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 2016-2017 season and nothing more. The NCDC is NOT included as they have not played at the Tier II level yet and will be included next year.
The criteria that was used in rating these leagues, was how do teams within the leagues compare when developing players who move on to the NHL, NCAA, Canadian University, the USHL 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. THIS IS NOT TO BE SEEN AS A DESCRIPTION OR STATMENT ON ANY LEAGUE LEVEL OF COMPETITION.
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. The NAHL
The NAHL continues to separate itself from all other Tier II leagues when it comes to marketing players to higher levels of hockey. While it is not the USHL, many teams are now actively doing more work to move players on to the USHL. An official development agreement being worked upon between the NAHL and USHL has continued to improve the NAHL product.
The BCHL is still one of the top development leagues in the world and is well scouted. The BCHL lags behind the NAHL in player development volume and marketing reach. With NCAA scouting geography being influenced by travel budgets, the BCHL must make some changes to its player promotion system in order to maintain a hold on its standing.
A well run, well established league that is focused on developing players. This year the development of defenseman Cale Makar played a large role in the increased scouting presence. It will be incumbent upon the AJHL to take advantage of the 2017 season moving forward into 2018.
The OJHL can thank its geography and proximity to scouts for their advantage over other leagues. The OJHL is still producing and developing many talented players moving on to higher levels. The OJHL barely hung on to a top five ranking as other leagues are on their heals. Rising pay to play costs in many instances are to blame for chasing talent away to other leagues.
5. Manitoba Junior Hockey League
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League clearly made some changes and increased their player promotional efforts for the 2016-2017 season. While not producing the volume of some other leagues the quality of player being developed was seen as being higher than in the past. If this continues forward, the geographic challenges facing the league could be minimized.
The CCHL continues to be a top developer of players in Canada. While changes continue to take place in the league and development structure, things could be better. While a great league, complaints regarding rising player fee’s continue to grow in number.
The SJHL has risen in their effort to promote players upward. While a focus on winning games within their league is still the priority, leadership worked harder last season to get more scouts involved. The SJHL should continue to improve their standing with this new effort that is player centered.
The NOJHL, once again featured more in season call ups to higher levels than any other Canadian Junior A or Tier II league. Yes, the NOJHL lead the entire country. The NOJHL has a lot of potential, and has positioned itself to become a development leader. The question remaining to be answered is do they want to be an NCAA development league or a Major Junior development league. Until that question is answered in one voice the league will hold itself back.
The Western States Hockey League maintained its position this year. While some teams dramatically improved their level of play, others showed that they are not deserving of the Tier II label. Until weaker programs weeded out, the WSHL will not live up to its potential. The WSHL annual Las Vegas showcase sets them apart from other leagues in its well structured and marketed approach.
The SIJHL continues to fail to live up to its potential. Boasting access to Minnesota and Wisconsin, the league continues to be unable to capitalize on the number of NCAA programs in the area. When you contine to repeat what you have always done and expect different results……….
11. Maritime Junior Hockey League
The Maritimes is good hockey. That’s about all you can say about the league that continues to prove they don’t care about anything other than moving players to the QMJHL.
12. Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League
Highly skilled players and no plan to promote them that anyone can tell.
Next week we will tackle Canadian Junior B hockey.