High 10 Finest Ice Hockey Leagues

16 minutes read

Have you ever ever questioned if there are hockey leagues that rival the NHL by way of expertise, viewership, and fan-base? Properly, if in case you have, then this section must be only for you.

It’s broadly identified that gamers from world wide flock to the NHL for an opportunity to win Lord Stanley’s Cup and play on presumably the largest hockey levels round North America. Nevertheless, hockey shouldn’t be a phenomenon that’s unique solely to North America as many European leagues such because the SEL, KHL, and SM-liiga displaying that they’re fairly adept at growing gifted hockey gamers that may succeed at any degree.

Right here’s a breakdown of the highest 10 greatest hockey leagues world wide:

10.) Ontario Hockey League (OHL)

The Ontario Hockey League has a popularity, very similar to the QMJHL and WHL, for producing some wonderful expertise that has a big influence on the NHL degree. Gamers equivalent to Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, and John Tavares have all performed within the OHL and made their mark within the NHL.

Robert Thomas of the Hamilton Bulldogs gained the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award because the MVP of the OHL playoffs. (Aaron Bell/OHL Photographs)

Whereas the OHL has a 68 sport schedule for 20 groups, the league does a fairly good job of scheduling video games that run principally from Thursday by means of the weekend. For the reason that majority of gamers taking part within the OHL are aged 15-20, there can undoubtedly be some scheduling conflicts with one’s faculty schedule. Nevertheless, don’t be fooled by the truth that a few of these children nonetheless must attend faculty and make room to consistently enhance their hockey sport.

The OHL persistently produces gamers which might be all-around expert gamers. Whereas leagues such because the QMJHL have been identified for producing offensive superstars, the OHL appears to ship gamers which might be extraordinarily well-rounded. Despite the fact that the three main junior hockey leagues differ by way of their respective kinds, every has persistently produced a plethora of expertise for NHL groups round North America.

9.) NCAA

Over the course of the final decade, NCAA hockey has develop into a prime improvement path for gamers to take to the NHL. As mentioned by collegehockeyinc in promotional materials from 2017:

A file 314 former faculty gamers skated within the NHL in 2016-17, comprising 32% of the league. That quantity was simply 20% on the flip of the century.

This unprecedented progress represents a change in how each gamers and groups are using the NCAA as a pathway to reaching the NHL. For groups, they’ll draft a promising however considerably unsure participant who’s heading to the NCAA to obtain as much as 4 years of progress basically free. For gamers, they’ll earn a level and develop their sport earlier than reaching the AHL or NHL with a bodily and maturity edge over their counterparts. Whenever you take a look at it this fashion, it’s no shock that so many gamers from everywhere in the world are using the NCAA as their path to skilled hockey.

The Frozen 4 has develop into extra than simply the NCAA championship sport, however a highlight for a lot of future NHL gamers to showcase their expertise. (Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports activities)

There are too many former NCAA gamers at present within the NHL to start out naming all of them, however listed here are a couple of simply to present an thought of how impactful the league has been over the previous couple of years. This contains the likes of Jonathan Toews, Jack Eichel, Nick Bjugstad, Johnny Gaudreau and Duncan Keith. With an already spectacular and rising checklist of alumni, the way forward for hockey within the NCAA is shiny, with each gamers and the NHL loving the outcomes.

eight.) American Hockey League (AHL)

The American Hockey League is usually seen because the final cease for a prospect earlier than an NHL call-up.

The American Hockey League (AHL) makes the checklist as a result of it’s often the final cease for a growing prospect earlier than they arrive within the NHL. Oftentimes, NHL groups will resolve if a prospect is prepared for the massive leagues after they’ve accomplished a certain quantity of worldwide play or competitors inside a North American league. This enables many AHL groups to play host to among the most gifted younger gamers on the planet who’re simply on the cusp of breaking into the NHL.

If not for an age restriction that forestalls prospects who’re underneath the age of 20 from taking part in within the league, the AHL may have seen much more high quality gamers go by means of their arenas. With this rule in place, the AHL will all the time be a bit hamstrung by way of lacking out on the very best draft picks who simply aren’t able to tackle NHL ice time as an 18 or 19-year-old, however may use slightly extra competitors than what they had been receiving in juniors.

