The criteria that was used in rating these eight leagues, was how do teams within the leagues compare when developing players who move on to the NHL, NCAA, USHL, NAHL, NCDC, and Canada Junior A 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.
1. USPHL – Premier
The USPHL, is the benchmark in North America by which all other Tier III leagues should be measured. Not only is the USPHL the United States and North America’s largest amateur hockey organization, but no other organization does as much for player development and promotion at every level. The NCDC is showing by its use of the USPHL Premier as its development pool that it is a proven recipe for successful development of players. The number of Tier II players coming out of the USPHL Premier increases every year and is a testament to great coaching. Players are regularly moving on to the USHL and NAHL as well as NCDC. The USPHL Premier by volume leads the way in NCAA and ACHA College commitments.
2. Eastern Hockey League
The EHL, is still one of the top producers of NCAA D-3 prospects at the Tier III level. Some EHL teams also continued to move players on to Tier II when those opportunities were presented, yet they do not match the volume of the USPHL. The challenge for the EHL lays in recruiting against the USPHL and the NA3HL as both have the advantage of a built in development ladder leading to Tier II.
3. USPHL – Elite
The USPHL Elite is a solid development platform for the USPHL Premier, and NCDC. Not by design but by necessity it is younger than the Premier division. For those younger players or those who want junior hockey but are not satisfied with their AAA options, the USPHL Elite has become a destination. The Elite division has become the place where many players are choosing to play instead of leaving home for AAA. Giving them an opportunity to play at a high level while staying home and finishing high school in a traditional setting.
The NA3HL has made progress. More players moved up and actually played games in the NAHL and more players were drafted. While many gimmicks are still in place to inflate those numbers publicly, players are getting more opportunity in the NAHL. That said, the NA3HL continues to do a good job of moving players to Canadian Junior A leagues like the NOJHL, SIJHL, and OJHL.
The Greater Metro Hockey League makes a rise in the standings this year because a few players did move on to semi pro hockey in Europe, and because Two of the leagues below them are so bad that we could not rank them lower. Congratulations.
The EHLP, the second division under the EHL is better classified as a league for players with little to no AAA hockey experience. Younger and less experienced, EHLP players are seeing some players moved up to the EHL. The EHLP really is a league with Midget AA level players and not many are making moves to higher levels.
The CAJHL is what was left of the rebooted WSHL. These teams left and formed their own league that is by all accounts embarrassing. Now affiliated with another low level amateur league for developing players, this is a go nowhere situation for any player.
8. GMHL West
The GMHL West is ranked separately from the GMHL because they do not play cross over games. The GMHL West though does keep the tradition alive of the GMHL having the worst league in North America. Congratulations.
Next week we will publish our top Canadian Junior B ranking.