It’s been fun looking into Tier 3 league numbers and all the fluff pieces they write to sell their brand and leagues lately. I get it, their a business trying to appeal to the masses on how great they are and for some of them they do a good job. Here at TJHP we have beaten the NAHL and NA3HL advancement horse to death. That said, nobody is really looking into the “third Tier 2” league based out of the US, and that’s our cousins we don't really talk about out west in the WSHL.
I recently read their fluff piece about how their moving players not only to collegiate levels, but get this, professional levels! I mean that's just amazing advancement. But is this real?
Sorry folks, but the article is really just a magic trick that is only great to people not willing to watch the other hand (don't worry, I'll help reveal the illusion).
The WSHL this past season was comprised of 23 teams (though this upcoming season their elite prospects page, which they clearly state they want you to look at, says they will have 27 teams) all across the western half of the US.
I'll give them credit as they do a tremendous job of bringing in European import players (I'll highlight this later). This past season they had players that represented 25 different countries some of which played in high level international tournaments for their home nation.
Of all nationalities, they had 692 players come through the league last season on those 23 different teams, roughly 30.09 players per team which is kind of high unless you're Evansville in the NA3 then that's only half of who will play for you (sorry, to easy of a target).
But when you dig into their NCAA commitments on their website and then read about how “The Western States Hockey League has reached new heights when it comes to player advancement." you have to wonder what these "new heights are". So when you really look into it, you have to wonder how a “Tier 2” league ONLY has 14 NCAA commitments total?!?!?
But hey, why not dip into their acclaimed players they moved onto across the seas: “Worldwide, that number skyrockets into the hundreds, as WSHL alumni flood rosters in countries such as Sweden, Czech Republic, and even Australia.”
There’s no doubt that some of these players are from North America (such as Canadian alumni Chris Seto who played this past season in the KHL and VHL, which the VHL being the KHL minor leagues) but many of the rest are the imports we mentioned above who aren’t getting college scholarships or going pro in the North American leagues, but instead going back home and playing in the 2nd or 3rd divisions they would of played in had they stayed there to begin with.
Here's my gripe with all of this... when you are a league that claims you are “Tier 2” and yet have Tier 3 leagues that have a much better rate of sending players to NCAA hockey (the NA3 claims to have damn near 100 players making commitment from the NA3 to NCAA, and sure they have an extra 12 teams but their sending more NCAA players than .61 players per team), you may want to stop with your fluff pieces and work on real advancement because the illusion has been revealed and the WSHL isn't doing anything special for player development or advancement that any Tier 3 leagues isn't already doing.