The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) have been major providers of NHL talent across the NHL for years and certainly will continue to for years to come, but a trend is developing that points to the growth of junior hockey in the United States.
On Sunday, the Rangers selected three players from the United States Hockey League (USHL) and one from the North American Hockey League (NAHL), tabbing defenseman Nathan Guenin (127th overall – Green Bay, USHL), left winger Mike Walsh (right, 143rd overall – Compuware, NAHL), defenseman Jake Taylor (177th overall – Green Bay, USHL) and right winger Joseph Crabb (226th overall – Green Bay, USHL).
There are nine major junior leagues, featuring more than 75 teams, in the United States that have been registered by USA Hockey. These leagues allow players 20 years of age or younger to retain their NCAA eligibility while increasing the opportunity to land a college scholarship. The United States Hockey League (USHL) and the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are recognized as the two premiere U.S. junior leagues.
The road through the U.S. junior ranks has paid off for these four 2002 Blueshirt selections, who have all signed letters of intent to attend some of the top NCAA programs in the States. Nathan Guenin, a strong skater who plays an aggressive style on the blueline, will attend Ohio State University in the fall of 2002. Walsh, a powerful skater with a physical presence on the wing, will be heading to South Bend, Indiana in the fall to attend the University of Notre Dame. Taylor, a competitive and physical backliner, has committed to the University of Minnesota program in the fall of 2003. Finally, Joseph Crabb, a solid positional winger with good offensive instincts, will join Colorado College in the fall of 2002.
The selection of Guenin, Walsh, Taylor and Crabb marks the second consecutive season that the Blueshirts have gone the U.S. junior route, having selected former Omaha Lancers (USHL) defenseman Bryce Lampman in the fourth round of the 2001 Entry Draft. Lampman, who represented the U.S. at the 2002 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic and who captained Omaha to the USHL championship in 2000-01, recently completed his freshman season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (CCHA). The 2002 Draft also marked the first time in Rangers history that a player from the Canadian junior hockey ranks was not selected by the Blueshirts.