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2023 2024 Coaching Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Tracking Progress: The Evolution of Female Coaching Representation in NCAA DI Women’s Hockey

Back in 2020, when Champs App first started, we tracked the female representation in the coaching staffs at NCAA DI and U Sports women’s hockey.  Now, 3 years later, it is time to compare how the number of female coaches has changed during this time.

Over the past three years, there has been a notable increase in the representation of female head coaches within Division I women’s college hockey teams. In the 2020-21 season, female head coaches accounted for 14 out of 41 total coaching positions, comprising 34% of the total coaching cohort. However, by the 2023-24 season, this number has risen significantly, with 21 female head coaches out of a total of 44 coaching positions, representing an increase to 48%. This upward trend highlights a positive shift towards greater gender diversity and inclusivity within the coaching landscape of women’s college hockey, indicating a growing recognition of the value and expertise that female coaches bring to the sport.

While the ideal number is probably not 100% for female head coaches at the NCAA women’s DI level, it is nice to see the numbers continue to climb. Having spoken to so many male DI women’s coaches, it is clear that in most cases they are doing a great job in their roles. However, the much bigger opportunity is in increasing the number of female coaches on the men’s side of the game, where female coaches still represent significantly less than 1% at the men’s college level.  There have been inroads made over the last few years, with NCAA DI head coaches participating in NHL development camps. This season, Kim Weiss is an assistant with DIII Trinity and Jessica Campbell is an assistant coach with the AHL Coachella Valley Firebirds. But when it comes to full-time roles, I am still waiting to hear about female coaches even being considered for a DI or DIII men’s team head coaching job. 

From 2020 to 2023, there has also been a significant increase in the number of assistant or associate head coaches in NCAA Division I women’s hockey teams due to teams now being permitted 3 assistants. In the 2020-21 season, female assistant or associate head coaches accounted for 52 out of a total of 79 coaching positions, representing 66% of the coaching cohort. This number has seen a significant rise by the 2023-24 season, with 65 female coaches out of a total of 98 coaching positions, equaling the same 66% of the coaching staff. Conversely, the number of male assistant or associate head coaches also increased from 27 to 33 during this period, but their overall proportion remained constant.

During the time there has been significant increases in female coaches at the NCAA DI women’s hockey level for both head & assistant coaches, there has been no change in the number of female coaches in Canada U Sports women’s hockey. In fact U.S. teams surpassed Canadian schools in terms in percent female representation. Note: no data was collected for U Sports assistants back in 2020

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2024 Development Camp Women's Hockey

Why U18 National Teams Shouldn’t Only Have Offensive Defenders on their Roster

Last week, I re-watched the Canada vs Czechia IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship semi-final game. Czechia won the game 4-2 after losing to Canada in the Group A game 8-1. I noticed that two of the Czechia goals were a direct result of major mistakes by the Canadian defenders. I then saw that the shots on goal were heavily in favor of the Canadians when the score was 3-2 at about 43-11 (ended up being 47-12 for Canada).

This got me thinking, how could Canada lose a game that they so clearly dominated in terms of offensive opportunities?

Two thoughts came to mind:

  1. Czechia did an amazing job learning from their group game with Canada and played a defensive structure which minimized Canada’s high risk chances. Czechia then capitalized on the few opportunities they had to score.
  2. Similar to my observations about the USA Hockey U18 selection process, Canada probably puts a bigger emphasis on fielding a team with offensive D than well-balanced defenders. As a result, a couple of defensive mistakes cost them the game.

This is just my hypothesis, I could be completely wrong.  And let me be clear, any player that makes the Canada or U.S. U18 teams are exceptional players.  They can all skate well, pass well and shoot well.  There is no doubt each of them deserved to be on the team. But maybe, they are too similar in their skill set?

When it comes to roster construction, sometimes you need to include one or two 200-foot players to complement the more offensive players.  Specifically, there are usually tradeoffs between a great puck handling D with a hard shot vs. someone who is technically better at 2-on-1s, clearing players in front of the net, playing the penalty kill or defending 1-on-1 zone entries.   An analogy would be having 7 Erik Karlssons playing defense for a single team – at some point in important games against good teams there will be times you need the D to keep the puck out of your own net.  Once again, this is not to say that those highly skilled U18 players aren’t good defenders, but when they go up against the top 2 or 3 forwards on a national team, they will also need to be technically strong on defense.

