I can see totally see what you mean. Yes the junior teams need to ring the register but they are judged on developing the kids and moving them on to good teams. Prep coaches I suppose need to win and the season is too short. one option my son had was to do a P.G. year and a couple coaches said "you know I'm not really interested in seeing him play against kids that are 3-4 years younger than him" and listed 4-5 teams where he would rather see him play.
Junior hockey is expensive for sure. However, I am seeing more and more kids go to college right out of HS and flunking out. Personally, I think my son would have been one of those kids who got carried away with the freshman year madness. Instead, he played 2 years of Junior hockey and has been accepted to all 7 colleges he has applied to. Granted none of these schools were Ivy League or better, but just the same the 2 gap years helped his maturity. He will help pay his college tuition with some loans, so if he flunks out, the debt will be on him. Because of his 2 years of junior hockey, he gets to keep skating provided he continues to work hard. Good luck with your choices.