First, a little background on the proposal. The biggest change would be the creation of the High Performance Club League (HPC). There would be 36 teams in six regions. Each club would have a team for each birthyear from the Midget Major level down to the Pee Wee level (except the U17 birth year, those players would be forced into the Midget Major level or seek other options). The league will start no earlier than the 2010-2011 season. I think the purpose of the ADM from the NHL perspective (NHL donated money to help fund this effort) is to create and better identify more NHL prospects. From the USA Hockey perspective, it's to create more options for American players who would otherwise play Major Junior hockey .
As for how to read my chart... I tried to include the approximate number of players in each level. If it has a 9999 in it, it means there are either A LOT of players or too many to count. You can assume the NAHL is representative of most second level junior leagues.
Now, for the main reason why I created this chart. I think a lot of causal prospect fans want to know how players in different leagues stack up. The chart was designed to show equivelancies. For example, an elite player really has two options: Play at the elite level for your age group; Or, play with older players. Look at 16 year old Brandon Saad who turned down a spot with the NTDP and is instead playing on an NAHL team... same level. An elite 18 year old like Jake Gardiner, as you'd suspect, would be in the NCAA playing as a true freshman and not in the USHL. In fact, the USHL is never an elite option for an 18 year old, but it certainly would be for a 17 year old (like a Paul Phillips). An elite 20 year old, unless he's really dedicated to getting his degree, is probably ready to move on to pro hockey.
There are two types of players that aren't playing in the right spot on this chart. First, you can probably think of several players who are playing at a lower level because of choice. Many Minnesota High School players turn down offers to go to the USHL and/or NTDP in order to stay closer to home and/or win a state championship. The second type of player is the "Super Elite" player, of which there are usually no more than one or two for any give birthyear. 1993 born Seth Ambroz would normally play no higher than Midget Major for a team like Little Caesar's. Instead, he's thriving in the USHL... quite impressive. Last year, 1991 born Jeremy Morin played with the 1990 born players on the NTDP U18 team. This type of player is rare, and they don't always stay ahead of players in their age groups.
Also, keep in mind that the quality of teams in each league can overlap the quality of teams in other leagues, but I think that I have the leagues as a whole on the appropriate levels.
Anyway, I hope this has been of assistance. Again (some of your) feedback is welcome.
EDIT: Reports are now saying that the HPC proposal as it currently stands is DOA. I don't know what any sort of compromise would look like, but I'm going to leave the graphic of the original proposal up top. Below is how US Hockey looks right now...
As you can see, the options for Elite and Tier 1 players in the current setup are still there, but limited. For example, a Tier 1 U18 player (1991 birthdate right now) either has to play down in Midget Major or Prep, or he can slide over to a second level junior league to play at a more challenging level.
EDIT: In another twist, it looks like the NTDP U17 team is moving up a league from the NAHL to the USHL. I have issues with this for several reasons, the least of which is that the NTDP has only the 8th best winning percentage in the league. Why do they feel the team isn't getting challenged? I think I know why USA Hockey and the NHL have conspired to do this, and I have my opinions on who the winners and losers are in this regard. However, I try to keep biased opinions off this blog as much as I can. Trying to represent this new situation in graphical form could be a challenge. I think I'll wait until I see how next season shakes out. My guess is that the U17 team (without the help of the U18 team) will struggle to win many games at all.