last times their names will ever appear on the OHL web site.

The under 18 draft, started three years ago as some form of conciliation to minor hockey and a way of helping build and maintain the OHL brand and influence on late bloomers, really has yet to serve any practical on-ice purpose.

The draft allows teams to select undrafted players (this year it was 2001 and 2002 birth years) who are not on any team’s negotiation list.

In a nutshell, kids that got passed over in the regular OHL draft.

It’s not a terrible thing and it is not inherently wrong (unless false hope is wrong). But the draft has yet to serve any legitimate role.

Players taken in the under 18 draft rarely play in the league and even more rarely do they have an impact.

Yes, on occasion they do make a roster and have played a role, including forward Kaleb Pearson, a second round pick in the 2017 under 18 draft who had 14 goals for the Owen Sound Attack last season as an 18 year old.

But you don’t take the exception and make it the rule. Pearson is an exception.

There were 149 players drafted in the first two years of the draft. You can count on one hand the number who have stuck in the league.

The first overall pick in 2018, goaltender Mitchell Weeks, played four games for the Sudbury Wolves this season.

The first overall pick in 2017, defenceman Victor Hadfield, has played 68 games for the Barrie Colts over two seasons, tallying seven points.

The Guelph Storm drafted eight players in the first two years of the draft, none of who have played a game. Goaltender Tanner Wickware did dress as a backup for a couple of games.

Players who show enough the year after being passed over in the regular draft usually get invites to OHL camps anyway. Midget level coaches will make calls and get kids tryouts all the time.

Teams don’t have the resources to fully scout major midget hockey and the results of the draft so far show that it really wouldn’t be a good use of their resources at this point.

The draft has become more of a make-people-feel-good event. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Two drafts ago the Guelph Storm drafted the cousin of Givani Smith, the brother of Matt Hotchkiss and the son of the team’s education consultant. Last year they drafted the son of their former longtime trainer.

It’s not just Guelph. Windsor’s likely new owner was likely the reason they took his son, Aydin Parekh, with this year’s fifth overall pick. He’s a 5’7” defenceman who had 13 pts in midget hockey last season.

This isn’t a criticism of the kids and families, but let’s not pretend the draft is something it isn’t.

Until players start coming out of this draft and become impact players in the league, it really is nothing more than window dressing.




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