When I talk to Swiss players and their parents, I often get the impression that they think the only way to the NHL is by playing Junior hockey in Canada. This is definitely not correct. Analyzing the November 7, “NHL Draft Watch List 2019” and EliteProspects table “2018-19 NHL Players Produced per League” paint a different picture. Although the Canadian CHL remains one of the leading options to get drafted there are plenty of alternatives.
I tabled the players in the NHL Draft Watch List according to the different leagues in which they are playing today. In Europe, I assigned them to the countries where they play as they play in various leagues within the country.
Most of the players (33.8 %) with a chance of being drafted next spring play in the CHL (OHL, QJHL, WHL). Close behind are the European leagues with 30.9 % of the players whereas Sweden is leading with 10 %. In the US leagues play 23.3% of the most talented Juniors.
If you look at individual leagues, it is not one of the Canadian Leagues where most of the draft prospects play, but the USHL where you also find most of the potential first and second/third round picks (A = potential first round; B = potential 2nd or 3rd round, C = potential 4th, 5th and 6th round). To mention, the US NTDP U18 which has 20 players in the Watch List plays in the USHL. The above table shows that you don’t have to play Juniors in Canada to be on the NHL scouts radar if you have the according talent. Four players from the Swiss leagues are on the list: NLA: J.J. Moser; NLB: Janick Brüschweiler; Elite A: Julian Mettler und Yves Stoffel.
Let’s also look at EliteProspects List which shows which Junior/College leagues this season’s (’18/’19) NHL players come from.
The above shows that Canada with its Junior leagues (CHL, BCHL, OJHL, AJHL) develops most of the NHL players (492) but close behind are the US (NCAA, USHL, NAHL) with 461 players. From the European Leagues, Sweden is leading with its J20 Super Elite (94) followed by the Finish JR. A SM-liiga (46), the Czech U20 (37) and the Russian MHL (27).
Considering all the statistics listed above, the title question can clearly be answered with a sound NO! A talented (Swiss) Junior has multiple possibilities including the home leagues and, within Europe, Sweden. And of course, also the US where he has the option to pursue his dream to play in the NHL while at the same time obtaining a College Degree or just play Junior Hockey (USHL, NAHL)!