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 2018-2019 season and nothing more.
The criteria that was used in rating these four leagues, was how do teams within the leagues compare when developing players who move on to the NHL, NCAA, and Canadian University hockey programs.
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 United States Hockey League.
Last year the USHL was 1. This season the USHL lead voting that was not as close as in years past. The USHL was a clear winner, and the reasons are becoming more evident each season.
All scouts were quick to cite the additional development time that the USHL affords players while moving them on to NCAA programs. This is seen as being a critical development factor for players who want to ensure they receive their education while continuing their journey to the NHL.
Of note as well was the over all reaction to the USHL, or USHL alumni leading the total head count of players drafted into the NHL in June. The first round of the draft was thoroughly dominated by USHL and USHL alumni.
Citing the direct correlation with USHL – NCAA – and leading all groups in the amount of NHL free agent signings carried a significant impact on the voting.
2. The Ontario Hockey League.
Last year, the OHL finished just behind the USHL, by only a few votes. This year, the USHL extended its lead over the OHL in voting. While still one of the best leagues in the world, the OHL is simply no longer the top development path for NHL players.
The OHL still leads all of Canada in development, yet the OHL no longer dominates everyone. The OHL continues to develop some of the worlds greatest players.
The USHL and OHL are clearly the world leaders in NHL player development at this time. While our rankings have in the past and will likely today cause much debate, the one thing that can not be argued, is that these leagues represent the best of the best.
It is also worth mentioning that several scouts wanted to include or wrote in votes for Europe as well. The success of the European development path was again clear at the NHL draft this year. Scouts would have actually placed Sweden and Finland ahead of the QMJHL.
3. The Western Hockey League.
Scouts noted that the WHL continues to produce some top end talent. Clearly it is breeding ground for very talented defensemen. The WHL is now also developing some very talented forwards and is on the way to becoming a much better league depth wise.
4. The Quebec Major Junior League.
The QMJHL is simply not the dominant power it once was. Other than a handful of players, the QMJHL is stagnating. Many have argued that Junior A in the BCHL has more talent depth, and that the NAHL in the United States has clearly surpassed the QMJHL in development.
Next week we will publish the results of rating Canadian Junior A and Tier II in the United States.