Athletic Recruiting Hockey Sport Specific

Can High School Hockey Players Go Straight to Division I Hockey?

drew palmisano goalie

I am a hockey girl. With the Chicago Blackhawks on the road to the Stanley Cup in games like Tuesday’s — lasting through triple overtime — I’ve become a coffee girl, as well.

Staying up until after 2 a.m. to see Seabrook finally clench the Game 4 win for the ‘Hawks meant I had hockey on the brain for over 6 hours. And like my brain tends to when I think of any sport, my thoughts moved to hockey recruiting pretty quickly.

While men’s and women’s ice hockey recruitment is more unique than most other sports – and scholarships more unique to come by – student-athletes pursuing a higher-level dream within the sport of ice hockey really have to know the ropes of recruitment.

To help high school players figure out what it might take to play in college, I sat down with former Division I hockey goalie for the Michigan State Spartans and head recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting Drew Palmisano to get to the bottom of a few things.

It’s my understanding that many guys who aim to play at the college level head to Juniors between high school and college. Why this trend in men’s ice hockey?

The short answer is yes.

Many college and pro players put time in at the Junior level before going anywhere else after high school. Junior players tend to be more physically and emotionally mature because of the highly competitive, fast and physical play at the Junior level, which can set you apart in the mind of a college coach. Overall the Junior leagues are just a great place to develop if you’re serious about a future in ice hockey.

So let’s say a student-athlete is playing in the Juniors and is getting offers from colleges. When is the right time to leave the Juniors and take an offer?

It all depends on your situation.

If you’re getting offers from colleges, but maybe not the offers you were hoping for, it’s okay to stay another year in the Juniors. But make sure you are progressing: moving up on your team, possibly getting placed on a better team and your stats and skills are improving consistently. You never want to turn down an offer and then digress in the Juniors.

If college hockey is your goal, you don’t know that you’ll be offered again. If you have offers from a Division III school and want to play at the Division I level, you really need to contact coaches and have as much dialogue as possible to see where you are realistically.

Bottom-line: take every offer seriously and really weigh the pros and cons based on your personal situation.

What are Division I hockey coaches looking for when they recruit?

The key is playing in highly competitive leagues. For Men’s Hockey they want to see you’ve played for a USHL or NAHL junior level or solid prep school. For Women’s Hockey they are looking for high level AAA or solid prep school, Olympic development program, showcase appearances and select festivals.

You may consider doing a graduate year at the prep school to gain more experience. U.S. and Canadian Team try-outs and/or participation are big indicators as well.

And at the end of the day, like every other sport, get a great highlight video together and out to coaches as soon as possible.

What should a good hockey highlight video include?

Keep the camera high enough to get good perspective on the ice, and generally coaches are looking for break-up plays, shots from the blue lines, and you’re ability to adapt to different game situations. Here’s a few good points broken down by position:


  • The ability to break up plays in the defensive zone.
  • Starting offensive rushes and taking shots from the blue line.
  • General puck handling, passing and skating ability.


  • The ability to get up the ice and create shots.
  • Shots from different angles and distances.
  • General puck handling, passing and skating ability.


  • A mix of skills footage and game footage.
  • The ability to stop shots at all areas of the goal.
  • Handling the puck in the crease and in traffic.
Last question: who’s taking home the Cup this year?

I have to stay true to my Michigan roots. Red Wings!

Do you have more questions about men’s and women’s hockey recruiting? Scouts and recruiting coaches like Drew are always here to help.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.