The growth of NCAA hockey prospects

my school is in the header, cause why not? (photo credit)


Wanna hear some fun facts?

There is at least one player on each NHL team that played in the NCAA before their “big boy” career began.

Only 5.5% of NCAA players who have played in the NCAA have been drafted in the first round since 1960.

Since 2000, about 10% of the first rounders have been from the NCAA. And about 16% are drafted in the 5th or 8th rounds.

For the longest time (and currently), the CHL has been the source of many of the top NHL draft picks year after year. 9 out of the last 10 first overall draft picks have been from one of the major Canadian junior leagues (that one exception is 2016’s Auston Matthews, who played in the NLA).

Out of those 9 in Canadian Juniors, one each came from QMJHL and WHL, while the other 7 came from the OHL.

For those who need a quick refresher, or don’t know how the CHL works-

Basically, these players are the ones who put hockey over everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. They get rid of the opportunity to play college hockey (NCAA or CIS) to increase their draft value and get looked more by the fancy-schmancy pro scouts.


I have noticed an increase in the amount of draft picks from the NCAA. Last draft (2016), out of the first round of 30, 11 of those players play in the NCAA, ranging from schools like powerhouse Boston University to smaller known schools like St Cloud State. This draft set a new record for a number of players taken in the first round of the NCAA. It’s also kinda fun to show that two of these players, Tage Thompson (STL) and Charlie MacAvoy (BOS) are having spectacular years, and could prove to be valuable in the future of their respective NHL clubs.

I saw McAvoy play against my school’s team last weekend, and BU looked super good, and McAvoy was no exception.

Get hype, Bruins fans. (I know I am)

2015 was no different. 7 of the 30 draft picks were from the NCAA. 5 of those players are currently playing in pro leagues like the NHL or the AHL. Jack Eichel (BU/Buffalo) and Zach Werenski (Michigan/Columbus) have already proven themselves to their clubs.

2014 was hard. 3 out of those first 30 played in the NCAA. Among those, Dylan Larkin has proven to be a great addition to the Red Wings.

list of the NCAA first rounders for the past 5 years

There were no NCAA first rounders the year before, and five the year before that.

The NCAA is a league that can give development, but players from those leagues (as evident in 2013 and 2014) were chosen in the later rounds.

A huge reason this player could be drafted late could be due to many reasons, like:

Age. An average college degree not only comes with crippling debt (ugh) but also requires you to take (about) 4 years of your life to get into books. Some players (Jimmy Vesey being a prime example) not only want to play hockey for a great organization, but they also want that degree to come along with it. With that 4 year wait from being drafted, they risk the fact that they could lose that player’s rights, which gives fans much to be angry about apparently.


Adjustment. College is never an easy adjustment for anyone. Heck, for me it wasn’t the best. The addition of all that school work and the pressure of going in the first round of the upcoming draft isn’t easy. Their draft value could fall.

I can’t even imagine that.

The NCAA welcomes a bunch of opportunities as well.

They get to play with older players. The average college student finishes their degree at the ages of 22-23. The CHL has a cutoff of 20. Those extra 2-3 years allows a player to adjust to the professional league play. This was also one of the reasons Auston Matthews probably decided to go to the Swiss league. Not everyone in the NHL is 18-20, so playing with older players can be a huge advantage in the long run.

They don’t have to “live and breathe” hockey. The CHL could be a league that shoves the idea of hockey being life, and hockey being love. For some, it could be that. For NCAA players, they have the opportunity to gain a social aspect, which gives them more personality and makes them more comfortable with the adjustment to the NHL, if that time ever arises. Once they have the idea of how to balance the college life (social, sport, academics, and sleep) they can be a success with managing the NHL or another pro league.

Also, they get to learn to live on their own. This is simple. The CHL offers to house with a host family. NCAA has dorms. Every college I’ve heard of makes freshman required to live on campus in (my opinion) the crappiest dorms on the campus. The NCAA lets the players experience the life of loud neighbors and stupid events that the RA requires you to go to. The NHL isn’t always going to have parents handhold at every moment.

Lastly, the schedule organization. The NCAA games are played primarily on weekends, so they don’t affect the student’s courses, and its better from a marketing standpoint. This allows time for conditioning, rehab, better academics, and makes them more well-rounded health wise. The better conditioning aspect makes a prospect better prepared for the major (or minor) leagues health wise, and are least likely to have knee or other problems before their career even starts.

The NCAA could maybe (i hope!) take over the CHL in the NHL draft someday. It would be amazing to increase the amount of talent in the NCAA.

fear the bear



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