Slapshots: Want to Play Junior Hockey? The Steps Prospects Need to Take if They Want to Achieve their playing goals.
By Merrick Parnell, Junior Hockey Scout
For many, a lot of young hockey players grow up wanting to play Junior Hockey in the United States or Canada. Junior Hockey is an excellent opportunity to continue playing the game at a high level and also earn college scholarships and playing opportunities. Some players from tier 1 in the United States and Canada might get an opportunity to play at the pro level. The road to playing junior hockey can often be daunting and confusing, with all of the leagues and options out there but many players make one huge mistake, they wait for teams to come to them. If you want to set yourself up with a substantial Junior Hockey opportunities, be proactive, do not wait for teams to come to you. Here are some ways that you can take your destiny into your own hands.
Get to know the game
Junior Hockey is vastly different from minor hockey. The players are older, the speed is faster, and the play is more skilled. Each Junior league has its own identity and style of play. Take the time to watch games from teams you are interested in and reach out to players to ask questions about the teams and league.
Know your skill set, and don’t be afraid to get feedback from others. Many players miss out on great opportunities because they are trying to jump up to the high levels of junior without having the skill set to do so. Most new and young junior players will try and play a year at the Tier III level of Junior Hockey in the States or with a Junior B club in Canada. These experiences allow for players to grow, mature and develop at a reasonable rate. After each season, players from these levels will look to move up to a higher league or seek an affiliate opportunity with a team.
Showcases are typically weekend-long events that are designed to assemble a lot of players into teams that will play exhibition games. These games are often attended by a lot of scouts from a variety of leagues. Scouts like attending these camps because its an excellent way to view a ton of players all at once. Furthermore, scouts will have easy access to players before and after games to introduce themselves and gauge interests. Many motivated scouts will try and arrange a meeting with potential players and their families to establish a report. There are several Showcases out there, and it is essential to select the one that will best expose you. Take into consideration these factors.
- Location. Look for camps held in easy to reach places. Many scouts will go to the showcases that are the easiest for them to go to. Accessible camps are usually held in larger cities with good airports and lots of hotels. Scouts would gladly attend camps in Denver, Las Vegas, Calgary, Alberta Vancouver, B.C over smaller towns in Northern B.C, Alberta or remote united states. Camps in larger cities or ones that are accessible is also beneficial to you because it makes it easier and cheaper for you, the prospect to attend.
- Who is putting on the camps: It is important to note who is putting on the camp. Is it a large company like CCM that puts on tons of camps, or an independent camp that just focuses on one city for one date. Often times the individual leagues or teams will host their own camps. I would recommend the independent camps over the super camps for a few reasons. The first is cost, the CCM camps usually charge a lot more than the local camps, the second is the number of attendees. At bigger camps its easier to be just another player or number, its way harder to get looks if you are among 500 skaters than if you’re with smaller numbers.
- Know who is attending?: Do your homework and find out what teams will be participating and if any of those teams are ones you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to reach out to coaches beforehand and mention you will be at the camp. They will appreciate them, and might even plan to watch you more than some of the others that didn’t reach out.
After you have attended showcases, the ball is in your court. It is crucial that you do the following.
Create a highlight film and have access to full game film
Make sure you have a highlight film and game tape ready to send. Not every scout and coach has time to see players as much as they want, so the film becomes a way for them to view you and your abilities. With this knowledge, they can begin to assess where you would fit in with their team. Create a Youtube channel and upload your film to it. This is the best way for coaches and scouts to view you because
Create a player profile
A player profile is like a resume that coaches and scouts will look at. Be sure to include, your height, weight, and stats from the past few years and also a profile picture. Also, list some of your strengths and attributes as a player. This profile becomes like an advertisement for yourself and skills.
Identify which teams you want to play for and show your interest by contacting them. Give them a call or email and introduce yourself. In the email also include your links to film and a schedule of games so they can watch you. Doing this will help you get some exposure and hopefully move on the team’s priority list. Make sure you tell the coaches what you can offer them as a player and how you can help the club.
Invest in yourself
Take the time to work with a power skating or skills coach to develop. Many Junior prospects will hire an off ice trainer for workouts to stay in shape and build hockey specific strength.
Get invites to team camps
After reaching out to the coaches, find out when the camps are and try and earn an invite. Typically, two camps exist in Junior.
1: I.D camps: This is a camp where teams will bring in up to 120 prospects and will attempt to select 40 from this list to bring into the main camp. These camps occur in the spring and is a great time to check out the team and play at that level while also getting feedback from the coaching staff in exit interviews. If you are a younger player, these are great to get discovered and put in the team’s database and system. From there, they will be able to track you over the next few years, and possibly have you as an affiliate player.
- Main camp: These are where the teams will cut the roster of 40 down to the league’s roster minimum. These are like training camps to learn the team’s systems and become familiar with the organization and the players. Main Camps are competitive as the veterans have to battle at times to keep their sports from the incoming players.
Stay motivated and train hard in the offseason.
The offseason is a great way to stay in shape and train hard. Spend time in the gym building your strength and stamina. Also, take advantage of ice times to sharpen your skills to make sure that you are in the best form when the main camp starts for your junior team.
Playing Junior Hockey can be the opportunity of a lifetime. It is indeed a great chance to grow as a player and a person. It will at times have its struggles but overcoming will be worth it. Take playing seriously and look for ways to get better and you will excel.
If you are interested in playing Junior Hockey, contact the Northern Scouting Network. They are a great resource that can help answer questions and advise you on playing Junior Hockey. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Merrick Parnell can be followed on Twitter at: @Merk8989