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Rating The Junior Hockey Leagues – Canadian Junior A

Rating The Junior Hockey Leagues – Canadian Junior A

July 16, 2014

BY: THE JUNIOR HOCKEY NEWS

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 2013-2014 season and nothing more.  A leagues history does not come into account in any way.

The criteria that was used in rating these eleven 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.

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.  BCHL

Sixteen teams in the BCHL were responsible for 133 promotions or commitments, the British Columbia Hockey League was far and away the favorite Junior A or Tier II league in North America among scouts.  Second only to the USHL, the BCHL develops NCAA Division 1 players at an amazing rate.

What the scouts said:

“You know when you go up to scout that you’re not going to see players that haven’t earned a roster spot.  In other leagues you sometimes see politics being played with those roster spots.  The talent level last year was deep, and it shows in the number of NCAA commits and players moving on to pro hockey.”

2.  OJHL

Twenty two teams were responsible for 160 promotions or commitments, and the Ontario Junior Hockey League was the clear runner up to the BCHL.  While many commitments were for NCAA D-3 programs, scouts repeatedly noted the development seen over the course of the season in the majority of the OJHL’s players.

What the scouts said:

“Contraction has worked for the league.  Bringing the volume of teams down over a few years, has definitely concentrated the talent pool, and at the same time it has made scouting easier with less teams to watch.”

3.  AJHL

Sixteen teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League were responsible for 90 promotions or commitments.  The AJHL was not too far behind the OJHL for the 2013-2014 season rankings.

What the scouts said:

“The AJ is a great league, small enough for players to get noticed in, but big enough to keep players motivated about the teams they face off against.  Great coaching throughout the league makes it fun to watch and makes it worth the trip up to Alberta.”

4.  CCHL

The twelve team Central Canadian Hockey League was neck and neck with the AJHL.  With fewer teams they were very close in volume of promotions and commitments.

What the scouts said:

“The CCHL blew me away last year.  Travel friendly for its players its the same for scouts.  I can make a nice easy trip up there and see six teams in a weekend all within easy driving distance of each other.  The level of play was very good, and some of these coaches really know how to push players to NCAA programs.  Definitely a league to watch.”

5.  NAHL

Twenty four teams lay claim to more than 200 player promotions or commitments.  The North American Hockey League had surprisingly mixed reviews from scouts.  Some of those commitments claimed though were made before a player entered the league or after the player left the league.

“The NAHL is a solid league.  The Blaine showcase is a site to behold for any scout.  Top players are legitimate top players.  The issue I have is with a lack of parity in some cases.  Its not entertaining or fun scouting one team beat up on another every time they play.  There’s a drop off compared to the USHL, and I wish teams would spend more time developing younger players.”

6.  There was a tie between the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

SJHL

Twelve teams were responsible for 65 promotions or commitments.  The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League while smaller than the BCHL and OJHL, worked very hard to develop players and move them on to higher levels.

What the scouts said:

“Saskatchewan is a great place to find good hard working blue collar players.  Last year they had a number of kids that surprised me and while I didn’t see it as a great NCAA D-1 scouting league, it was great for Canadian University, and I see it as more of a pro style of play.  Its different than other leagues, and I like the differences in the style of play.”

NOJHL

Eight teams were responsible for more than 30 promotions or commitments.  The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League was a surprising tie with the Saskatchewan league.  Smaller and not as well known as the other leagues, the NOJHL is seen as a leader in player safety by many scouts and a league that is helping to innovate rule changes for all Canadian Junior Leagues and Teams.

What the scouts said:

“The NOJ surprised me last year.  Its a small league, and some of the teams are hard to get to, but I was really happy I got to watch some players from the league.  I watched some of the top teams, and they were every bit as good as some of the top teams from other leagues.  There is a lot of talent in the league that used to be over looked because of the small communities the teams are in.  That’s changing now and its becoming a must watch league.”

7.  Manitoba Junior Hockey League

The eleven team Manitoba league boasted 36 promotions or commitments.  The Manitoba league was nearly in a three way tie with the SJHL and NOJHL.  Edged out slightly by the volume of players to volume of teams and a few other criteria, the MJHL is seen as been a fast and physical league that merely had a slightly down year in promotions or commitments.

“I love the Manitoba league.  You get a good mix of players that can go on to minor pro or University.  Its a Canadian players league, and they do a great job at developing local boys.”

8.  Maritime Hockey League

Last year the Maritime league had eleven teams and reports 19 players moved on to University hockey but that did not tell the whole story.  The Maritime Junior Hockey League was also developing players that moved on to the QMJHL and minor pro circuits.

“The MJ is a hidden jewel.  I like the league and its mixture of youth and experience.  Coaching is great and last year scouting was definitely on the rise.  For players looking at Major Junior its a great place to fine tune your game.”

9.  Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League

The fourteen team QJAAAHL is known for being a a direct feeder to the QMJHL.  The financial relationship between the two leagues is designed to develop players to move up after some seasoning.  Its also a great place for players not finishing their over age season in the QMJHL to end their careers on a high note before moving on to university.

“The little Q is loaded with skill.  If you want a point producing forward its a great place to find one.  If you want a good young goaltender to keep an eye on for a few years you could find one there last year.”

10.  SIJHL

The Superior International Junior Hockey League is the smallest of the Junior A leagues.  Sanctioned by Hockey Canada and USA Hockey, teams in smaller cities struggled to recruit last year.  With the loss of the Wilderness franchise to the NAHL last off season, the leading development team was gone from the league.  Even still the six team league was responsible for twelve promotions or commitments.

“The SI has some players from small towns who are really hidden gems.  Some late bloomers, and some good up and coming players last year.  The league could do a better job at promoting itself and recruiting though.  If you’re a top player in the league though, you’re going somewhere because you will stand out among the other players.”