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Hockey in the United States

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U.S. Colleges U.S. Juniors U.S. High Schools

There are three elite systems for hockey development in the United States: USA Hockey, the high school and collegiate leagues (NCAA) and regional junior leagues.

USA Hockey
Hockey in the United States is based primarily on the National Team Development Program, which has been committed to the regional development of the sport and gaining a higher profile in international competition.

USA Hockey is the official representative to the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) and the USOC (United States Olympic Committee). It is responsible for the selection and training of the U.S. National Teams and the U.S. Olympic Teams.

National Team Development Program
In 1996, USA Hockey launched the National Team Development Program (NTDP) designed to create a new standard for player development in the United States. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the NTDP provides a concentrated on and off-ice training environment for some of the premier ice hockey players under 18-years of age in the U.S.

The NTDP is split into two squads, an Under-18 and an Under-17 team. Together, teh teams take part in more than 120 games against international competition and teams from the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the North American Hockey League (NAHL). A team made up of players from from both the U-18 and U-17 programs plays a full schedule of games in the NAHL.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the primary route for a hockey prospect in the United States and is the governing body of U.S. college athletics.

NCAA Division I hockey is divided into the following six leagues:

Atlantic Hockey (A.H.)
American-International Canisius Mercyhurst
Army Connecticut Quinnipiac
Bentley Holy Cross Sacred Heart

Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA)
Alaska-Fairbanks Miami-Ohio Northern Michigan
Bowling Green Michigan Notre Dame
Ferris State Michigan State Ohio State
Lake Superior State Nebraska-Omaha Western Michigan

College Hockey America (CHA)
Air Force Bemidji State Robert Morris
Alabama-Huntsville Niagara Wayne State

Eastern Conference Athletic Association (ECAC)
Brown Dartmouth St. Lawrence
Clarkson Harvard Union College
Colgate Princeton Vermont
Cornell RPI Yale

Hockey East (HE)
Boston College Massachusetts New Hampshire
Boston University U Mass-Lowell Northeastern
Maine Merrimack College Providence

Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
Alaska-Anchorage Michigan Tech Minnesota State
Colorado College Minnesota North Dakota
Denver Minnesota-Duluth St. Cloud State


U.S. College Hockey Notes:
1967 - First U.S. College Player to be Drafted
Michigan Tech center Al Karlander became the first U.S. college player to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Selected by the Detroit Red Wings, Karlander was the second last player taken in the Draft (17th overall). The native of British Columbia played 212 games with the Red Wings (36-56-92).

1979 - First U.S. College Player Picked in First Round
Minnesota-born defenseman Mike Ramsey was selected 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, becoming the first U.S. college player to be drafted in the first round. Ramsey (Minnesota-Duluth) appeared in 1,070 NHL games (79-266-345).

1986 - First U.S. College Player Picked First Overall
Detroit made right winger Joe Murphy (Michigan State) the first U.S. college player to be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

2000 - U.S. College Players Taken 1st and 2nd
The 2000 Entry Draft saw U.S. college players taken in the top two picks as the NY Islanders selected Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro 1st overall and the Atlanta Thrashers picked Wisconsin forward Dany Heatley 2nd overall.

2003 - Most U.S. College Players Selected in First Round
The 2003 Draft saw seven U.S. college players selected in the first round, the most in Entry Draft history. (Ryan Suter, 7th; Hugh Jessiman, 12th; Zach Parise, 17th; Mark Stuart, 21st; Ryan Kesler, 23rd; Jeff Tambellini, 27th; Patrick Eaves, 29th). Six collegians were selected in teh first round in 2000, five in 2002, four in 2001 and three in each of teh 2004, 1999 and 1986 Entry Drafts.

