Drop the draft age rules?

Alan Muir of Si.com wrote an article about the popular subject of letting Über-prospect John Tavares enter the draft even though he's not eligible based on the fact that his Mrs. Tavares acted selfishly and lazily by not pushing her son out five days earlier. Really when she conceived this kid didn't she know the cut-off was September 15th? Why would she even jeopardize it? I digress.

Despite my flippant comments above, I actually have no problem with the NHL granting a waiver to let Tavares in. The September 15th date is pretty arbitrary and was probably set because, well a date needs to be chosen and that's the date of some seemingly significant milestone that really is insignificant. Some NHL intern's niece's birthday, or something. They just have easily could have made the date the autumnal equinox (Sept 22nd or 23rd depending on the year) and this whole crisis would have been averted, unless Mrs. Tavares decided to keep holding out. Digressing again sorry. Tavares clearly has the skills to at least be in the AHL or CHL right away and will be in the NHL soon enough so his development can be nothing but helped by being drafted. (Well unless the Blackhawks get him, then he's screwed).

Well Mr. Muir then foolishly makes the leap that says, let's do away with the rule all-together, and this is his argument (i's late in the article, which means he spent half an argument setting up this point):

Would this open the door to teams snatching promising kids straight from the playground? Not likely. Scouts recognize better than most how the perception of a can't-miss player can change over time. It's tough enough to project what kind of player a 17- or 18-year-old will become. Bump that down even a year or two, and the chances of making a mistake rise dramatically. Because for every Sidney Crosby or Eric Lindros who was destined for stardom at 12, you'll have a dozen kids like Jason Bonsignore or Dan Cleary or Daniel Tkaczuk --players who looked like world-beaters at 15 and peaked too soon. Picks are too important to the future of a franchise to simply take a flyer. The potential of an underage prospect would have to be fairly compelling to pass on a chance for a more developed player.

What?!? essentially he has just said "Picks are too important to throw away, so let's open the doors to drafting younger players, who have a higher chance of failure, because now they could play the 50-50 lottery and get Sid Crosby or Jason Bonsignore both of whom would have been drafted early" He just listed the best reason NOT to open the draft doors early, because young players who look like world beaters at age 15, or younger, may not be that good later (due to physical development, mental development, or other outside influences) and therefore are more likely to result in a wasted draft pick.
But there's no denying that these talents do crop up occasionally. Crosby certainly would have been an underage selection. Alexander Ovechkin, who missed the draft cutoff date by two days, would have gone early. So would Lindros, a player who skated alongside the best in the world at the 1991 Canada Cup before he ever had a shift in the NHL.
Yes, and I think Ovechkin should have been allowed in the draft, because 2 days when related to an arbitrary deadline is insignificant. Lindross isn't the best example, yes he won a Hart trophy, but I have a hard time believing his career would have turned out better had he been given more money and privilege, and exposure to bigger players earlier in life. In fact he has had a lot of concussions, and playing with players who were more physically mature at an earlier age may have actually hurt Lindross, exposing him to concussion risk earlier in life, possibly ruining his NHL career.
So the reality is that not many underage players would be selected. But imagine the excitement it would create when a scout convinced his team to take a chance. Look at the worldwide publicity that was generated when Manchester United signed a 10-year-old prodigy from Australia a couple months back. Fans could focus on watching the youngster develop while supporters of the other teams would be questioning their scouts for not recognizing the unpolished gem. The fear of missing out on the next Bobby Orr -- who himself was scouted at 12 and signed at 14 -- would force teams to rethink and refine their approach to scouting. It would reward those who can evaluate talent, and cripple those that can't. And isn't that a better way to restock the pool than by virtue of a bad season?
So teams who are looking for every competitive advantage they can get won't sign underage players because they don't want to miss out on the next Bobby Orr. Makes perfect sense right?

So the argument for opening up the draft to players of all ages is that there will be rare talents that can be found at an early age. This makes no sense to me, when a much smarter solution would be to just allow players born within six months of the deadline to apply for a draft waiver and have scouts, and background investigators, review the application and decide whether the standout deserves the waiver.

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