Last week we let friend of the site, @SPHLRando, write a guest column that many readers said made a lot of good points, and addressed a few issues fans had with the SPHL.
But one of the points that raised eyebrows, or had people flat-out saying it was a terrible idea, was his thought that the SPHL should hold a draft every year.
And on the surface, yeah, it’s probably a bad idea. Because you couldn’t have a “traditional” draft like we think of when we think of what the NHL or NFL Drafts are like, because no offense, but top prospects aren’t coming to play in the SPHL. You’re getting cast-offs, guys who slipped through the cracks, or in a lot of cases, a guy who has quality hockey experience who wants to play before they start their actual working career.
But, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make a feasible plan for a potential SPHL Draft, so here is our best effort at it.
Make it an off-season weekend camp, with all 10 teams required to attend
So since you wouldn’t have people “declaring” for the SPHL Draft like you would in the NFL, you would basically have to bring the potential draftees to you.
And for this, we’ll steal an idea that some indy baseball league’s use: Have free agent players tryout in front of all the teams, and draft at the end of the day/weekend.
My idea, is that a month or so before SPHL training camps open, the league and its 10 teams host a weekend-long camp at one site (Maybe Huntsville or Birmingham, places that have a small second sheet available), that runs from Friday thru Sunday. And for people clamoring about the cost for the SPHL teams, you can send literally one guy, probably the head coach, for the weekend. He needs a tank of gas a hotel for two or three nights, so this draft might cost a team $300-400 for the weekend, every team should be able to swing that.
The league can charge potential players $300 or whatever it is, because you’re promising that reps from all 10 teams will be in attendance, a rarity, and much better for players than going to an individual team’s camp.
My idea for this camp is that Friday you put players through a combine, put them through all the drills you see at places like the NHL Combine. Standing jumps, broad jumps, bench press, fastest skater, accuracy shooting, hardest shoot, shuttle drills, basically get as much info as you can get one these guys on Friday.
Then that night you figure out how to break them up into teams (say you have 60 guys, you break them up into four teams of 15), and have them scrimmage both Saturday and Sunday, each team playing two games on each day.
The Actual Draft and requirements for teams
Our hypothetical draft is scheduled for up to five rounds, we say up to five rounds because there’s a catch: Teams are only required to make one pick, teams only have to offer that player an invite to training camp, and regardless of if that player shows to camp, that team holds his rights until January 1.
Now, if a team is so impressed with a player that they want to sign him to the team straight away, they absolutely can, or if they want to use all five picks, they can. But teams are only required to draft one player and that player is invited to camp with no guarantees of a roster spot.
We’re drafting players that are trying out for the SPHL, so let’s be honest, we’re probably not finding a star player here, or even many guys who may make the team, so we don’t want to make every team make a pick for every round, and saddle them with guys they don’t want, but one guy per team shows potential players in the future that there IS a legit chance of getting noticed by a team at this draft camp, and we need future players to keep coming back, because we want their $300 fee.
So after the last game wraps-up on Sunday afternoon or evening, you have the draft right then and there. You can either do it on the ice so players can skate over to their new teams like it’s pond hockey and you get to see 50 sad players who didn’t get picked, or you can have the 10 team reps making picks off in a conference room and they call the players that have been picked after the draft ends. Draft order would be like it traditionally is, worst to best, so if the draft were today, Evansville would pick first and Peoria would pick last.
And of course, all the traditional draft rules apply here. If a team wants to trade its pick(s) to another team, go ahead. If a team REALLY wanted a certain player but they got taken two picks before their turn, they can absolutely try to swing a trade for that player’s rights.
Yeah there’s a ton that come with possibly doing things this way. What’s to prevent ECHL or FHL scouts to be at this thing and stopping them from offering contracts to players right then and there? Or why would players want to go to this camp if they have no say in where they end up?
All those are realistic questions to ask, but as for the ECHL or FHL being there: Let them. Again, we’re talking about guys who are coming to a public camp for the SPHL, my guess is there aren’t many, if any, players who could make the ECHL. And if the FHL wants to sign a player who didn’t get drafted, let them, because if they prove they’re good enough in the FHL, then they will likely get called up to the SPHL at some point.
And that’s our plan for a draft in the SPHL.
Is it feasible and something the league could do? Absolutely. But does it also have some issues and is far from perfect? Absolutely. But it’s a draft where you’re finding potential guys to round out the roster, or to keep in mind when call-ups or injuries happen, and who knows, maybe you will find a hidden gem who lights up the SPHL and goes on to great things in higher leagues.