Been through it. The posts about development are right on and h.s. hockey isn't about development.
So my oldest boy is a pretty good player, he got to high school age and the local U-16 f.s. team coach sat him down and asked him what his goals were. Then he asked him if he really wanted to play college hockey - and I think the question kind of caught the kid off guard because he never thought of himself playing college hockey. Kid said, "no not really, I've never really thought about it." The coach said, "O.K., I'd say go and play for your high school."
The high school systems and coaching were pretty laughable for most of the more advanced kids, coaches playing favorites and not really knowing which player could actually play and especially in which situations but in all fairness they had not seen these kids in 40+ games per year over many years so how could they be expected to figure it out.
Many of the U-16 kids are now playing college hockey, some D-1 and only a handful of the high school kids are playing D-3....so I guess it all depends on what the kid wants to do.
You're spot on as is that coach. My kid was developing into a pretty good player but, after getting injured as a sophomore, never expressed any interest in playing in college. He stayed on his high school team, had a blast and by the end, I think played up to his potential as a high school hockey player (but you are correct, HS hockey is NOT about development), and is now doing well in college, as a student. I can't argue with any of those outcomes.
How is choosing HS hockey over U16 or U18 analogous to dropping out school? A more appropriate metaphor would be "My kid really wants to go to Harvard but he's only ever been a C student despite hiring tutors so I'm going to write a check to their endowment for 10K to help the enrollment process." Of course 10K is a nice donation but it doesn't even register at Harvard and your kid isn't getting accepted, it's time to set more realistic goals. If you believe your kid can develop into a top player than that's great, just remember many of those at the top are also continuing to develop.
I'm not telling you or any parent that chooses full season over HS that you're wrong, I'm just taking a contrarian view because we have different opinions, nothing wrong with that.
I have the means to pay for my kid to play full season U16 but I choose not to. I made a decision that if my son wasn't being recruited by two or more preps before HS, the chances of him playing even D-III after graduation were slim so I steered him towards high school hockey. It doesn't make me any more right or wrong than you are.
The only thing that I will say is wrong is to put down HS hockey as somehow being beneath any player.
The reason it's like dropping out is, public HS hockey doesn't develop kids. They might be good players with some upside at 14, but then dad convinces him he should play HS for the crowds, BMOC standing, whatever.
So, he makes the team as a Freshman instead of playing U14 full season, plays sporadically. He's small versus the 18 year old football-players-on-skates so he plays hesitantly, the skill level is low, and he doesn't develop as much as he would have.
Then, because he's already thinking HS, he plays 1/2 season U16 - which isn't strong unless you are top Prep and playing for one of the better teams. HS season comes, he sees a bit more playing time as a Sophomore, but still isn't developing as he would have if he had played U16 Full Season.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
So, yes, HS hockey IS beneath some players, because it holds them back. It stunts their development.