You might have heard that a couple of top-end prospects currently playing in the OHL were drafted by KHL clubs at the KHL Junior Draft Thursday.
Connor McDavid, who is almost a sure thing to be the number 1 overall pick in the June 2015 NHL entry draft, was selected by Medvescak Zagreb in the second round of the draft. Also, Ottawa 67’s forward Travis Konecny, was picked in the first round (25th overall) by Dynamo Riga. Jack Eichel, who is the biggest threat to McDavid as the #1 prospect was also selected as were a couple of other CHL players.
While it is not the first time standout CHL players were picked by a KHL team, will the time come when one of these kids will forego the OHL and go across the pond for a year of professional hockey and earn money that they can’t earn in North America?
I am not sure how iron-clad the contracts that players sign with their junior teams are, but I am sure there are loopholes that would allow them to go. McDavid would most assuredly be an NHLer in the fall of 2015, but might be convinced to sign in the KHL for a year with a large contract in order to get publicity for the league.
For Konecny, who was the #1 overall pick by the 67’s last summer and the OHL rookie of the year, is also eligible in 2015, but might not be as sure to make an NHL roster as an 18 year old. He might even get 2 seasons of pro hockey under his belt before making the NHL, by going to the KHL.
All it would take is one notable player to make the move before the floodgates would open. Could this change the way the NHL does their draft? The NHL currently requires a player to reach their 18th birthday by the time training camp opens in their draft year, but European leagues have no such restrictions.
The KHL has already made some inroads, most notably the “retirement” of Ilya Kovalchuk (pictured above) before the 2013-14 season so he could return to Russia to play, and getting a couple of big-name junior players, even for a year, would further increase the league’s reputation.