It’s not simply gamers who work their manner by means of the AHL, both. Many NHL coaches make a cease alongside the way in which within the AHL to hone their craft, together with the likes of Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mike Yeo of the St. Louis Blues.

As of 2017-18, each NHL crew has maintained an affiliation with an AHL crew, together with the newly minted Vegas Golden Knights. Because the NHL continues to develop, the AHL will broaden together with them, offering high quality mentoring and progress for up and coming NHL expertise.

7.) Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)

The DEL was based in 1994-1995 and was comprised of groups from the Ice Hockey Bundesliga’s first and second division. At first, the league skilled controversies as many groups had been extremely in debt and a few golf equipment had been pressured to fold. Moreover, rulings by the European Courtroom of Justice enabled gamers to maneuver fairly steadily between groups and attendance numbers took a fall coming into the brand new millennium.

Former NHL defenseman Christian Ehrhoff completed his lengthy skilled profession in his native Germany, taking part in for Kolner Haie within the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. (Picture: Andy Martin Jr)

Nevertheless, the league rebounded because it skilled an inflow of NHL gamers in the course of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. The league additionally re-instituted the usage of the relegation system as extra emphasis can be positioned on play within the second division of the Ice Hockey’s Bundesliga. For the reason that 2001-2002 season, championship play has largely been managed by Eisbaren Berlin as they gained 5 championships in 10 years. In recent times, the EHC Purple Bull Munchen have discovered their strategy to the highest of the league, successful three straight championships.

Whereas the DEL remains to be growing its footprint within the hockey panorama, it’s arduous to not like German hockey. As we noticed of their sudden run to the Silver Medal within the 2018 Olympics, Germany is rising a powerful and passionate fanbase able to competing with the very best on the planet.

6.) Nationwide League A (NLA)

Based mostly in Switzerland, the Nationwide League A (NLA) is the highest tier of the two-tier Swiss hockey league, with the opposite being the Nationwide League B. The NLA had the very best attendance figures for European hockey golf equipment in 2016-17, due in no small half to hockey membership SC Bern and its spacious (17,131 capability) house, PostFinance-Area, that averaged 16,399 spectators every sport.

The NLA consists of 12 groups that play a complete of 50 video games in a season, with the highest eight groups qualifying for the playoffs. The underside 4 groups within the standings get thrust right into a comfort bracket of types and the highest crew from the Nationwide League B is given an opportunity to vie for NLA inclusion.

Since 2000, the NLA has largely been dominated by three golf equipment, HC Davos, ZSC Lions and SC Bern, who’ve all gained a minimum of 5 championships within the new millennia.

With a extremely aggressive league and nice attendance charges, the NLA counsel that very similar to us in North America, these Swiss love their hockey.

5.) Czech Extraliga (Tipsport Extraliga)

The Czech Extraliga is among the best professional ice hockey leagues in Europe and is at present ranked by the IIHF because the third strongest ice hockey league in Europe. The league was additionally based in 1993 after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the Czech’s have a lot to point out for by way of expertise contributed to the NHL.

Gamers from the Czech Republic make their strategy to the NHL yearly and lots of of these gamers have had a shot at taking part in within the Czech Extraliga. There are at present 50-plus Czech’s within the Nationwide Hockey League and with gamers equivalent to Thomas Hertl, Vladimir Sobotka and Pavel Zacha contributing to NHL rosters, it’s apparent that the Czech Republic and the Czech Extraliga has a knack for growing gifted all-around hockey gamers.

The Czech Extraliga has four extra groups than the Slovak Extraliga, however the league’s formatting additionally provides fascinating parts to its viewers. Solely the highest 6 groups make the playoffs, however the groups that end Seventh – 10th compete towards one another for an opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals towards one of many prime 6 groups. As for groups that end 11th – 14th, these groups are pressured to compete towards one another, with the loser of the group dealing with the highest crew from the Czech Republic’s First League. For the reason that Czech Extraliga makes use of a relegation/promotion system, the underside crew within the Extraliga can be topic to relegation to the First League if they’re unable to beat the top-seeded crew from the latter league.

