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Hockey Prospects

What does it take to become a hockey prospect?

The term hockey prospects refers to players who are looking to play this sport at the next level. This can refer to minor league players looking to make the jump to the NHL while a college hockey recruit is one who has college hockey in their plan. Elite hockey prospects at the high school level tend to have two major options available to them, playing NCAA hockey and being amongst the NHL prospects who head to junior hockey instead. 

Note that hockey prospects is a term that is similar to but not identical to a couple of others, hockey recruits and hockey commits. Hockey prospects are those who are eligible to play at the next level, whether that is within the next year or a few years down the line. Those who get involved with the hockey recruiting process, otherwise known as a college hockey recruit, have received interest from those at the next level who are responsible for filling out those rosters. College hockey commitments are agreements between players and college coaches, oftentimes but not always with a scholarship included in that offer.

Those looking to be one of the elite hockey prospects should be at the top of their game as it relates to those they are competing with. Most who end up succeeding in college and professional hockey will have been one of the better players on quality teams playing in competitive leagues or had dominated when the level of competition was less. Having speed and endurance is great, but how to really stand out is to also have positioning and reactiveness. Having heart is essential too. As great as natural skill is, potential will never be realized without an inner drive.

Being a good teammate who picks up those who they’re sharing the ice with and reacts productively to turnovers, missed chances and other plays that would frustrate many is an often overlooked element of a player’s game. You want to help make those around you better, not only with your game but also on a mental level.

Hockey prospects by state

NHL prospects hail from throughout the country although a few states do stand out. Current NHL players are from nearly 30 states although nine of them are home to just one current NHL player apiece. A few states known by many as hotbeds for the sport are only home to one player apiece (Alaska and New Hampshire) and two players apiece (Maine and North Dakota). However, those are also states with small population bases. Meanwhile, at the top of this list are states that are also in hockey-rich regions but with larger population bases:

What is a hockey recruiter?

A hockey recruiter is someone who takes a look at hockey prospects and reaches out to those who intrigue them if they weren’t already contacted first. They will often take into account hockey prospect rankings, but the most important things in their minds will be seeing them play live and on tape. Of course, the former is preferred, but that’s usually reserved for their top hockey prospects or ones that they can see with ease due to proximity or otherwise. Hockey recruiters, who are generally members of college hockey coaching staffs, look for college hockey commitments from the ones who they believe would be the best fits for their teams.

What does it take to become a hockey prospect?

American Collegiate Hockey Association

The ACHA, which was established in 1991, is one of the leading bodies in college hockey. It was created to offer hockey prospects an opportunity to play college hockey if they were unable to earn spots on D1 hockey, D2 hockey or D3 hockey rosters. In some cases, players prefer ACHA hockey. Its club hockey teams number in the hundreds.

In many cases, the ACHA provides playing opportunities for players going to college in regions of the country that do not sponsor NCAA hockey teams. The West Coast is the best example of this. More than 20 of ACHA’s teams are located in the Pacific Time Zone, where zero NCAA hockey teams are situated.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

The top college hockey prospects generally play NCAA D1 hockey, D2 hockey or D3 hockey with the top of the top going to the D1 ranks. These schools are geographically focused on the Northeast and Midwest. D1 hockey teams located outside of these areas are primarily located in Colorado (Air Force, Colorado College and Denver) and Alaska (Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks) while only two squads are elsewhere: Alabama-Huntsville and Arizona State.

The first college hockey prospects attended Yale. This program got its start in 1896, when a pair of Yale tennis players traveled to Canada for tennis tournaments and were introduced to the sport while there. Upon returning to campus, they formed the first college hockey team, and that squad would soon travel to Baltimore to play to a 2-2 tie with Johns Hopkins. That was the first intercollegiate hockey game in history.

College hockey would end up spreading to the Midwest following World War I. However, it wasn’t until after World War II when the NCAA started getting involved. The first NCAA Frozen Four was held in 1948 in Colorado Springs. Michigan defeated Dartmouth, 8-4, in that inaugural title clash. That event remained in Colorado Springs through 1957 and was even won by the local Colorado College side on two occasions (1950 and 1957) before these college hockey playoffs were regularly moved around the country. The 2020, 2021 and 2022 NCAA Frozen Four competitions have been scheduled for Detroit, Pittsburgh and Boston.

ESPN college hockey provides extensive coverage of the entire NCAA Hockey Tournament, showing every game online at a minimum. The three NCAA Frozen Four contests are broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2.

