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2024 2025 College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey

The Transfer Portal and Implications for Recruiting

Since the NCAA DI women’s hockey season ended for each team, individual players have been adding their name to the transfer portal seeking a new school to play for next season. 139 players entered the portal since it reopened last summer.  40 out 44 schools have at least one player in the portal.

Why Players Enter the Transfer Portal

There are many reasons a student-athlete would choose to go into the transfer portal.  Here are the most common:

  • They have a 5th year of eligibility due to Covid
  • Grad student (graduated) with remaining years of eligibility
  • Player wants more playing time (most common with goalies)
  • Player wants to play for a better team;  upgrade team ranking
  • Issue with the coach /coaching change – one or both sides feel that there is no longer a fit for team / player
  • Off-ice concerns – school (academic or culture) is not a fit for the student-athlete
  • Financial reasons / NIL (Name-Image-Likeness) opportunities

Transfer Portal Player by Years of Eligibility

Analyzing the actual the list of 139 players, here is how they breakout by remaining years of eligibility. It is no surprise that most only have one year left:

NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Transfer Portal

Impact on Prospective Recruits

Depending on how many years of eligibility a transfer player has, it will either impact the number of recruits for 2026 or it may impact the slot where incoming 2024/2025 recruits fit in the lineup.

For example over the last few days, Ohio State added a F from Clarkson, a D from Boston University and a G from Minnesota Duluth, all with two years of eligibility left.  Thus current and future OSU commits may be impacted by these signings for the 2024/25 and the 2025/26 seasons.

On the flip side, this creates an opening in 2024 or 2025 at Clarkson, BU and UMD, depending on how many existing recruits there are for these schools.

For 2026 recruits, if a player with 3 or 4 years of eligibility transfers to a school your were interested in and plays your position, there may be one less spot available on that team on June 15th.

While at USA Hockey Nationals last week, I spoke with a couple of coaches who mentioned they are hosting transfer portal students this month for visits. So I would suspect that we will see many more announcement of players changing schools over the coming weeks.


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2023 2024 College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Insights and Implications on Recruiting from a Deep Dive of DI Women’s Hockey Rosters

During November and December, I spent a lot of time reviewing the current rosters of all the NCAA DI women’s hockey teams for goalies, forwards and defense. In addition, I re-booted the Champs App process for tracking commits to those schools.  While analyzing all of this data, I had several different observations about the recruiting process that I thought were worth sharing.

1. What are the Pros and Cons to Large Roster Sizes?

One of the key insights was the big standard deviation in roster sizes. There are 9 teams with 28 or more players listed. Based on my conversations with multiple coaches, this likely is due to the 5th year Covid  eligibility for many players.  And there are 6 teams with 23 or less players on their roster. Keep in mind that teams can only dress 20 or 21 (incl. 3 goalies) players for a game. This raises certain points…

  • From a coach’s perspective this gives them more players to choose from and thus the ability to field the best team available for any given game
  • My hypothesis, for which an analysis is coming soon, is that age & experience is highly correlated to success (in addition to talent, of course).  By being able to play the most experienced and talented players from a large roster likely shows up in the standings.
  • This also means coaches having to conduct multiple tough conversations each week to explain why a player will be healthy scratched
  • With only a maximum of 16 scholarships available to schools, many student-athletes are paying their own way to be on the team (and probably not getting much ice time, since schools tend to give the biggest scholarships to the best players). This is where the academics of a school become more important than your place on the roster. 
  • Given the above, I wasn’t too surprised to see several highly-touted first-year recruits at top programs that have been scratched for multiple games so far this season

2. Several 2022-23 Top 15 Teams are no Longer Top 15 Teams

  • Northeastern had been in the Top 15 since 2015, but did not break into the Top 15 ranking until this week. This is almost entirely due to them having lost their top players who contributed over 50% of their goal production from last season. Note: Northeastern still has 29 players on their roster
  • There are a couple of other schools who also have dropped out of the rankings this season. As an incoming recruit, you might need to adjust your expectations if you committed to a team that you expect to be competing for the Frozen Four every year, but now that school may not even make the NCAA playoffs.

