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 2021-2022 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.
The USHL has retained the number one ranking for the 2021-2022 season. Simply put, the USHL is out producing every other league when developing NHL draft picks, NCAA players, and alumni who after playing NCAA go on to sign NHL free agent contracts.
No other league is doing it better. The numbers are undeniable. Again in 2022, 57 USHL or USHL alumni were drafted into the NHL. That number ties their previous record for draft picks.
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.
The OHL played in 2021-2022. That in itself was a huge step after not playing in 2020-2021 due to the COVID pandemic. More than anything, players, scouts and fans are glad the OHL is back and they showed exactly why they were able to come back strong.
With 35 players taken in the NHL draft, the OHL made a statement to the rest of Canada. They are the top league in Major Junior Hockey, and while the others are good, the OHL just does things a little better.
The USHL and OHL are clearly the world leaders in NHL player development at this time when you look at volume numbers. 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.
3. The Western Hockey League
The WHL falls one spot into the number 3 position. Long thought of as the league for developing top NHL defensemen, the WHL is showing its offense the last few years. With 28 players taken in the NHL draft, and six of them in the first round, the WHL is making offensive statements.
The success of NHL players from the WHL was taken into account as Dylan Cozens, Peyton Krebs, and Bowen Byram have all proven the WHL is developing scoring as much as they are defense.
4. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
The QMJHL while playing well in the Memorial Cup, and having 19 players selected in the NHL draft, just does not have the depth of skill that the other leagues have. This is shown in the NHL draft results and the lower numbers of alumni signing minor pro contracts upon completion of the QMJHL careers.
It is also worth mentioning that several scouts wanted to include or wrote in votes for European leagues as well. The success of the European development path in Sweden and Finland will again be seen at the NHL draft this year. Rising leagues in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Russia due to players leaving North America to play during the pandemic allowed for these leagues to have higher visibility that in years past.
Next year we will add Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia to these rankings.
Next week we will publish the results of rating Canadian Junior A and Tier II in the United States.