Highest drafted U.S. college players
Player University Drafted Team Year
Joe Murphy* Michigan State 1st Detroit 1986
Rick DiPietro Boston U 1st NY Islanders 2000
Craig Simpson* Michigan State 2nd Pittsburgh 1985
Dany Heatley* U of Wisconsin 2nd Atlanta 2000
Scott Lachance Boston U 4th NY Islanders 1991
Paul Kariya* U of Maine 4th Anaheim 1993
Aaron Ward* U of Michigan 5th Winnipeg 1991
Ryan Whitney Boston U 5th Pittsburgh 2002
Thomas Vanek U of Minnesota 5th Buffalo 2003
Craig Redmond* U of Denver 6th Los Angeles 1984
Al Montoya U of Michigan 6th NY Rangers 2004
Erik Rasmussen U of Minnesota 7th Buffalo 1996
Mike Komisarek U of Michigan 7th Montreal 2001
* denotes Canadian-born NCAA player

United States Colleges
Year College Drafted Total Drafted College%
1969 7 84 8.3
1970 16 115 13.9
1971 22 117 18.8
1972 21 152 13.8
1973 25 168 14.9
1974 41 247 16.6
1975 59 217 26.7
1976 26 135 19.3
1977 49 185 26.5
1978 73 234 31.2
1979 15 126 11.9
1980 42 210 20
1981 21 211 10
1982 20 252 7.9
1983 14 242 5.8
1984 22 250 8.8
1985 20 252 7.9
1986 22 252 8.7
1987 40 252 15.9
1988 48 252 19
1989 48 252 19
1990 38 250 15.2
1991 43 264 16.3
1992 9 264 3.4
1993 17 286 5.9
1994 6 286 2.1
1995 5 234 2.1
1996 25 241 10.4
1997 26 246 10.5
1998 27 258 10.4
1999 36 272 13.2
2000 35 293 11.9
2001 24 289 8.3
2002 41 290 14.1
2003 23 292 7.9
2004 28 291 9.6
Total 1,034 8,261 12.5

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U.S. Junior Hockey
There are nine U.S.-based junior leagues comprising approximately 100 teams registered by USA Hockey. These leagues allow players 20 years of age or younger to retain their NCAA eligibility while increasing the opportunity for college scholarships.

USA Hockey supports the Central States Hockey Leagues (CSHL), Empire Junior Hockey League, Interstate Junior Hockey League (IJHL), Metro Junior Hockey League, Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MinJHL), North American Hockey League (NAHL), North Pacific Junior Hockey League (NPJHL), the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the Western States Hockey League (WSHL). The USHL is recognized as a Tier One Junior A league. The NAHL is ranked as Tier Two Junior A; the balance are Junior B. Five other leagues, comprising some 60 more teams, are ranked as Junior C.

United States Hockey League (Tier One, Junior A)
Cedar Rapids
Des Moines
Green Bay
Sioux City
Sioux Falls

The league originally formed as the Midwest Junior Hockey League in 1972, before merging with the semi-pro USHL in 1977, becoming an all-junior league in 1979. The United States Hockey League is governed by USA Hockey and offers an extensive practice and game schedule that provides players with an opportunity to develop their skills at an accelerated pace. The main purpose of the USHL is to help players, coaches, and officials advance in their careers to the college and professional level. Each team plays a 56-game schedule starting in late September and finishing in late March.

The league attracts players from all over the United States as well as Canada and Europe.

North American Hockey League (Tier Two Junior A)
Central Texas
Santa Fe
Springfield (IL)
Springfield (MO)
US National
Wichita Fallas

The North American Hockey League was founded in 1975 when the Michigan Junior and Wolverine Junior League formed the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League. In 1984 the name was changed to the North American Junior Hockey League, and has since been modified to the current North American Hockey League. The 2004-05 campaign was teh 29th season of North American Hockey League competition.

Each team plays a 56-game regular-season schedule, with exhibition games and league playoff games providing additional contests. In addition, league-wide tournaments attract numerous scouts and coaches.

