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When to Sign in the CHL: U16

by Jason Nadeau

When to Sign in the CHL: U16

The eternal question for all hockey prospects in North America is IF they should sign in the WHL or its other CHL brethren the QMJHL or OHL? Now, this issue is so big, I can’t really give you advice worth listening to without knowing your individual circumstances. In fact, my position is that choosing between the CHL or NCAA is entirely dependent upon your own specific situation and there is no general ‘correct’ answer or path to follow.

I would actually put aside the issue of IF and concentrate on the one that I can provide some insight on, WHEN should you sign in the WHL/CHL? I have put together an INNOVATIVE and ORIGINAL statistical examination of the WHL that analyses how many games are played by first and second year prospects.

Part 1(2) 1st Year Midget Players in the WHL – 5 Game Rule

Please enjoy this concluding discussion on “When to Sign in the WHL?” from the perspective of a 1st Year Midget Player in their first season of WHL eligibility.

Just to refresh your memory, this is a group of players that are ONLY allowed to play 5 games during the course of the regular season with their ‘designated’ WHL or CHL club. If their midget team is eliminated from further competition, they are allowed to play beyond that 5 game mark during the playoff run of the Major Junior team.

Below is a chart that examines 1992 through 1993 birth years in their first season of WHL eligibility.

Total Players Signed (1992) 42  /  152 Total Games Played
Players Per Team Who Played Games 1.9  /  Average GP Per Player 3.62

Total Players Signed (1993) 29  /  Total Games Played 107
Players Per Team Who Played Games 1.32  /  Average GP Per Player 3.7

Now, I’ll do my best to explain what I was evaluating and what its consequences are, if any in the final 2 sections of part 1?

● No WHL Contracts?
Each season there are 3 teams that do NOT sign 1st year players at all. There didn’t seem to be a big trend as to who did this as it was 3 different clubs each year. But this fact does lead us to some conclusions in the following sections. The question that we need to consider is WHY are they not signing players and how does that affect OUR child?

● The Haves Versus the Have-NOTS
While we know that 1.82 Players (on average ) in their first year of Midget, were signed by WHL clubs each year, there was in fact a disparity between contending and rebuilding clubs.

(Standings 2007-08 & 2008-09). Here are the Clubs that signed the MOST 1st year Players:
Prince George (7 Players / 20-48 & 25-44 Records)
Edmonton (7 Players / 22-39 & 29-34 Records)
Chilliwack (6 Players / 28-35 & 19-46 Records)
Portland (6 Players / 11-58 & 19-48 Records)
These were all losing teams. OUCH!
The teams that didn’t sign as many 1st year players were on the other end of the spectrum.
Vancouver (1 Player / 49-15 & 57-10 Records)
Kelowna (1 / 38-26 & 47-21 Records)
Calgary (1 / 47-20 & 59-9 Records)
Lethbridge (1 / 45-21 & 35-32 Records)

With as high as a 7 to 1 ratio of signing players early for the poor performance teams versus the winning teams we can make some fairly obvious conclusions. It is very clear that rebuilding teams brought in as many prospects as possible while contending teams tended to stick with their veteran line-ups and have a tendency NOT to risk their position in the standings or playoffs on developing unready prospects.

This trend seems to be pretty obvious to figure out without the need for all the fancy numbers…
Why should we care????

● Now you cannot normally control where you get drafted (in most cases this is true – but NOT always – We will discuss this issue in a future article), it is important to know that if you are on a rebuilding team, there will be more opportunity to make the line-up sooner then when compared to playing for a contender. Therefore, knowing this, IF you were drafted by a top club, whether you are a 2nd or a 10th rounder, you shouldn’t be too disappointed if you didn’t get your ‘5 games’ that first year. It’s NOT YOU, it’s them!!!

● We may be seeing the start of a new trend by money conscious clubs to keep future costs down. The trend in the past 4-6 seasons in the CIS (Canadian University) has been for more and more WHL/CHL graduated 3rd and 4th line players to actually USE their scholarship money and CASH-IN. These players decide to go to college instead of choosing to chase the unrealistic NHL dream that had been dangled in front of them their entire careers. The bottom line is that WHL team’s are NOW having to PAY out a LOT more cash then they had to in the past. It is safe to say that as this trend continues to expand, teams may be planning ahead to reduce future scholarship costs.

● Breaking this down into hard cold cash, comparing Edmonton (7 Scholarships) and Lethbridge (1 Scholarship), it is apparent that Edmonton is on the hook for 6 MORE full 1 Year commitments then Lethbridge is from that age cohort. That’s a LOT of money saved and put directly in Lethbridge’s pocket and a large future commitment by the Oil Kings that may not have been worth the expense. Why not you wonder? We have to consider that there is little gained developmentally by teams or players when players play games so early. Therefore, to improve the bottom line, WHL teams will most likely do their best in the future to find other ways to sign players to contracts without giving up full year scholarships. Then the WHL corporation ends up with the best of both worlds!!! Anyway, this is definitely something to think about if you haven’t made your decision yet….

To conclude in general, I would caution ALL parents and players on signing for this early audition unless you were a 1st or 2nd round pick. The reason being, as we shall see in the second part of this analysis, mid to late rounders and undrafted players rarely get quality ice-time even in their 2nd FULL year of Eligibility. If this is so, why waste your options and the small amount of leverage you have during the early part of your career when there is no valid reason to, other then perhaps EGO…. Don’t let this happen to you!

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