Let’s look at some data to support why I can understand how a coaching staff would  put together a roster with so much offensive power at the U18 level.

2023 IIHF U18 World Champsionship Shot Totals

Canada outshot their opponent by a 6:1 ratio throughout the tournament. They also had over 40 shots per game.  I would suspect they felt the team could outscore all opponents as long they didn’t have any major defensive hiccups. 

Of course, you are probably asking – weren’t they planning to play the U.S.?  Like all Canadian teams, they probably expected and planned to play the U.S.  at some point – likely in the gold medal game (given the new format of A/B group play this year, they wouldn’t play each other in group games).  So Canada would still need to be prepared to play a high-powered offensive USA Hockey team.

Then I looked at the shot total for the 2023 Under-18 Series which took place in Lake Place between the Canada and USA.  Team Canada swept all 3 games against the U.S. team by a combined score of 15-3.  Here were the shot totals:

uSA Canada u18 Summer Series SHot Totals

A couple of possible reasons for Canada to justify having highly offensive defenders… Either the felt they could still outscore Team USA and defend well enough to beat them.  Or, maybe their D were never tested enough in the USA-Canada Series to expose some of the technical weaknesses against world-class scorers.

So what?

During my experience attending and analyzing multiple USA Hockey camps/events, I have felt that the players being selected have had their offensive abilities overly weighted in the evaluation process.  Now, I am fully onboard with most of the high-end, offensive D being the ones being picked. However, including one or two defenders who can also keep the puck out of your own net at critical points of an important game can be the difference between winning and losing in the medal rounds.  Having a little more balance on the blue line could be the difference between winning and losing in big games.

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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.

Categories
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

Categories
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.

Categories
Women's Hockey

The Drawbacks of MyHockeyRankings: A Closer Look at Misuse and Flaws in Youth Hockey Ratings

The following is a post I wrote almost four years ago about MyHockeyRankings on an old blog I used to publish. Most of it is still highly relevant after all this time. I have added a few additional new thoughts at the end of the post. This is the second post rounding out the benefits and drawbacks of MyHockeyRankings – you can read Part I here.

While MyHockeyRankings (MHR) has many benefits, I’ve seen and heard enough parents use the site in a manner for which it was not intended. Instead of being used for good, it can be used for evil to the detriment of player development and their game.

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first…

  1. Focusing on your team ranking

Coaching games to maintain or improve your team’s rank/rating goes against the original intent of the site. By putting a focus on ‘goal differential’ over playing games to your team’s fullest capability is essentially poor sportsmanship. One example is not pulling your goalie late in a close game to minimize the risk to lowering your rating even more. Another one is to keep/only play your best players late in the 3rd period even when the outcome is clear. Going into a game knowing the EGD and playing to match or exceed that difference should not be on the mind of any coach before or during a game. 

2. Using MHR rating or ranking as the measurement of team success

Like in business, a team cannot just look at a single metric to see determine the how well it is performing. Usually you’ll need 2 or 3 attributes to get the full picture of how an organization is performing. Things like player development, win/loss record during league or tournament play, and learning to compete are much more important than any single rating metric.

3. Playing for a highly ranked vs middle-of-the-pack team

Coaching certainly plays a role in the development and success of a team. However, the size of the pool of players in an area and the multi-year commitment to player development of a club or region is really the biggest factor in how good a team is. This is why regions like Toronto, Boston and Minnesota have so many strong teams. They have both robust club programs to develop players from Mites to Midget as well as a deep group of players in their programs to choose from. Thus, as a parent, it really shouldn’t matter if your child’s team is highly ranked, what matters is that they continue to develop on a path to help them be the best hockey player they can be.

There are also several weaknesses to the actual algorithm using only goal differential for team ratings. Here are a few of them:

4. Lack of uniformity in game format and duration

Not all games are created equal. While USA Hockey tries to standardize games across divisions, the reality is that a large portion of games that are included in the rankings do not follow those guidelines. These can include games from tournaments, exhibition and pre-season game. The attributes that are not consistent across games can include game time, how regulation ties are handled (e.g. overtime vs. shootout vs. no extra time).  Last year, we were at a tournament with 90 second penalties while the total game was only 75% of a real game. This season our pre-season games were two twenty minute running-time games. There is no way to normalize scores based on the running time of a game.

