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Players committed to CHL should report where they're drafted

The regular season is over across the Canadian Hockey League and while some teams are still in the hunt for championships, some are turning their attention to the draft.
Craig Beauchemin

The regular season is over across the Canadian Hockey League and while some teams are still in the hunt for championships, some are turning their attention to the draft.

The Ontario Hockey League held their Priority Selection Saturday, the Western Hockey League bantam draft is May 7 while the Quebec Major Junior League draft isn’t until June 2.

Being drafted in the first round of any league is supposed to be an honour.

A team feels you can contribute to their success, and they want you on their team.

But we’ve seen it before and I’m confident we’ll see it again; a player refuses to report to where they are drafted.

Of course this isn’t restricted to junior hockey.

We all remember Eric Lindros refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques after being drafted first overall in 1991.

Lindros cited the city’s isolation, lack of marketing potential and French character as the reasons he would never play for the Nordiques.

They drafted him anyway, and traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers the following year for a ridiculous package including future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg who helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup after moving from Quebec in 1996.

Maybe Lindros should have stayed.

It’s becoming more common in junior hockey that a player will be drafted, only to refuse to play for that team and threaten to go the NCAA route until they are traded.

Of course they never say they won’t play for that team outright before the draft.

They’ll say things like they’re considering NCAA schools as a “warning” to teams looking to draft them.

In Saturday’s OHL draft the Sudbury Wolves, who were an abysmal 12-54-1-1 this year, drafted David Levin first overall.

Levin was born and raised in Israel until age 12. I just want to point out how incredible that is and what a great story he is.

The Wolves were “forced” to draft Levin for two reasons.

One, Owen Tippett of Peterborough allegedly told Sudbury he wouldn’t report to them if they drafted him.

And two, Gabriel Vilardi of Kingston also allegedly told Sudbury he wouldn’t report.

Levin’s reaction when he found out he was going to be drafted first overall?

“I can’t sleep at night. I still can’t believe it, that I’m the first overall pick.”

That’s what it’s all about.

There was another high draft pick from this year’s OHL draft who doesn’t seem to like where he was selected.

Ryan McLeod was drafted with the third overall selection by the newly-formed Flint Firebirds.

The Firebirds relocated from Plymouth, Mich. for the 2015-16 season.

The majority of drafted players, first round or otherwise, sent out a tweet saying they were proud to be chosen by their teams.

Some players were already at their team’s arena to be introduced to the media.

Four players were pictured wearing a Firebirds jersey on the Firebirds’ twitter account, none of them were McLeod.

Ryan’s brother Michael was drafted fifth overall by the Mississauga Steelheads in last year’s OHL draft.

He was projected as a top-three pick, but fell to fifth because he allegedly refused to play for any team not located near his home turf of the Greater Toronto Area.

The Belleville Bulls and Ottawa 67's drafted third and fourth overall last year, ruling them out as potential places for him to play.

Is Ryan McLeod playing the same card? He only wants to play near his hometown?

Newsflash kid, if you want to be a professional hockey player the odds are pretty low you’ll be playing at home.

Victor Mete, a defenceman from Woodbridge was drafted by the Owen Sound Attack eighth overall in the 2014 OHL draft.

Upon being drafted to Owen Sound, a city of about 21,000, it was announced that Mete had “no interest” in playing for the Attack and his agent was unsure why they had drafted him in the first place.

He had interest in playing in the OHL, just not for Owen Sound.

So after “threatening” to play junior A and go to the NCAA, Mete was a no show at Attack training camp.

Sept. 8 the Attack traded Mete to the London Knights, a perennial contender with a knack of players graduating to the NHL.

Sure enough, Mete reported and will be a key piece on London’s blueline for the next few seasons.

It worked out alright for the Attack, however, with Mete refusing to report, Owen Sound was granted the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft as compensation along with their own first round pick.

They also received three second round picks, two third round picks and a conditional sixth round pick if Mete is drafted in the first two rounds of next year’s NHL draft.

Not a bad haul for a player who didn’t even want to play for your team.

