Athletic Recruiting Hockey Sport Specific

What You Should Know About Junior Hockey

fighting for the puck in junior hockey
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(Flickr – Morgan Williams)

The following is a post by Drew Palmisano, head ice hockey recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting, who played at Michigan State. Hockey scouts and recruiting coaches like Drew are here to help you understand the recruiting process.

There are many different paths to get to college hockey. As hockey players get older and develop their skill sets, families start to stumble upon them. Junior hockey is one such path, and is often popular because of its proven success in moving young players onto the NCAA.

Is junior hockey right for your development as a player?

I recently answered this frequently asked question about college hockey in a video which you can check out below:

A lot of parents and students don’t realize you have to play junior hockey to play at the highest levels of the NCAA. But check out any DI roster and you’ll see that they’re littered with junior hockey players.

Junior hockey is a great place to develop both mentally and physically, and make sure you can make the jump; it’s only about 1 percent of really prodigious players who can make the leap straight from high school or prep school to the Division I level (for men’s hockey). While women’s ice hockey is a different beast, you should still think critically about where you are developmentally.

Don’t get tripped up by the complexity of junior hockey.

What can sometimes trip families up is that there are 3 main tiers in the U.S. governed by USA Hockey, which all have benefits. This article goes more in depth on the facts and commitment that is required by each. In short:

  • Tier I and Tier II are free of tuition, and see the most young players move into the NCAA or NHL.
  • Tier I = USHL. Nothing else.
  • Tier II = NAHL. Nothing else.
  • Tier III, which includes NA3HL, NA3EHL, EHL, MJHL, NPHL, RMHL and the USPHL, is most helpful for young players who had limited options as they grew up, and can help you develop skills to join USHL or eventually NCAA teams.

If you’re interested in playing in junior hockey, be sure you understand what league your school is in, and what that means. Every year, I hear from recruits who think they’re going to play for a school in one tier, but end up in a different place than they thought, because they didn’t take the time to ask questions.


Have other questions about your hockey recruiting? Our scouts can help. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.