3. Small Roster Analysis

  • It seemed odd that Penn State only has 21 players on their roster this season. So I took a deeper look.  Last year they had 23 student-athletes.  5 seniors graduated and 2 highly-talented juniors transferred (one to Ohio State and the other to Minnesota Duluth).  There are 2 first-year players and 3 seniors/grad students who transferred into PSU (from Colgate, New Hampshire and Long Island).  I can’t confirm, but I also think one player deferred to start in 2024 vs 2023.  I suspect the Penn State coaching staff didn’t expect two of their top players to transfer out of the school and that is why the roster is so small. This example shows the fluidity of which coaching staffs must manage their rosters going into the last year of 5th year Covid players and the transfer portal. It also shows that there could be late openings at the odd school come springtime.
  • Ohio State only has 6 D (but 24 rostered players).  Similar to Penn State, I took a deeper look into the OSU roster when I saw only 6 defenders listed. If there is an injury or two to Ohio State blue line this season they will be in trouble. They would likely have to move someone back from forward to play defense.   Last season there were 9 blueliners. 3 players graduated (including Patty Kazmaier winner Sophie Jacques), and 2 underclass players transferred to other schools (Colgate and Maine).  Coming in, two grad students transferred to the Buckeyes – Olympian Cayla Barnes (Boston College) and Stephanie Markowski (Clarkson) , both grad students. There are no freshman defenders in the 2023-24 class.  Once again I suspect the OSU coaching staff did not expect to lose 2 players to the transfer portal. What is interesting is that Sydney Morrow who did not get much ice time in the Frozen Four for the Buckeyes last season, is well over a point-per-game player at Colgate this season.  Based on our commit analysis, OSU is back to being focused on recruiting the top incoming players, with 13 commits in total for 2024 and 2025.

4. NEWHA Schools are the Last to Fill up Rosters

The New England Women’s Hockey Association (NEWHA) conference includes St Anselm, Long Island, Assumption, Stonehill, Post, Sacred Heart and St Michaels. It is pretty clear that the timeline for most of these schools to complete their rosters is later than most other conferences.  I know of at least two schools that were still trying to fill their 2024 rosters before the end of December 2023.  Only a few spots from NEWHA schools have been announced for 2025, while most of the top schools from other conferences are already filled.

5. Only U18 Players Need Apply

It was interesting to discover, but not a complete surprise, that multiple ranked schools only have commits that were U18 Girls National Camp players (Canada, USA or international) or better. I will go into more detail on the data and the implications on recruiting in an upcoming post.

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2024 2025 College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey

Q4 2023 DI Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update

This is an update to our quarterly posts which track the number of publicly announced commitments in DI women’s college hockey.

We’ve Changed our Commit Tracking Methodology

For this update, we have significantly changed our data collection methodology on tracking women’s college hockey commits.  In previous quarterly updates, we primarily relied on data from the Women’s College Commitments (WCC) tracking page. Using their data we were able to track announcements on a monthly bases and show trends month-over-month and year-over-year:

Q3 2023 DI Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update

However, we always knew that their data only represented a percentage of all commits for a given year (and relied on the data to be “consistently incomplete” year over year).   For example, for the 2023-24 NCAA DI women’s college hockey season, there are 284 first-year players.  While WCC only recorded 185 of those commits – so, only about 65% of all commits.  While it is almost impossible to track every commit, since many players don’t make public announcements & it is much harder to track European commits, we have endeavored to be more holistic in data collection.

Our new method includes not just WCC, but also information from Elite Prospects, social media posts by players and teams, youth team website rosters and any other public information we can find.  As a result, we have redesigned how we present the data and will only present the data from a quarterly perspective going forward.

As a result, we believe we are closer to tracking ~90% of all commits which is much higher than our previous tracking of ~65%.