And both players they selected in the first round of this year’s draft have publically stated they’re committed to play for the Attack.

A few years ago, a high profile player pulled the same stunt.

Nathan Mackinnon was drafted first overall in the 2013 NHL draft.

He was also drafted first overall in the 2011 QMJHL draft.

Mackinnon hails from Cole Harbour, the same hometown as NHL superstar Sidney Crosby.

Cole Harbour is 15 kilometres from Halifax, where Mackinnon played two years with the Mooseheads.

He was drafted by the Baie-Comeau Drakker who are located nearly 800 kilometres from his hometown.

This might shock you, but Mackinnon publically discussed playing in the NCAA before he was traded to his “hometown” team.

In exchange for Mackinnon, the Drakkar received three first round picks and two players.

They lost in the QMJHL finals in each of the past two seasons, including to Mackinnon and the Mooseheads in 2013.

Max Domi, a first round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, did the same thing as Mete.

He was drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs (also eighth overall ironically enough) in 2011, despite reports that he was being recruited by Michigan State.

Sure enough, Kingston traded Domi to London a few months later and he has been there for the last four seasons.

Kingston also received a compensation pick, ninth overall in 2012, for Domi’s no show.

They drafted Sam Bennett with that pick, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames fourth overall in last year's NHL draft.

By the way, I’ve been to Kingston. It’s a fine city with an absolutely beautiful hockey arena.

The Frontenacs haven’t had a lot of success as a franchise with just one playoff series victory in the last 21 years, but maybe if players like Domi came to town they’d be more successful.

It just rubs me the wrong way when players do this.

Connor McDavid had a great quote when asked if he would refuse to report to the team that drafts him in the NHL this season.

“It’s just wrong, to be honest. You put yourself ahead of the game and it can never be like that. To ‘select’ where you’re going to go, it’s not fair. There’s a draft for a reason. The team picks the best available player and for the player to say ‘I don’t want to go there, I only want to go there’ it’s not right.”

McDavid was drafted by the Erie Otters first overall in 2012, after they finished the previous season with 10 wins in 68 games.

McDavid’s hometown of Newmarket is nearly 400-km away from Erie, PA.

Crosby was drafted first overall by the Rimouski Oceanic in 2003 after 11 wins in 72 games.

They won 34 in 2003-04, and then made it all the way to the Memorial Cup final in 2005.

Good players help turn teams around, they don’t pout because they didn’t get drafted by a “desirable” team.

There are thousands of kids out there who dream of getting drafted, let alone be a first round or first overall pick.

Strangely enough this seems to be more of an issue in the OHL and QMJHL.

While there has been situations in the past of players demanding trades in the WHL, it seems like they always report to the team before asking for a trade.

Most recently was Ryan Pilon, drafted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes third overall in 2011.

He played one full season with the Hurricanes then 17 games last season before going home and asking for a trade.

He was moved to the Brandon Wheat Kings and transformed into the top pairing defenceman everyone thought he would be.

He could be drafted in the first round of this year’s NHL draft.

Where you play your junior hockey won’t affect where you get drafted in the NHL.

If you’re a good player, scouts will come to watch.

Bobby Ryan was drafted second overall in 2005 out of Owen Sound.

Valentin Zykov was drafted 37th overall in 2013 out of Baie-Comeau.

The Sudbury Wolves have had 16 players drafted in the first round of the NHL, most recently was Nick Foligno, 28th overall in 2006.

Kids should be proud of where they’re drafted, not complaining.

If a player is actually more interested in going to the NCAA then I have no issue with them refusing to report to their CHL team.

Often players will slip in the draft because they are already committed to an NCAA team.

Ian Blacker is a big, strong defenceman was projected to be a first round pick in this year’s OHL draft.

He fell to the fourth round because he’s committed to play for Western Michigan University beginning in 2017-18.

The London Knights drafted him, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him change his mind and come to the OHL.

I understand 15-or 16-year-olds might find it difficult to move away from their families, but if these guys want to be professional hockey players, nothing will prepare them better than moving away and living life away from home.

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