With yesterday being the official end of the amateur Junior Hockey season, it is time for everyone to look at all their opportunities and recognize where you should be playing. I did not say where you “want” but where you “should” and there is usually a big difference in those two for most players.
Where you want to play and where you should play, recognizing the difference, and then making the right choice will be critical to your level of success this season and beyond.
You know why certain players are drafted in the USHL, NCDC and NAHL? Because they dominate at their current level in their position group. They simply dominate.
Dominating your current level of play is what will get you to the next level. This is the case at every level including the NHL. It really is that simple.
So this summer, when so many of you will waste thousands of dollars going to camps to be told “no” on every Sunday when cuts are being made, you will look back on this article and think about what you should have done.
When you are presented with any opportunity, you need to consider it. That’s it. Every opportunity must be considered because you are not in the NHL so who are you to look down on any opportunity?
Yes, I know, everyone wants to play for free. Everyone wants to play USHL, NCDC, and NAHL. I get it, and so does every team in those leagues. They know their value, and most of you do not know your value to them.
There are a finite number of roster openings at the free to play level. Every year, the number of players making the jump to the next level is limited. Understanding this one absolute will help you evaluate every opportunity as it comes.
Maybe you are a free to play level player. But you will never know until you dominate at your current level and show those people at the free to play level that you are a free to play player. It is a business of proving yourself every day at the next level. Not just having a good weekend at a camp.
I know in July and August I will be getting phone calls from parents saying their child dominated at a “pre draft” or “open” camp and they do not understand why they did not get chosen for a team. They will be angry and disappointed. They will have wasted a lot of money over the summer and their child’s confidence will likely be crushed.
They will make this call not thinking about all the opportunities that they passed up during the summer to actually secure a position on a team where they could dominate in the next season.
Free to play organizations have scouts, and scouting departments. Scouts around the world share their opinions with other scouts around the world. The scouting network is like and intranet. Not the internet that everyone has access to, but an intranet that scouts and decision makers only have access to.
When I have a question about a player, I call people I know who would have seen the player more than I have. We share information.
So, when you may have 40 goals in a season, but are getting cut from camps after having good performances, it is a good idea to ask why. Maybe the scouts drilled down on your 40 goals and saw that your multiple point games all came against weak competition. Maybe they saw that when playing against better competition the points did not come. Maybe they saw the same thing at camp?
Points at camp, are not as important as who the points came against. Bad goalies and bad defense are at these camps too, and as I said earlier, scouts know who these players are too. Because the research they did on your 40 goals, is the same research they did on a Defenseman plus minus, or a goalie’s save percentage and win totals.
So when you look back at the end of the summer, and count all the AAA and quality Tier 3 offers that you turned down in your pursuit of free to play hockey, maybe you should have thought more about having a plan in case the decision makers say you are not ready for free to play.
If you have AAA eligibility left, use it, and go dominate. If a Tier 3 team from a quality organization makes you an offer, keep that offer as a back up plan. Do not be left scrambling to try to find something after you have already turned people down.
A number of years ago Rocky Russo came to The Junior Hockey News Showcase. Rocky had just gotten the job in Amarillo in the NAHL, though it was not announced yet, and he was still officially the Head Coach in Philadelphia in the EHL. Rocky was doing his recruiting for his Philadelphia team while also scouting for his comin NAHL job.
I watched as players turned down great opportunities from Rocky that weekend because they were there for Tier II opportunities. Not one of them knew that only a few days later the same Tier 3 Coach would be announced as a Tier 2 coach. Not one of those players who turned him down for Tier 3 was invited to main camp at Tier 2 because of the way they handled themselves and the other opportunity.
That said, a whole bunch of players who looked at the Tier 3 opportunity and evaluated it respectfully, were invited to the Amarillo main camp. And two of those players I know of made the Amarillo roster that way.
You never know where one decision maker will be tomorrow, next week, or next year. So looking at opportunity must be done carefully. Maybe the person presenting an opportunity knows something you do not?
If you don’t know how to evaluate an opportunity then ask for some time, and ask for some help. People will help if you actually take information and process it. Don’t think you know better than the decision makers, because you usually don’t. The decision makers already know things that are not public information.
It is time for an honest evaluation of where you “should” be playing next season, and not just about where you “want” to play next season.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser