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10 Misconceptions among Hockey Prospects
November 14, 2016
“IF YOU'RE GOOD ENOUGH, COACHES CAN GET YOU INTO THEIR SCHOOL”
Misconception: Regardless of a players academic performance, college coaches can get players into schools if they are good enough at hockey.
Reality: NCAA Hockey Coaches are a part of the athletic office of their school which is entirely separate from the admissions office. The admissions office ultimately decides who is accepted and who isn’t. There are just over 140 schools that offer NCAA hockey including the top 3 ranked US National Universities (Princeton, Harvard, Yale) according to US World Report as well as 4 of the Top 6 Liberal Arts Colleges. In fact, if you broke down all of NCAA hockey programs you’d find that over 40 programs are in the Top 100 most selective schools in the United States. While a hockey coach can help you get accepted, it is only to an extent. The best player in the country with a C average in school and a 1400 SAT score is not going to get into Princeton; it’s just not going to happen. Also, keep in mind every student athlete must complete enough credits in certain subjects and attain a high enough GPA and SAT score to qualify for NCAA Division 1 athletics. Therefore, the idea that being good enough on the ice makes up for struggles off the ice is a false narrative.
THE AFTER THE WHISTLE TOUGH GUY
Misconception: Guys who are involved in scrums after the whistle or getting on refs are typically the tougher guys on the ice.
Reality: Often times, the softest players on the ice are the most active AFTER the whistle is blown. Jawing at the other team, barking at officials, shoving in front of the goalie, hacking at the opponent on the faceoffs, etc. are actions of a coward; you are not fooling anyone. Scouts and coaches know that the true tough guys are the ones battling for pucks in the corners, they are the ones who take a hit to make a play and they are the players who can block shots and take a cheap shot after the whistle and keep their mouth shut and not retaliate. Nothing looks more pathetic to a scout then an amateur player talking trash after the whistle and pushing and shoving.
As for the guys in stripes; they don’t care what you think of their calls. The only thing you are showing by barking at a ref on the way to the box is that you are undisciplined and you are a cry baby. Neither of which are things coaches want in their locker room.
THE PLAYER COACH
Misconception: If you get on your teammates when they make a mistake than they won't do it again.
Reality: Last week scouting at the Bauer Showcase in Chicago we saw a Bantam skating up ice banging his stick at his teammate to pass him the puck….that part was fine…. It was the screaming “pass the f***ing puck” where we took issue with it (and got out the black marker). Another common thing we see at the youth levels are players going out of their way to show scouts, coaches and/or parents that it was their teammates fault and not their own. Just last weekend at the New England Regional we saw a defenseman miss a breakout pass to his winger and instead of the winger hustling after the opponent who now had the puck and making a play towards the net; he threw his arms up and glared at his teammate as to say “what are you doing?” It’s an emotional game and scouts understand that, but no coach wants a bad teammate, regardless of how talented they are. Players who yell at their teammates during a game or blame linemates are selfish, disloyal and ruin a locker room. There isn’t a coach in hockey who will recruit bad teammates.
THE EXTRA YEAR
Misconception: Playing an extra year in juniors will increase your chances of playing Division 1.
Reality: Ask any Division III coach about recruiting 18 and 19-year old’s and they’ll tell you all about it. In an article, we posted this summer about the 21-year-old freshman, we looked into the data behind the “extra year” theory. We found that less than 10% of age out junior players would make it to Division 1. About 66% of those commits are from Tier 1 or Tier 2 juniors, so the chances for a 20-year old in a pay to play league is less than 5%. So what does this tell us? Very, very few uncommitted prospects will attain a Division 1 commitment in their final year. Another key consideration is that very rarely do uncommitted 20-year old’s get any scholarship money because the coaches know the players don’t have much bargaining power, if any.
So if you think that extra year is going to make a difference, it rarely does; not to say never, but rarely. If you are an 18 or 19-year-old fielding calls from Division III coaches; that’s a pretty good sign you are ultimately going to end up Division III. They don’t waste their time on kids they think will go Division I and they have years of experience behind them. We aren’t saying not to go back and play out your final year in junior hockey; but what we are saying is when a Division III coach calls, answer the phone, take some visits and if the Division 1 dream doesn’t work out, you’ll have visited and applied to schools and have options.
THE CHL IS FOR DUMMIES
Misconception: The CHL is for players who want to play pro hockey and are not concerned with their academics.
Reality: Drive around Toronto and meet with lawyers, doctors, small business owners, scientists, professors, etc. and you will see that several of them played in the OHL. Take a look at the CIS and see how many former CHL players are on those rosters…it’s the majority of the league. CHL players, particularly the ones still in high school, are getting educated throughout their OHL careers and most teams hold the players accountable to attending class and getting good grades. The concept that the CHL is for people who aren’t good students and are not interested in anything but hockey is a complete fallacy. You can also play the other side of the coin for the one-and-done college players. Is going to college for two semesters mean they are serious student athletes? Is Jack Eichel more educated than Connor McDavid because he did a year at Boston University? Players chose different routes for a host of reasons and that is entirely up to the player and their families, but the concept that serious students go NCAA and poor students or uninterested students go CHL is a complete misconception.
THE EARLY COMMIT
Misconception: A verbal commitment is a hand shake contract and it means the player will attend that school and play Division 1 hockey.
