Fuck no it doesn’t, at least from the youth aspect of things.
The cost for a kid to get anywhere near even just NCAA or Junior A is prohibitive. If you’re aren’t upper middle class, then you can forget about going anywhere in Hockey. Hockey is easily hits a 7,500$ cost per year starting around 12 years old. More for power skating and personal trainers or coaches.
If you aren’t naturally talented or benefit of an early growth spurt, teams even at the Peewee level wont take a chance on you. A good friend of mine is really highly rated and getting ready for his first full-on season in the NHL and he was told he wouldn’t go anywhere because he was too small to be a defenceman (until he was personally scouted out). He’s a top 10 rated 1998 and he almost slipped through the cracks.
Don’t even get me started on the nepotism at the youth level either. I won’t even bother going into detail on it, because if you’ve ever played even somewhat high level hockey, you know.
If NHL franchises had academy teams where they didn’t have to surrender players to the draft, and they were reasonably priced to the tune of only a couple thousand bucks a year (still unbelievably expensive sounding to anyone in Europe who’s played soccer at the youth level) then I might agree. But in reality, the current youth hockey system, at least as far as Canada which I’ve experienced personally, is absolutely rotten and exploitative.