I want to remind all readers that this series of articles rating the junior hockey leagues in North America is based upon independent opinions and analysis of scouts throughout the United States and Canada.
This rating is based upon the 2015-2016 season and nothing more. A leagues history does not come into account in any way.
The criteria that was used in rating these eleven leagues, was how do teams within the leagues compare when developing players who move on to the NHL, NCAA, Canadian University, USHL, NAHL, Canada Junior A and Major Junior hockey programs. The size of the league as in number of teams was also taken into account for depth of player talent throughout the league. The level of promotion of commitments was also taken into account for this particular rating.
Again this is not a historical account of each league but a rating based upon last season alone. We hope this series of articles is informative and promotes a healthy discussion.
1. Eastern Hockey League
The EHL, continues to be the top producer of NCAA prospects at the Tier III level. The EHL also has a fair amount of players who move on to Tier II when having junior eligibility remaining. The EHL consistently leads all Tier III leagues in NCAA D-3 and D-2 placements. It is far and away the leader of Tier III.
2. USPHL – Premier
The USPHL, continues to be one of the top Tier III leagues in the United States. Geography plays critical role in scouting the league, and showcase promotion was another. The Premier division does a very good job of moving players on to all levels of College Hockey.
The NA3HL once again continued to improve on its ability to secure NCAA D-3 commitments for its players. Quality coaching and ownership has improved the league. Though many teams are still too focused on wins and losses and not enough work is being done to promote player movement up.
4. USPHL – Elite
The USPHL Elite continues to be a scouting staple on the east coast. With players moving on to NCAA D-3 the Elite league does a good job working for its players.
5. USPHL Mid West
The former Minnesota league saw the Chicago Cougars, Dells Ducks and Wisconsin Rapids River Kings leading the way in player promotions. Notably all three teams are owned by one man. Other organizations within the league are now following their lead and using many of the same ideas to move their players on. Things will change again in 2017 as the league has once again split.
6. USPHL 3
The USP3 league is seen as a league used to develop players that eventually move on to the USPHL Elite and sometimes Premiere divisions. The USP3 is clearly focused on being a younger league for development purposes.
The league formerly known as the NSHL increased their scouting profile by their affiliation with the NA3HL. Now full members of the NA3HL for 2017, we expect more from these teams.
8. Metropolitan Junior Hockey League took its last gasp of air in 2016 and is now gone. They did their best to settle their organizations in with better leagues to benefit the players.
9. NPHL (NorPAC)
The NorPAC too is now gone. Merged into the USPHL, maybe now they will be able to recruit players worthy of being labeled as junior hockey.
The RMJHL made it through year one. How long it can continue to use players cut from AAA teams and call them Junior Hockey players remains to be seen. The league now replaces the NorPAC at the bottom of the Tier III hockey ladder in the United States.
The Greater Metro Hockey League is simply a train wreck at the league level for management. Unfortunately good a few team operators are stuck in the league because they have no other options. Buyer beware.
Next week we will publish our top twenty all inclusive list covering all levels of junior hockey. Where will your league fit in?