Here is our guide about how to play in the NA3HL. Check out the article below and interview with the league head office to not only find out how this tier III junior league works, but also vital info about how it slots into the American junior hockey lexicon.
What You Will Learn:
- How players make the NA3HL
- Where players go after playing in the NA3HL
- What kind of scholarships this league gets
- What parents can expect to pay and what value you get
- How to get picked in the NA3HL Draft
HOW TO PLAY IN THE NA3HL
The NA3HL is one of the largest tier III Junior A leagues in the United States. Players in this predominantly Mid-Western league come from all corners of the United States, though some also arrive from Canada and Europe.
The best way to catch an NA3HL teams eye is to attend prospects tournament the league holds in conjunction with its parent league, the tier II NAHL. This event happens in February and requires players to apply beforehand.
Most tryout camps, both spring and fall (August), are open invitation as well, meaning any player can sign up and show up. However, like all junior leagues, most spots are guaranteed long before fall camps begin.
Local players tend to be favored more in areas around the Great Lakes, which seems natural given the abundance of hockey talent in the region. Other teams, such as those located in Texas, recruit from further away with locals in the mix too.
Another route commonly taken is for players to come up through the NAPHL midget league. Top players from this program will go on to the NAHL and beyond, yet many also land in the NA3 from it. The NAPHL is also part of the NA network of leagues.
In the end, players are scouted and drafted to play in the NA3, it is a pay to play league and teams do need to fill rosters to remain viable. (And this league does a better job of that than some others at the same level.) Players who make this league should do as much to put themselves in front of scouts as the teams do to scout them. Spots aren’t as sacred as in the USHL or NAHL, and a good player will have options.
The NA3HL draft takes place each June and it follows the NAHL draft.
Any player who is not listed, i.e. protected, by an NA3HL team; tendered; or who played less than 10 NA3HL games the previous season and/or playoffs yet is protected by a team is eligible for the draft if they are under 21.
There is no registration process involved. You are simply selected in one of the eight rounds or passed up.
Players who are drafted cannot tryout for another NA3 team but they can try out for teams in other junior leagues. Players who are tendered must report to their respective team.
The draft can be a bit of a catch-22. Players who are drafted are desired by a team, yet they also do not have the option to try out for any other team. This is an important consideration in a pay-to-play league since choice of team is eliminated. It can be a bit of a bargaining chip for teams.
That said, it is a rare that a team would draft a player and hold his rights if he was non-committal. It’s a waste of a roster spot. In all likelihood, top picks will have talked to teams beforehand.
This league employs a tender system like many U.S. junior leagues. Simply put, a tender is akin to getting drafted outside the draft. Therefore, a tendered player cannot be drafted by or commit to another team, and the team submitting tender has made a commitment to the player. They should want him for their roster as each team has a limited number of tenders.
A tender is often a good sign. Likely, a team will talk to a player before tendering him. Most players need not get too worried about being tendered.
It should also be noted that the NAHL is mandated to tender players from this league. Although some tenders are legitimate and the NAHL team truly does desire the player, others are used simply to meet quota.
AVERAGE AGE TO BREAK INTO THE LEAGUE
At the tier III level, age ranges vary more than at the higher tiers. You will get lifers who live the dream until 21 and you get young prospects who are eager to move up to bigger goals.
This means that you will get players in the NA3HL who enter the league as early as 16, but also players who enter at 18 and even 19. It really depends on the player.
A player from a solid AAA program who doesn’t land at a higher junior level may enter at 18 and be a top player in due time. However, a player of equal skill at 16 may not have a AAA team local to him and may opt for tier III junior instead. The right age for a player to break into the league depends on a player’s situation.
CANADIANS & EUROPEANS IN THE NA3HL
Teams in the NA3HL will take foreign players. However, no team will stack the majority of their roster with them. In other words, these players are welcomed but not heavily recruited.
Canadians and Europeans looking for a junior opportunities will do best to catch a team’s attention by calling teams. A good young European player can quickly advance to higher levels of junior.
NHL DRAFT PROSPECTS
The NA3HL is not about getting players drafted but rather moving them to higher levels of junior. With its integration with the NAHL, it provides a natural path for player advancement to tier II. It’s not the NAHL’s first choice when actually breaking down where players come from though.
The NA3HL covers a lot of ground. However, the majority of teams have close divisional opponents. Players will still receive the prototypical junior experience of road trips while not sacrificing too much time away from school and home.
The NA3HL is mostly a Division III scholarship league. This means its players receive scholarships to collegiate leagues like the NCAA Division III, ACHA and others that are not NCAA Division I.
That being said, with the leagues integrated recruiting strategy with the NAHL, players who are capable of Division I scholarship should theoretically move up to the NAHL before receiving a Div I scholarship.
As far division III scholarships go, the NA3 receives about a dozen each year. Again, it should be noted players who are of scholarship caliber often move up to higher leagues at the young age 16 or 17 before receiving a scholarship.
PAY TO PLAY
Like all tier III junior leagues, the NA3HL is a pay to play league. Fees cover everything including ice time and travel. Parents are also responsible for billeting costs.
Expect to play $5000+
Nicknames you’ll hear: “N.A. Three”
States covered: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin
Established: 2010 (modern incarnation)
Games Played: 47
Trophy Name: Silver Cup
LEAGUE CONTACT INFO
2601 Avenue of the Stars
Phone: (469) 252-3800
Commissioner: Mark Frankenfeld
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