What I’m about to say may or may not upset some of you younger players or players that aren't ready to accept how the junior hockey game works (and I'm not talking about on the ice). This article is geared towards the 17-19 year olds and I want it to be known that my intentions have never been about hurting players or destroying their hopes but being straight forward, honest and helpful. When talking to players I never shoot down their aspirations, but I'm not talking 1 on 1 right now to a player, but this is the most honest I can be. I am not a dream killer.
I’ve scouted and recruited numerous players over the last few years and one phrase that comes up almost 90% of the time is:
“I’m looking to play Tier 2 right now” or “I’m looking for NAHL offers” (I rarely hear players mention the NCDC).
Look, I’m all for having goals (maybe even dreams) of playing at higher levels, but as Jason Power said in our podcast a few weeks back(click here to listen), you need to have an honest self-assessment. You need to know where your skills are at and what is the most realistic place for you to play right now.
Let’s work somewhat backwards here…
If you are attending camps or showcases at 18 and only Tier 3 clubs are speaking to you, there is a high probability that you are not yet ready for Tier 2 hockey, because if you were, there would be more chatter coming your way from Tier 2 clubs. Same thing applies to wanting to play Tier 1 hockey. If you are only being recruited by Tier 2 or 3 clubs, Tier 1 more than likely isn’t in the cards at that time. You’re not a Tier 1 or Tier 2 player until you are on the roster or protected list by those teams.
Re-read that last paragraph I just wrote and notice the words “at that time”. This doesn’t mean you can’t make the jump to the next Tier or level you desire; you just are not ready for it yet by the people who make the roster choices at those levels.
It’s no different when you first started hockey and maybe you were on the house team or the 2nd team. Obviously, some coach (I’m sure some of your parents said it was their fault) didn’t think you were ready for that next level yet. So hopefully instead of pouting or letting mom and dad just blame it on “politics” (and I’m not saying certain things aren’t predetermined in some youth programs), you went out, worked hard and had fun all while getting better in the process. Eventually for many of you, that work paid off and you moved up into a higher level of play. For some of you, that still may have never happened, which is okay.
My main point in all of this is to be open to opportunity from wherever it comes and realistic on where you are at. If it’s July and your attending a showcase and nobody from the Tier 2 level has spoken to you yet or offered you a tender/contract, you’re not going to start the season in Tier 2. If a Tier 3 club approaches you about playing for them and you haven’t received any other offers or maybe you have but none are Tier 2, than your route to Tier 2 is starting with Tier 3.
Numerous players have gone on and had successful playing careers (look at one of our past podcast guests Mike Fazio’s Elite Prospects page, from CSHL (which is now NA3) to ECHL) starting at a lower level and pushing forward.
Set achievable goals, work on yourself and your game, do the best you can and have fun. You don’t get to control the GM’s or Coaches decisions on who makes what roster, but you can control your attitude and actions to help make your case that you belong somewhere.
I'm not trying to be a dream killer, I just want to help.