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High School & Prep Hockey
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High school hockey - has it changed?

So I went to my first D-1 high school hockey game in over 4-5 years and it seems different. And not to rag on it but I'm curious as to what my eyes saw. To me this is my takeaway.

The 'skills' seem diminished. I mean the simple passing and catching and putting the puck on net that once was there seems to be missing.

The flow of the game seems different. No more up and down the ice, attack, gain control counter attack, repeat... It seemed chunky, hard to get it out, some turnovers in the neutral zone, more eat / west puck movement, less north / south. No one seemed able to drive to the net.

Physical play. A lot of hits, much more than just a few years ago. I'd say 4x or 5x the hits from 5-6 years ago. Some grabbing but a lot of hitting.

Next level. From what I've seen watching D-1 and D-3 college hockey over the past few years there appeared to be maybe one player skilled enough, big enough, hockey IQ...who could play at a D-3 program. No D-1 potential players. Even a handful of years ago you could see a handful of kids who could play college hockey. Sure maybe 1-2-3 D-1 kids and 4-5-6 D-3 kids provided they do a PG year or a year or two of Juniors but they were there.

Now for some of the coaches out there, is this a fair assessment? And spare me the knowledgeable opinions about how it sucks and it always sucked.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

anon
So I went to my first D-1 high school hockey game in over 4-5 years and it seems different. And not to rag on it but I'm curious as to what my eyes saw. To me this is my takeaway.

The 'skills' seem diminished. I mean the simple passing and catching and putting the puck on net that once was there seems to be missing.

The flow of the game seems different. No more up and down the ice, attack, gain control counter attack, repeat... It seemed chunky, hard to get it out, some turnovers in the neutral zone, more eat / west puck movement, less north / south. No one seemed able to drive to the net.

Physical play. A lot of hits, much more than just a few years ago. I'd say 4x or 5x the hits from 5-6 years ago. Some grabbing but a lot of hitting.

Next level. From what I've seen watching D-1 and D-3 college hockey over the past few years there appeared to be maybe one player skilled enough, big enough, hockey IQ...who could play at a D-3 program. No D-1 potential players. Even a handful of years ago you could see a handful of kids who could play college hockey. Sure maybe 1-2-3 D-1 kids and 4-5-6 D-3 kids provided they do a PG year or a year or two of Juniors but they were there.

Now for some of the coaches out there, is this a fair assessment? And spare me the knowledgeable opinions about how it sucks and it always sucked.
Don't flatter yourself (or your kid), it sucked 4-5 years ago too.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

It's a fairly accurate assessment IMHO.

The big thing for me is that most teams lack any kind of offensive imagination or coaching. It's carry with your top guys or dump it with your 3rd liners. Same for breakouts. Most just chuck it out and hope for the best in the NZ.

Skating and pace is probably better, which makes sense, cause i think we're developing skaters not hockey players. Passing and catching is poor and a reflection of the lack of emphasis and development in this area. Don't see many passing coaches out there..

The hitting has become downright stupid. Lots of kids not looking to make plays (because they probably can't) and just out there taking runs every shift to either impress their meathead coach or dummies in the stands. If seen kids skate right past loose pucks just to launch into another player while the play moves down the ice. Atta Boy! Play the body.. Wonder why we don't develop and keep "Hockey Players" at the MIAA level? Skilled ones leave and you're left with football and Lax players throwing elbows and head shots on a Saturday night for the locals.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Agree 100%. I watched a few minutes of a D-3 h.s. playoff game a handful of years ago and as the skill was less and the hitting was way up. I think for the most part it is what D-1 h.s. looks like today and a few cc teams like BCH still attract hockey players so they’re the exception.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Of course it has changed, with the proliferation of full season 16U and 18U teams how could it not? They are getting their kids from somewhere.

I think most kids on varsity today are in positions they wouldn't have been in 5 or 10 years ago and skills that should be developed, aren't because they weren't needed. Why learn to pass when you can play 1 v 5 until Bantam without fear of getting hit? Kids can shoot and toe drag more now, but you are right, they can't make an 8 foot pass.

Best kids go to prep, same as it always was. What used to be your top lines now play full season so the varsity team is made up of kids that would have been 3rd or 4th line players not that long ago and the rest of the team would have been playing JV.

Pace of play is slower, little puck movement so naturally, it's easier to play a physical game. Here is what really bothers me, in my observation about 80% of the hits during a varsity game are illegal. Kids leading with hands and elbows, hitting from behind, hitting late, or laying out kids that don't even have the puck and it's not being called. I guess you could say it's bad officiating but I think it's just become the accepted norm.

