A draft is supposed to be a league's way of leveling out the playing field.
Call it egalitarian, socialist, counter-evolutionary – even naïve – but as long as leagues award the top pick to the worst team, we have to operate on the assumption that by using such a system, leagues are trying to offer a hand-up to the cellar-dwellers. If that's the case, why do the Canadian major junior leagues allow prospects and the fat-wallet teams to game the system?
You've heard it before many times. Matt Duchene, Angelo Esposito, Austin Watson – just to name a few — are players who said they were going to play NCAA and even made commitments to schools. Eventually, they changed their mind and chose the major junior route.
In each case, they were drafted later than they would have gone had they said they intended to play major junior.
I can sympathize a little bit with a player who wants to find the best development opportunity or who might want to play somewhere for educational reasons. Heck, I can even sympathize a bit with a player who might like to play closer to home. If that's the case, though, just say it; be up front about it.
When a player says he's going to go the NCAA – and has no intention of going – it's dishonest and what I call gaming the system. If a player is seriously considering the option and says it depends on who drafts him, I don't have a problem with that because it's honest. At least that way, the bottom feeder team that has a chance to draft him knows that the kid wants to play major junior and can leverage that to get something more for their high pick.
Remember, the draft is its designed is supposed to level the playing field; leagues are trying to help the cellar dwellers.
One way major junior leagues can clear the air a bit is ask all players who are interested in playing in their leagues to declare their intentions to enter the draft. This would not void their NCAA eligibility, however, and some might argue that everybody would just do it anyway to keep their options open. That could happen, but at least then the player has provided some clarity and they and their camp of advisors/parents have to be up front.
A player who clearly wants to go the NCAA route, such as top-ranked prospect Michael Matheson of the Lac St. Louis Lions, would not have declared earlier this month. It would have reduced the intrigue at the QMJHL draft in Drummondville and there would have been no hushed silence when the Quebec Remparts scout went to the podium and drew a hushed silence from the crowd when he announced their pick at No. 14 by beginning with "The Quebec Remparts are happy to select, from the Lac St. Louis Lions …"