Everyone hears people talking about playing in Europe someday. That kind of talk usually starts when players are 17 or 18 and they realise that the NHL is probably not in the cards for them. Its a good time to start thinking about those options, but it is a better time to start understanding how to actually make it happen.
European clubs do not spend money going to North America to scout players. Only the KHL and sometimes the DEL send scouts to North America. They have the money to do it, and they do not do it often.
So how do you get to Europe? There are only three ways to get to Europe if you want to play in a legitimate junior or pro level league.
First, what is legitimate “pro”. Pro level league is one that pays for flights to and from the team. Pays for housing, equipment, sticks, skates, and provides a monthly salary. Top teams in top leagues will also provide cars, or cars to share between players sharing an apartment.
Sweden 2, 3 and other levels are not pro leagues no matter what players and agents are claiming in their social media posts. Geermany 3 and 4 are not pro. Polish 1st league is not pro. Do not believe everything you read on social media. All of these and more are considered Amateur leagues by their countries and the IIHF. Just because someone gets a little money under the table does not make it pro hockey.
Nearly every league in Europe has import player limits. So, if you are Canadian or from the USA, unless you have dual citizenship in Europe, your options are limited unless you know how to use the rules to your advantage.
Playing pro in Europe will require you to either play junior or University hockey in Europe. Be an NCAA D-1 level solid producer, NCAA D-3 level high end producer, Major Junior high level producer. Or be a dual citizen. Thats it. Anyone telling you any differently has no experience in Europe.
Playing junior hockey or University hockey in Europe is the easiest, and the most direct pathway to playing pro hockey in the future.
Junior hockey in Europe is less expensive than in North America in most cases. It is very well scouted by European pro teams as well as the NHL and NCAA scouts. For those players who are not getting the opportunity to be top players on their teams, Europe may offer that opportunity.
If you have European ancestry, after two years playing in your ancestors home country, and gaining citizenship, you are eligible to play for that country’s national team. World Championships and Olympic eligibility are gained in this way.
If you are a top producer in NCAA or Major Junior but not an NHL prospect, then Europe is a great place to make a career. That said, your value goes up after playing a year in the ECHL or AHL before going to Europe. If you are a third or fourth line guy, you’re not going to Europe directly for big money.
If you’re an ACHA player, you might get a PTO if you are a top player. But you are not getting a contract in a legitimate pro league. Import players spots are too valuable, and there are plenty of European third and fourth line players that can fill those roles for less money than any import player.
If you’re interested in learning more about playing in Europe, HTM offers guaranteed direct placement for junior and pro players. These placements will be at the appropriate levels and will afford you an opportunity to showcase yourself in the best light possible for advancement.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser