Great Path to the NHL for Elite American Players

 A great Route to the NHL

In today’s Hockey landscape more and more players are taking unique routes to make it to the National Hockey League. Within the last six years or so one route American born players have taken has intrigued me so much I thought I’d write about it. A select group of elite talent has been utilizing the great resources that American hockey and Canadian hockey has to offer. In this article I will identify this route and explain why I think it’s giving these boys a leg up on their draft competition.

The Route

The route starts at the National Team Development Program and a requires a birthday that is after September 1st. This late birthdate makes these boys usually a year behind in school for their birth year and also makes them eligible for the NHL draft a year later than their peers at the NTDP. Since the NTDP is only a two year program this leaves the later birth year players with an extra year to spare. This year in limbo gives the players a few options, 1. Play in the USHL 2. Fast track to college 3. Head to the OHL,WHL or QMJHL. Recently many elite players who don’t want to play another year in the USHL or fast track to the NCAA, have headed north to the OHL, WHL or QMJHL. This high end list includes players like Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad, Cam Fowler just to name a few. This group put in the time playing for the NTDP and then headed north where
they were able to star in the top junior leagues in the world.

The Advantage

Why is this route boosting the draft status’s of these players? First and foremost the national program has these players on a strict strength and conditioning program; with less games and more attention to personal development the NTDP gives their players a huge advantage with the resources at hand. Their schedule against USHL, International and College teams has a huge impact on how prepared these young men are for the CHL level. In some cases these boys are going against competition that is 5 or 6 years older than they are! When they head to the CHL, they are likely to see many 16 or 17 year old rookies who aren’t as physically developed. So this all adds up to these players being able to jump on to an OHL, WHL or Q team and make a big impact. Being a high profile player in the top junior league in the world makes you very appealing to NHL GM’s!

Question For You?

If Pat Kane goes to the USHL for his draft year season instead of going to play for the OHL’s London Knights does he get taken 1st overall? Comment below let me know what you think. If this article is something you find intriguing share with your friends!

2 replies
  1. DHark
    DHark says:


    Obviously knowing you for a lot of years coaching against you and you coming to my camps and Showcases you have been around the game at a high level for a number of year. I have had great success as the Director of Scouting for the Plymouth Whalers the past 5 years drafting those late birth year US Players from the NTDP. As you know I coached both Patrick Kane and Peter Mueller at Honeybaked. The difference was Patrick was a late birth year whereas Peter was a Jan 88 birth but went into the NTDP as an underage with the 87 birth year players just like Jimmy O’Brien went as an underage with the 88 birth year class. I originally drafted Ryan Hartman in the 2010 OHL Draft knowing he was a late 94 birth year and would be only a senior in high school going into his NHL Draft year 2012-13. I made the gamble that unless Ryan accelerated in school he would have to make that same decision Kaner did going into his NHL Draft year, be drafted out of the USHL or the OHL. In both cases both players opted for the OHL and gave up US Scholarships to play in the OHL and be drafted higher by playing in North Americas top Junior League. Patrick Kane was the top pick in his NHL Draft class and Ryan Hartman is projected as a 1st Round Pick in next week’s NHL Draft. My Team and the players who are. Born after September 1 have a great advantage in using the NTDP as a stepping stone in their careers.

    Don Harkins -Director of Scouting Plymouth Whalers

  2. Brian Keane
    Brian Keane says:

    Hi Don,

    Thanks for the great comment! You have been able to coach some of the top talent in the NHL so having your input on this topic is awesome for our audience! As a young player some of the best competition I saw was at your Elite Prospects tournaments I got to play with and against Patrick Kane, Jon Teows, Peter Mueller, Steve Kampfer, Andy Miele, Jimmy O’Brien just to name a few. But besides the small plug, you highlighted another awesome prospect Ryan Hartman who is taking this route! I think Ryan’s decision to play with your squad has helped his draft status immensely. I look forward to see him drafted in a few weeks. Thanks again for the comment, your 2 cents are always welcome at Prodigy Hockey!


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