Well it may seem odd to some, and old hat to others. Tryout season has descended upon us. That is to say for those aspiring to continue their hockey careers, and develop in the JR ranks fighting for an NCAA D1 or D3 opportunity. There are roughly 30 days till April. Now it goes with out saying many people are unfamiliar with the unique path hockey players follow to reach the NCAA. Hockey is not football, baseball, basketball, swimming etc.. where those players matriculate directly from the HS ranks to the NCAA. The average age of the incoming NCAA hockey Freshman is 20.3 years old. There is a great site I strongly recommend to any family with an athlete aspiring to play Jr hockey. http://navigatingjuniorhockey.blogspot.com/
While there are a stark few who do make the jump as 17-18 year olds who jump to the NCAA game these few are highly gifted and quite exceptional, and in no way the norm. Should you choose to pursue hockey, you will be faced with "You mean __________ is not going to school?" "Where will he live, and will he take classes?" "I just dont see why the colleges dont just take these boys now" or some blending. The reality is your son is not missing out on a thing. He will in fact enter college more mature, professional, experienced and in a better state of over all preparedness to undertake his academic pursuits, than his peers.
In recent Ohio decades, 90's- Present we have seen 1-2 players every 6 year advance to Division 1.
The face of NCAA D1 hockey is currently in a state of change. The addition of Penn State and creation of the Big Ten hockey conference, has brought about the creation of the National Hockey Conference, seen Notre Dame join Hockey East and the Death of the CCHA. We could converse for hours and days about other Big Ten schools making ready to join the NCAA D1 ranks, and what all the change may mean. But we just do not have the time. What Ohio high school players need to see is opportunity. There is great opportunity in JR hockey these days, and you do not need to go to Canada to play. The USHL, NAHL and EJHL are the top producing leagues of NCAA talent.
So what do you do? Well with any hope you have read some of the Navigating Jr Hockey Blog. These are professional organizations, and as such are "professional" sports. You do not just pick one and go make the team or go running off with your buddies thinking you all will play together. Being recruited is the sure step, if you have been recruited by a team your best to go. Entering a camp as a free agent is not an easy road. Ohio has had one player go from Ohio High School to the USHL, Nolan Culver. The USHL is home to the top 1-5% of players in any given birth year. The single best advice for anyone pursuing Jr hockey, is go where you will play, and follow your gut. When looking at all the leagues, and all the try outs ask yourself and be honest are you an elite player? Do you believe you fall into the top 1-5% of all players in your birth year? ( USA hockey and Mid Am selects should have answered that question for you). If not then you really should not be shooting for the USHL or BCHL. You can shoot for any of the other leagues. Take time before you send you application, and invest in your decision. These teams scout players. You need to scout them. Visit www.fasthockey.com buy some credits and watch some games. Do you believe your a fit for their system? Gift a credit to your coach, ask him to watch a game and tell you his impression.
Try out season in reality begins the first day you put your uniform in HS. Ohio is full of "scouts", trust me. Officals, friends, former players, amature scouts to people who know a coach to your coach. All scouts. So think twice before going postal on that Official for making a call, or just being a poor sport, not working hard in practice, having pictures of yourself in less than flattering situations on Face book, or youtube. Would you want you representing a professional organization?
The formal try out season begins in April. Kicking off on the East Coast, with the AJHL, EJHL, ESHL. Followed by the NAHL in May and USHL in late June and July.
Whats your first move? You were approached by a scout, maybe, maybe not. The next step is talk with Mom and Dad. Do they know you want to pursue this beyond high school? How are your grades? Test scores? They both should be good, because if they are not you just closed doors. Have you spoken with your coach? It all begins with those conversations, or should.
So what are your odds of making it? Lets look at the USHL and NAHL as examples.
USHL- 16 teams. 1 is Team USA so you dont just try out for them. So now your down to 15.
Each team has a 23 man roster. on average they loose 9 -11 players a season. 135-165 roster positions annually. Each team will draft 9 players or so. These are players they have watched and or recruited. Players they had to draft to hold their rights. So seemingly they may have filled their roster there, but no, they have spoken with lots of players, just maybe in places where they dont need to be drafted, but will come to camp. Try out camps typlically have goalies only sessions that lead in to the player camps. They cut down the goalies to the best, then introduce game play. 8 to 10 teams or say 80- 100 players. 1500 players competing for those 135 spots.
The NAHL 28 teams. Lets assume they have the same basic need of 9-11. 252-308 positions open. camps normally hold 60 some players 1680 players competing for 252 spots. Some are drafted, some are Tendered. A tender is a contract that commits a players right to one team prior to the draft, and locks him in to that team. IT IS NOT A GUARANTEE to play, you still must try out, you are still subject to trades and just being released for any reason. The Tender does mean your more like to make the team and you should feel very confident, but its not a guarantee.
Believe it or not camps do fill up. So you need a plan. Your coach should be able to tell you if he believes you can matriculate to JR and NCAA play. Tryouts are not cheap. Your talking about each being a vacation in many cases. 3 days in New England, of try outs means you get there a day before generally to get your legs. What about Alaska? Nevada? Minnesota? Colorado? Nebraska? California, Texas? How far can you go? All things to consider.
So if its your plan to try out for these teams, once your season is done, you have better get back in the weight room, back on the ice and be in your best shape. Teams go to great lengths in testing players. They use off ice drills, some even use the V02MAX as a testing tool. Then they skate you. The undrafted free agent will get some 8-12 shifts a game to showcase himself. Many camps are two games before the first cut. Then one game and a cut. Then an all star game. Following an alstar game you will be notified if you are advancing to a team selection camp, or in the case of some leagues if you made the team or not. Yet in most cases you get an exit interview, with the staff. This your opportunity to learn. Really learn what they liked, but more importantly what you need to improve.
This is why I believe the Ohio HS player needs to get out and experience a camp following his JR year of HS. The camp experience does many things. One it will give a foundation of what to expect next year. Two it will expose you to the men who are playing JR's now, the players they have drafted or selected for their camps, and ultimately expose you the player to them. "Camps are just money makers for teams" Yup to a point. Every year there are kids who walk on teams, because no team is going to pass over a gifted player. The goal for the HS is not really to make the team. Sure you try but conceptually that should not be the goal. Finish HS, at your HS. Its about learning, preparing and testing yourself. Sure if you get a slot you have a hard decision to make, I hope you end up in that position, Im sure your coach does as well. But its not likely. You will be ready following your Sr year to give your best effort.