Yes the game has change and much like the town programs are dying off in favor of club programs, high school is suffering the same fate.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

High school hockey won’t end up “dying” any more than town will but much like town hockey the quality has changed. With top players moving on to FS you have mid-level players taking over the top spots and JV players making the bottom of varsity. Our D3 HS lost a couple of top kids to FS this year and it has dropped them to middle-of-the-pack. To me there is an upside in that it gives more kids a chance to play for their school so I don’t see it as all bad. My son is a solid, mid-level player who won’t have a realistic chance to play competitive hockey past high school. Ten years ago he would have faced much tougher sledding to make variety by junior year but now he will have a legitimate chance. To those whose kids have the skill to chase something bigger you see HS as a waste of time but for the rest of us it still serves a purpose.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Well said about your son having a good hs experience and realizing where he is and wants to be. Having been a hs and 'jr' coach for almost 20 years, the game has changed in a lot of ways. The interesting new dynamic is kids leaving their local HS's for U16-U18 FS. FS is mid level hs hockey in most cases locally. But, follow the money. These are the same players that had a 'contract' to play 'select/elite' hockey at the U-10, U12, U14 levels for 4 different programs. Now they are locked in, and the promises for placement becomes more and more aggressive. In the end, a LARGE majority end up in the same place after HS/Jr's. Out of hockey by 22. If people wanted to do research on these U16 FS "select" teams it's an easy test. Go online to Elite Prospects, select ANY u16 team, literally ANY. Then, go to their previous rosters as far back as the 2013-2014 seasons. Those players would be 19-21 by now. Pick ANY team. You'll be shocked to find out where these players that left their local HS's to play at the next level end up ANYWAY. Follow the money. the ADM model is a big issue as well. The current HS landscape is down as ALL product, ACROSS the board is down due to the saturation of money chasers, pop up teams and false promises. Hate to use Minnesota as an example. But those HS don't play FS 'select/juniors'. They also don't follow ANY ADM models from USA hockey. Minenesota HS hockey was on par with MA HS hockey. It has now lapped the field. And no, the players that are playing FS for select team "X" are not getting placed at a higher rate to end up playing ACHA or NCAA D3. they are just spending more money trying. But, that's their choice. I don't see HS hockey dying, but, it is hard to compete with 45 games from Oct to April as opposed to 20+ games from Dec to March. Their individual skills can also be focused on with FS based on the expanded time. HS has 20 weeks. Not a lot of time to develop. However, in reality, most (95% or greater who play at the next level.....which is less than 3% of HS aged players) will end up ACHA or D3 anyway.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Wonderful post. I was a little confused because I was shocked to read such truth on the Dboard. Thank you for knowing what you're talking about.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

I think some of the F.S. stuff is that many kids don't know how they stack-up against better players / longer schedules / more serious hockey until they try. Top kids coming out of h.s. programs are told, without exception that they have to play a year of junior hockey because college coaches will always take the older kids over the younger kids. This throws some reality into the equation as some kids say 'forget it, play a year of junior hockey just so I can play D-3 hockey?' or some select few will opt of another sport or ACHA knowing they can walk right onto the team. I've read other posts on here about proposing a hard age limit for D-3 hockey - not worrying about the system embedded in Major Canadian Junior hockey or getting drafted. It would kill many of these D-3 college feeder leagues / teams but it sure would bring some life back to h.s. hockey if the D-3 teams had to recruit there.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

I don't think it's about "how does my kid stack up" but more about, "my kid loves hockey and I want to help him pursue his dream of playing at the next level" even when that goal is unrealistic. However, like anything else, what started as a development model for the next rung of kids down from the truly elite, has grown to meet market demands and become another profit center for organizations. To put it bluntly, there are kids playing full season right now that couldn't make their high school varsity rosters.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Your last statement is very true as evidenced by watching many of these teams play at NESC. I would also like to take exception to the previous poster's comment ..." Top kids coming out of h.s. programs are told, without exception that they have to play a year of junior hockey because college coaches will always take the older kids over the younger kids." This is not true. If the player is good enough the D# college will want them. My son was approached by two different coaches - one in state and one out of state. He was not told he had to go to prep or go play a year of juniors as I specifically asked that question. He might not play in every single game freshman year but he didn't have to go spend more money before he went to play at college

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Anony
Your last statement is very true as evidenced by watching many of these teams play at NESC. I would also like to take exception to the previous poster's comment ..." Top kids coming out of h.s. programs are told, without exception that they have to play a year of junior hockey because college coaches will always take the older kids over the younger kids." This is not true. If the player is good enough the D# college will want them. My son was approached by two different coaches - one in state and one out of state. He was not told he had to go to prep or go play a year of juniors as I specifically asked that question. He might not play in every single game freshman year but he didn't have to go spend more money before he went to play at college
Your son must be a giant..physically more mature than kids his age.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

No - actually on the smaller side but very fast, solid core to give and take hits and thinks through the game.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

So where’d he end up going?