There is no NCAA D2 Hockey Frozen Four as not enough schools at that level sponsor the sport. Just one conference, Northeast-10, does. However, there was an NCAA D2 Frozen Four from 1978-84 and from 1993-99.

Meanwhile, the sport is vibrant at the D3 level with an NCAA D3 Hockey Frozen Four taking place on an annual basis. These college hockey playoffs were first held in 1984. Babson dominated Union, 8-0, in that year’s championship game, which was played in Rochester, N.Y. The 2020 edition has been scheduled for just 75 miles to the west of there, in Buffalo, N.Y.

The NAIA has not sponsored hockey since 1984.

College hockey rankings, college hockey scores and college hockey news

Top hockey prospects should keep on top of college hockey rankings, college hockey scores and college hockey news. Doing so allows hockey prospects to narrow down the list of schools that they’re considering and ultimately find the best overall fits for them. The NCAA website is a prime resource for rankings, scores and news.

The most respected top-15 rankings are courtesy of and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. Also consider the RPI, which is a computer formula that ranks all 60 D1 schools and is one of the primary resources that the NCAA Selection Committee uses. Quality hockey is often played outside of the top 15, and the RPI provides you with a look at who the best of the rest are. Also take into account that the quality of a team now, when you’re still in high school, will often be quite different from where it is when you’re a senior on that team.

What does it take to become a hockey prospect?

A couple of other resources for scores are USCHO and College Hockey Inc.. Another resource for news is ESPN college hockey. That news organization’s reporting of college hockey is more extensive during postseason play. An additional news resource is the appropriately named College Hockey News.

Elite hockey prospect paths

Many of the top hockey prospects are looking for the best path to being involved with hockey recruiting and possibly being one of the top NHL prospects soon or down the line. Fortunately, if you are an elite player with a top high school, junior or midget team, there’s a good chance that many college coaches already know about your skills. However, that’s no guarantee, and, even if you are known, you might not be very high on their radar. For that reason, it’s important to continue working towards being a top recruit.

One of the best ways to do so is to take part in college hockey camps and festivals. Although an important benefit of college hockey camps and festivals is to improve your game by learning from a variety of coaches, earning visibility while there is an important benefit as well.

Also take into account the recruiting rules and calendar. One of the most important ones to keep in mind is that coaches are not allowed to contact you until Jan. 1 of your sophomore year of high school. However, you can do plenty to prepare for then, including getting a highlight video ready. Building a list of schools that you’re considering is an important step as well. You don’t really want to narrow this too much yet, but you will as you start communicating with coaches.

College hockey recruits: Scholarships

Many hockey prospects are interested in college scholarships. It’s important to take into consideration how competitive it is to earn one of those. For example, D1 teams are allowed to award up to 18 scholarships while their average squad sizes consist of 28 players.

However, hockey is an equivalency sport, which means that coaches can award partial scholarships to their hockey prospects and current players. D1 coaches just cannot offer more than 18 full scholarships. For example, if eight members of a 28-player roster receive full scholarships, the remaining 20 could receive half a scholarship apiece. Also note that many of these institutions provide a considerable amount of financial aid to their general student bodies. That latter point is especially important if you’ll be attending an Ivy League or D3 institution as none of those schools offer any athletic scholarships whatsoever.

Assistance for hockey prospects

Many hockey prospects over the past couple of decades have taken advantage of what Next College Student Athlete has to offer. NCSA was founded in 2000 and offers guidance and education with the aim of helping hockey prospects and others find their best fits and coaches to do the same. It has accomplished this by doing things such as helping athletes share highlight videos a year before YouTube was created. As a result of its efforts, 35,000 coaches are in the NCSA network, and NCSA averages a Google Reviews score of 4.9 or 98% of a perfect score.

NCSA’s roots date to the 1980s, when founder Chris Krause was a high school linebacker looking to play that position in college. He struggled considerably with the recruiting experience, and, although he did ultimately find his fit on Vanderbilt’s football roster, he wanted to ensure that those who followed his footsteps didn’t have to experience the struggles that he did. As a result of his vision and how NCSA has continued to grow over the past couple of decades, more than 150,000 of its athletes have committed to a college team in a variety of sports.

One of the most significant benefits that NCSA has to offer is the ability to reach out to and be discovered by the 35,000 coaches in its network. Although you should not narrow your college search to them, they provide a tremendous resource as you look to play NCAA hockey. If you’re intrigued by what NCSA has to offer and how it can help you on your journey, fill out your free profile today. Should you have any questions about it or would like to learn more about what NCSA does, call 866 495-5172.

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