6 Reasons To Play Junior Hockey If You Want To Play NCAA

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In the last email newsletter I gave you, the readers, a choice of what video to do next.

Overwhelmingly, the winner was “Why Even Play Junior If You Just Want An NCAA Scholarship?”

I jumped on this one right way…

1) Junior Hockey Gives A Player Time To Develop

This point works two ways:

A) A player who is a little behind the curve can catch up after his U-16 or U-18 Midget season(s). This gives him more time to secure a scholarship in a sport that relies a lot on physical development. No sense jumping into a poor Div III school when you have a couple more years to catch a better school’s attention.

B) Players who received scholarships in midget can take an extra year to develop and really cash in on their playing time in the NCAA by being more prepared. (You see this a lot in the USHL.)

2) In Canada, High School Athletes Don’t Get Hockey Scholarships

Our collegiate sport system offers scholarships, but CIS scholarships are not held in the same esteem in Canada as NCAA scholarships are in the States. As such, our high school football games get a couple hundred people compared to a couple thousand.

With this, Canadian universities don’t forward athletes to pro leagues and that includes the NHL. Combined with the fact that our junior hockey system is the off-shoot of the old senior system, i.e. competitive amateur hockey without age restrictions, Canadian hockey has never really been tied to high schools (and we don’t really do prep schools).

Hockey has always been on its own, separated from school, and the age for junior players is 16 – 20. There isn’t really an alternative.

3) Fix Those Academics In Community College, Fellas!

This isn’t necessarily publicized, but I played with more than a couple of guys who have to “get their grades in line”. This can mean upping grades to meet entrance requirements or rewriting the SAT.

Most times, however, it is correcting missed pre-requisites and adding classes. I’ve seen scholarships slip right through players’ hands because of this, so start planning in grade 9 (freshman year). I know that sounds early. It’s that year that starts the chain of pre-requisites leading to graduation.

(To know which classes to take, check out my book, Junior Hockey Truth.)

4) Canadian Midget AAA Rarely Gets Scholarships

Since the junior system in Canada is so well developed, NCAA schools would rather recruit from it than AAA. This gives players time to decide between Major Junior and Junior A (and lessens their chance of bailing on a scholarship before attending a school).

More accurately, it also allows NCAA schools a chance to see players develop at the highest level for their age group.

American kids generally have their choice of school, have written their SATs earlier and have a roadmap in line for the NCAA at a much earlier age. It’s just more natural for an American kid to go the NCAA route.

5) Get The Exposure You Deserve!

If you live in a place like Newfoundland or New Mexico, you’re highly unlikely to be seen by an NCAA school unless you move out of home. This could mean AAA, prep school or junior. None is better than the other—the point is that your recruiter in Boston has to schedule the games he wants to see, while a recruiter in New Mexico… Well, there are no NCAA teams in New Mexico. See what I mean?


Junior hockey gets you exposure some regions don’t offer.

Like I’ve said many times before: it’s your job to put yourself in front of the scouts. Junior hockey is over-scouted. The scouts won’t come to you.

6) AAA Teams Aren’t Easy To Make

I’ve had a couple of calls this summer with parents of players who are stuck in territorial junior leagues. (This means your corner of the city or province is the only place you can play. Make the team or you’re stuck in AA.) Their sons get strangled out of spots just due to the volume of players trying out; they probably could play AAA but there are only 20 spots on a team.

For these players—one was from British Columbia, another from Toronto—I recommended that they take a Junior B opportunity they’ve been offered. Junior B isn’t a long term solution but it’s not bad at 16 years old. It can also be cheaper than AAA.

In American speak, players who can’t play in the Tier 1 Elite League or the High Performance League, looking at Tier III may be an option. It’s not the best hockey in many cases, but it’s often better than Midget AA and looks better on a resume. (Sometimes it’s cheaper too.)

With all of these routes, have a plan to move up to a higher level! If you’re in a good junior league and become a dominant player somebody at some level will give you a scholarship.
Have Questions???
What If I Play High School Hockey/Midget AA/Not AAA?
What Do NCAA Teams Look For?
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by Nick Olynyk (47 Posts)

Nick Olynyk is a junior hockey expert and author of the Junior Hockey Truth, a book series for parents of bantam and midget hockey players approaching junior hockey. To check out his book for bantam and midget hockey parents, go to: www.juniorhockeybook.com

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