"He is only fifteen, how are we suppose to make the right decision?" A concerned parent once asked me in regards to the Western Hockey League's Bantam draft.
"The numbers don't lie." I responded. "Players selected with the 100th selection and later would be much better off at another level," I added. "Why is that? My son was the best player in this area, and the Western Hockey League is not going to draft him if they think he is not going to be able to contribute," the parent continued.
"The 2018 NHL Draft selected 78 players from the Western Hockey League, but 223 players were taken in the bantam draft, you do the math," I responded.
The numbers present a harsh reality and the bantam draft can be a lot like rolling the dice in Las Vegas, for both the teams doing the drafting and the players being selected. Major junior teams do not make selections based in where each player is, but have to project where he is going to be in the future.
Most teams follow the simplest of rules and just pick the best player available. Considering that these kids can be a foot or more taller than another because of the various stages of puberty, it is extremely difficult to even determine what kind of player a ninth grader is going to be at age eighteen.
For the major junior teams, if a bantam draft prospect plays for a year and does not meet expectations, he is simply dropped from the roster. For the player in that situation, the options than become extremely limited. Imagine being washed up at age seventeen.
"What if it was your son," the parent asked me. "My son's progress, in the classroom, would be equally important as his progress on the ice, from age 10 and older," I explained. "If he was selected in the top 20, I'd seriously consider the major junior option," I added. "If he is the number 75 overall pick, he is going to also be a serious prospect for just about any college team, and the NHL will still be an option after graduation."
Reality is a tough pill to swallow and a lot of parents do not want to face it. The bottom line is simple, don't gamble the future of your child with a roll of the dice. The decision needs to be realistic and informative. Players and parents also don't have to decide now. If the kid is THAT good, he is going to have a limitless number of options later on.
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