east coast junior hockey programs totally restructured

The junior hockey league that produces the greatest number of NESCAC players–the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL)–has been completely pulled apart and reorganized into two brand new leagues.  Six former EJHL teams are joining 12 teams from the now-defunct Atlantic Junior Hockey League (AtJHL) to form the brand-new Eastern Hockey League (EHL) while  6 other former EJHL teams have joined 3 teams from the Eastern Elite Junior Hockey League (EEJHL) and formed the Premier Division of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).

The EJHL produced 14 of the incoming NESCAC recruits for 2013-14 and 18 in this past year’s freshman class. The EJHL produces a fair number of impact NESCAC players. In fact, three of the six-member all-NESCAC team were EJHL products (Trinity goalie Ben Coulthard, Bowdoin d-man Tim McGarry, and Amherst d-man Brandon Hew).

The 6 EJHL teams joining the Premier Division of the USPHL are: Bay State Breakers, Boston Jr. Bruins, Islanders Hockey Club, Jersey Hitmen, Portland Pirates, and South Shore Kings. The 3 Eastern Elite teams joining the Premier Division are: CT Yankees,  P.A.L. Junior Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers. The Premier Division of this league is intended to be an east coast version of the USHL but the USPHL somehow screwed up its paperwork and will therefore not even be sanctioned by USA Hockey during the first year of its operations and will be forced to operate an an independent junior hockey league during the 2013-14 season. You can get a sense of how-not-ready-for-prime time the USPHL is by taking a gander at its highly uninformative website.

The USPHL will also include an Elite Division that will include former EJHL teams such as the Springfield Pics and the Rochester Stars and former EEJHL teams. It will also include the teams that have been playing in obscurity in the EJHL’s 8-team southern division (teams like the Atlanta Jr. Knights, the Hampton Roads Whalers, the Florida Eels, and the Space Coast Hurricanes). It will be a step down from the Premier Division so it is hard to assess in advance whether the Elite Division will be a breeding ground for future NESCAC players or just a developmental system for the Premier Division. Information released to date by the USPHL is close to incoherent, with no list of the teams assigned to each division yet available and talk of  5 divisions (the Premier Division (Junior A), the Elite Division (Junior A), the Empire JHL (junior B), 18U Midgets, and 16U Midgets) but no other detail.

The 6 EJHL teams joining the new Eastern Hockey League are: Apple Core, Boston Bandits, Connecticut Oilers, New Hampshire Monarchs, Philadelphia Revolution, and Valley Jr. Warriors. These are generally the weaker franchises although several are solid and one (the New Hampshire Monarchs) was once the EJHL’s premier franchise before its long-time top dog, Sean Tremblay, decamped to build the Islanders Hockey Club into an elite powerhouse from what had once been the lowly New England Huskies. The 12 AtJHL teams joining the new league are: Boston Jr. Rangers, Connecticut Jr. Wolfpack, New Hampshire Lakers, New Jersey Rockets, New Jersey Titans, New York Bobcats, Northern Cyclones, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, Philadelphia Little Flyers, Walpole Express, Washington Jr. Nationals, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The 18 teams will be divided into 3 geographically compact divisions to keep travel to a minimum. Here’s a link to the website for the new league.

To be continued as we learn more!!!

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