I read your article regarding the differences between the US and Canadian contributions to the recent draft with great interest.
I agree with your general view that the US is increasingly catching up to Canada in developing players for the NHL.
I think there are two main reasons. (You are undoubtedly aware of the following points, but I thought I would send them nonetheless.) First the US development model is completely different from the Canadian model. The US model allows for a much longer skill development than the Canadian system. I also think the US system has benefited from the recent rule changes in the NHL, eliminating the red line, less obstruction, more free wheeling hockey in the NHL. Also the US tends to have larger ice surfaces on average than most Canadian rinks.
The Canadian system is all about identifying prodigies, the next Sydney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon.
The Bantam draft, which is 14 in some provinces, is the primary tool for identifying prospects. There is a common belief in Canada that if you are not a local superstar at 14, which is often a result of early physical maturation, then your future hockey prospects are limited.
Also, the Canadian system is all built around the World Junior Tournament, which funds the bulk of Hockey Canada’s operations. CHL owners want these prodigies available for the draft, and as a draw for fans. Hockey Canada needs to ensure the CHL owners release their top prospects for the World Junior Tournament.
In essence, the Canadian system is designed to meet the needs of CHL owners. (That is why, AAA hockey is emphasized over High School Hockey in many provinces. CHL owners do not want players to continue to play in their High Schools as 17 and 18 year olds.)
The problem for the CHL as I see it, is that the CHL needs to encourage the second and third line players to commit to the CHL, to increase the calibre of the league.
Increasingly, those potential second and third line CHL players are looking at the US college route. (To combat this trend, the CHL
has developed programs with CIS schools as a way of encouraging the second and third line CHL players to commit to the league.)
To summarize, I think the US system is a developmental system, while the Canadian system is an identification system.