Q4 Commitment Details

We recently published the status of women’s college hockey DI commits by position and discussed our analysis on “where and why” about the numbers:

Forward Recruits: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Analyzing the Defensive Lineups: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Navigating the Tight Goalie Market: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Below is how the overall data is trending for commits & by position. As discussed in the previous posts, the incoming class of 2024 is almost full, but there seems to be many spots still open (especially at NEWHA schools) for 2025.

However, it appears that the total size of the incoming 2024 class will be smaller than previous years – mostly due to 5th year Covid eligibility for many student-athletes reducing the number of available spots. For 2025, it is a little too early to tell, but it looks like it will be a regular sized class with over 280 commits – especially with the addition of new DI women’s hockey team, the Delware Blue Hens.

By-Position Year-Over-Year Commit Rate Comparison

Here is the same data as above, but broken out by position in comparison to previous years.

Comparing Q4 to Q3 2023 Total Commits for the Class of 2025

While not apples-to-apples, below is a table comparing the number of commits for the Class of 2025 from Q3 2023 to Q4 2023. As you can see about 125 commits have been announced during the last 3 months.

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2024 College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Analyzing the Defensive Lineups: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Updated Dec. 21, 2023

This is the third of 3 posts about where things stand for each position – Goalies, Forwards and Defense – for the incoming classes of 2024 and 2025.

Read Part I of this series here: Navigating the Tight Goalie Market: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Read Part II of this series here: Forward Recruits: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Women’s DI College Hockey Total Defensive Players & Commits by Year

as of December, 2023

With 44 DI women’s ice hockey teams now in the NCAA, having 88 first-year D is pretty much exactly what you would expect if each team carries an average of 8 defenders on their roster. While there are some puts and takes (e.g. Assumption adding 7 freshmen D and 35 5th year/grad students) the 2023-24 season seemed to be an above-average recruiting class on defense. With the large number of current players with a 5th year of eligibility still available to them, it is likely that the incoming 2024 class will be small than this year’s group of D recruits.

Our current analysis shows that the Class of 2024 already has at least 74 commits – and we are likely missing a few European players from our list. Therefore, there are likely a small handful of spots still open or become available because of the transfer portal, but pretty much it seems the recruiting door for 2024 defenders has pretty much closed.

For the Class of 2025, only ~50 spots have been filled. With Delaware announcing their new DI team starting in the 2025-26 season there should be several spots available for that team. In addition, there are certainly some openings on several other teams and certainly most of the NEWHA schools – with only 4 roster spots publicly announced across those 8 teams.

Women’s DI College Hockey Defense and Commits by School & Year

as of December, 2023

A few quick thoughts:

  • Ohio State and Bemidji State only have 6 defenders listed on their roster. Would be interesting to see how they would handle not having 1 or 2 of them for a period of time (injury, playing on national teams). Clearly a F would need to move back to help out, but that would still likely have the team at a disadvantage.
  • 11 teams have 9 or more D on their rosters. For players being recruited to schools with such large rosters, they need to seriously consider the implications of being healthy scratched if they aren’t clearly in the top 6.
  • The next post will analyze the overall rosters of DI teams – including showing how many players each school has. There is a pretty big range in roster sizes (from 20 – 33 players).
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College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Forward Recruits: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Updated Dec. 19, 2023

This is the second of 3 posts about where things stand for each position – Goalies, Forwards and Defense – for the incoming classes of 2024 and 2025.

Read Part I of this series here: Navigating the Tight Goalie Market: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Read Part III of this series here: Analyzing the Defensive Lineups: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Women’s DI College Hockey Total Forward Players & Commits by Year

as of December, 2023

At first glance things seemed to have returned to normal for forwards with respect to the DI women’s college hockey recruiting class of 2023. There are 157 first-year players across all the Division I rosters this season. However, 18 of those spots are freshmen players at either Assumption or Robert Morris (“new” programs for both these schools), so the number is a little inflated compared to the 152 sophomore players playing DI hockey.

For the incoming Class of 2024, it seems almost all schools have finalized their rosters by now. Most schools have been announcing on social media their inbound players after the signing day earlier this month. Other than a few spots at NEWHA schools and maybe the odd player at other schools filling in a final roster spot, there are likely only a handful of opportunities remaining for forwards. Our 2024 F analysis now has 166 players, but there are likely some European and other commits who haven’t been publicly announced.

