Junior Spotlight - NAHL

Junior Spotlight – North American Hockey League (NAHL)
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier 2 league in the United States. At the Tier 1 level, the USHL is the only USA-Hockey sanctioned league. Both the USHL and NAHL are tuition-free leagues. NAHL players do pay for housing, similar to the NCDC, which is the other U.S. tuition-free Tier 2 league,  but  the NCDC is not recognized by USA Hockey.
In 2019-20 the NAHL had 26 teams. That number will increase to 27 when the Wichita Falls Warriors begin play. Wichita Falls, located in Texas, did have an NAHL franchise in the past, but this will be a new expansion team for 2020-21. Those 27 teams are spread out among four geographic divisions – Central, East, Midwest and South.
The footprint of the NAHL extends to the west outside the continental U.S. to Alaska, where there are franchises in Kenai River and Fairbanks. Oddly, those teams play in the Midwest Division along with teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
Heading south, the NAHL has a presence in the Southwest with the New Mexico Ice Wolves having just finished their inaugural season, and there are four teams in Texas, one that is moving to Kansas City and another in Louisiana. This division is known for its hard-nosed play and playing in front of large crowds in a minor-league professional sports atmosphere.
The Central Division has teams in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, while the East Division, which is relatively new to the league, extends north all the way to Maine, west to Jamestown, N.Y. and south to Maryland.
Most of the games in the NAHL are games within a team’s division, however there is a highly scouted showcase held in Blaine, Minn., each September during which there are intra-divisional games that are highly scouted by the USHL and Division I colleges.
Most years the NAHL holds its entry draft in June following a month of predraft camps in which hundreds of Tier 2 hopefuls skate against other players in front of team coaching staffs. Players who are drafted in the June entry draft are property of that team in the NAHL until they are either placed on the roster or released.
Each team has a set number of tenders as well that it can offer to players. Once a tender is signed, the team that made the offer owns that player’s rights in the NAHL as well. Drafted and tendered players can sign contracts in other leagues if they choose. Players who are drafted and tendered then will attend a team’s main camp along with returning players and other players who are paying and hoping to make the team.
From the main camp a group of players is selected to attend training camp in September and the final 23-man roster must be declared by the end of that month. Usually there are about 30 players in camp competing for those 23 slots. Usually the final roster is not determined until the end of September, so players who do not make teams are released to pursue spots in other leagues that may have already been playing for several weeks.  
This year, because of the COVD-19 restrictions likely eliminating the possibility of having predraft camps in May, the NAHL is having a three-round supplemental draft in May and pushing its entry draft to July 21. It remains to be seen what will happen to main camps, which traditionally are held in July, but word on the street is that they will probably happen in early August. Another question is whether teams would be able to squeeze in a predraft camp between the supplemental and entry drafts if things clear up.
In addition to the individual team main camps, the NAHL has been holding several combine-style events that include coaches and scouts from many teams in recent years, but as of right now those have been postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The NAHL sends pretty much all of its players on to play at the NCAA level. Of the 478 freshmen playing NCAA Division I hockey in 2019-20, 92 players came from the NAHL. That’s 19.2 percent of all first-year D1 players – only the USHL (176) and BCHL (96) moved more players on to the top level of NCAA hockey. In addition, 96 NAHL products competed at the NCAA Division II or III levels, ranking third behind the USPHL (120 from 52 teams) and the EHL (112).
There are no age-out roster restrictions in the NAHL, so it tends to be an older league than the NCDC, however that can vary by division. Each of the NAHL divisions is known to have its own style of play, and some divisions have more younger players while others skew older.
CLICK HERE for a breakdown of all NCAA Division I commitments.
CLICK HERE to find a listing of all NCAA Division II and III freshmen, the leagues they came from and their college teams for the 2019-20 season.
CLICK HERE for so see all NAHL college commitments.
Below you will find a listing of each NAHL team, it’s record over the past two years, the number of players who appeared in games each year and the number of age-out players on their final rosters this season.
Aberdeen Wings
Location: Aberdeen, S.D.
2019-20: 34-11-4 – 41 players used
2018-19: 47-2-1-0 – 29 players used
2-99 D, 5-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Amarillo Bulls
Location: Amarillo, Texas
2019-20: 39-10-2-3 – 41 players used
2018-19: 46-8-3-3 – 41 players used
3-99 D, 7-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Austin Bruins
Location: Austin, Minn.
2019-20: 32-22-0-6 – 48 players used
2018-19: 28-16-2-5 – 48 players used
4-99 D, 4-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Bismarck Bobcats
Location: Bismarck, N.D.  
