How important is the State of Michigan to the OHL? According to multiple scouts the state is seen as being “critical” to the success of the OHL recruiting players and exposing American’s to the Major Junior product.
Consider that 26 players or just over five percent of the leagues players in the 2014-2015 season alone are from Michigan. Far more players than any other state.
Consider that the rest of the American players in the league played in Michigan as Midget players, or appeared in a Tier I Elite League or HPHL showcase in the State of Michigan at some point in their recruiting and you start to get the point.
The Plymouth Whalers have occupied the Detroit metropolitan market, and have been a huge draw for recruiting purposes in Michigan and the Mid Western United States in general. With the Whalers likely on the move from Plymouth at the end of the OHL season, its easy to see why many OHL scouts are concerned.
Actions speak louder than words though, and the OHL spoke this weekend.
As we reported Saturday, OHL Sponsors Tier 1 Elite League Showcase. This is the first time the OHL has taken this kind of action in the United States, and the timing of it did not go un-noticed.
While in the past you could always see some OHL teams represented, this event was much different with the OHL showing up en mass. In attendance with a purpose was OHL’s Director of Player Recruitment, Adam Dennis. Giving educational seminars to players and parents on the OHL path was a big part of the mission.
With things being up in the air as to the future of the Plymouth Whalers OHL franchise and its relocation, and the resulting loss of high level exposure in Detroit, OHL scouts are concerned.
The Tier I Elite and HPHL Midget AAA leagues are essentially based in the Detroit and Chicago areas. With high concentrations of scouts in Detroit for the OHL, USHL and NAHL, a loss of an OHL franchise in that market and the resulting loss of exposure is a significant one.
With the rising level of play in the USHL, and the NAHL, and the strong scouting bases of those two leagues in the Detroit area, there is a heightened sense of competition.
The proof is in the USHL, and NAHL draft results. The majority of high end players in both of those leagues are coming from the Tier I Elite and HPHL leagues. The majority of American players going to the OHL played in both of those leagues at one time or another as well.
Scouts I spoke to this weekend were all echoing the same thoughts; there is a great concern that if Plymouth moves to Canada, they will see a drop in these high level players taking the OHL route. While some expressed that a relocation to Flint Michigan would be better for the OHL to maintain its Michigan presence, all made it clear that a new home in the Detroit area would be the preferred option.
While Chatham Ontario may want an OHL franchise, and even if they can move quickly to approve a new arena being built, the scouts made it clear they would prefer Flint or another Detroit location.
Three days. December 31st is the deadline to notify the OHL of an impending move. This story should play out in full between now, and January 15th, 2015 when USA Hockey meets in Orlando Florida to discuss a proposed USHL expansion team in Flint. The idea of the USHL gaining Flint and the NTDP moving into Detroit is not what the OHL scouts want to see.
TJHN will update this story as more information develops.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher