• Jeff Nygaard

The Path To The United States Hockey League

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

The United States Hockey League (USHL) is the only Tier I Junior hockey league under the USA Hockey (USAH) umbrella. The Tier I designation is granted to USHL teams by virtue of their agreement to meet rigid and specific organizational and game management criteria.

The USHJL is the pinnacle of amateur hockey development in the United States and is the main gateway to NCAA Division I competition and NHL draft inclusion. The numbers simply don't lie.

The big question many 14U players start to ask is, "How do I get to the USHL?" Besides having the talent and the work ethic to achieve a roster spot in this league TJHP likes to look at the data as a way of providing an unbiased answer to that question.

TJHP has broken down data from the past two years to track from where these players are coming, and for 2018-19, where the USHL players landed for 2019-20. As you can see below the best way to get to the USHL is to play in the league the year before.

Otherwise, playing in Tier II North American Hockey League or a handful of the 10 Canadian Junior "A" Hockey Leagues in Canada is the best bet. Of the 23.6 and 19.63 percent of players listed in the Tier II Jr category below, approximately 65 percent are from the NAHL. The other 35 percent are predominately from the British Columbia Hockey League and the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

A bit surprising is the fact more USHL players -- albeit by a small margin -- are coming from Tier II or Junior A leagues compared to 15U/16U18U AAA. At the youth levels the Selects Kent School Academy and Shattuck St. Mary's, two prep schools that play Tier I youth hockey schedules, lead the way with direct-to-USHL advancements, with the North Jersey Avalanche close behind.

Also of interest is the birth year make-up of the USHL, which limits its 20-year-olds to five per team. Although a small snapshot of only two seasons, it's evident the 2000 birth year is a strong one for top-end talent given the fact it had the highest number of players in the league for two years in a row. This table can be read each year, from top to bottom as 20-year-old on top to 16-year-old as the bottom number. For example, 1999s are down 14 percentage points this year given the five-player limit on 20-year-olds. There are fewer players, by percentage, at each age this year vs. last year (except at age 19) due to the high number of 2000 birth year skaters.

Keep in mind all this data is only a two-year sample. TJHP plans to build on this data annually.

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