Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson is urging the NHL to look at raising the age of draft eligibility to 19 years old.
Commenting on a document he submitted to the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, Nicholson made the suggestion, believing the majority of Canadian players are not ready for NHL action in their draft year.
"I think right now it's like a hundred-yard dash for our players to be moving up a division," Nicholson told TSN Radio's Bryan Hayes Monday. "We should slow that down and make sure that players stay at the level they should be at and become superstars."
At present there are 10 Canadians in the NHL aged 19 or younger. Of those, only three – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Scheifele and Sean Couturier - were selected in this summer's draft.
Nicholson expressed interest in creating an 'exceptional player' rule that would allow some 18-year-olds access to the draft, in much the same manner that the OHL has granted underage players such as John Tavares early eligibility.
"We don't want to put a road-block here for exceptional players," Nicholson said. "If a player is good enough to play in the National Hockey League at the age of 18, he should be able to do that."
Nicholson would not go so far as to say how exactly those players should be chosen, saying that details of that nature would have to be worked out between the NHL and the Players' Association.
The idea is one of many possible changes that could be implemented when negotiations begin on a new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current pact expires at the end of the 2011-12 season.
"I think that both the NHL and NHL Players Association will take this inside," Nicholson said. "They'll have very good discussion on what is best for each side."
Hockey Canada may not be alone in trying to buy prospects more development time. Nicholson said he was encouraged by recent discussions with governing bodies from other nations at the International Ice Hockey Federation's semi-annual meeting.
"I would think any of the other organizations would want to slow that down," Nicholson said, before once again stressing the need to let exceptional players through.
Whether or not the suggestion has legs remains to be seen. However, with Canadian players accounting for just under half of the players drafted since 2007, the change could have large-scale effects across the league.