Reality: We are seeing unprecedented levels of de-commitments to the point that the word “commitment” is almost laughable. A 14-year-old who commits to a Division 1 program may never play college hockey let alone attend that school. There is no need to get lost in the commitment race and the concept that schools are “full” for their recruiting classes is absurd. The data tells the story, and the story is that players aren’t loyal to schools; if they get a “better” offer they’ll leave. That being said schools are not loyal to players, if a better player comes along and has interest, they’ll take the better player. It’s not pretty, it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is. So if you have a verbal commitment and feeling pretty good about yourself, be careful, because the last three years have proven how insignificant that is.
PLAY AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL POSSIBLE
Misconception: Players develop the most at the highest levels of competition. If you are good enough to play at the next level than you should be there.
Reality: Even in the OHL, which is the highest producer of NHL talent in the world, the overwhelming majority of those players will never play professionally. The average rookie in the NHL is 24 years old. So the idea of rushing through a players development to play up a level or leave their team to go play for a “better” team or in a “better” league is misguided at best. Probably the most noticeable area we see this debate is in Minnesota where there is a battle between USHL/NAHL and Minnesota High School over the state’s top prospects. There have been success stories on both sides of the coin so to say one way is better than another is an argument that cannot be won or lost. However, we can clearly see in our data models that there is no advantage to the players who play up a level in youth hockey, leave high school early for juniors or leave college early for pro; there is no pattern to show that decision yields higher levels of success.
What we have now however, are players from as young as 12 or 13 being pushed to AAA programs where they have to travel all across the country and playing 65 game seasons. We have even talked to players who tell us their grades are slipping because they can’t keep up with school given their intense hockey and training schedule. If you can take the hockey goggles off for a second and look at that behavior, it is simply ridiculous. Less than 1% of these players, even at the AAA level, are going to make a living playing hockey. Sacrificing academics, childhood, high school and/or college experience to play at the” highest” level is a poor choice 99.6% of the time; it’s math.
NHL DRAFT YEAR
Misconception: The NHL Draft is of major importance and you should do everything in your power to make sure you are putting yourself in the best situation possible to get drafted.
Reality: The NHL Draft has 7 rounds. The first-round matters as the majority of those players will go on to have careers in the NHL. Not all of them mind you, several will not, but historically speaking over 70% will make it to the show. Then we have the second round, where only about 25-35% go on to have a career in the NHL. After the second round the chance of those draft picks making an NHL career is less than 15%; depending on the year its typically between 9-14%. So, for the 17-year-old freaking out about where to play next year in his “draft year,” relax. Many seasoned agents would actually tell you that it’s better to be undrafted than go in the later rounds.
EXPOSURE. EXPOSURE. EXPOSURE.
Misconception: The more you get in front of NCAA/CHL/Junior/Prep/Midget coaches the better your chances are of being seen and ultimately getting recruited.
Reality: This could be one of the biggest misconceptions in amateur hockey today. This misconception is why there are thousands, yes thousands, of hockey showcases out there. While we are not bashing showcases, as our scouting staff spends a lot of time at these events, the reason you aren’t getting recruited isn’t because of a lack of exposure, it’s because of a lack of talent. As the old adage goes: “great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” Instead of joining every fall, summer and spring showcase team you can and playing in 3-5 games a weekend, you’d be better off using that time and money to work on your game either renting ice, working out or attending a developmental clinic. Or simply playing another sport or taking time away from the rink. There have been series of studies on this in hockey and among other sports and to this date there is no proven correlation between more games played in a season and more development. The focus should not be about how many times you get seen, the focus should be about how good you are when you are seen.
JUNIOR HOCKEY DEVELOPMENT MODEL
Misconception: Junior hockey is a development first model to help players prepare for NCAA/CHL.
Reality: As a result of college hockey allowing 21-year-old freshman, junior hockey has exploded throughout the US/CAN. Some may view that as a good thing, others may view it as a negative; regardless, there is a common misconception that junior hockey programs are development first. However, junior hockey, especially at the highest levels (USHL, BCHL, NAHL), are in the business of winning. Sure, players develop in these leagues as a result of getting excellent coaching and playing with and against the top players around; but our point is that coaches are paid to win, not to help Jimmy develop his wrist shot. These coaches have pressures to win now and put fans in the stands, and the evidence is in the alarming turnover rates of coaches, scouts and front office staffs in these leagues. If a player is slow to adjust to the junior level or in a slump, they are likely traded or moved to another league. Again, not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, just making the point that these leagues do not follow a development-first approach. They are there to win and if you can produce great and if you can’t they aren’t going to hold your hand. This is why many colleges recruit these leagues so heavily because they know the players have played in hostile environments, have had to earn their ice time and have had to prove themselves week in and week out in order to keep their spot in the lineup. So that is all good and great but when you are looking at an 18 year old who has been traded three times in two seasons and is on his forth team its hard to believe that development is the top priority.
They missed the part about legacy kids have a huge advantage over kids born to mere mortals.
This is all crap - I pay over 5k a year for my son as he is an "elite" player and plays on an "elite" team and has a coat that says "elite" on it.
So therefore I know he is elite. (Oh, and by the way, I'm his coach too so I'm sure of this)
I have a family member currently in the AHL played about 120 games in the NHL , went to a top prep school and a hockey east college .
Kid didn't take Algebra one until he was a junior in College .
Yes grades count but trust me SOME of these kids are taking very easy classes to get those good grades .
Don't let what you read fool you .
Great read. Thank you for posting, about time some truth and reality was on this board.