Not only that but @BenjaminWendorf posted this interesting fact:
But why has this happened?
Benjamin answers this with the last sentence in his tweet. It's a new era for sure.
There are very few teams that employ your typical enforcers anymore (outside of maybe Michael Haley).
Every player on a team nowadays needs to be able to contribute in some regards as more and more NHL teams are running four full lines and more and more players bring a good skill level that we hadn't seen 10-15 years ago. While yes you still have your forwards that are more "grinders", most of them bring the ability to play on the PK or can play anywhere in your bottom 6 forwards, some in your middle 6 forwards.
Defensemen? The game is moving to quicker, mobile skaters with excellent stick positioning and the ability to make that quality first pass on the break out. The rules don't allow for defensemen to clutch and hold like they did before. Look at this last years NHL Draft. 4 defenseman were taken in the 1st 10 picks, Dahlin (6'2, 180 lbs), Quinn Hughes (5'10, 171 lbs), Adam Boqvist (6'1, 180 lbs) and probably your biggest of them all Evan Bouchard (6'2, 198 lbs). None of these 4 are known as "heavy weights" or your old school defensive dman (which just meant you had no offensive skills and just went glass and out). They all have puck moving skills and quality positioning and are not there to just hope you come across the blue line with your head down. Are there defensive dman still? Yeah, but you don't see very many in your 6 defensemen that are dressed. I would call the next generation as "Two-Way" defensemen.
So back to fighting and why it's going down and will probably still decline.
The fights you are typically seeing are not between two knuckle draggers, but more organic heat of the moment type of fights which I'm personally okay with and enjoy. Yes there are still staged fights, but very few and far between.
What does this mean for the lower level leagues? Well, what's done at the NHL typically has a trickle down effect. While the AHL has some of those "enforcer" type players, many of them contribute to the team still and if they don't they slowly will become extinct in those leagues.
Hell, the leading PIM's leader in the AHL, Andy Andreoff had 150 PIMS but 59 points in 73 games.
This is going to continue to trickle down from pro's to juniors, and while yes, there are teams out there who will just take anyone (Cough) Evansville(Cough), the top teams will continue to have these skilled players and this is how players will be developed moving forward.
So for you junior players out there, work on your skating, stick skills and hockey sense, because that's what's going to keep you moving up the ladder. There is nothing wrong with being a physical, hard working player; the game will always need those. But you need to bring more to the table, now more than ever because just being willing to go out and fight isn't going to get your very far.