SJHL Makes Major Recruitment Change:

January 1st not only meant that teams in the SJHL could flip the calendar at the mid-point of their season.
It also meant that hockey operations need to begin preparations for their first ever bantam draft.

In a president’s message loaded to the league’s website President Bill Chow unveiled the plans for the league’s first ever player draft. The six round draft will be held at the SJHL’s AGM in June. It appears as though local player rights will be maintained through the draft process, however, players from outside of team boundaries or over the age of 15 that are not listed are eligible for selection.

At first glance this seems like a very good tool for the league to use in recruiting, retaining and equally distributing provincial talent.

Upon further review this in my mind is going to ramp up the intensity of player recruitment with players and their families having to decide even earlier if they are wishing to pursue major junior or an American College scholarship through Junior ‘A’. So scouts, and teams will need to have a very good indication of the intent of potential recruits prior to selecting them in the draft.

Additionally, in following the WHL’s lead by having a bantam draft that decision is going to have to be made at the age of 14 which is really tough for families. Add to that the uncertainty of player at the age of 14 not only in their growth as a hockey player but also physically and mentally and it truly is a craps shoot.

Now in large part the SJHL’s hands were tied as in order to compete with major junior recruiting they had to hold a bantam draft. One does have to wonder if the SJHL isn’t throwing out a part of the Hockey Saskatchewan development model. The model, which excludes major junior players, essentially focused players developing within their minor hockey season through midget and then moving up to major junior or Junior A. This model really helped in identifying the “late bloomers” the 16 and 17 year olds coming out of midget that are more than able to complete at the next level. Furthermore by holding a bantam draft and not a midget draft and allowing those picks to be traded the SJHL risks what is happening in the WHL. Teams that are sellers will be looking for first round picks for their top players. Unfortunately the turnaround from a draft pick to a productive player in the league is 3 to 4 years. Increasing the length of that turnaround can create fan disenchantment.

One last thought and is this the end for the Notre Dame Hounds? Families pay top dollar for their children to attend the famed hockey academy in Wilcox. What happens with a player drafted by the team that doesn’t have the financial wherewithal? Or desire to attend the Athol Murray College?

In conclusion, while the idea in theory is good in promoting more parity around the SJHL the end result is going to ramp up the competition for player’s rights in the province. The battle is on between the WHL and the SJHL now for 14 year olds. Let the games begin!

Here is the message concerning the draft in its entirety:

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League will utilize a draft process commencing with the league’s AGM the first week of June 2015.

1. The draft will consist of 6 rounds

2. Teams drafting will draft in reverse order from the final point standings of the previous regular season for each and every round.

3. Teams are required to have an open spot within their 50 man player list in order to draft a player.

4. Players eligible for the draft are players with a Saskatchewan resident and having completed their eligibility from the previous season for Bantam hockey.

5. The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League currently utilizes a system in which players that live within the legal boundaries of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s team community are protected by that Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team until the player reaches his 17th birthday. Players will continue to be protected by their local Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team.

6. Players not drafted will be eligible to be listed by Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League teams upon their 15th birthday.

7. Some of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League teams hold spring camps, teams are allowed to invite draft eligible players to their spring camps. Players may attend Spring Camps of a number of teams should the player choose to.

8. Draft picks maybe traded at any time of the year within the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
One of the main reasons for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to embark on using the draft system is to ensure that its member teams have equal opportunity to recruit players into their franchises.

The players and parents involved and the teams involved would then have the opportunity to learn about the opportunities within the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and the individual team that drafted the player.