The NAHL's primary goal is to enhance the development of its players in conjunction with a commitment to academic support. The league's schedule and playoff schedule is designed to minimize school conflicts. NAHL competition helps players make the transition from midget and high school hockey to college and major junior hockey by creating an environment that is highly competitive, encourages skill development and provides time for physical growth and maturity.

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U.S. High Schools, Prep Schools
The popularity of high school and prep school hockey in the U.S. has regularly attracted NHL scouts. Some of the leading high school programs include those at Phillips-Exeter, St. Sebastian's, Hotchkiss, Cushing Academy, Culver Academy and Catholic Memorial.

U.S. High School Hockey Notes:
1980 - First U.S. High School Player to be Drafted
The first U.S. high school prospect to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft was center Jay North of Bloomington-Jefferson HS. North was taken by the Buffalo Sabres, 62nd overall.

1981 - First U.S. High School Player Picked in First Round
Center Bob Carpenter of St. John's prep school became the first U.S. high school player to be selected in the first round, third overall by Washington.

1983 - First U.S. High School Player Picked First Overall
Minnesota North Stars drafted left winger Brian Lawton from Mount St. Charles HS, making him the first and only U.S. high school player to be taken first overall.

1987 - Most U.S. High School Players Selected in an Entry Draft
There were 69 players drafted from U.S. high schools in 1987, accounting for 27.4% of the draft. Although this marks the largest group of high school prospects to be selected in a single Entry Draft, none were taken in the first round.

Highest drafted U.S. high school players
Player High School Drafted Team Year
Brian Lawton Mount St. Charles 1st Minnesota 1983
Bob Carpenter St. John's Prep 3rd Washington 1981
Tom Barrasso Acton-Boxboro 5th Buffalo 1983
Blake Wheeler Breck 5th Phoenix 2004
Phil Housley South St. Paul 6th Buffalo 1982
Doug Zmolek John Marshall 7th Minnesota 1989
Ryan Sittler Nichols 7th Philadelphia 1992
Jeremy Roenick Thayer Academy 8th Chicago 1988
Brian Leetch Avon Old Farms 9th NY Rangers 1986

United States High Schools
Year U.S. HS Drafted Total Drafted U.S. HS %
Prior to 1980 0 1780 0
1980 7 210 3.3
1981 17 211 8.1
1982 47 252 18.6
1983 35 242 14.5
1984 44 250 17.6
1985 48 252 19.1
1986 40 252 15.9
1987 69 252 27.4
1988 56 252 22.2
1989 47 252 18.7
1990 57 250 22.8
1991 37 264 14
1992 25 264 9.5
1993 33 286 11.5
1994 28 286 9.7
1995 2 234 0.9
1996 6 241 2.4
1997 4 246 1.6
1998 7 258 2.7
1999 9 272 3.3
2000 7 293 2.4
2001 8 289 2.7
2002 6 290 2.0
2003 10 292 3.4
2004 18 291 6.2
Total 667 8,261 8.1

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Other U.S. Hockey Notes:

  • The first U.S.-born player to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft was Michigan Tech right winger Herb Boxer. Boxer, a native of Hancock, Michigan, was picked 17th overall in 1968 by the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Each of the 1986 and 2003 Entry Drafts saw seven U.S.-born players selected in the first round, the most in the history of the event.
    In 1986, Jimmy Carson was selected 2nd; Dan Woodley, 7th; Brian Leetch, 9th; Scott Young, 11th; Craig Janney, 13th; George Pelawa, 16th; Tom Fitzgerald, 17th.
    In 2003, Ryan Suter was selected 7th; Hugh Jessiman, 12th; Dustin Brown, 13th; Zach Parise, 17th; Mark Stuart, 21st; Ryan Kesler, 23rd; Brian Boyle, 26th.
  • Four U.S.-born players have been taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft (Brian Lawton, 1983; Mike Modano, 1988; Bryan Berard, 1995, Rick DiPietro, 2000).


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