Where Do They Come From? A Look Inside the Numbers

Now that Central Scouting has given us a guide of who the top players to watch for the NHL Draft are, let’s dig a little deeper.

One of the big questions I’ve had every year is where are all of these American players coming from? This post is part of a bigger project I’m working on (I’ll have more on that this week), but I figured it gives a good idea of where the top prospects are thriving in 2011. Remember, the rankings are merely a guide, they don’t necessarily show where these players will be drafted. Still, it’s nice to see where top talent is getting scouted from.

I took a look at each of the American skaters listed by Central Scouting in their North American rankings (Goaltenders are not included in this study. Sorry, goalies!). I have it broken down in a few different ways:

First off, there were 87 American players listed out of the 210 (+2 listed as LV) North American skaters ranked by Central Scouting. So close to 41% of the listed skaters are American, a pretty solid number in what is considered a weaker draft year.

Listed below are the leagues in which you will find the 87 ranked Americans, with the NTDP separated into it’s own category:

USHL – 24; NTDP – 16; MN-HS – 8; NCAA – 7; CT-HS 7; OHL – 6; MA-HS – 5; EJHL – 4; WHL – 4; NJ-HS 3; QMJHL – 1; WI-HS – 1

To break that down even further, here’s a look at the Top 100, in which 33 American players were ranked:

NTDP – 8; NCAA – 6; USHL – 5; OHL – 4; MA-HS – 3; MN-HS – 3; WHL – 2; CT-HS – 1; NJ-HS – 1.

Coming up after the jump, I dig a little deeper into what the numbers tell us.

I separated the NTDP from the USHL numbers in the earlier breakdowns because the U18s also play against NCAA and international competition, thus giving scouts a different sample to evaluate. While the team is part of the USHL, only half of its games come in the league. Therefore, lumping the two together as Central Scouting does, doesn’t make much sense to me. Still, it is important to illustrate what the partnership of the two entities has meant to hockey development at this level in the U.S.

When combining the NTDP with the USHL numbers, it shows that 40 of the 87 total ranked Americans are playing in that league (46%). Combined, the two also have 13 (8 NTDP/5 USHL) of the 33 Americans ranked in the top 100 (39%). No matter how you slice it, the USHL and NTDP both competing under one roof gives you the highest concentration of top American prospects competing against each other, which provides a great measuring stick, I think.

As a side note: In addition to the 16 current NTDP players ranked, seven other ranked players were once part of the Ann Arbor program. That means of the Americans listed, former NTDP players make up 26% of the identified American prospects in the rankings. Hardly surprising to anyone that’s been following the NTDP, but still an incredible success rate for one program or team.

For those CHL vs. NCAA junkies out there, 11 American-born players from the Major Junior ranks were listed, with a total of five in the top 100. There are seven current NCAA players listed, with six of those in the top 100. In addition to the seven current players, a good majority of the Americans listed in the rankings will be headed to NCAA schools in the next year or two. Conversely, I’m sure we’ll see a few of these players head to the CHL as well. In the meantime, Brad Schlossman, of the Grand Forks Herald, has a breakdown of all the ranked players with NCAA options or commitments.

I’m not trying to read into those numbers that much. They mainly show what we already know: More U.S. players stay in the states and play for NCAA programs, while a small percentage heads to the CHL.

So you can look at it any way you want to, but these numbers won’t solve any of the debates. It’s an argument I hope to cover some other day.

Chris Dilks over at Western College Hockey Blog has a great review of the Central Scouting rankings. In it, he also called attention to the fact that this is going to be a fairly rough year for Minnesotans in the draft. It’s looking like it will be a particularly bleak year for Minnesota high school players.

There were eight Minnesota high schoolers ranked, most prep players of any state, but not as many as we’re used to seeing. The number towards the top of the list is also small, with just three players ranked in the top 100. Mario Lucia might be the only real top prospect coming out of the high school ranks in Minny this year. I actually think the shrinking number of Minnesota high school players in the draft is going to be a growing trend.

I don’t mean this as a knock on Minnesota High School Hockey. It’s been an outstanding development ground for years. However, high school hockey players’ peers are beginning to separate themselves by playing Junior A hockey at a younger age. As the NTDP, USHL and even the CHL, continue to get better, the wider the gap becomes for high school hockey players.

I know there’s more to the argument like regionalism and local pride, but if Minnesota wants to keep pace with the rest of the country in producing elite talent, it might not be a bad idea to let the kids leave the nest. I know that probably disappoints some of my Minnesota-based readers, but its becoming evident to me that the top players coming out of Minnesota high school hockey are not as prepared, in most, but not all cases, as those coming out of other developmental leagues.

Other notes from my fact gathering:

I’d hate to be any other high school hockey team in the state of New Jersey. Delbarton H.S. has not one, but THREE players ranked (No. 77 Matthew Killian, No. 144 Peter McMullen, No. 196 Tommy Davis). That has to be a first for a New Jersey high school, right?

The prep schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts are still producing a fair amount of elite talent. There are seven Connecticut preps, while Massachusetts has five. There were three Massachusetts-based high schoolers ranked in the top 100.

I thought we might see a rise in players coming out of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, after we saw the rapid climb of Charlie Coyle to the first round of the draft last year. There are four players from the league, however none were ranked in the top 100. The EJHL may not be close to the USHL in talent development, but it is giving eastern-based hockey players a chance to be seen. Always nice to have options.

Since I kept the goalies out of the big profile up top, here are the basics:

Of the 34 North American goaltenders listed by Central Scouting, 15 were U.S. natives. Here’s a quick look at what leagues they come from:

USHL – 5; OHL – 3; NTDP – 2; EJHL – 2; HS-CT – 2; HS-MN – 1

Goaltenders are always tough to project, but to have 15 Americans among the top 34 is encouraging. It appears the country is doing a much better job of developing elite goaltending talent. Perhaps we’re beginning to see the fruits of the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Program’s labor?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on a bigger project involving developmental leagues and teams as far as producing NHL talent. I hope to have the first installment out by the end of the week, so stay tuned for that.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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