It’s no shock that the Czechs have been delivering excellent play on a nationwide degree and it shouldn’t be a shock to followers that behind American and Canadian gamers, Czechs are the third most populated group within the NHL.

four.) SM-liiga

Finland’s prime skilled ice-hockey league, SM-liiga, is regarded by the IIHF because the second strongest league in all of Europe. Hockey’s recognition in Finland has skyrocketed and so has the nation’s success on the worldwide degree. Within the 2014 Olympic video games in Soichi, Russia for instance, Finland completed with the bronze medal, knocking off the US squad in a 5-Zero romp.

The SM-liiga has been thriving ever because it took over hockey obligations in Finland from the SM-sarja in 1975. Viewership, assist, and the extent of hockey play in Finland has dramatically elevated during the last three and a half a long time and the SM-liiga additionally retains churning out NHL-caliber expertise. The Finnish league is comprised of 14 groups that compete for one in every of ten playoff spots in a span of 60 common season video games, with the highest six groups robotically coming into the quarter-final stage. The Czech Extraliga and SM-liiga make the most of the identical playoff format because the Seventh-10th seeds compete with one another for an opportunity to fulfill one of many 6 quarter-final contestants.

The SM-liiga additionally contributes a substantial quantity of expertise to the NHL and a few of Finland’s most extremely touted prospects equivalent to Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen, are set to make their mark within the NHL one in every of as of late. Gifted NHLers equivalent to Aleksander Barkov, Sami Vatanen and Rasmus Ristolainen are all merchandise of the SM-liiga and the way forward for the league is as shiny as ever so long as it retains producing such wonderful expertise.

three.) Elitserien (Swedish Elite League “SEL”)

The Swedish Elite League consists of 14 groups that play a 52 sport schedule. Very like the Czech Extraliga and SM-liiga, the Swedish Elite League has a system that rewards a crew three factors for a regulation win, 2 factors for an additional time win, and 1 level for an additional time loss. The highest eight of 12 groups make it to the playoffs, however the format of the primary playoff spherical is a bit fascinating for the reason that prime three-seeded groups get to choose their opponent out of the bottom-seeded groups for the primary spherical.

Elitserien additionally makes use of a relegation and promotion system as the underside seeded groups within the SEL are pitted towards the highest groups in Sweden’s second-tier league, HockeyAllsvenskan. The relegation sequence, which is dubbed Kvalserien, determines who can be relegated to the second tier league and who can be promoted to the Elite League.

Sweden has skilled large hockey success as of late on a world degree, successful gold on the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship on the 2006 Winter Olympics. Apart from Saab, Volvo, ABBA, and Ikea, the Swedes have been making fairly an influence on the NHL world as nicely. With names like Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and the retiring Daniel & Henrik Sedin contributing at a excessive degree to the NHL, it’s no shock why the Swedes have develop into a dominant title within the hockey world during the last decade.

2.) Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

The Kontinental Hockey League is broadly thought of the No. 2 professional hockey league on the planet, with the KHL is being considered the strongest ice-hockey league in all of Europe. Since its founding in 2008, the KHL has launched 27 groups, with the highest eight in every convention making the playoffs. The KHL playoff construction is kind of much like the NHL format, with the highest two groups from every convention competing for the Gagarin Cup.

What makes the KHL so fascinating is that it holds quite a lot of gamers from totally different backgrounds and international locations. Even when the first expertise pool comes from Russia, they nonetheless pull gamers in from everywhere in the world, together with expertise hotbeds like Canada and typically much less anticipated elements of the world like Nice Britain. This creates a really numerous participant base, that may solely be rivaled by the likes of the NHL by way of high quality and depth.

This variety is seen within the location of KHL groups as nicely. After their most up-to-date enlargement to China, there at the moment are six franchises established outdoors of Russia, with the potential of a franchise in London as nicely. Whereas this probably creates some mind-boggling journey plans, it’s a powerful feat that ought to solely assist the league proceed rising in each measurement and high quality.

