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Junior Hockey Scouting Camps, Showcases & Combines

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Junior Hockey scouting camps showcases

There are many scouting events available to midget (and even bantam) aged players. These events promise to put your son in front of junior scouts in the hope he gets scouted. They are often called scouting camps or “showcases”.

The vernacular around camps and showcases is flexible and confusing to say the least. I like to break them in 3 different categories:

League Showcase – an event put on by a league for its already existing players. These tournaments are often at the beginning of a season (or around Christmas break). They exist for NCAA schools to scout all the junior teams in one league, at once. They have nothing to do with prospects, other than to maybe help the coach to make the final roster cuts for his team. Teams cover all expenses as games are often part of the regular season schedule.

Prospect Combine / Pre-Draft Camp, Combine or Showcase – a tournament put on by a league for the prospects who have applied. Midget players fill out application forms and the best ones get invited to camp (which can be a tournament, possibly with other sessions added). Teams are drawn up and players play games in front of all the league’s team’s scouts. These tournaments exist for the sake of scouting new talent or measuring up talent on the league’s own turf before a draft. Combines may include fitness testing and may be for the highest end talent who get invited without applying, or just for the best who apply. These can cost money, but goods leagues don’t use them as a money maker.

Prospect Camp / Scouting Camp / Independent Showcase – an independent camp where a scout, agent or agency invites every player possible to play in a tournament format. Teams are drawn up and play in front of scouts from various teams and various leagues. These always cost money.

Once again, I must stress that these will go by all sorts of names, so understanding what purpose the camp serves is the key.

Chances are that you are reading this article because you or your son has been invited to a camp or heard about one and you’re wondering whether or not to attend. To keep things simple, I’ll give you the down and dirty about each kind of camp as I list them above.

League Showcase

If your midget son is playing in a junior league’s showcase, he’s probably pretty darn close to making the team if he hasn’t already. There really isn’t much to question here.

League showcases typically serve as the first chance for NCAA schools to start sizing up players and the top ones start getting plucked out of these camps. They are major events. As a midget player or parent, it is just good to know what they are and be ready for them. Many of my teammates had their careers altered for better or worse based on one weekend. I did too. A showcase could be one of those weekends for your son.

Prospect Combine / Pre-Draft Camp, Combine or Showcase

I highly recommend attending these camps for the leagues you or your son want to play in. Each league does it differently, with some leagues being application and invite only and others being a free-for-all who apply. Some leagues only put on combines before their drafts for draft age players. It’s important to find out what the league you want to play in does. Check out my league guides for more info and make sure you apply in time.

Many parents, especially Americans, wonder if these camps are a cash grab. At the Tier I level, they aren’t, and I am of the opinion to never turn down a tier I camp invite. At the Tier II level, league camps also are usually not a cash grab (though individual team’s spring camps can be). Almost all leagues at these levels are not pay-to-play. In Tier III, on the other hand, do you homework. You always have to do your homework in tier III. When money is involved, especially when you see teams putting out open calls for players each fall, make sure you know why your son’s been asked to attend the camp.

(Unsure what a tier is or what tier the league you want to play in is? Click here to find out.)

Prospect Camp / Scouting Camp / Independent Showcase

These are the camps where your really should do your research. With a little bit of admin and a solid framework, anybody could put on a prospect camp if they can get scouts out.

The thing about independent prospect camps is that the best prospects are likely not there. What I mean by that is that the best midget players are already hooked up with a junior team or have been drafted. They don’t need these camps and have likely been signed in the spring if they are playing junior that fall. In my opinion, there is always enough top-end midget talent to go around with regular scouting, let alone with scouting camps. That said, scouts do attend these camps and if you do well at one you can earn an invite to a training camp. That’s the most you can ask for and that should be your goal.

My two golden rules for checking out independent camps:
1) What scouts attended the year before—who actually showed up, not who lent their name to their buddy running the camp but will actually go fishing that weekend instead; not the ones who stopped in for a beer in the rink lounge three years ago and remained on the list. It’s not easy to verify, but at minimum, a good camp will let you know what scouts will be in attendance, by name and what league/team they scout for.

2) What players have attended the camp before and now play where you want to play—the mark of a good camp should be that it gets players recruited. If you go to a camp that promises Major Junior scouts and every player ends up in a poor Junior A league a few provinces over or in a local tier III league, you probably selected a camp that has low-end talent show up.

On the other hand, if you are struggling to just make a junior team and will take any shot you can get, you could really find an opportunity to connect with a junior team. Same goes for players who play in States where good leagues aren’t often scouting just due to geography. There ARE good ones out there. A scouting camp could be your big break.

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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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