Now that I’ve had a few extra days to digest the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft, I’ve got some final thoughts and a few more highlights, as well as some links to more post-draft analysis.
First off, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the 60 American players selected last weekend represent the highest total since 62 were selected in 2007. So even though the quality of selections may not have been as good as the last few seasons, the quantity and depth were there.
Alvin Chang of ESPN Insider’s Draft Blog, wrote about the growing trend of more and more Americans being selected (subs. required). Chang also mused that while Russian players are on decline, American players are not only taking those vacated spots, but also stealing a few from Canadians along the way. Chang does a really nice job of wrapping up the Draft in his recent post, so if you’re an Insider, check it out.
Part of that growing trend is the overall improvement of the United States Hockey League in the last 10 years. There were 28 players chosen out of the USHL in 2011, on top of nine alumni selected. Seventeen of those 37 players came from the National Team Development Program.
The inclusion of the NTDP has been beneficial for the USHL. It boosts the league’s overal draft numbers, sure. However it’s greatest value is that the highest percentage of elite American players are under one roof.
There are plenty of great American players in the Canadian Hockey League, but the highest concentration of draftable American talent lies within the USHL now. We weren’t able to say that three years ago when the NTDP was in the North American Hockey League. With the great talent already within the USHL’s member teams, adding the NTDP to the mix gives the league an incredibly deep base of elite players. That means more scouts at more games. It’s a win-win.
The NTDP has some differences to USHL member clubs, as the draft-eligibles also play international and college competition. Still, the 26 games the U18s play in the league are of great importance to both parties.
You take a look at what the NTDP has done for the USHL and what the league has done for the NTDP and you see the value. This makes the USHL a more complete league, while providing a far greater challenge for the NTDP game in and game out. Expect both parties to continue to reap these benefits for as long as the partnership lasts.
From a scouting and even from a “fan of hockey” perspective, this is really great for the game. It’s also proven to be an important development for hockey in the U.S. Though the partnership has at times seemed tense, with players jumping between a USHL team and the NTDP, it is a step in the right direction for all involved. Hopefully the partnership remains strong and continues this forward progress for American hockey development.
A quick side note: The Green Bay Gamblers had four players selected in the NHL Draft this year and the Indiana Ice had three, tops among other USHL clubs. Both have proven to be among the top developmental teams in the league, while also building winning teams. Each has a Clark Cup in the last three years. Pretty impressive stuff.
For more on the USHL at the NHL Entry Draft, here’s some of USHL.com’s coverage.
Getting back to the NTDP quick:
The Ann Arbor, Mich., based NTDP had yet another tremendous year in terms of the NHL Draft. In the last 13 NHL Entry Drafts, 11 have ended with 14 or more players being selected that had ties to the National Team Development Program. Forty former NTDP players have been chosen in the first round. It’s kind of hard to argue against a track record like that. Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations, explained the importance of the NTDP to advancing the country’s progress to FSN North.
Now, getting to the links:
This is a bit after the fact, but I further explained my American Top 15 rankings leading into the NHL Entry Draft with my buddies Matt Gajtka and Larry Snyder on The Gospel of Hockey podcast on Blog Talk Radio.
Here’s another after-the-fact link. The boys over at The Faceoff-Factor interviewed me prior to the Draft. You can check it out, if only to see just how wrong I was about the Penguins. Thanks to Zach Boslett for asking me, anyway.
Here’s a timely link: Earlier, I provided an in-depth analysis of J.T. Miller for New York Rangers fans over at Blue Seat Blogs. If you want to know a little bit more about one of the wild cards of the first round, that should help.
Chris Dilks did a fantastic job with his draft coverage at Western College Hockey Blog and also took an early stab at the 2012 class, grouping players with letter-grade style rankings. That’s the smart way to do it for now, especially after seeing how unpredictable this edition of the Entry Draft was.
The incomparable Corey Pronman gives his post-draft analysis for each NHL team by division.
The similarly brilliant Kirk Luedeke unveils his surprises of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, which includes Gaudreau and Russo among other Americans, for the New England Hockey Journal.
NHL.com’s Draft microsite has tons of great features and follow-up stories. You can also review every pick in the draft and sort them all kind of different ways here.
That’s a wrap on the 2011 NHL Entry Draft coverage. It was my pleasure to bring you all of the prospect news and notes along the way this season and you can expect more of the same going into 2011-12.
The 2012 Draft looks to be a potentially stellar year for American-born players, though the entire 1994 birth year, and many of the late 1993s provide an incredibly deep class from around the world. It should be loads of fun to cover, and nearly impossible to predict.
What a year 2010-11 was. If you want to take a look back, you can always click on the tags at the bottom of this post. For now, it’s looking to the future and continuing to expand our coverage of all things American hockey. We’re just getting started at The United States of Hockey.
The US players didn’t thrive in the NAHL? What are you smoking?
Who said anything about the U.S. players not thriving in the NAHL? I merely stated the NTDP being in the USHL puts the highest concentration of elite American talent in one league.
Clearly, the NAHL’s partnership with the NTDP proved fruitful as the draft results have shown. That said, it is inarguable that the NTDP teams are more challenged against the faster, more skilled USHL competition. The greater the challenge, the better for development.
Not trying to knock the NAHL as I think it is a truly important junior league for hockey talent throughout the U.S.