Sunday, June 03, 2007

Going Where They Wanted

Yesterday's Quebec "draft" continued to reflect the trend wherein players choose teams, not vice versa. I guess there is nothing wrong with that process - after all, the alternative NCAA route is exactly the same process. And when we decry the problems with a 16 year old having to move away from his family to play major junior, this represents a step in the right direction. The importance of dictating a location is particularly acute in the Quebec league, with the language and schooling issues. It is more than understandable that anglophones should dictate staying in the English speaking Maritimes, even in their hometown, rather than ending up in Chicoutimi.

The byproduct of this is the wonderful pre-draft disinformation campaigns in which players exert their leverage. Some make little pretext about their leverage: Matt Brown said he wanted to play in the Q, but would do so only for a Maritime team, otherwise he was headed to Northwood Prep. He got his wish, and will play in the Q.

Others are more disingenuous about this, with Angelo Esposito being the poster child for this. They do not make overt conditions, they maintain a blanket pretext that they would not report to the Q. In fact, it seems apparent to all that they want to go to a particular "deep pocket" team, and therefore need to spread the NCAA myth to drive ALL of the remaining teams away. This means that before the draft, they need to make their NCAA certitude clear to all. This year, Steven Anthony falls into that camp. The Halifax, NS native has stated his intention to play for Lawrence Academy in Mass. A hint to their intentions usually comes in the form of silliness of their explanations. Last year, Esposito expounded upon his desire to become a doctor. This year, Steven Anthony has rediscovered his desire to play baseball. Ask yourself, how likely is it that kids destined for the NHL, will spend his March and Aprils getting ready for the baseball season?

Before the draft, Anthony had slipped up a bit, saying he wanted to be picked first overall by St.Johns (NS). Well, St.Johns didn't take him first overall, but traded up to the 10th pick, and then selected him. And as expected, Anthony has softened his stance:

"I'm still seriously leaning toward the NCAA, but I would not rule (the Sea Dogs) out," he said. "To see them make that trade for me shows they want me and I'm open to hear what they have to say."
Color me cynical, but expect him to discovery some previously unknown benefit to the Q within the next three weeks.

A separate case was Louis Leblanc, who is interested in academics, and before the draft was set to move on to Salisbury Prep with his teammate, Danny Biega. Then Dan Donato left Salisbury, and Leblanc indicated that he would still prefer the NCAA route, but would remain in Montreal playing another year of midget for Lac St.Louis. His selection late in the first round by Val d'Or (Valley of Gold) east of Montreal means they will push heavily on getting him to completely abandon the NCAA/prep route. By the way, with the Biega pipeline to Harvard, nobody selected Danny Biega in the first five rounds ('91s are eligible only in those rounds). Similarly, nobody selected '91 D Jessyko Bernard, a New Brunswick native playing for Cushing Academy.

A more curious case is Devon MacAusland. He fits the NCAA profile, and would seem to have valid reasons for preferring that route. Before the draft he not only spoke of the NCAA route, but also indicated a commitment to BC. While I would expect him to adhere to that plan, he was selected by his hometown Moncton team, albeit in the second round. Was his pre-draft disclosure of his BC commitment intentional? Time will tell - the second round was still below his talent level. But if there was any chance of him changing his mind, the selection by Moncton maximizes those chances.

On the flip side, Thayer Academy's Rich Greer went in the second round, usually an indication of an agreement, and Moncton selected Hartford's Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who is rumored to have stated his readiness to head north.

As a footnote, John Esposito, Angie's younger and shorter brother, only went in the fifth round, a reflection that he may be more sincere in his NCAA intentions.

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