It’s time for a change Canada. It’s okay, change is good. The development model for hockey in Canada needs a renaissance because the trend is shifting in how hockey players are developed.
The NHL has taken notice of the NCAA as a key route to develop players. In this year’s NHL draft, 45 players with USHL experience were drafted. Of those 45, 40 have played or will play NCAA hockey.
Before I go further, I don’t want this be a Canadian Hockey League vs NCAA debate. There is plenty of that going around the web. What I want to say is this, Canada already has an answer to the NCAA and it needs to be used: the CIS.
One of the benefits to European players, especially in the hotbed of Sweden, is that younger players that are exceptionally gifted are given the opportunity to play with their men’s teams. See 2018 NHL Draft prospect Martin Fehervary who has already played four SHL games for Malmo Redhawks. See that, he is a 2018 prospect. Even though it’s only four games, he is getting the opportunity to play against men and be challenged.
However, in the Canadian Hockey League, players that are drafted and exceptionally good only have the opportunity to play in the NHL or return back to their CHL club where they dominate. Which is the argument stated in this Sportsnet article on Mitch Marner. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could choose to play somewhere else, against older players yet continue to develop all aspects of their game and not turn fully professional yet? Well, there is. The CIS.
The CIS is an undervalued development option in Canada and could be the rival answer to the NCAA. Players should be allowed to attend the CIS instead of returning to the CHL for their 19 or 20 year old season. But in order for that to happen, there needs to be a change to the CHL-NHL agreement.
The CIS is also a great place to develop goalies. Something that Hockey Canada has noticed they are lacking in. College hockey is a great place for goalies to mature and find their game instead of the ECHL/AHL because they have more time to practice and work with a goalie coach. It’s no secret that goalies tend to mature later than players.
So please, Canada let’s make some changes and starting building up our college hockey scene.