Now that the Ontario Hockey League draft has taken place, we have some hints, but not truth, about whether the top 16 year olds will take the NCAA route or take the pro route of the OHL. I say hints, because teams sometimes do take legitimate risks on players with unknown intentions - witness Plymouth selecting Nick Petrecki in the first round two years ago, St.Mike's picking Brendan Smith in 2005, and Kingston selecting Wes O'Neil in 2002. This is rare, and so my natural inclination is to think that players chosen in the first two rounds will report to the major junior teams - even when they disavow that initially. Most often, you have players showing their NCAA cards, to ensure that they slide to their preferred team - generally the big-money London Knights, Plymouth Whalers, Kitchener Rangers. Step right up, Myles Appelbaum (soft Mich St commitment in 2005), or last year, where Cody Hodgins slid because of his NCAA threat, and Phil McRae fell to London because of his US National Development Team commitment.
(As an aside, it is interesting to see the Hunter's change of tune once they owned a franchise. Back in 1979, when Mark Hunter went first overall in the OHL draft, his dad took shots at Dave Simpson (brother of Craig Simpson) who told teams he would only report to the hometown London Knights. Brantford had to pass up Simpson, and selected Hunter. From the 1979 draft:
The elder Hunter also said he believes in the draft system in which 16- and 17- year olds are required to leave home to play in other cities. He lives with it because it's a 'hockey law. I know it's not (legally) right, but you have to go. I figure kids should be put on a [major junior] team and told what to do. No lawyer should be behind a 16- or 17- year old kid. I'd sure hate to be coaching a team and a 16- or 17- year old says 'see my lawyer'. That education thing by Simpson [the NCAA threat] is just a coverup. There comes a time in life when you've got to move. You can't protect kids forecover."
My, how times have changed.
Generally, players taken in the first round have deals or at least indications that they will make deals. Then there are first round talents taken in the third or fourth round, figuring the reward is worth it. London's Hunter clan does this, taking Sam Gagner in 2005, even though he had a legitimate interest in the NCAA. Fast forward a year, and a job for dad, and the players show up. Other times, it doesn't work out - witness St.Mike's taking Andrew Cogliano in the 3rd round in 2004, and BU's Corey Trivino in last year's draft.
Using that rule, there's bad news in store for Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ferris State. Each of their big name recruits were selected in the first round, and by teams known for having the resources to get their players. Matt Duchene, who would have been a top 2 pick, "slid" to fifth and the Brampton Battalion. He and Hodgins share the same family advisor, and are friends. So, things don't look great for Michigan State.
The only exception appears to be in Kingston, where the first pick, Ethan Werek, was fairly emphatic in rejecting Kingston's overtures. According to the article, he's headed to BU.
One other point of interest is Erie's selection of Lincoln USHL goalie Bryan Hogan in the fifth round. What makes it intersting is that he is an '88 in a '90 and '91 draft. Those picks mean the team has a special reason for taking the unique pick. Last year Matt Martello was a similar pick, and while he stuck out his commitment to LSSU, there was smoke, and later he ended up in Kitchener.