1.) Nationwide Hockey League (NHL)

Many professional hockey gamers abroad and in North America view the NHL because the final and most essential cease of their careers. Profitable contracts, media publicity, and an opportunity to win hockey’s final prize, Lord Stanley’s Cup, are among the many components that drive sure gamers to make it to the NHL stage. With 31 groups within the league, the NHL is unquestionably greater by way of each depth and total high quality than the KHL and has arguably the very best expertise from world wide vying for one trophy.

Whereas some may argue that the NHL grants essentially the most publicity to hockey gamers in North America, the Stanley Cup and its historical past is well-known all through the world. A number of the most gifted gamers to make an influence within the NHL have been developed abroad, however the NHL nonetheless stands unequalled within the pantheon of hockey leagues.

With their latest profitable enlargement to Las Vegas and a 32nd crew anticipated in Seattle, the NHL shouldn’t be solely rising however discovering new markets in North America who’re hungry for hockey. With all the pieces in thoughts, it’s probably that the NHL will proceed being the highest hockey league on the planet for years to come back.

Honorable Mentions

1.) Western Hockey League (WHL)

The Western Hockey League is one in every of three members of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) that options 22 groups based mostly in Canada and the western a part of the USA. The WHL was established within the 1960’s and has develop into a dominant pressure within the improvement of younger hockey gamers through the years. Because it’s founding, the WHL had thrived, successful the memorial cup 19 instances, most lately by the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014.

The WHL has produced many gamers who’ve had a significant influence on the NHL since its’ inception within the 1960’s. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports activities)

By way of prospects, the WHL has produced many stellar gamers through the years. A number of the greatest gamers at present within the NHL, together with Carey Worth, Shea Weber, Jamie Benn, Patrick Marleau Jordan Eberle and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins all discovered significant improvement within the WHL. In recent times, the league has additionally been producing among the prime younger defensemen within the NHL as nicely. This contains present top-line defenderslike Matt Dumba, Morgan Rielly, and Seth Jones.

2.) Slovak Extraliga (Tipsport Extraliga)

The Slovak Extraliga was based in 1993 after Czechoslovakia cut up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Despite the fact that the Slovakian league was a part of the Czech Extraliga earlier than 1993, the cut up has labored out nicely for either side because the Czech Republic and Slovakia proceed to provide high quality NHL gamers. A number of the most notable Slovakian gamers to have an effect on the NHL are Pavol Demitra, Zigmund Palffy, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara.

Whereas the Slovakian league is simply comprised of 10 groups, it has an fascinating side that enables for the Slovakian U20 Junior crew to play in some common season video games. Whereas the Slovakian Junior Crew (HK Orange 20) can not compete within the playoffs and sure contests, the opposite groups within the league compete for one in every of eight playoff spots.

Because it’s inception, the Slovak Extraliga has largely been dominated by two groups, HC Kosice and HC Slovan Bratislava, who’ve each gained eight championships, tied for many in league historical past.

three.) Quebec Main Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) 

 The QMJHL, the third member of the CHL, has delivered important expertise to the NHL. NHL Corridor of Famers equivalent to Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Patrick Roy all performed in “The Q” and had spectacular careers within the NHL. Within the modern-day, gamers equivalent to Sidney Crosby characterize QMJHL alumni which have made a big influence on the NHL.

Since 1969, the QMJHL has represented a improvement channel for among the prime gamers within the NHL. (QMJHL/Photi Sotiropoulos)

Out of the three main junior hockey leagues, the QMJHL is understood most for producing gamers with immense offensive prowess. With latest alumni like Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau and Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon tearing it up within the NHL, there’s little question “The Q” is aware of find out how to incubate among the prime offensive abilities on the planet.

Despite the fact that some detractors might reference the QMJHL’s lack of defensive play, the league has captured the Memorial Cup trophy six instances since 2000 and stays some of the thrilling leagues for hockey in North America.

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