NHL Could Severely Enhance NHL Draft Without Decentralization

Simon Nemec is drafted by the New Jersey Devils during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Simon Nemec is drafted by the New Jersey Devils during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL is looking at the idea of decentralizing the NHL Draft and going back to the pandemic style of NHL Drafting via Zoom style format. As an independent NHL Draft Scout for “Draft Pro” (Draft Prospects Hockey) covering the NCAA and the USHL, this gives me the perspective of what should be improved upon.

One of the many things the NHL has done right is Puck Socialism where I define it to be a fine balance between draft picks per club, salary cap floor, and cap ceiling. Redistribution of the 50-50 revenue sharing under the CBA. The contract structures of entry-level contracts could be improved upon for both the team and the player.

However, the draft can be fixed. Let’s do our best.

Keep The Draft Like Current Format But Slightly Modified

It feels more wholesome to see NHL teams and executives shaking hands with their first-round picks on Day 1. Even during the new era under Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, it was wonderful seeing both owners up there with the GM, front office executives, and a few scouts. It is a beautiful sight to see that young player with his new team’s sweater and opting for a picture.

On the improvement part of the format, everyone who is a regional scout from Russia, Europe, North America, etc., should be on a company Zoom call, and that would save their teams a lot of money. It’ll allow those regional scouts and the Head of Amateur Scouting to read whose draft boards could make the most sense and relay it to the GM and Assistant GM before making a selection.

Abolishing The NHL Draft Will Be Costly

There have been a few takes after the news of draft changes being proposed. Rachel Doerrie of The Hockey News had the most discussed idea. She called for the draft to be abolished.

Getting rid of the NHL Draft will crush small, medium, and maybe a few large market teams. Markets besides those at the top would lose future players like Macklin Celebrini, who should be centering for a top-two team, and Cole Eiserman, who would be a phenomenal new version of Auston Matthews. If these players sign with whichever team they want, then it becomes about recruiting, and the top markets come in with a massive advantage.

This Darwinian play would hurt rebuilding teams trying to transition into contention. Eiserman is one of the best American forwards in this draft. He could easily rival Macklin Celebrini for the first pick.

If people want to see some really great defenseman in this draft, my favorite in this draft is Artyom Levshunov from Belarus. He currently plays for the Michigan State Spartans. Abolishing the draft would mean that a playoff team like the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers would be recruiting hard and paying more money just to get him and a few other young players. Instead, teams that truly need an offensive defenseman like Artyom Levshunov will need to upsell and overpay for his rights.

Macklin Celebrini would bring in huge eyeballs from a major market in Canada but might end up choosing to only play for a playoff team just because he could if the draft was abolished. It would be like College Football, where the Top 15 players in the country might all go to the same school because of Name and Image Likeness money. This would create an NBA effect where the same five-to-six teams dominate the regular season and usually make the playoffs. This would ruin the growth of the NHL in every market, where it would be harder to keep the best talent on every team, and trades for the very best players won’t happen as often.

How To Improve The Draft vs. Tankers

As a fan of the NHL Draft, I do have my concerns. One of them is the Draft Lottery. One fix is to give equal weight to the eight teams at the top. Any team can move or slide based on the four numbers called. If Anaheim, Boston, San Jose, and Vancouver’s numbers jump over the original teams in the top four, then the non-winning teams slide back between fifth and eighth overall. Teams that reached 12-16 should get the least amount of odds in their favor since those teams barely lost out in wild card spots. Any team that wins a draft lottery within five Draft Lotteries should get switched with a team that has not won a Draft Lottery within five seasons or won less than two times.

College Players and Non-Signing Players

There are unique rules for college players that allow them to become free agents after four years. We’ve seen the Devils impacted on both sides of the coin with Will Butcher and Alexander Kerfoot. I’m proposing those parent teams should receive the same round pick in an upcoming draft as a compensatory pick.

Another example is if Tom Fitzgerald can’t get Case McCarthy, a 4th-round pick, to ink with NJ, and goes to free agency, the Devils should get a fourth-round pick back. This kind of draft prospect asset management would be fair to the parent club and the parting player who gets to choose his new home.

Changing Contracts with CHL Players & Foreign Drafted Players

For those of you who don’t remember, players that are under the CHL (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) have a nine-game clause and have a very funny contract situation if a player doesn’t stick with the NHL club they should be sent back to their parent club. However, European players don’t have that problem where there are completely different transfer agreements.


Transfer Agreements should be almost universal and should be given a sort of financial compensation as a “Hockey Factory Blessing.” As an example, if a team in the NLA produces a really phenomenal player, the NHL club should pay that club in Switzerland the rest of that player’s contract. The same would be said about a team in the KHL if a player has a multi-year deal and the NHL team like the Devils wants to pay off Arseni Gritsyuk’s contract and convert it to an ELC. The compensation package should be set for all international leagues.

However, HFBs should only be three per team in the NHL, so if the Devils wanted to use the first on Arseni Gritsyuk at forward, they could do similar with two more foreign drafted players like Jakub Malek for goalie and Daniil Orlov on defense. The Devils could choose to put them in the NHL or the AHL.

dark. Next. WATCH: All Devils Goals Against New York Islanders

Bottom Line

Just leave the NHL Draft the way it is, but make a few minor tweaks. No need to go full-on European Pro Soccer and pay big money for players. Having the same bland teams winning games in and out isn’t good for the league. The NHL has one of the most entertaining balances in Puck Socialism making it fairer for more teams and fanbases is good for the game overall. The overall context of young players’ contracts needs to be reviewed and allowed to encourage them to come and play in the AHL and NHL sooner to develop for the big show.