In addition, without knowing the plans for individual players, it is unclear how many of the 105 Seniors (granted an extra year of eligibility due to Covid) will decide to return for a 5th year either at their current school or find another school for their grad year. If all of them continue to play for the 2024-25 season then there may not be any spots open to 2024 high school graduates.

As for the incoming Class of 2025, there are certainly many spots still open. While most of the Top 10 schools have snagged the best players in the country, there are openings at many other programs. Until recently, many of the NEWHA schools have been focused on filling their 2024 rosters, so they will likely only shift their attention over the next month or two for their 2025 forwards.

Women’s DI College Hockey Forwards and Commits by School & Year

as of December, 2023

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College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Navigating the Tight Goalie Market: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Updated Dec. 14, 2023

This is the first of 3 posts about where things stand for each position – Goalies, Forwards and Defense – for the incoming classes of 2024 and 2025.

Read Part II of this series here: Forward Recruits: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

Read Part III of this series here: Analyzing the Defensive Lineups: The Current State of Division I Women’s College Hockey Recruiting for the Class of 2024 & 2025

The last couple of years have been tough for high level goalies looking for a spot to play Division I women’s college hockey.  With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility for current seniors and grad students, it was anticipated that there were less openings available for the upcoming classes. In a typical year there should be 33 freshman goalies (3 goalies per team x 44 teams  ÷ 4 years of eligibility).   However, with the two new teams that started in 2023 (Assumptions and Robert Morris) and 10 teams carrying 4 goalies, it was surprising to see that there were 39 first-year goalies on DI teams this year – significantly more than in previous years.

Women’s DI College Hockey Total Goalie Player & Commits by Year

as of December, 2023

This is in addition to the transfer portal, which was very active for goaltenders this past off-season with 22 goalies looking for new teams.  Of note, only 7 of them found new DI teams, made up mostly of experienced goaltenders with only 1 or 2 years of eligibility left.

(December Update) From my analysis it looks like there probably are no more spots left for the class of 2024.  Any schools which appear to still have openings are likely intentionally waiting to see who becomes available via the transfer portal – there are already Covid 5th year players in the portal for next season.

As for the incoming class of 2025, it appears as there still me be many spots open – possibly as many as 10-15 slots still available. However, there may be schools that have already filled spots with commits that haven’t been publicly announced or tracked.  In addition, with 2023 having an above average number of first year goalies (8 teams having 2 freshmen) and 10 teams carrying 4 goalies, the outgoing college class of 2024 goalies may not all be replaced.  But on the positive side, there has only been one 2025 goalie publicly announced commit amongst all 8 of the NEWHA teams – so there are likely still some openings on several of those teams.

Women’s DI College Hockey Goalies and Commits by School & Year

as of December, 2023

One last thought to keep in mind.  Some schools might be happy to carry 4 goalies – this helps with practices and in case of injury to a goalie or two. I have had several coaches tell me that recently they have had serious injuries to at least one goalie, so having depth can be very helpful. Therefore, if you want agree to be a 4th goalie you may be able to be rostered and practice on a team but you probably won’t be guaranteed playing time – almost surely will not see any scholarship money unless you move up in the depth chart.  If the school is more important to you than playing time, this could be an option.

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College Hockey Recruiting Girl's Showcase Girls Hockey hockey USA Hockey Nationals Women's College Hockey

Recruiting Insights from the 2023 Tradition NIT Girls Hockey Tournament: Coaches, Coaches, Coaches!

This past weekend I was in Minnesota for the fabulous 2023 Tradition NIT Girls Hockey Tournament organized by Winny Brodt Brown. In total, there were 93 teams participating for the 16U and 19U age groups.  Almost every top US club team was in attendance plus many of the top western Canadian girl’s teams.

