NHL vs AHL
More than the casual fan would know, professional hockey in America extends to a much greater part. There are hockey teams in the Deep South as well as in the cold northern states, and everyplace in between. That being the case, many people do not know the difference between the different hockey leagues in the country, which is mainly between the AHL and NHL.
The AHL is the American Hockey League, comprising of 29 professional ice hockey teams, and primarily based in the US. The AHL mainly serves as the main development place for the NHL, which is the National Hockey League. The NHL is a nonprofit association that runs a major ice-hockey league, comprising of 30 clubs (franchised), where 6 clubs are from Canada and 24 are from the US. This league is regarded as the world’s premium professional ice hockey league.
The most obvious factor differentiating these leagues would be money. To state it in more precise terms, for the 2009/10 season, minimum salaries for the AHL were $36,500, while for the NHL it was $500,000.
That said, however, the underlying differences between the two leagues are quite long and complex. Each league comprises of highly skilled players, and affiliations are common within NHL and AHL, where clubs will loan some of their players, notably a goaltender, to their affiliate in the ECHL. Generally, it’s in NHL teams that players get grounded and developed for the AHL.
It’s a bit different with the AHL. Regarding each affiliation agreement (majority), the NHL franchise pays the player’s salaries, whether the team is privately owned or not. The job of hiring coaches and other hockey operational staff is the responsibility of the NHL team, granting them overall control of player personnel. Here, development is considered the highest priority, and as such, the quality of the teams in the AHL reflects their parent club’s free-agent signings and draft picks.
Nature of game
There’s always the assumption that the difference in game-speed between the two levels is a huge one. The truth is that the difference is very slim, if negligible. The key difference lies not in speed but rather in a combination of skill and intelligence of the game.
Looking at players from the different leagues, some thrive in the AHL, and yet due to things like size, perceived skill level, age and other things, find it hard to make it to the NHL. This, however, in no way represents a true picture of the skill level of players at an individual level; as in fact, AHL and NHL players may be on the same level when it comes to talent and skill on an individual basis.
Generally speaking, a player in the NHL tends to have a better game reading ability than a player in the AHL, or other minor leagues like the ECHL. The best way to demonstrate this is to envision killing a penalty while your opponents are already in your zone, from a goaltender’s perspective. In this case you would be on your goal post waiting to explode, puck in corner and an attacking player with you. In the AHL, a top-end player may have two or three options, while in the NHL, a skilled player will be able to create up to four options, as his ability to read the game play plus his level of experience clearly surpasses those in the AHL and minor leagues.
The AHL refers to American Hockey League, while NHL is the National Hockey League.
The AHL primarily serves as the development ground for the NHL, and as such, NHL offers higher wages than the AHL.
Players in the NHL are generally more experienced and better skilled than AHL players, with superior game reading skills.