While it’s every kid’s dream to be drafted into some type of hockey league, the NA3HL draft isn’t like being drafted in the USHL, NAHL or any CHL team for that matter.
I don’t want to take away from the players who do get drafted because having a team spend a “draft pick” on you does mean they want you as a player, it’s just the overall system is what needs to be understood as it’s not like the NHL Entry Draft.
The NA3HL draft is essentially an opportunity for the teams in the NA3HL to stake claim to the rights of a player in their league that they couldn’t get tendered. So, if Tommy Tryhard gets drafted by Evansville (sorry bud), that means if he wants to play in the NA3HL he can only play that season for Evansville (again I’m really, really sorry). The only way out and to another team within the league is if they release his rights or trade him away.
The process is this: Basically, if Team A is really interested in Player A, but can’t get them to sign a tender because Player A may have ambitions to play in another league or higher tier and won't commit, Team A will use a draft pick to own his rights so that in the event that he ends up not making whatever team he desires and wants to go play in the NA3 as they have no other option. You also see teams use their picks on fringe players in the NAHL in the event that they get cut by their NA team, but want an option to go right back into the league, the NA3 is their “stepping stone” so to speak.
Also, teams don’t have a league wide scouting service or player ranking system like you see at the pro level or CHL. Everyone is going off of their own scouts/contacts and one player could be on the top for one team, and not even on someone else’s list.
For a closer look, out of the first 10 picks in the 2018 draft, only 4 played last season in the NA3, with 1 of those 4 leaving for the NCDC after a few games. I mean you can check it out for yourself here.
In my honest opinion, the NA3HL makes a huge deal out of something that barely affects teams in the league, but they must in order to sell their brand and the league. I’m just actually surprised it’s happening so early in the year as I believe in years past it was held after the NAHL draft, which is typically more interesting and means a lot more.
So yeah, while it’s fun to watch players get drafted, and they can have bragging rights amongst their buddies about it, you don’t see too many players end up with the teams that actually draft them so it's really more a dog and pony show than anything else.