The New USHL Import Player Rules – Why Now?

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Tuesday we examined the new OHL draft for Midget Major players.  Today, we will look at the new USHL import player rules.

Last week, the USHL announced they had made some rule changes for their rosters concerning import players, and goaltenders.  Lets address the later part of the changes concerning goaltenders first.

The USHL makes no apologies in stating that they exist to develop United States born players first and other players second.  There is nothing wrong with this and it has always been at the very core of who the USHL is.

Rule making is a very careful balance of policy and implementation.  It is very rarely done perfectly anywhere, and hockey is no exception.

The USHL is now seeking to create a path to develop, or promote United States born goaltenders.  Major Junior hockey in Canada took the same course a few years ago.  Nothing wrong with taking that course of action unless you expect to see results in the short term.

The approach used in Canada has not resulted in a marked increase in goaltender quality, while it has had a desired effect on the numbers of goaltenders in youth hockey.  Measurable results of the Canadian experiment are still likely seven to ten years away.

This new rule will likely keep the top United States goaltenders in the USHL when many have been circulating to the NAHL.

The addition of two Canadian player roster spots to every USHL team could assist in future USHL expansion.  If you consider the USHL has 16 teams, this could mean 32 more high quality players entering the league.

If thirty two United States born players would be displaced, that is enough to provide 16 Americans to two expansion teams.  Add to those two teams 2 Canadians that do not count as import players and 4 additional imports, you have 22 players out of each teams 23 man roster.

Players who normally look to the BCHL and other leagues in Canada would be afforded a better opportunity to stay in the United States.  This may also slow the departure of United States born players to Major Junior hockey in Canada.

The ancillary effect of this could create more open roster spots in the NAHL, and USPHL – NCDC conference.  It could potentially take import players from the WSHL as well.

While much of this is speculation at this time, I am not the only person to take notice of the math and potential paths.

Also interesting is that the USHL six import player number is what the USPHL – NCDC is proposing.

The impact of these changes likely wont be measurable in year one.  It will likely take at least two or three years to see any measurable.  One thing for sure is that these changes were pushed through USA Hockey very quickly as multiple sources attending the winter meetings have confirmed that these changes were not even a topic of discussion.  Nothing happens this quickly without a reason.

Friday we will look at how these changes will effect Tier II and Tier III hockey.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher