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An Advisers Life – The Truth About Which Leagues NCAA D-1 Players Come From

Its been quite a while since I have written a piece for TJHN.  Usually I am too busy to write based upon my scouting schedule, and working with players.

I decided to take the time to write today because my email inbox and that of TJHN has been filled with questions on NCAA hockey.  Many of these questions are player specific, and those can not be answered here.  But, we can answer the bigger question, which is “where are NCAA Division One Players Coming From?”.

While leagues like to tout themselves as one thing or another, the truth is simply found in the numbers.  The numbers do not however account for NCAA scouting bias toward one league or another.  All scouts have a bias, on which leagues they like, its no different from which brand of skates or sticks you prefer, you purchase the brand you are most comfortable with.

Here is how it actually breaks down;

In the 2014-2015 season, 1592 student athletes competed at the Division One level.

31 of those players were European, 466 of those players were Canadian, and 1095 players were from the United States.

The myth that Canadian born players are dominating NCAA scholarships is not supported by actual NCAA numbers.  The United States more than doubles the rest of the world in NCAA Division One college players.

For years, we at TJHN have been telling players and parent not to compare “leagues”  There are good, and not so good teams in every league.  But for purposes of this discussion, these are the top “leagues” and groups of “leagues” producing NCAA Division One players.

The USHL 35.3% of all NCAA D-1 Players

The BCHL 16.3%

The NAHL 14%

Combined Tier III and US Prep School 12.6%

Combined remaining Canada Junior Leagues A and B. 18.6%

15.2% are coming from US High School, Midget AAA, USA Hockey NTDP, and other sources.

These numbers make it very clear that the USHL is the top NCAA producer and that no other leagues are remotely close.

These numbers also show what TJHN published as the NAHL’s rise on the scouting landscape in its rating of Junior A Leagues in Canada and the NAHL.  That rise is expected to not only continue, but to accelerate in the 2015-2016 season as the league experienced contraction and became stronger, all while moving move players to the NCAA.

Once again, I caution the reader to remember that “leagues” and their production of NCAA players, are not representative of every team in the league.  Some teams in some leagues other than the USHL dominate their respective league in NCAA player production.  Some teams in some leagues are virtually non-existent when accounting for NCAA player placement.

This goes back to one critical thing that every player and parent needs to remember, leagues do not make the player, the players make the league.

While some leagues clearly do a much better job at player development and marketing of those players to the NCAA, some leagues may actually offer a higher level of “competition” than others.

The question then is not what is the league going to offer me as a player, but rather what team in that league is going to offer me the best exposure to NCAA programs?

The clearest example of this is with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.  This one program accounts for 3.2% of all NCAA Division One players.  One team.

Another item that can clearly be seen in these numbers is that geography plays a critical role in NCAA scouting.  Playing in, or near major metropolitan areas where scouts reside or can get into and out of easily, is extremely important.

Not shown in these numbers are just how critical “showcase” events are for each league and team.  Hosting certain playoffs for Canadian Junior programs is also not accounted for in these numbers yet is a critical factor.

These numbers are simply raw numbers.  No one “league” is right for every player.  Each player is different, and therefore their development path should be, and is usually different.  Some players who could play in the USHL, may not be right for the USHL and will have a higher likelihood of going NCAA if they play in a different league.

One thing that does show in these numbers is that “league” marketing of how good they may be at NCAA player development may not be supported by actual NCAA players hitting the ice.

I hope this answers some questions for some of you, and if not, please just send us an email.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher

President Hockey Talent Management


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