Even before the old CBA had expired I had some questions about how teams approached the entry draft. I had wondered if having amateur scouts was truly any more productive that taking an average of whatever publicly ranking sources one could find available, Central Scouting, Redline, and ISS. And whether the investment in amateur scouting could be better spent elsewhere within an orgainzation.
Those questions become more pointed with the drop in UFA age from 31 to 27. Any investment in a draft pick will now result in, at most, 7 years of service before UFA , as opposed to the potential for 13 under the old CBA. As a practical matter few draft picks cracked the NHL before 22 under the old CBA, meaning that most successful draft picks had their rights held by the team who drafted them for 9-11 years before UFA; under the new CBA that would change to 5-7 years. It's hard to see how this could increase the value of any given draft pick, pre-draft. I suppose one could argue that when you are successful in drafting a player, given the draconian entry level cap, the player is worth more now than under the old CBA. I don't know how one would go about testing such a scenario, I can't imagine how it could be true, but I haven't tested it or seen anyone do such an examiniation (how could anyone at this point?).
But what about when you draft a player in the 2nd round, he joins the NHL at age 21, plays on your 3rd/4th line until UFA age? Under the old CBA this player still had good value to you, because you couldn't find a replacement on the UFA market for anything close to the rookie's salary. Will this be true in the new CBA? It's still unknown how teams will structure their payroll. Personally, I imagine the top players to still continue to get their money, and the 7-14th forwards squeezed, along with the 4th-7th D, will be squeezed. What if his replacement, as a UFA, costs 800-900K? Does that change your approach to the draft ? Is the home run swing now more viable in the first 3 rounds of the draft than before, given how much easier it would be (under those assumptions) to replace 3rd/4th line players?
And in the scenario where a team evaluates a player pre-draft and is "convinced" this guy will, in 3 or 4 years, be a solid 3rd line guy who can maybe play 2nd line, what round is he worth a pick? That player used to easily be worth a 2nd round pick, in the new CBA he will cost you at least 450K no matter where you select him, probably something like 600K in the 2nd round. If a capable 3rd line equivalent only costs 800K-900K mil as a UFA, where do you take him?
What about F vs. D vs. G? Most would agree that, on average, a forward will enter the NHL earlier than a defenceman or goalie, and will play to his peak potential earlier. If you have a forward and defenceman ranked evenly in the first round, how can you take the defenceman higher if you project him to be a year or two behind an equivalent forward in both reaching the NHL and playing up to his potential? When deciding between 9 years of a D and 10-11 of a forward under the old CBA one might have been more willing to look past "projected years played before UFA", but if the trade-off is between 4 years of a D and 5-6 of a forward one might imagine you will be leaning towards taking the forward more so than before.