Harrington and his advisers have to do what is best for Harrington, who will only be 16 years old once. The real beef is:
- People have fib to get what's best for a player's future;
- A boy who's still only Grade 10 is put in such a predicament;
- The OHL maintains the façade that the draft is a fair fight;
- A loaded London team just happened to take a top-5 talent with the 19th overall selection at no risk to them.
Who knows how this plays out. One scenario is that the Knights will say they had a different "vibe" when they spoke to Harrington. He'll say that after thinking it over, the OHL is really the best place to play. It's easy to predict since this has happened so many times before.
It doesn't take too long, about three minutes over MSN with a fellow junior hockey devotee, to come up with with five players in the past few years who have said they were going to play college hockey and then changed their mind after being drafted by London. The Knights got future No. 1 overall NHL draft pick Patrick Kane, now starring for the Chicago Blackhawks, that way. The same went for current Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner. John Carlson, London's best defenceman and Phil McRae, a superb forward, were each committed to the the U.S. national team development program before mysteriously breaking that to go to the Knights. (And you wonder why each was left off the U.S. world junior team last season.) London is hardly the only team. Others remember how Brampton Battalion standouts Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene, who have the same agent, gamed the system in order to play together.
One should be happy for Scott Harrington. All he said was, "Our plan right now is to go NCAA, so we're going to focus on that route right now and we'll see what happens on draft day." That's not even a lie. His concept of right now just happened to very ephemeral.
The kicker is that Harrington has to make this choice. There is no political will in hockey to work for a reasonable solution, like letting someone play in any amateur league he wants until he finishes high school and has a better idea of whether he has a shot at the NHL, or should parlay his puck skills into getting an education.
Harrington deserves to write his own ticket, like anyone who's graduated at the top of the class, so to speak. The machinations are completely understandable on his end, but try telling that to the fans who support the league with their discretionary income, venturing out on cold winter nights to watch the hometown team. People who follow the OHL support it as a business because they want to see teams win more than they want to see individual players develop, although that is a big part of the sell.
Fans have had it up to here with the league insisting all teams are created equal when season after season, top-end talents just happen to fall to certain teams, often those located in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe such as Brampton, Kitchener and London.
The real kicker is that London is not out anything if Harrington actually pursues college hockey, which we all know he's not doing (although he would conceivably play two full seasons with his hometown Vees). Ontario Hockey League teams can get a compensatory second-round draft choice if the first-rounder doesn't report. That makes taking him less of a risk to London, which is usually drafting near the end of the first round. The trade-off is much, much greater for a team picking in the top 10. Talk about an unintended consequence.
It's not clear how much sympathy there should be for the small-city teams out in the hinterlands. Franchises such as the Kingston Frontenacs should look in the mirror first if agents and parents try to steer top-end players to other teams.
At the same time, they can't do anything about geography. Many of the league's faithful customers are upset, and nothing gets done. What a way to run a business.