The Potential Impact Of A Shortened NHL Draft

Author:
Colorado Hockey Now

Are we moving closer and closer to the point where there might not be an NHL Draft anymore? No, I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point, but it sure does sound like there might be some changes to the draft as we know it when the CBA is up in 2026.

On the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman brought up what he had heard from agents around the league, and that seemed to leave Jeff Marek, who is a big prospect guy, a little stunned.

“There are some agents who believe, and maybe even the PA believes it, we’ll find out more about it, that the draft should be shortened to four rounds,” Friedman said. “If you look at the players who don’t get contracts, very few of them are high picks, right? Most of them are later picks. It’s the position of some of the people across the players association, and by that I’m including agents and players and all that, that why would they want players to be tied into teams for 2-4 years and then not get a contract? They almost think it’s like holding up a player from really beginning their NHL career, or putting themselves in the best situation.”

I know what all the Colorado Avalanche fans are thinking – “So? Have you seen Colorado’s track record in the lower rounds?” And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. The NHL Draft hasn’t been an area where Colorado has excelled, especially in later rounds, but that’s the case for most teams. Colorado, however, has struggled to even get NHL games out of their late picks. Nikolai Kovalenko was a sixth round pick back in the 2018 NHL Draft and he’ll play games next year, becoming the first late round pick to play games for the organization since 2019. Over the last 15 years, the Avalanche have had only three players selected after round four play NHL games for them. You can probably name all of them.

Well, I gave you one, as Kovalenko got into two playoff games this year. The hope is that he’ll buck the trend and become Colorado’s first real late round success story in well over a decade. Defenseman Anton Lindholm was a fifth rounder that they were able to utilize for a few seasons, as he played 66 games for the Avalanche. The third one might trip you up, as it was goaltender Adam Werner, who played just two NHL games for the organization. Who could forget his first game, where he came in and shutout the Winnipeg Jets? His second game didn’t go so well, and we never saw him again.

That’s it. That’s the list.

They have had some of their late round picks from the NHL Draft go on and have success with other organizations after not getting contracts with the Avalanche, and that’s kind of the point the agents and PA are trying to make. Just look at Nils Aman. The Avalanche selected him in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, and chose not to sign him. Once he was a free agent, he signed with the Canucks, and within months of signing that deal, he’s playing NHL games. He didn’t really need to be drafted by the Avalanche, and he ended up in a spot he might have found even if he wasn’t drafted.

I see those potential late round selections getting to pick and choose where they want to go a positive, actually. Maybe undrafted players sign right after the draft ends. Maybe they wait a few years, develop a little bit more, and give themselves a few more options. Or maybe they just never develop into anything and nothing happens, which is what is likely to happen with most of these players. Either way, they get a little bit more freedom instead of being locked in with a team that might decide after just one year they aren’t interested anymore. I don’t see much downside in that.

And if you’re a well run organization, shouldn’t you welcome a change like this? If you have the ability to just sign players that go undrafted, an organization that seems to know what they’re doing should, in theory, be a more desirable option. Colorado likes to take advantage of the NCAA free agent market already. This seems like it could be a similar recruiting process. If you struggle at developing young players at lower levels, which the Avalanche have had issues with, this lets other folks maybe do some of the work for you.

The biggest impact a change like this might have would be on the trade market. Do draft picks suddenly become even more valuable because there are less of them? Do we see even less trades than we already do? Would it become more difficult for teams to dump contracts? Heck, the Avalanche made two trades this past season where they moved a player and all they got back in return was a fifth round pick. Do deals like that just go away? That would be the most fascinating thing to watch if this change is made. For a team like the Avalanche, draft picks are often currency to use in a trade, and they’d lose some of that currency.

I’ve seen some concern about loss of jobs, and that’s valid. If the NHL Draft is shorter, teams may hire less scouts. I’m not so sure that would be the case, as you’d still need amateur scouts to keep tabs on the undrafted players that you might want to sign. After all, there’s still just as many hockey players out there, even if there are less draft picks, but I get where people are coming from with that concern.

We’ll see if this change ever comes to fruition. A move like this would impact a lot of different people in the hockey world, so the league has to be careful with what they do.

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