When Does it Make Sense to Play in the OHL? What the numbers say…

One of the toughest decisions an elite young hockey player and their family have to make early in a career is whether to play Major Junior or retain their NCAA Amateur Status and look to go the college route. For those players in Ontario the allure of the Ontario Hockey League can bring excitement and all the attention of professional hockey.

As an Agency it’s our job to understand when the timing, environment and opportunity is right to recommend the OHL vs the NCAA, or visa versa. So being a highly data driven organization that thinks progressively we decided to look at the raw numbers to understand how many games and seasons players taken in the first 6 rounds of OHL Draft actually play in the league; and what their scholarship funds would be.

To be specific, we looked at players taken during the 2014, 2013, and 2012 Drafts; broken down by round, games played, and seasons played with a +25 games minimum. This time frame allowed us to see the historical window of players as they begin and aged out of the league.

From looking at the data through all 3 years, you can see some glaring points;

What does this mean?

The Standard Ontario Hockey League Player agreement offers an academic scholarship covering one full academic year at a Canadian institution for the first regular season game played, with an additional year paid for every subsequent regular season game played in each calendar year; for a maximum of 5 academic years paid.

This being said, teams routinely offer players one year of schooling paid upon signing, an additional year paid for the first exhibition game played, and a subsequent year paid for a regular season game played in each following calendar year; for a maximum of 5 years paid.


Under the league’s standard player agreement, on average, players taken after the 2nd round only come away with a maximum of only 3 years of schooling paid. 

While under the 2nd scenario contract offer, those same players taken after the 4th round would only be entitled to 3 years of schooling paid.

It takes 4 years worth of University credits to complete a Bachelor’s degree at a Canadian university.

It’s a Hockey Decision

The decision to play in the OHL comes with benefits in addition to academic funding. The league itself is a pipeline for NHL programs, one of the best development leagues in the world, and bolsters a player’s opportunity for professional hockey.

The data has shown us that on average players taken after the 6th round play less then 75.9 total regular season games.

That is significantly less than the amount of time you would need to develop and produce enough as a forward or defenceman to meet the thresholds needed to be NHL Drafted.

The intention here is to provide prospective through data to limit long-term professional risk during the decision making process.

When would it make sense to play in the OHL?

If you were drafted in the first 2 rounds; as per the historical experience of previous players. 

On average these players played between 196.4- 230.4 games, over 3.46-3.84 seasons ultimately offering the time needed to develop and produce at a level whereby you would most likely be NHL drafted in your first eligible year; while gaining 4 years of schooling paid for.

Hockey decisions to a degree will always be based on passion and excitement, hopefully this example has shown how data can be used to provide perspective alongside that passion. 

Data and Analysis by Dara Festinger

Written by Player Agent Cliff Mander