The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, in an attempt to keep homegrown talent closer to home, introduced a bantam draft last year and while none of those players selected have had a chance to make an impact on the league the consensus is that it was a success.
The next crop of eligible players are now on the radar and next Thursday the SJHL’s 12 teams will gather to top up their protected lists and try and secure future talent for a league that continues to be on the rise in terms of continually being among the strongest in the country.
“The draft is open to players who have finished their bantam eligibility – similar to the Western Hockey League,” explains SJHL president Bill Chow. “The draft is open to players with a residence in Saskatchewan.”
“There is a general consensus (among the teams) that it is needed,” added Chow.
Presently, each club has a 50-player protected list in addition to what is known as an “Auto-Protect B List.” This latter list is for players who hail from within the boundaries of a SJHL team and they remain protected by their home team until their 17th birthday. After that time, if they have not made the club, they must be moved to the regular protected list or they become eligible to be listed by any of the other SJHL teams.
The bantam draft, therefore, encompasses all players who are not on an Auto-Protect B List when they complete playing at the bantam level. These players are generally invited to a number of spring and fall training camps by SJHL teams and they will be able to continue attending numerous spring sessions as the draft is not scheduled to be held until the June annual general meeting at which time players could become property of a specific team.
“The draft allows teams to highlight a few players in the province they wish to recruit and retain,” says Chow. “It also allows players and their parents an opportunity to build a relationship with a team.”
Room must be made available on each team’s 50-player protected list to allow for the addition of players selected in the draft, which will feature six rounds. Chow says that not every team is required to select six players, but that is where the bar has been set and with each club having as many as eight overage players (20-year-olds) then having space for new additions should not be an issue.
The draft also becomes another tool in trades as was witnessed at the trade deadline when clubs swapped picks in addition to current players.
It is always a fierce competition attracting young talent and this should help the league continue to make advances in this area. Hopefully, it will also keep homegrown talent within the provincial boundaries.