Monday, December 5, 2016

What's Best For 16 Year-Olds WHL or AAA Midget?

WHL 16-year-olds

There is always talk about what is the best option for 16 year old hockey players.
Should they be in the CHL (WHL/OHL/QMJHL)?
Should they stay in the Midget League?
Should the WHL Bantam Draft go from selecting 15-year-olds to 16-year-olds?
Well that last question will be discussed in a future article.

As of December 4, 2016 there are 54 16-year-olds (born in 2000) on WHL rosters. These are players who have been on the roster all year and are expected to stay in the WHL all season. As always there are AP call-ups but I did not include them in this research.

The Numbers
There are 2 goalies, 16 defensemen and 36 forwards.
There are 22 WHL teams but there were 21 1st round picks made as Portland’s was forfeited from the disciplinary action levied in November, 2012.
Of the 21 selections, 20 are in the WHL.
Tychonick is the only player selected in the 1st round of the 2015 Bantam Draft and is not playing in the WHL. He was taken 12th overall by Saskatoon, in November/16 had his rights traded to Calgary. He is going the NCAA route and thus is not playing in the WHL.

1st – 20
2nd – 11
3rd – 6
4th – 3
5th – 5
6th – 2
7th – 3
8th – 1
9th – 2
Undrafted – 1
In the 2016 NHL Draft there were 27 WHL players selected who were 18 or 19 years old and came up through minor hockey in Canada.
As 16 year olds - 17 played in the WHL, 9 AAA Midget and 1 did not play due to an injury.
Of the 17 who played in the WHL 2 had late birthdays.
Of the 9 who played in AAA Midget 4 had late birthdays.
In the 1st 2 rounds of the NHL Draft 7 of 8 of the WHL players selected played in the WHL as a 16-year-old.
When looking at the players stats from their 16 year old season in the WHL it shows that each played an average of 50 of the 72 regular season games. That includes a goalie who played in 30 and 2 skaters who played a combined 30 games because of long term injuries. Take those 3 players out of the equation and the average total is 56 games played. Very impressive numbers that show that if you make the team you will play.
The stat that is unavailable however is average time on ice.
Nothing is worse for a players’ development than to consistently be a healthy scratch and then only play a few shifts when they do dress for a game.
For the 9 players who played in the AAA Midget League the stats show big numbers and it’s easy to presume they were top line players who got lots of playing time.

So, what do all these numbers tell us and does it answer the question what is the best option for a 16-year-old?
As always you want to do what is best for the players’ development.
Is it better for a player to go back to Midget and dominate and be more ready to play in the WHL as a 17-year-old?
Will another year stifle a players’ development who is ready for higher competitions?
These are similar questions that NHL teams face when they have players who are junior eligible but are close to making their roster.
The numbers show that if you are going to keep a 16-year-old then play them regularly. The first half of the season can be a learning experience and you can protect them from certain situations. But, by the second half they should be regular contributors. Do this and they will be successful.
The numbers show that if you are not prepared to give the younger players the playing time they need, whether you feel the player isn’t ready or you have a veteran team and don’t see an opportunity for them to play regularly, then it is okay to let them play another year of Midget. 
The numbers show the best players will find a way to get noticed and get drafted.