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Anony
No - actually on the smaller side but very fast, solid core to give and take hits and thinks through the game.
Congrats then! Thats not the story I hear from 95% of families.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

It can be easily done. You just need to hold your kid back entering grade school. Spend two years at your local high school at which point you transfer to a prep school and repeat that year as well-voila-20 year old freshman who didn’t play juniors.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Anon
It can be easily done. You just need to hold your kid back entering grade school. Spend two years at your local high school at which point you transfer to a prep school and repeat that year as well-voila-20 year old freshman who didn’t play juniors.
Now that’s sounds more familiar

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

Sorry - not the case at all. And didn't mean to give the wrong impression but he hasn't moved on to college yet. Still a high school senior and age appropriate at that. Happily playing in MIAA with the friends that he grew up with. You can "Stay and Play" and be recognized. Admittedly the initial recognition came from participation in the Junior Chowder Cup and other like tournaments but is that so surprising? Coaches in the off season are going where they can see multiple players at once. And while they're probably not there to scout your kid, if he's got the skills they want he will get noticed.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

I would be curious about - "My son was approached by two different coaches - one in state and one out of state. He was not told he had to go to prep or go play a year of juniors as I specifically asked that question." without naming schools, could you paint a picture as to what types they might be?

To go from MIAA to college is getting pretty rare and often it seems the kids will then end-up at a lower level team than perhaps they could have made with a year or two of juniors. One player I'm thinking of went straight to a D-3 program from high school and in seeing the kid over the years I wouldn't think he would ever be fast enough (not your kid's issue) to play high end D-3 or anything close to D-1 and maybe he took what he could - perhaps he was realistic in his abilities. So would you think by settling early would your kid be short-changing himself? But maybe it's a dream school academically so why bother aiming potentially higher I guess. Regardless, hope it works out.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

anon
It\'s a fairly accurate assessment IMHO.

The big thing for me is that most teams lack any kind of offensive imagination or coaching. It\'s carry with your top guys or dump it with your 3rd liners. Same for breakouts. Most just chuck it out and hope for the best in the NZ.

Skating and pace is probably better, which makes sense, cause i think we\'re developing skaters not hockey players. Passing and catching is poor and a reflection of the lack of emphasis and development in this area. Don\'t see many passing coaches out there..

The hitting has become downright stupid. Lots of kids not looking to make plays (because they probably can\'t) and just out there taking runs every shift to either impress their meathead coach or dummies in the stands. If seen kids skate right past loose pucks just to launch into another player while the play moves down the ice. Atta Boy! Play the body.. Wonder why we don\'t develop and keep \"Hockey Players\" at the MIAA level? Skilled ones leave and you\'re left with football and Lax players throwing elbows and head shots on a Saturday night for the locals.
Agree with this 100% - especially regarding skills - almost totally lost. Yes, the meaningless hitting is prevalent too - much of this stems from poor coaching at the HS level - especially in the Merrimack Valley Conference with D2 players as well. Some of these coaches have been hanging on too long, and new blood is needed to help these boys learn and play a better game.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

anon
anon
It\\\'s a fairly accurate assessment IMHO.

The big thing for me is that most teams lack any kind of offensive imagination or coaching. It\\\'s carry with your top guys or dump it with your 3rd liners. Same for breakouts. Most just chuck it out and hope for the best in the NZ.

Skating and pace is probably better, which makes sense, cause i think we\\\'re developing skaters not hockey players. Passing and catching is poor and a reflection of the lack of emphasis and development in this area. Don\\\'t see many passing coaches out there..

The hitting has become downright stupid. Lots of kids not looking to make plays (because they probably can\\\'t) and just out there taking runs every shift to either impress their meathead coach or dummies in the stands. If seen kids skate right past loose pucks just to launch into another player while the play moves down the ice. Atta Boy! Play the body.. Wonder why we don\\\'t develop and keep \\\"Hockey Players\\\" at the MIAA level? Skilled ones leave and you\\\'re left with football and Lax players throwing elbows and head shots on a Saturday night for the locals.
Agree with this 100% - especially regarding skills - almost totally lost. Yes, the meaningless hitting is prevalent too - much of this stems from poor coaching at the HS level - especially in the Merrimack Valley Conference with D2 players as well. Some of these coaches have been hanging on too long, and new blood is needed to help these boys learn and play a better game.
I honestly don't blame the HS coaches that much. IMHO by high school the coaches are there to teach systems, motivate the kids, add some discipline but they aren't there to develop skills, especially basic skills. Skating with your head up, passing, moving to open ice, body position, etc. are skills that should have been developed at the youth level but aren't. We are now just seeing the current crop of ADM, no hitting kids getting to HS and the lack of basic skills and rudimentary hockey IQ is astonishing to me.

Now that I wrote this, maybe you are right. Maybe the next generation of HS coach needs to concentrate on skills vs system to see if they can't develop a few players for their own benefit. It's an intriguing value proposition to me.

Re: High school hockey - has it changed?

It is a crazy culmination of factors and a crazy result we now get to watch. First, the delay to checking has really hurt these boys. It's still new to them and the idea of blow-up some kid in the corner even if the 'hitee' goes flying onto the ice seems to be great fun. The teams with more kids who have played higher level off-season hockey have a clear advantage but man, where have the players gone?