Over the course of the 3-day event, I had multiple conversations with several DI & DIII coaches and I thought I would share my observations as they relate to the recruiting process:

1. Competition Matters for Getting Seen

As heard many times on the Champs App podcast, coaches want to see players playing at the highest level, against top players to properly evaluate them.  With as many as 8 games going on simultaneously across the two rink locations, coaches can’t watch every game. Many times I would see a coach watch 2 overlapping games by switching back and forth during ice cuts.  Thus coaches need to be selective in which games they scout. Coaches were mostly watching games with the largest number of  talented players.  Thus, it appeared as though games with the highest ranking teams got the highest DI coach attendance.  However, it did seem that DIII and ACHA coaches were more flexible in watching lower ranked teams. But if you want to play DI hockey, my sense is that you want to put yourself in the best position to be seen. This would imply playing on a team that plays against the other top teams in the country. The reality is that if your team is ranked in 30’s and below on MyHockeyRankings, then you probably won’t get noticed as much, even if you are a DI caliber player.

2. Connections Help

I saw this firsthand this weekend.  If you can get a positive reference to a college coach through an advisor, current or former coach, friend or some other trusted hockey-related relationship, it can make a difference in getting scouted.  It won’t get you an offer, but it can certainly get a coach from a specific school to come watch you play and start the process.

3. Lines Not Dots

I had a great conversation with a coach from a Top 5 DI school and asked why they scouted at so many events. In reality, given their school’s reputation, they could just focus on the handful of top players at the US or Canadian national camps and simply cherry pick those players.  But the coach revealed to me that they watch the elite-of-the-elite players over the course of several years and track their development and progression over an extended period of time. This way they can see what the player’s trajectory looks like and if it continues to trend in a positive direction. The coach and I discussed a specific player and how the coaches have been monitoring how the hockey IQ of that player has been improving over the previous 2 years. Thus coaches at high-end teams look for the trendlines of players – not just the individual play at a single event.

4. Experience Matters in Evaluating Players

It was fun talking to several coaches and hearing their “off-the-record” thoughts about certain players. The folks I talked to ranged from longtime head coaches to junior assistant coaches to a former DI coach.  What I gleaned across all the convos was the more experience you had coaching,  the less amount of time it took to get a pretty accurate assessment of a player.  I was surprised how accurately the seasoned coaches figured out a player’s strengths and weaknesses. While for some of the junior coaches it sounded like they needed to watch more games to get a good sense for a player.

5. Lots of Coaches

For this year, the NCAA approved DI teams to have three assistant coaches (instead of just two).  As a result, almost every (non-NEWHA) DI team had a least one coach present for the entire weekend while their school played regular season conference games “back home” on Friday and Saturday.  Several coaches clearly also got on planes or in a car right after their games were done on Saturday and headed to Blaine, MN.  On Sunday morning, 7 of the 8 head coaches from the WCHA teams were in attendance, with all eight schools having multiple assistant coaches there as well.

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College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Q3 2023 DI Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update

This is an update in our series tracking the number of publicly announced commitments in women’s college hockey. For 2024, the commitment rate continues to lag all previous recruiting years. On a more positive note, the Class of 2025 has had several more August commitment announcements than the 2024 class.

DI Women’s Hockey Commitment Rate by Months Prior to College

2023 Commits

With the start of the 2023 women’s college hockey season, we are closing the books on this recruiting class with only 185 commits. This is about 30 less players than in previous years, mostly due to the extra year of eligibility for many players due to Covid. This number is even lower than expected given that there are two new teams (Robert Morris and Assumption) beginning play this fall – compared to just one new team (Stonehill) last year.

2024 Commits

The 2024 commits continue to be even further behind the 2023 commitment rate as of the end of August by about 20% (99 2024’s vs 124 2023’s at this time last year). While there should be at least another 60 spots that haven’t been announced, many schools have been telling players they are full at the moment. However, I have heard of at least a couple of schools are still looking for 2024 players

2025 Commits

There have been almost daily announcements over the past couple of weeks for the Class of 2025. With the Labor Day tournaments now complete, players will be visiting campuses and making decisions between game weekends. There will likely be 50-60 announcements over the next couple of months.

