Will The NHL Ever Have Its Own “Draft League”?

Kale Clague (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Kale Clague (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Major League Baseball decided to make a Minor League just for it’s draft prospects. Will the NHL ever follow suit and will it be worthwhile?

Minor League Baseball has been in a weird position lately. Major League Baseball has been refining its system of player development, including a controversial move to decrease the amount of teams. This was based on the philosophy that why have young players play games against other teams when they can train in an academy like setting. The academy approach doesn’t necessarily sound like something that would work in the NHL.

This past week Major League Baseball made an interesting announcement by creating a new “Draft League”. The new league will have minor league teams with rosters made of draft eligible prospects. Think of it as a combine but playing actual games. The equivalent in the hockey world would be junior leagues where the best young players in the world try to show off and impress scouts.

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This is different than junior league hockey in one big way. The league will be put together and under the control of Major League Baseball. In a way that means young baseball players will technically be “playing” for MLB before being drafted to a major league team.

Would the NHL ever try such a thing? Well the answer to that could be yes and no. For one, the Canadian Major Junior System is a long standing Canadian tradition. The thoughts of the NHL directly getting involved with running all three major leagues in the Canadian Hockey League seems far-fetched.

Then again the NHL might consider doing so on a smaller scale. The new MLB Draft League is only five teams and a small portion of the Baseball Minor League system. It’s an interesting idea for the NHL to consider but, since the greater junior hockey system as a whole already serves this purpose, it’s unlikely.

Minor League Hockey seems like something that’s always influx. That might be the perfect excuse for the NHL to get involved in this junior hockey and minor league hockey hybrid idea. Teams and leagues seem to constantly be folding.

Remember back in late 2014 when seven Central Hockey League teams merged with the ECHL, followed by the creation of the AHL’s Pacific Division? That was a major shift designed to keep both teams and leagues stable for the foreseeable future.

Of course, if the NHL were to get directly involved it would provide the greatest shot at stability. There really isn’t a problem in minor league hockey that the NHL and its checkbook can’t solve. Of course, for Commissioner Gary Bettman and company to get involved there has to be something in it for them. If it can provide a financial gain for the league, the NHL might just follow MLB’s model.

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The MLB Draft League will have its first season this summer. If it’s an immediate success, other leagues might adopt a version right away. If it is anything but an immediate success don’t expect other leagues to copy the idea just yet, including the NHL.