Playing hockey in Europe. Just how valuable is the experience in the eyes of scouts and NCAA programs? How valuable is it to the professional teams looking for players to come to Europe?
It is so valuable that the NTDP, USA Hockey, NHL, Major Junior, USHL, and other top level programs send their best players to play on foreign ice every year. Take note that the men’s IIHF World Championships begin one week from tomorrow in Kosice Slovakia. One look at each countries rosters will tell you that this event is taken very seriously by scouts.
We have World Championships at the Professional, U20, U18, and U16 levels. We have the international series that is played in Major Junior. The NHL is playing games in other countries. NCAA games are being played in other countries and against Canadian Universities. ACHA teams send athletes to Europe to compete in games every year.
Most people don’t even know that there is University hockey being played in Europe and there are opportunities for North American players to get their education at these institutions.
Why is it so valuable? Why should you take the opportunity to play in Europe when presented to you?
It is valuable to scouts because proving you can play on a bigger ice surface shows a different level of both Hockey IQ and Conditioning. It allows them to compare players around the world against each other instead of comparing players to the same players they play against all of the time. This gives a much clearer picture of a players real talent level.
It is valuable to NCAA programs because Universities are looking for well rounded students. Not just student athletes. Spending time in Europe playing will give players cultural experiences that can not be learned in the classroom that make them more well rounded when they enter the classroom. This is a marketable quality that separates one player from another who may have the exact same size and similar stats and grades in school.
It is extremely valuable to scouts in Europe to all of the players who talk about playing professionally in Europe after completing junior or finishing University.
European teams are not going to North America to scout players for the most part. They do not have the budgets to do this. Scouting is done on your resume and through referrals. But if they see you play in Europe, you have a much greater opportunity to go back to Europe and play professionally.
When faced with the European option, unless its your last year of Junior hockey, take the opportunity, at least consider it.
Start thinking about what will separate you from every other similar player in the world at your position. Start thinking about what makes you a more attractive prospect to those who are making the decisions on your career.
If you continue to do the same things you have always done but you expect to get different results…….Make changes to what you are doing. Put yourself in the decision makers position and see things through their eyes. When you can do that, you are starting to find a competitive edge.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser