Guide to North American Junior Hockey
To play U20 Junior and College hockey in North America is a competitive process. The sheer size of the goaltending market makes it difficult to judge where you will stand.
I want to put the North American Junior landscape into perspective for all of our European, Russian, and otherwise international friends. For those of you who wish to play Junior or NCAA in North America, this is intended for you.
From 2013-2018, Major Junior (CHL) was not an option for non-North American goaltenders. The rules changed in 2018 again, making the 60 OHL, WHL, and QMJHL an option for import goalies again. However, only the most elite goalies (often those who are already starters on their home country's national team) are selected in the CHL import draft. If Major Junior is a potential option, you'll know.
Otherwise, there are various leagues across the US and Canada that can be very good opportunities for European goalies to develop within. The USHL and NAHL both have a good track record of promoting goaltenders to NCAA schools and eventually professional ranks.
Here's a quick ranking of leagues for your reference.
Major Junior (basically) = NCAA
USHL is #1 path to NCAA
NAHL is #2 path to NCAA
BCHL is #3 path to NCAA
Other Canadian Jr. A (AJHL, SJHL, MJHL, OJHL, CCHL, etc.) and Tier 3 after that.
The issue for European goalies is getting in front of USHL & NAHL teams in order for them to be potential opportunities.
The highest levels (NHL, Major Junior, NCAA) will send scouts to Europe regularly to evaluate talent. Some USHL teams may too, and NAHL teams might have regional contacts.
It can be a difficult process to get real opportunities with these teams. I want to lay it out for you with some resources and a timeline.
- Late Spring: Canadian Jr. A Spring Camps (CJHL) Various Dates, Locations, etc.
- Mid-April: USHL Combine (for draft-eligible athletes, by invite only)
- Early May: USHL Draft May 6-7, 2019. 2020 Draft TBA
- Late May: NAHL Open and Pre-Draft Tryouts (last 2 weekends of May, first of June)
- Early June: NAHL Draft June 4, 2019. 2020 Draft TBA
- All of June: USHL Tryouts This is where USHL teams pick their training camp rosters.
- End of June & All of July: NAHL Main Camps Where NAHL pick their rosters.
- End of August-September: USHL, NAHL, Canadian Jr. A teams report to Training Camps
As you can see, it is a complex and fluid process, and things change very much because of the "drip" or "trickle-down" effect.
The goalies who attend but don't make the USHL teams trickle down to the NAHL. Then those goalies trickle down again to Canadian Jr. A and other "Tier 3" Junior in the US.
Because of the stacked nature, you can definitely have opportunities in more than one league. The core issue after you gain a few opportunities is picking the right ones to pursue.
There is a lot for you to consider if you want to jump across the big pond and play in the United States or Canada. If you have questions or want to talk more, please don't hesitate to reach out! We're here to help guys achieve their goals and dreams!
For those of you interested, check out our Prospects Showcase for goalies just like you!