The Ontario Hockey League, or OHL, has a long history of producing top talent for the National Hockey League (NHL). Many of today’s NHL stars, such as Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares, got their start in the OHL. However, in recent years, the league has faced a decline in both popularity and success at the professional level.
With the rise of other junior leagues such as the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the OHL seemed to have fallen out of the spotlight. Teams struggled to fill their arenas and the league’s draft rankings dropped lower and lower. It seemed as though the once-prominent OHL was on a downward spiral.
But in the past few NHL seasons, there has been a noticeable turnaround in the OHL. The league has regained its status as a top producer of NHL talent and its teams are once again drawing in large crowds. So, what caused this dramatic shift and what does it mean for the future of the OHL? Let’s take a closer look at the factors that led to the resurgence of the OHL.
One of the main reasons for the OHL’s decline in recent years was the decrease in Canadian players being drafted into the NHL. The league has always been known for producing top Canadian talent, but with the rise of American and European players, the OHL began to lose its dominance.
However, in recent years, the OHL has seen an increase in the number of Canadian players drafted into the NHL. In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the OHL had the most players selected out of any junior league with a total of 31, surpassing the QMJHL and the WHL. This trend has continued in the past few drafts, showing that the OHL is once again becoming a top destination for young Canadian players.
Another factor that has contributed to the OHL’s success is the improvement in the league’s talent level. In the past, the league was known for producing top forwards, but not so much for defensemen and goaltenders. However, in recent years, the OHL has developed a reputation for producing well-rounded players at all positions.
This has been evident in the NHL, where OHL alumni such as Aaron Ekblad, Dougie Hamilton, and Jordan Binnington have become top players in their respective positions. The increase in talented players coming out of the OHL has been a key factor in the league’s resurgence in the hockey world.
But perhaps the biggest factor in the turnaround of the OHL has been the league’s focus on player development. With the rise of advanced training methods and technologies, the league has placed a greater emphasis on developing players both on and off the ice.
In addition to investing in training and development programs, the OHL has also implemented strict rules and regulations to ensure players are receiving proper education and support. This has not only improved the overall skill level of players, but also made the league more attractive to young prospects and their families.
With all these changes and improvements, the OHL has become a more competitive and well-rounded league, creating a larger pool of talented players for teams to choose from. This has also led to a rise in the league’s popularity, with fans once again flocking to arenas to watch their favorite OHL teams in action.
The turnaround of the OHL has also had a positive impact on the league’s economic success. With higher numbers in attendance and merchandising, as well as increased media and sponsor attention, the OHL has become a lucrative business once again.
Players in the OHL are also benefiting from the league’s resurgence. With more exposure and opportunities to develop their skills, players have a better chance of being drafted into the NHL and achieving their dream of playing at the professional level. This has made the OHL a highly sought-after destination for young players looking to make a career in hockey.
The OHL has certainly made a comeback in recent years, reclaiming its position as a top junior league for developing NHL talent. With a focus on player development, improved talent level, and an increase in Canadian players being drafted, the OHL has once again become a formidable force in the hockey world. As the league continues to grow and evolve, it will surely produce even more top players for the NHL in the future.