Hockey : The NCAA vs The CHL

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There comes a time (age 15,16) when super prospects must choose what path they will pursue on their quest to one day play in the NHL. For North American players, that means deciding between the CHL and NCAA. I’m an American, but I am not biased. I have a great amount of respect for the CHL, the OHL in particular. The OHL is the #1 developmental league to the NHL in the world. If you’re the next Corey Perry, play in the OHL. Seriously, play 2 or 3 seasons in the OHL. If you’re an American, play for the USNTDP for 2 years (if you’re invited) and then, if NHL teams are seriously interested, go to the OHL. (Michael McCarron, Seth Jones (WHL)).

Here’s where things become interesting. Let’s say you’re not the next Corey Perry (Hello 90% of “Elite Prospects”). Same question, CHL or NCAA? The CHL is a business, but don’t be fooled, the NCAA is a business too.

The Age Factor
The CHL has an age limit, you play from 16-20 and every team can have up to 4 “overagers”, or 20 year olds. In the NCAA, it isn’t uncommon to see 20 year old freshman. So, non-surefire NHL prospects, the NCAA might very well be for you! Let’s say I’m an OHL GM or coach, often they are the same person. I have a 19 year old goaltender, he was my backup last season, he’s going to sit behind a 17 year old this year. Maybe he’ll play 20 games – tops, but we aren’t expecting much – he’s peaked, says the coaches. What’s a 19 year old with backup credentials in the OHL to do? No pro team will be seriously interested. If he’s not good enough to start in the OHL, why would a pro team take him on? He’ll likely end up in the Canadian college ranks.

Don’t Be the Next Neil Conway
6,7 years ago there was a promising 88’ born goaltender from Ohio named Neil Conway. He was a real good goalie, among the best in his age group. NCAA offers for sure.  I could see Conway playing for his home state for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but that’s not what happened. Instead, Conway signs a contract with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Conway played a total of ____ games for Owen Sound, then was waived. So much for an NCAA career.
Lesson : As a goalie, don’t sign on with an OHL team unless you know they’re committed to you, or have a chance to start immediately.

Another type of player who might want to consider the NCAA over the CHL is the undersized forward or defender. The perfect example : Torey Krug. (or Martin St.Louis) The NCAA gives undersized players, and really any player, more time to develop. Yes, they practice more, as opposed to the professional-style schedule in the CHL, but that’s not as important. We’re talking an extra 1-2 years a player will have to grow physically and mentally.

What I really like about phenomenal players, the Tyler Seguins and John Tavares the OHL gives us, is they don’t need another year or two to develop, they’re ready! That’s why I’m appreciative that the OHL exist, for those ultra-talented players. But for every Tyler Seguin, there’s 5 Nick Boninos, players who Do require some extra seasoning to become professional players. And let’s face it, there are a lot more Nick Bonino type players in the NHL than Tyler Seguin type players.

The Development of NCAA Goaltenders
Goaltenders take longer to develop. In the OHL, you have from 16 and barely any goaltenders crack the roster at that age, if they do it’s likely in a backup role, to 20, maybe 20. I understand that goaltenders Have to Play, it’s better to start in the OHL than backup in the NCAA. It’s better to start in the NCAA than backup in the OHL. Only 1 goaltender is on the ice at a team, go where you can play.

If you’re CHL-drafted and that means you’re 16, unless you sign by your 18th birthday, I don’t think you should consider the CHL. Why would you, when you could play another year or 2, or 3 of juniors, whether it be the in the USHL, or Canadian Jr.A and then look for an NCAA offer.
Perfect Example : Ben Scrivens.

If you’re a sure-fire NHLer – and I do believe there are such players, about 10 a year on average, take the CHL route.  If you have Steven Stamkos level skills, you’re better off in the CHL, preparing for the professional game and avoiding the academic workload required by the NCAA. If you’re a mid-late round CHL pick and offered a spot on the roster, don’t forget that only 1 in 5 CHL players play 1 NHL game in their careers. That’s better than the NCAA player’s chances, but far from a sure thing.

The NCAA offers more time to develop your game and when you’re done, you’ll likely have a valuable degree. When Ben Scrivens is done in the NHL, he’ll have options thanks to his years at Cornell. Hey, Neil Conway might be doing well too. But do you really want to risk it?

Image Source : HockeyNow.Ca

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