Between NCAA Divisions I, II and III, there are nearly 150 men’s college hockey teams. That makes for a lot of college hockey players hoping to make the jump to the professional game.
Yet, increasingly, college hockey recruiting is a viable route to the pros. Research by stateofhockey.com showed that 311 NHL players — or 32 percent of everybody who saw ice time in 2017-18 — played college hockey first.
The question is: How do you get noticed in college hockey? How do you stand out so that scouts notice you?
There are ways to maximize the good position a college hockey player already inhabits.
Let’s take a look at the best things you can do to stand out when evaluated through the lens of college hockey scouting.
How to Get in Front of Eyes
The easiest solution is to play where the scouts look — and that means at the University of Minnesota, Boston College, North Dakota, Michigan, Boston University or any of the other usual suspects for the Frozen Four. But, if you’re good enough, you’ll be seen — 49 colleges supplied NHL teams with players this season.
Another suggestion? Stay in school. 70% of the NHL players who played college hockey spent at least three years in school, and nearly half of those were four-year players.
It also doesn’t hurt to develop an online presence, which can be done as simply as creating a YouTube channel and uploading some highlight videos.
As long as you’re not paying for the privilege, fill out forms for online scouting services.
Follow and retweet scouts, media members and front office types — respectfully, of course — to increase your name recognition in those circles.
Summer leagues, camps and combines are other options. If you’re at the end of your college eligibility, some pro leagues or teams also have open tryouts.
Speaking of Combines …
It’s widely accepted for college football players to essentially coast through classes after their senior seasons are done while they train for the NFL combine each spring.
Hockey players might not have that luxury, but throwing some combine-specific training into your usual regimen is a good idea if you’re given the chance to show off for the clipboard and stopwatch set.
If a college hockey player makes it to the NHL combine — or a camp based on combine-type workouts — here are the fitness tests that prospects should be prepared to go through:
An all-out sprint against resistance on a stationary bike for 30 seconds, it measures anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity. Sports requiring short bursts of all-out activity rely on the anaerobic energy pathways.
2017 combine leaders: 12.8 mean power output (watts/kg); 19.5 peak power output (watts/kg)
Proper form — behind on the bench, feet on the floor — along with a pace of 25 reps per minute. Bar starts at chest and is pushed to full extension for each rep. Weight is 70 to 80 percent of body weight.
2017 combine leader: 17 reps
The VO2 max test measures the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can utilize during intense activity. The test involves maintaining a set amount of RPMs on a stationary bike under increasing resistance. Measuring cardiorespiratory fitness, the test can last several minutes.
2017 combine leader: 16 minutes, 45 seconds
Force plate jump
Six max-effort vertical jumps, with 10 seconds of rest between, are made off a force plate. The top three jumps are averaged.
2017 combine leader: 26.19 inches
Standing long jump. Arm swing allowed.
2017 combine leader: 118 inches
Measured on a dynamometer, which is squeezed by the hand with the arm at full extension.
2017 combine leaders: 175 pounds (right hand); 170 pounds (left hand)
Proper pull-up form is a must, from full extension to the absence of leg kicks.
2017 combine leader: 13
The shuttle run is also referred to as the Pro Agility test. A 5/10/5-yard or 15/30/15-foot shuttle run performed twice — once starting to the right and once to the left.
2017 combine leaders: 4.19 seconds (right); 4.19 seconds (left)
But, Really, Here’s What College Hockey Scouting Is About
Let’s assume, at some point in your career, you’re going to find yourself in front of a pro hockey scout. At that point, it’s too late to change the facets of the game you already should have been polished in anticipation of this moment.
Speed, power, balance, and agility all matter. This includes puck abilities and separation speed (getting to top speed quickly).
This includes off-the-ice interactions with teammates, coaches, officials and fans; body language after a bad break or a good play; work ethic; passion for play; curiosity about skill development; coachability; etc.
Call it hockey sense or ice awareness, but it’s basically seeing the game unfold before it unfolds. It’s having the vision to know where to go, what space to cut off, where the puck is headed. The best players have it, and scouts look for it.
Getting Noticed In College Hockey Scouting- The Bottom Line
Ultimately, scouts rate players for skating, size, game sense, character, and skill. But, if any of those attributes catch a scout’s eye, you still have to make sure he likes what he sees over an extended look.
A few things to ensure a positive report include blocking shots, passing unselfishly, talking on the ice and from the bench, finishing checks, driving to the net, and keeping your body in the shooting lanes.
Forwards should support the puck and cover for pressured defensemen; defenders should stay between forwards and the net, and pass instead of dumping the puck away from pressure; and goalies should minimize rebounds, talk to the defense and play the puck on dump-ins.
Measurables are one thing, but your mindset is a tiebreaker you have total control over.
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey gear. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.