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Rating The Junior Hockey Leagues – 2023 Tier III Edition

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 A. USPHL – Premier

The USPHL, is the benchmark in North America for moving players to Tier II. The NCDC shows year after year that 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.

1 B. Eastern Hockey League

The EHL, is the leader of NCAA D-3 commitments at the Tier III level. No other Tier III league does the volume of NCAA commitments that the EHL does. It is their focus, and it is why they exist. They claim this as their badge of honor and rightly so. With great leadership at the league level, along with measured expansion, the EHL continues to improve every year.

**Publishers note. The USPHL Premier and the EHL are two very different leagues with very different goals. Both are head and shoulders above every other Tier III league. Either league could have been 1A or 1B, they are interchangeable depending on each individual players goals.

3. NA3HL

The NA3HL still remains far behind the EHL and USPHL Premier. It is a league for older players who are not ready for Tier II. A good league for entertainment value, though not nearly as skilled as the EHL or USPHL Premier. Largely a league for ACHA level players.

4. 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 EHLP, the second division under the EHL is an option for players who may not have local AAA programs, or for those looking for a more inexpensive option to AAA. Younger and less experienced, EHLP players are seeing some players moved up to the EHL.


The Greater Metro Hockey League is starting to be seen as a legitimate playing option where players can move up to Canadian Junior A, or over to Europe. The institution of operational standards and a more strct governance of the league have changed things for the GMHL. They may be onto something if they look to develop more players for Europe.


The CAJHL is still surviving. The league looks to be winning the war of attrition for independent leagues in Western Canada. Still a go nowhere league for players, at least they are not trying to claim to be something they are not.

8. GMHL West now NJHL

The GMHL West is ranked separately from the GMHL because the GMHL has kicked out this gongshow operation. This is simply the lowest level and worst hockey in North America, anyone paying money to these people deserves the disappointment they will end up with.

Next week we will publish our top Canadian Junior B ranking.

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