• Jeff Nygaard

Where Do USHL Players Go?

Updated: Jan 13

There is nothing too surprising about where United States Hockey League (USHL) players go after they play in the only Tier I league in USA Hockey's umbrella. The data in the chart below is specific to where the 2018-19 USHL players are playing in 2019-20.

Because of the USHL's limit of rostering only five 20-year-olds per team, it means some 19-year-olds who played in the USHL the previous year get pushed out the door for their final season of Junior eligibility. This is by design so teams are somewhat forced to take younger, NHL-draft-eligible players instead of filling those final spots with more mature 20-year-olds.

For example, if a team currently has 10 players who are 19 years old on its roster, there will only be room for five of them next year. The he other four either go to college -- if they have a commitment, and then only if the school to which they are committed want them to enter that season -- or they go to another Junior league. In a sense, they go back "down" the ladder for their 20-year-old season.

In 2018-19, 155 players (39.44 percent) matriculated directly to a NCAA Division I student-athlete roster spot. Likewise, a very similar number of 150 players returned to the USHL for the 2019-20 season. This accounts for almost 78 percent of the USHL players from last year.

About 11 percent went "back" to Tier II or Junior A leagues in the United States or Canada (tuition-free leagues). About 2.75 percent opted for Major Junior hockey in Canada, which means no future NCAA eligibility and 3.56 percent turned professional in Europe or North American leagues (none in the National Hockey League).

Jeff Nygaard is the editor of The Junior Hockey Podcast. He covers Junior and college-bound hockey as a traditional “beat,” in addition to breaking news stories during the course of the year.

He has a vast amount of experience on the business and organizational side of the sport as a former owner-operator of two Junior organizations two youth clubs and having served as executive director or commissioner of the Eastern Hockey League and the United States Premier Hockey League.

A Fergus Falls, Minn., native, Nygaard grew up playing for the Fergus Falls Youth Hockey Association, Fergus Falls High School, Fergus Falls Community College and North Dakota State University programs. He can be reached at info@juniorhockeyhub.com for questions, story ideas and anonymous tips.

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