All across North America, talented goalies recently began their season of junior hockey with the goal of someday playing college and professional hockey.
In the United States there are three main junior leagues: The United States Hockey League (USHL), the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL). The majority of NCAA Division I college goalies come through one of these leagues.
The following is a breakdown of where the goalies played before arriving in these leagues:
The United States Hockey League (USHL)
The USHL consists of 18 teams with all but one carrying two goalies. Out of the 37 goalies in the league, 19 goalies are returning, which means the league welcomed 18 new goalies this season.
Of the total USHL goalies, 11 first played midget hockey at either the U-18 or U-16 levels. The NAHL contributes 10 goalies to the USHL. Europe provides the league with six goalies and the next largest contributor is U.S. high schools and prep schools (USHS) with five. Of the remaining five goalies, four played previously in Canadian junior leagues and one in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL).
Inside the Numbers:
The primary path to the USHL is either through US midget hockey or the NAHL. Of the 11 midget goalies there is a split of six U-18 goalies and five U-16 goalies. Eight midget goalies played in the Tier 1 Elite league (T1EHL), two in the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL) and one in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL). The USHS goalies include two that played prep school hockey last season and three that played high school hockey in their state.
About the USHL: The USHL is the only Tier 1 hockey league in the U.S. The USHL is NCAA-protected and therefore its players maintain NCAA college hockey eligibility. There is no cost to the players as the teams cover all hockey costs, including equipment and billet housing. Approximately 96 per cent of all USHL players earn opportunities at the NCAA Division 1 level.
The North American Hockey League (NAHL)
The NAHL is made up of 21 teams and consists of 54 goalies with half of the teams carrying three goalies. Only 15 of the 54 spots went to returning goalies, leaving 39 new spots.
Of the total league goalies, 28 netminders came out of midget hockey. The next biggest contributor to the NAHL is U.S. High Schools and Prep Schools, which account for 12 spots, seven of which are from Minnesota. There are five goalies in the league that played previously in Canada, two from Europe and the remainder from other junior programs across the country.
Inside the Numbers:
The U.S. midget hockey system is providing the NAHL with a little more than half their goalies. From the midget pool, most notably 11 come from the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League (T1EHL), seven from the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), seven from the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), two from the USPHL U-18 division and one independent.
Of these 28 midget goalies, 21 played U-18 prior to arriving in the NAHL and five played U-16. Of the 12 high school goalies, seven played in Minnesota, three played U.S. prep school and two played in Michigan prior to the NAHL. Five NAHL goalies first played in Canadian juniors and two goalies came from European leagues.
About the NAHL: The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is the only Tier 2 league in the U.S. The NAHL is NCAA-protected and therefore its players maintain NCAA college hockey eligibility. The teams cover all hockey costs and the players contribute to the expense of billet housing. During the 2014-15 season, a total of 210 NAHL players committed to NCAA schools.
The United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL)
The USPHL is an eastern based league with 11 teams, and the majority roster three goalies. The league returned 12 goalies this season, leaving 20 spots up for grabs. Of the 32 goalies, there isn’t one dominant breeding ground. The biggest contributors to the league are midget programs (11 goalies) and USHS (9). The remaining spots went to goalies from a variety of countries and organizations.
Source: ushl.com, eliteprospects.com and hockeydb.com
Inside the Numbers:
The USPHL U-18 midget programs contributed three of the 12 midget goalies now in the league and three came from their USPHL Elite feeder league. T1EHL and NAPHL each contributed three goalies and 10 of the 11 midget goalies played U-18 prior to playing in the USPHL. Only one goalie rose directly from the U-16 ranks.
Of the eight goalies from USHS, seven of them come from the prep school system. The USPHL hosts two goalies from Europe and two previously played in Canada.
About the USPHL: The United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) is considered the most competitive Tier 3 league in the U.S. The USPHL is NCAA-protected and therefore its players maintain NCAA college hockey eligibility. The USPHL is a pay-to-play league where the players pay tuition to play hockey and contribute to the expense of billet housing if necessary.
Over the past two years, the USPHL has seen over 350 of its players advance to the collegiate level and numerous others advance to the professional ranks.
Comparing Age and Size in USA Junior Leagues
Of the three major United States junior leagues, the USPHL is the oldest for goalies with an average age of 19. The NAHL has an average age of 18.44 and the USHL is the youngest at 18.41.
The average goalie height of all three leagues is very similar with the USHL being the tallest at 6-foot-1.5, followed by the USPHL at 6-foot-1.1, and the NAHL at 6-foot-0.7.
Good luck to all the goalies participating this season in the USA junior hockey system.
The U.S. has done a tremendous job developing talented hockey players and the depth of the goaltending position throughout the country is a testament to motivated goalies that love the game and work tremendously hard at their craft.
~ Brian Daccord is a former goalie coach of the Boston Bruins and currently the goaltending coach of Adler Mannheim in the German DEL. He is a co-founder of the Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education, and founder of Stop It Goaltending. Matt Ouellette is a former goaltender and currently a business major at Endicott College.