What is really in a name? For those with ties to the various brands of the North American Hockey League, the name means everything.
At first thought, one could easily question any team’s decision to draft players directly from the non-sanctioned league. But a closer look proves another valuable point; the United States Premier Hockey League’s National Collegiate Development Conference is little more than just another feeder to USA Hockey’s only sanctioned Tier II league. Well, that and NCAA Division III hockey.
The real tale of the tape will be opening day and mid-season NAHL rosters. It’s going to be very interesting to see just where some of these drafted players actually end up. It’s also going to be interesting to see where players on the NAHL mid-season rosters came from.
In response to so many prospects fleeing, I would not be surprised to see the USPHL try to extend NCDC player agreements to two seasons to slow the flow of prospects to other leagues. Doing so may be an effective measure to limit such movement, but it would also lower the level of play considerably. Regardless, egos have a funny way of overriding logic. One look at the current NCDC and USPHL player agreements and it’s clear this group is capable of writing anything into their contracts. Two years pale in comparison to automatic restraining orders and five-figure buyout clauses for amateur hockey players.
There are several USPHL & NCDC coaches with a history of bragging about the league being equal to the NAHL, and that is a comical statement at best. Frankly, I am not convinced they are even equal to the Eastern Hockey League.
So if the NCAA Division III level is the most often hit target for prospects aging out of the NCDC, why the free-to-play charade? Do not get me wrong, I’d love to see even more leagues and teams operate free-to-play programs, but this non-sanctioned group is paying for it off the fees from the empire of pay-to-play teams and prospects. It’s my personal opinion that the entire platform is a developmental pyramid scheme built on empty promises and hopeless opportunities.
USA Hockey’s Glen Hefferan publishes a report every year (he skipped the COVID 2020-21 season) that zeroes in on where NCAA Division I freshmen hockey players are coming from. The reality is clear, the NCAA Division I game count for players coming straight from the NCDC is incredibly low in comparison to the NAHL and British Columbia Hockey League.
Maybe that’s why so many higher end prospects manage to find there way to the NAHL brand and sanctioned junior hockey.
My question continues to be this; why does the NAHL brand not put more emphasis on development within their own leagues? The elimination of the NAPHL’s 18AAA (and maybe adding 15AAA) and spinning off an NARHL (R for rookie, no 20s, and limited 19s) from the NA3HL (unrestricted) would change the dynamic considerably.
That’s just my opinion, what’s yours?
NAHL Entry Draft Breakdown of teams/levels/leagues where players were selected from:
Other Junior: 36
High School: 29
Canadian Junior: 29
Prep School: 25
European Junior: 10