With the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring soon, General Managers might push for owners to make a change to the current system in place for NCAA hockey players
Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile dodged a bullet. A few seasons ago, one of the brightest minds in hockey was upset. NCAA hockey player Jimmy Vesey was finishing up his fourth and final season at Harvard. Poile tried to sign his 2012 3rd-round pick multiple times. Drama ensued and Vesey eventually became a free agent.
Now, Poile and the Predators lead the entire NHL in points while Vesey is looking ahead to tee-times with his New York Rangers teammates. The now 24-year old has been pedestrian in his first two seasons amassing under 50 points in 150 career NHL games.
Vesey didn’t break the rules. But with players like Will Butcher, Dominic Toninato, and Alex Kerfoot all holding out until free agency this past offseason, the rules may change. Collegiate Hockey is producing NHL-ready talent at an outstanding pace.
A look at one of the NHL’s other 100-point teams, the Boston Bruins, will tell you that. Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Noel Acciari, Anders Bjork and now Ryan Donato have all contributed to their success. All those players have under 100 games of NHL experience. All those players came from the collegiate ranks and stepped into the NHL.
Is it a byproduct of the collegiate system in Massachusetts? Absolutely. Other teams don’t have the luxury. Big-10 scoring leader Cooper Marody was traded to the Edmonton Oilers from the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the week for a 3rd round pick.
Some say the Flyers got a third rounder for absolutely nothing. Others note that Marody was going to end up becoming a free agent. The Oilers took a flyer on the former Flyers prospect but gave up a top 80 pick.
Edmonton needs young forward depth, but the move signifies something deeper. The prospects have some control of where they play and it’s surprising. The NCAA and the CHL are in constant competition to recruit players to play for them. Meanwhile, the American Hockey League does not have an eligibility agreement with the CHL. Collegiate players can step right in.
The NCAA is using it as an effective recruiting tool as they put a substantial amount of players in the ECHL and AHL this season alone.
General Managers and their scouts want to be able to have control of their picks. Players want to be able to have control of where they play. It’s an ongoing argument that will create discussion in the next collective bargaining agreement.
With the NCAA having a much larger impact in recent years, don’t be surprised if the college free agent situation creates ripples throughout other leagues than NHL.