The North American Hockey League announced today that the current limit of two non US born players per roster will be immediately doubled to four. NAHL teams are allowed 23 players on their active protected rosters.
The import rule was initially adopted by the NAHL to insure US born players had an opportunity to secure a roster spot and develop within the Junior A level of play. At the time the rule was instituted there were only 11 teams in the league limiting the number of roster spots up for grabs. The growth of hockey into the non-traditional southern and western markets has led to the rapid expansion of the league to 24 teams in 13 states which has resulted in a drastic increase opportunities for the US born players. As a result, the time for limiting the number of foreign players to two per team has passed. NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld stated, “The time was right for USA Hockey’s import rule to evolve to meet the needs of the current junior hockey landscape,”
The increase to four foreign born players allowed per team should help to ellivate the level of play and competition within the NAHL resulting in greater greater opportunities for US born players to up the development of their skills and improve their chances of landing a scholarship or draft pick. While the rule is set to go into effect immediately, the impact may be limited this season as most foreign born players are already rostered for the current season and gaining releases from their home country’s oversight body can be a lengthy process. Next season should be an interesting one as teams will have an opportunity to tender and draft an increased number of foreign players looking for an opportunity to increase their exposure to the scouts in the US.