Understanding How Major Juniors and NCAA Hockey Operate

The Major Juniors are one of the key stepping stones to the NHL, however the way that these systems work are sometimes hard to understand. Below I will explain the Major Junior Leagues along with other leagues in North America that develop players. I will also explain how the NCAA works and how it differs from the Major Junior Leagues

CHL- The Canadian Hockey League is a major junior umbrella. The three leagues that make up the CHL are the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL. Each league drafts talented bantems from regions determined by the CHL. So the OHL cannot draft from WHL territory. However should a player be from the WHL’s region, and not get selected then he must go through waivers. Should no team from the WHL pick up the player then the player is open to join either of the other leagues, should they display interest. Should they not display interest the player can play in a lower league in Canada. Below I will explain how the leagues differ in play and where they get their personnel from.

CHL logo Image provided by CHL.ca

OHLThe Ontario Hockey League is based in Ontario, however it has several franchises spread throughout the country. What they do are scout and draft players out of midgets. Just like the NHL drafts players from the OHL. The OHL is allowed to draft from  Ontario, Alabama, Arkansas Florida, Illnois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Delaware This league is considered the most “NHL” compatible, as it is known as being deeper with Talent.

WHL players. Image provided by the WHL.ca

WHL- The Western Hockey League is based in Western Canada they have their own region in which they are able to draft prospects. The WHL is known as the gritty rough league. Players in this league often are exposed to the more physical grinding aspects of the game. This is also a breeding ground for scrappers. The WHL is allowed to draft from the 4 western Canadian provinces and the following American states, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.


Map of QMJHL teams. Image provided by billsportsmaps.com

QMJHL- The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is known for being fast and not very defensive. The Q as it is known in Canada also has teams located around Canada but for the most part the teams are located in Quebec. The QMJHL is a speedy wide open league. Players tend to post bloated point totals and the gritty side of the game isn’t as prominent as in the other Major Junior Leagues. Despite being a good league I would say it is the least NHL compatible simply because the NHL is about being able to score against a good defense not against a poor one. The Q drafts their players from  Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, New England, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

NCAA Frozen Four. Image provided by ESPN.com

NCAA- You know this as the college league. The NCAA and the CHL compete to produce players. Just recently we saw Sonny Milano elect to go to the OHL over the NCAA. It is important to know that the differences in the league and hockey is stark. In the OHL you play 68 games and have some practice, but it usually isn’t heavy because players must attend school or work. In the NCAA players practice more often and play less games, (their season is 40 games). Another key difference is the ages of the players in the NCAA. The NCAA ranges from 18-24 while the CHL ranges from 16-20. This makes the NCAA game heavier, as the players have grown into their bodies more. People usually support the NCAA because they claim that it allows the kids to grow into men before being thrust into the world of pro hockey.

These is a team map of the ECHL. Image provided by swamphockey.com

ECHL- The East Coast Hockey League is a step under the AHL. For example guys that struggle on a team like the Hartford Wolf Pack can be sent down to the ECHL affiliate The Greenville Road Warriors. The ECHL is the 3rd best American league as most of the players have either fallen short of the draft or came from college into the league. For that reason it has it’s share of veteran players.




CHL- Central Hockey League- The Central Hockey League is similar to the ECHL in that it is considered a step or two below the AHL. There are some teams in the CHL that are AHL affiliates. Despite some of the teams being affiliates this league isn’t considered to be as good as the ECHL.

How does the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) Import Draft work?

The CHL import draft is when the CHL allows each league to draft players from overseas into their own draft. Because Europe isn’t divided the way North America is, each league has a shot at different players from around Europe.

What is a billet home?

A Billet home is where players drafted live. Since their are major junior teams all over Canada and America some players will have to move into a billet home while they develop. Obviously to become a billet family you need to pass a background check.

How do trades work?

Players can be traded to another team in the league they are already in. However the teams have a deadline to move these players. It is obviously not good to keep uprooting young kids.

What is Exceptional Player Status?

John Tavares in the CHL. Image provided by theepochtimes.com

Exceptional player status allows a player to enter the CHL early if they are deemed to be truly talented. Only four players have ever been given the qualification. John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, and just recently Sean Day.

The Major Juniors and the NCAA are the two main roads into the NHL and it is because these leagues are so well managed and the competition is so good that we are seeing more and more amazing talent burst into the league.

If their is something that you find confusing or something else you would like to know then you can tweet me @StevenLoffredo

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