Goalies

There are only 16 2023 commits and 10 2024 commits that have been publicly announced. Although I head of a 2023 goalie that only committed a few weeks ago in July to a top DI school (thanks to a transfer situation). Surprisingly there have already been 4 2025 goalie commits announced

Data assumptions:

  1. Data commitment dates – source: collegecommitments.com and Champs App analysis (including social media posts and private messages)
  2. Many players do not formally announce their commitments publicly (or are not tracked properly), so the premise of this analysis implies that the percent of publicly announced commitments that are tracked remains constant each year.
  3. Transfers between DI programs are not included in the number of commits
  4. Total number of publicly announced commitments for 2021 was 215 and for 2022 it was 214
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2023 College Hockey Recruiting Development Camp Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey

Insights on the Class of 2025 Recruiting Efforts of a DI Head Coach

During my time in Oxford, Ohio at the USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Camp I had the opportunity to ask a non-Top 10 DI Head Coach a bunch of Class of 2025 recruiting questions.  Specifically, I wanted to better understand the specifics of how the coaching staff actually went about securing commitments for the incoming class of 2025.  Here is a summary of what I learned about that school’s recruiting efforts…

  • Over a the first few days that coaches were allowed to talk to the Class of 2025 (beginning on June 15th) the coaching staff reached out to ~15-18 players and offered them spots on the team.
  • These players would be considered the highest rated players for 2025 according to the coach. 
  • The coach explained that the top players are likely getting multiple offers on June 15th (or thereabouts) and in order for many schools to be competitive with these in-demand players, the teams need to make offers immediately.
  • The coach told me that most of the players had never contacted their school – so the school was being proactive in reaching out to the players without knowing if the players had any interest in their school.
  • In addition to the players that received immediate offers, the coaching staff reached out to another set of 15-18 players to express an interest in those players and to understand if the players interest reciprocated. 
  • During the weeks following June 15th, the staff is continuing to have conversations with this second tier of potential recruits.  Based on how many commits the school receives from the top tier players, then conversations and visits are likely to progress deeper with the next level of recruits
  • Once again, the way I understood it, a large number of the next level of recruits that were contacted had not necessarily reached out to the school directly prior to June 15th.
  • The coach then explained that their recruiting efforts are likely to progress into the fall and winter. If there were spots still open after working through the first two levels in the funnel of potential recruits, then again, they will continue to scout and reach out/respond to individual players that might meet the requirements for the remaining roles on the team. This might be by position or specific type of players (e.g. goal scorer vs. puck-moving D).
  • The coach also reinforced that the coaching staff was recruiting heavily in both Canada and the U.S. and that one of the challenges was being able to calibrate players between the two countries.  This is likely because there are only a few events that in-season teams from both side of the border compete against each other (e.g. Stoney Creek, PIP Labor Day Fest and USA-Canada Cup).
  • Note: To-date I have not heard of any 2025 players publicly announce committing to the school in question

A Few Thoughts After the First Two Days of the 2023 USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Development Camp

More Thoughts on the 2023 USA Hockey 16/17 Girls Development Camp

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Coaching College Hockey Recruiting Player Development Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Some Thoughts on the Ohio State Women’s Hockey Recruiting Strategy

Ohio State women’s ice hockey head coach Nadine Muzerall is a winner. Muzerall, who won two national championships as a player and four as a coach with the University of Minnesota, has instilled a winning culture at Ohio State. She has a proven track record of success in her seven years at OSU. With Muzerall at the helm, Ohio State women’s hockey team has made the Frozen Four the last three years,  won the National Championship in 2021-22 and appeared in the finals again this past March.

Coach Muzerall Wants to Win Every Year

A key ingredient in OSU’s ability to compete these last few years for a National Championship has been to add high-end, experienced talent from other schools via the transfer portal.  In 2021-22, OSU had 8 upperclass players transfer from other schools n their roster (including 3 from Robert Morris University which had just folded).  In 2022-23 there were 5 players who came to OSU via the transfer portal including Makenna Webster (from Wisconsin who finished 4th in scoring on the team), Lauren Bernard (D from Clarkson who played in all 41 games) and Kenzie Hauswirth (from Quinnipiac who finished 8th in team scoring). So these players were significant contributors to the team’s success this past season.

