The quality and reputation of the junior program(s) he spends his 2 - 3 year with. Hands down.
HS parents should worry far less about attracting interest from college coaches at 16 and 17, and more on attracting top junior programs. The higher the better.
In Tier I and II, the program is the important thing. If he gets regular minutes on a good team, he will have his choice of offers - Div I for USHL, Div I and III for NAHL. Success at that level leads directly to success in college. College coaches know that, and that's where they spend the bulk of their time.
In Tier III, it's absolutely the quality and integrity of the coach. If you're watching Twitter right now, you're seeing the 2000s finally getting their commitments, even from losing programs. The coach has to be out there pumping your kid's tires. In the EHL, team owners are actually fined if their coaches don't get commitments for their kids.
But, beware. If you think Prep coaches are lying *******s, junior coaches have their PhDs in Deceiptful Practices. NCDC, and the rest of the USPHL, especially. Can't tell you how many kids I've heard of that were told by NCDC coaches they were absolutely projected to be top 6/top 4, show up in camp, compare notes, and find out there were 39 other kids told the same thing. More than 50% either didn't make the team, didn't dress, or got cut. This year, especially. Go on Elite Prospects and see how many players received games. Go look at the Protected Lists and se how many EHL kids' prior team was NCDC (and no, my kid didn't get cut, we knew that and didn't fall for it).
I'm dead serious, unless your kid is a 1%er playing Prep, forget college when your kid is in HS. Focus on juniors.
And if he is a 1%er playing Prep, move him to the U at 17, 18 at the latest. That's the path now to getting serious D-I minutes at a top program. Not Prep.
Insightful & accurate post.
Do true - "I'm dead serious, unless your kid is a 1%er playing Prep, forget college when your kid is in HS. Focus on juniors."
The real question for good HS players is, how connected is your HS coach to the Jr. teams? The kid gives the coach 3-4 years of varsity hockey and all the coach does in response is thanking the kid for the trophy in the schools trophy case and keeping his part-time $6,000- $7,000 a year job.
I recall seeing a top prospect playing for a popular public high school 4-5 years ago and a coaching staff from a quality Junior program coming in to scout him. The HS team's assistant coach yelled across the ice "Stay away from my players!" and when the Junior scouts went to speak to the kid after the game the coach wouldn't allow the scouts anywhere near the locker room. Completely the opposite what you would call 'supportive to get them to the next level.'
I saw that and that was the final year my kid played for the HS program.
College coaches will tell you what skills, drive, and character makeup they are looking for but that is only a piece of the puzzle. In addition to the "talent" you need to get on their radar first and that takes some luck or timing, whatever you want to call it, connections, and a non-stop twitter pr machine, and also money. Each player is different and their path is different. The well connected legacy kid or coach's kid doesn't need the connections and pr, he's going to get his shot and just needs the talent. Others with the talent need everything else in varying degrees, leave no stone unturned, explore every avenue and realize at some point your player needs to get a break and when it happens, needs to capitalized on that single moment. Start with getting him on a top area team, he won't get noticed playing where they aren't looking.
Great to see a post from someone who knows what they are saying. Good job