What is Junior Hockey? Part Three - Drafts, Tenders, and Contracts...

Updated: May 12

So we’ve already discussed what I believe is the best way to get exposure and noticed by Junior clubs and that was showcases.

Once the showcase is over, this is where the “fun” begins for you as a player. If you were in one of those top 2 groups I mentioned in the previous article you are about to feel like what I assume a Kardashian would feel like. Your phone will be ringing constantly, you’ll be getting bombarded by text messages, and your email inbox will explode (okay, probably not). Coaches, GM’s and Scouts will be contacting you left and right, and while I have a separate article discussing how to handle those situations coming up, below is what you can expect to happen in the process.


In the leagues listed above, organizations from those leagues if interested in you will offer you a tender, which is basically a contract that states your intentions to play for that particular team in the upcoming season within that league. Once you sign a tender in say the NAHL, no other NAHL team can offer you one or talk with you. Because teams are only given so many tenders per season, they only offer them to players they want to make sure no other team within their league can gain the rights to, as they want them to play for their club that upcoming season.

Getting tendered by one league doesn’t mean your options are closed in other leagues.

Say you sign a tender with an NA3HL team but have ambitions of playing in the NAHL that season. You are still able to go and try out for any Tier 1 and Tier 2 team you want. You could even attend tryouts for a USPHL team or EHL team. You just can’t tryout or skate with any other NA3HL team.

To note, the USHL only allows two tenders, and if a team uses one, they lose a 1st round draft pick. If they use two, they lose both a 1st and 2nd round draft choice in their league draft.

Contracts USPHL/NCDC and EHL

Unlike the other leagues above, the USPHL and EHL essentially just give you a contract for their team within their league. Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t play in a different league, but you are the property of that team within that league if you sign with them. Like a tender, you can move up in tiers and you are not locked into just your team or your league. Both leagues move players up to Tier 2 programs, with the USPHL having their own Tier 2 league called the NCDC.


Here’s where things can get interesting. Each of the leagues listed holds their own draft for their own leagues, so if you get drafted by a team in the said league, you are property of that team in their league for that season. Almost like a tender, but you didn't get a choice on where you go.

The USHL, for example, holds two drafts, the Phase 1 draft or Futures draft for players that are U17 player next season and will play on the team (typically they will join at the end of the season) and their Phase 2 draft which is for players that are of any age but typically will play the upcoming season. Each team will draft until they’ve hit 45 players for their rosters. You cannot draft anyone who is already rostered with another team in the league.

The NAHL and NA3HL only have a single draft while the NCDC has both a regular season draft, an international player draft, and a futures draft, but only the NAHL and NA3HL post their draft results in a sequence whereas the NCDC just gives you names and where the players went.


Overall as a player, being offered a contract or tender is what you are aiming for as it’s a guarantee the team wants you for the upcoming season. Being drafted in the USHL, NAHL, NCDC, and NA3HL is also an honor as it means that team in that league values you as a player and wants to make sure nobody else in their league can take you, but for saying the NAHL and NA3HL it doesn't guarantee anything and you still need to earn your spot.

(Part 4 will look into how to choose a Tier 3 Program)


#tenders #contracts #draft #juniorhockeyleagues #recruiting #Scouting #nahl #USHL #USPHL #NA3HL #EHL #NCDC

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