Want to Win Before Your Career Ends? Transfer to OSU

With as many as 8-10 players leaving the program this spring, Coach Muzerall’s strategy is not to rebuild, but to reload. Over the past few weeks, Coach Muzerall has reloaded with more experienced high-end talent via the transfer portal by adding Olympian defender Cayla Barnes from BC , Patty Kaz Top-10 Finalist Kiara Zanon from Penn State,  BC’s leading scorer Hannah Bilka, Kelsey King from Minnesota State and D Stephanie Markowski from Clarkson. Needless to say, a very talented group of transfers.

While there may be multiple reasons for these transfers to move on from their previous schools (e.g. graduated, no longer a fit etc.), the appeal of winning a national championship is pretty clear. For these new players, they know there is a very high probability they will be competing at the Frozen Four next March – while they may not have had the same opportunity if they stayed with their previous program. Why not go for it?

Source: https://gopherpucklive.com/transfer-portal/

The Impact on Underclass Players

At the same time, there were at least 5 OSU players who entered the transfer portal this spring, all with multiple years of eligibility left.  Most notably, Sydney Morrow, a first-year D who tied for team scoring with USA Hockey at the U18 Women’s IIHF tournament in scoring last summer, transferred to Colgate.  From what I could tell watching the Frozen Four, while dressed for the last two games, Morrow saw little-to-no ice time as the 7th D.

Implications for Incoming Recruiting Classes

With the increased number of transfers, potential recruits must recognize that freshmen may find themselves in a more competitive environment at schools like OSU and may struggle to find playing time early on. Furthermore, coaching staff may give priority to more experienced players over freshmen, and this may impact player development. As a result, incoming freshmen may have to consider the challenge in earning their spot on the team and how hard it would be to make a meaningful contribution to the program in all four years of eligibility. While the transfer portal provides more opportunities for players to explore their options and find the best fit for their needs, it also creates a more challenging environment for incoming freshmen to establish themselves in the team.

Creates an Environment Between the “Have” and the “Have-Nots” Hockey Programs

The women’s hockey transfer portal has essentially created a two-tier system between the top talented schools and everyone else. The portal has provided top-tier programs with the ability to attract and acquire the best players in the country, leaving other schools having to figure out to replace the top talent they lose to these programs. The top schools have the resources and coaching staff to offer a highly competitive environment and the opportunity to compete for national championships, which makes them attractive destinations for talented transfers. On the other hand, smaller or less successful programs may struggle to keep up, which creates a divide in the quality of play between the top programs and everyone else. While the transfer portal has created new opportunities for high-end players to explore and find the best fit for their needs, it is creating an uneven playing field in women’s college hockey.

It will be interesting to see if other Top 10 schools begin to copy the Ohio State strategy of picking off several top players via the transfer portal in order to better compete with the top recruiting schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northeastern and Minnesota-Duluth who have not yet adopted this strategy (even though all schools have the occasional top talent transfer).

What Happens When No More 5th Year (Covid) Eligibility? 

It will be interesting to see how things go with the 2025 recruiting class for Ohio State. The last class of Covid year grad students is 2024, so the pool of 5th year transfers will be much smaller and potential players would likely need to be move prior to graduating from their current schools.  Will the top players from the incoming class of 2025 be concerned about transfer portal players at OSU and thus look elsewhere? We will find out this fall.

Implications For Potential Recruits and Which Schools to Consider

As a high school player trying to figure out which program is right for you, it would be important to be realistic about your own talents and where you might fit in the line-up over all four of your years. Even if you are a national U-18 team member, you might still struggle to get ice time at a top tier program that brings in experienced top talent with 1 or 2 years of eligibility left.

During the recruiting process, understanding the coaching staff’s player development process over 4 years and ice time philosophy is an important conversation to have before a decision is made.