Paul Kelly, executive director of College Hockey Inc., says that he and many others support Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson’s proposed rule change that has the hockey world buzzing.
Nicholson recently suggested that the NHL should change the age of draft eligibility from 18 to 19 (excluding players chosen in the first round).
Kelly and those in favour of the rule change argue that the NHL and NHLPA need to examine what’s best for young players and the game of hockey.
“From the standpoint of helping the sport as a whole, across the globe and at all levels of hockey — junior, college, pro — I think it makes a lot of sense,” Kelly said.
“Take last year’s draft, how many 18-year olds from last spring’s draft are still on NHL rosters today? The answer is six.”
Kelly said that the change wouldn’t affect a blue chip prospect’s chances of making the NHL at 18, and that it could be beneficial to the league’s veteran players.
“You’re always going to have a handful of guys that are so exceptional that they can play at the age of 18. But for the most part it’s a rare kid that can crack into the National Hockey League until he’s 19, 20, 21, perhaps 22,” Kelly said.
“On the other end, the NHLPA has a responsibility to represent all players, prospective future players and existing players. By raising the draft age one year, you’re in fact helping a segment of your membership. You’re giving some of the more senior guys in the league an opportunity to extend their career at least another year.”
The issue will ultimately be decided by the NHL and NHLPA, but Kelly insists it’s the right move.
“On behalf of the colleges in the United States, the 58 programs that I represent, they strongly favour the proposal advanced by Bob Nicholson,” Kelly added.
Another issue Kelly addressed is the accusation that some Canadian CHL players reneged on agreements they had to play for U.S. college programs after certain CHL franchises allegedly paid them to play in the CHL instead.
Kelly said that he recently spoke with CHL commissioner David Branch to discuss this issue. According to Kelly, both he and Branch agreed that it is not a widespread problem and they believe it can be resolved and eradicated.
“I do think there (are) a few teams that are doing something which is off the books and not in compliance with their league rules. I don’t think any of the other owners approve of that,” Kelly said.
In addition to being against CHL rules, Kelly said that it is unfair to the college programs that lose out on these players, who have already committed.
“From our perspective in NCAA hockey, if a kid commits and then he breaks that commitment for, among other reasons, the fact that somebody’s giving him a big bag of cash, that just shouldn’t happen,” Kelly added.
Kelly and Branch will meet in person in Toronto two weeks from now to further discuss this and other issues.