2019-20:  32-12-5-3 – 39 players used
2018-19: 31-21-3-2 – 43 players used
5-99 D, 5-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Chippewa Steel
Location: Chippewa Falls, Wisc.
2019-20: 29-18-3-1 – 42 players used
2018-19: 19-38-2-1
4-99 D, 5-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Corpus Christi Ice Rays
Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
2019-20: 16-30-3-4 – 53 players used
2018-19: 29-28-2-1 – 63 players used
0-99 D, 1-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
2019-20: 38-11-1-2 – 32 players used
2018-19: 37-16-3-4 – 35 players used
2-99 D, 5-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Jamestown Rebels
Location: Jamestown, N.Y     
2019-20: 21-30-1-2 – 57 players used
2018-19: 37-16-3-4 – 50 players used
0-99 D, 5-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Janesville Jets
Location: Janesville, Wisc.
2019-20: 24-26-1-1 – 45 players used
2018-19: 29-25-3-3 – 45 players used
2-99 D, 2-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Johnstown Tomahawks
Location: Johnstown, N.Y.
2019-20: 34-13-2-2 – 35 players used
2018-19: 47-9-3-1 – 33 players used
2-99 D, 7-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Kenai River Brown Bears
Location: Soldotna, Alaska
2019-20: 27-19-3-3 – 46 players used
2018-19: 23-31-3-3 – 37 players used
6-99 D, 7-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Lone Star Brahmas
Location: Utica, N.Y.
2019-20: 42-9-1-1 – 41 players used
2018-19: 31-21-3-5 – 44 players used
3-99 D, 8-99 F, 2-99 G on final roster
Maine Nordiques
Location: Lewiston, Maine
2019-20: 20-32-2-0 – 38 players used
2018-19: N/A
2-99 D, 4-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Maryland Black Bears
Location: Odenton, MD
2019-20: 20-25-7-0 – 45 players used
2018-19: 16-37-5-2 – 46 players used
2-99 D, 3-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Minnesota Magicians
Location: Richfield, Minn.
2019-20: 21-23-6-3 – 46 players used
2018-19: 36-21-3-0 – 40 players used
1-99 D, 4-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Minnesota Wilderness
Location: Cloquet, Minn.
2019-20: 26-22-4-0 – 59 players used
2018-19: 26-29-3-2 – 40 players used
4-99 D, 8-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Minot Minotauros
Location: Minot, N.D.  
2019-20: 27-16-1-6 – 35 players used
2018-19: 36-21-3-0 – 39 players used
0-99 D, 5-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
New Jersey Titans
Location: Middletown, N.J.   
2019-20: 38-13-0-1 – 33 players used
2018-19: 31-26-3-0 – 47 players used
4-99 D, 10-99 F, 2-99 G on final roster
New Mexico Ice Wolves
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
2019-20: 13-34-2-3 – 43 player used
2018-19: N/A
0-99 D, 1-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Northeast Generals
Location: Middletown, N.J.   
2019-20: 20-27-2-1 – 45 players used
2018-19: 24-25-7-4 – 42 players used
3-99 D, 4-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
Odessa Jackalopes
Location: Odessa, Texas.   
2019-20: 9-39-1-1 – 54 players used
2018-19: 21-35-2-2 – 49 players used
2-99 D, 4-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Shreveport Mudbugs
Location: Shreveport, La.   
2019-20: 39-18-0-0 – 36 players used
2018-19: 28-22-4-6 – 41 players used
3-99 D, 6-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Springfield Jr. Blues
Location: Springfield, Ill.    
2019-20: 16-34-2-2 – 54 players used
2018-19: 33-22-4-1 – 47 players used
1-99 D, 1-99 F, 0-99 G on final roster
St. Cloud Blizzard
Location: St. Cloud, Minn.    
2019-20: 10-37-4-1 – 54 players used
2018-19: 11-44-3-2
3-99 D, 3-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Topeka Pilots
Location: Kansas City, Mo. (moving to KC)   
2019-20: 33-14-3-2 – 34 players
2018-19: 23-29-3-5
6-99 D, 9-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster
Wichita Falls Warriors
Location: Wichita Falls, Texas   
2019-20: N/A expansion team
2018-19: N/A expansion team
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Location: Pittston, Pa.    
2019-20: 26-22-4 – 36 players used
2018-19: 26-29-4-1 – 36 players used
6-99 D, 5-99 F, 1-99 G on final roster