Why The Canadian Hockey League May Need a Change

KELOWNA, BC - NOVEMBER 1: Pavel Novak #11 of the Kelowna Rockets celebrates a first period goal against the Prince George Cougars at Prospera Place on November 1, 2019 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

With the National Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League agreement under fire again, it is time the two come to a better agreement. One that can benefit both sides but focus on the growth of hockey.

Is the Canadian Hockey League Agreement Working?

CHL rules dictate that Canadian Hockey League drafted players who aren’t on NHL rosters can’t play AHL/ECHL until the season in which they turn 20 (after the 31st of December). Prospects such as Ty Smith and Bowen Byram are just too good for the CHL but don’t have many options. Other than to play there for yet another season.
However, playing in a professional league at this stage for highly skilled players would be more beneficial. This could help their development better than playing against competition they’re clearly better than. There has to be one or two spots on each AHL team for an exception to rule to accommodate such players. The Canadian Hockey League is hesitant to change. The prestige of the league itself and the financial gains would decrease if it’s stars were to leave at the age of 18. Additionally, this would see a decrease in sales and exposure.

Taking An Alternate Route

If the rules don’t change, more prospects will take the Auston Matthews route soon. Matthews signed in Switzerland for that last junior year and played professional hockey. This allowed him to be more NHL ready by playing in an adult league. Furthermore, players drafted from European leagues whether they are European or North American born don’t have an age restriction to minor leagues. Meaning they can play AHL/ECHL hockey after the draft. Matthews was initially a WHL bantam draft pick by the Everett Silvertips.
Players such as Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, Mitch Marner and Nathan MacKinnon made near-immediate impacts at the NHL level. Next, Canadian prospects Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield due off the board 1st and 2nd overall in the 2020 draft. The run of pro-ready CHL prospects should continue.

What the Stats Suggest

From 2005 to this current day, with help from analyst Prasanth Iyer‘s work, the stats show that Finnish and Swedish defenceman drafted inside the first four rounds made the league faster. 50 percent of defenceman drafted out of one of the Nordic pro leagues made it to the NHL by the age of 22. Canadian Hockey League defenceman took two years longer on average to hit the 50 percent mark. As for outside the third round, 33 percent of fourth to seventh round defenceman drafted from Nordic countries make the NHL by 22. Compare that with just 4 percent from the CHL.

When it came to analyzing forwards, 27 percent of Nordic draftees make the NHL by age 24 compared to 19 percent for the CHL.

Jesper Bratt
Oskar Lindblom
Victor Olofsson
Andreas Johnsson
Victor Arvidsson
Lucas Wallmark

All these players are prime examples of players who are late-round Liiga/SHL drafted players who have become NHL successes pretty early on in their careers. This is due to being in a pro league, developing against men as teenagers.

Since 2015:

– 22 percent of Finnish Liiga eligible players have been drafted
– 15 percent of NCAA and USHL eligible players have been drafted
– 12 percent of SHL eligible players have been drafted
– 9 percent of CHL eligible players have been drafted

Finding Bodies at a Quicker Rate

General managers aren’t finding better players from Europe, they are drafting players that can contribute at a high level sooner. European draftees have a clear advantage over those from the CHL. General managers can get them into their system straight away if not sooner.
Even if they don’t bring them into an NHL system straight away, they can go back to Europe playing pro hockey. This system is leading to a better rate of draft pick success. Unless the CHL does something you can’t help but see the numbers of successful mid to late-round CHL draft picks not pan out.
The Canadian Hockey League has to change as the Americans and Europeans are coming.
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