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If the NHL and WHA had kept the draft age at 20, does Gretzky play in the NHL at 18?

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09-07-2014, 10:44 AM
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Sticks and Pucks
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If the NHL and WHA had kept the draft age at 20, does Gretzky play in the NHL at 18?

I was reading an article about Ken Linseman and how he fought to lower the WHA draft age to allow teenagers to play. Assuming he did not do this and the WHA and NHL both kept the draft age at 20 and Wayne Gretzky plays his 17 year old season in juniors, do you guys think Wayne Gretzky gets exceptional status to play in the NHL at 18?

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09-07-2014, 01:21 PM
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Killion
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I dont believe so, no. The WHA however forced the NHL's hand, and a bit of Circus followed with the Linesman case, most notably Clarence Campbell's handling of it all. Really, the only sane voice throughout that era was Ed Snider's in Philadelphia urging as early as 73'ish that the NHL absorb the WHA teams through Amalgamation & end the WHA Underage Draft & Player Wars. Put a cap on the bottle so to speak before the Genie really got out & wreaked havoc. The Old Guard wanting nothing to do with that whatsoever, Linesman ultimately challenging & winning, embarrassing the NHL, age dropped. Personally, not something I think beneficial to the game as a whole. Players are still developing into their early 20's and need that time in Junior & the Minors to fill their tool boxes up with the arts & crafts, sciences required. Instead, we get unfinished product/talent. Cheaper as per the Cap system & CBA of course, higher turnover, shorter careers.

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09-08-2014, 02:54 AM
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The Panther
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Killion View Post
Personally, not something I think beneficial to the game as a whole. Players are still developing into their early 20's and need that time in Junior & the Minors to fill their tool boxes up with the arts & crafts, sciences required. Instead, we get unfinished product/talent. Cheaper as per the Cap system & CBA of course, higher turnover, shorter careers.
I basically agree with you. For one thing, there are very few NHL players who have the top 50% of their career seasons at age 18 (or 19). In fact, most don't do much at age 18. Another thing is that premature injuries can really affect rookies and sophomores in their teens. (Edmonton fans recently saw this with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.) Further, most 18 year olds would benefit much more from another entire season as an elite junior player than as a highly-pressurized, average (often benchwarming) NHL rookie.

Nearly every NHL rookie who put up huge results did so at age 20 or 21 (or in some cases even older). For example, Selanne, Robitaille, Bossy, Nieuwendyk, et al. Plenty of legends did little exceptional in their 18-year-old rookie campaigns.

There are of course outliers like Gretzky, Lemieux (who was almost 19 when his rookie season started), Crosby, etc., but those are exceptions to the rule.

I firmly believe that one of the reasons the NHL became more offensive-minded in the 80s (in addition to Gretzky's presence and the Oilers' success) is the preponderance of young players in the game. It suddenly became the norm, from about 1980, to have 18-year-olds in everyone's line-up -- including defense and goalies.

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