5. Games scheduled between teams with Expected Goal Differential (EGD) great than 7

Per the original MHR manifesto, only scheduling games between teams that will be competitive makes perfect sense. However, in some regions having division where there is a large discrepancy between the top and bottom teams may occur.  Since MHR max goal differential per game is 7, I have seen several times where the lower rated team’s rating went up even though they lost by 10 goals, since the teams ratings difference was 8 or 9 goals heading into the game. I would recommend changing the algorithm to not include games between teams that have a 7 or more goal differential.

It is my experience that the MHR rating should be taken with a grain of salt and statistically there is probably some reasonably standard deviation between 0.50 and 0.75 rating points. Once again though if you are using the site for its intended purpose, then it shouldn’t matter what the actual rating is for your team. Furthermore, the natural standard deviation makes the rating even more meaningless.  Here are some additional factors that contribute to the standard deviation:

6. Tired teams

Most tier teams regularly play 4 to 6 games in a weekend.  While fatigue is something all the teams need to deal with, when the key metric for MHR is goal differential, it is very likely that final scores between two identical team will not be the same at the end of a 6 game weekend as they would have been on the first day. I have been surprised on many occasions when I expected to see a blow-out between two teams, but it was clear that the higher rated team couldn’t maintain the same level of play for 3 full periods in their final game.

7. Backup goalie dynamic

Ratings are a weighted average of both goalies.  But on many teams there can be a big gap between the top goalie and the second goalie. On others, there may be only one goalie. One season, one my kid’s teams had a goal differential rating of about 1.5 difference between the two goalies.  In this situation, wins vs. losses is a much better indicator of the team’s success instead of goal differential.

7. Asymmetric Actual Goal Differential

In my experience the EGD vs actual goal differential appears asymmetric when the EGD is about 4 or more. Usually this happened when team from different division play each other (i.e. when the higher ranked team has played most of their games against higher ranked teams and the lower ranked team traditionally plays lower ranked teams). So, the rating don’t reflect an apples-to-apples set of teams they have played and when the two teams play, the higher rated team can significantly exceed the EGD.

I am sure there are several other factors I have missed that contribute to the rating not being as precise as possible.

So how should you look at the ratings?

As mentioned above, take it with a grain of salt and don’t focus on the specific number, but more the peer group you are grouped with to see how your team is doing relative to others.  In addition, don’t be concerned about any number rating or ranking, focus instead on player and team development because at the end of the day that is what youth hockey is all about.

2023 Update #1 – last year both my kids played several games against Canadian teams and it seemed that the cross-border ratings weren’t as accurate as within the U.S. Specifically, the Canadian teams were consistently better than their ratings. Am not 100% sure why, but am assuming that the algorithm had insufficient cross-border game data to normalize (calibrate) the true ratings across the two geographies.

2023 Update #2 – There are many reasons I’ve seen that some games should not be included in the MHR calculation. I have even heard both teams agree not to post scores from ‘exhibition’ games to MHR. The most obvious one is where a team needs to play a USA Hockey district qualifying game against a team that is more than 7 goals below them in MHR. Clearly the only reason to play the game is to check a box. However, USA Hockey does use MHR as a way to select at-large invitations to Nationals (playoffs). While probably having negligible impact, these types of games should probably not be included in the MHR calculation.

Categories
USA Hockey Nationals Youth Hockey

6 Helpful Ways to Use MyHockeyRankings

The following is a post I wrote almost four years ago about MyHockeyRankings on an old blog I used to publish. Most of it is still highly relevant after all this time. I have added some additional new thoughts at the end of the post.

I spend a lot of time on the MyHockeyRankings (MHR) website.  I don’t use the site because I care about the rankings of my kids’ teams, but I do see the rankings, so I am aware of what they are. However, there are many more valuable reasons to use the site that I find really insightful that I wanted to share. I will also put together my thoughts on what the watchouts and drawbacks are for MyHockeyRanks in a separate post.

To start, let’s remind you of why MyHockeyRankings was created and how it is intended to be used. As stated explicitly on their About Us page, the site was set-up to help with scheduling competitive games between clubs. Using a pretty simple algorithm based on goal differential, a rating is created for each team.  The difference in ratings between two teams is their expected goal differential (EGD) between the two teams if they were to play each other (subtracting the lower rating from the higher rating). This methodology is used to normalize quality of opponent and calibrate one team versus another. I won’t go into the statistical analysis of the legitimacy of EGD, but the goal differential is only an expected value, and thus there will be a lot of variation in actual game scores. If the EGD is small, then if the two teams would play each other, then it likely would be a competitive game. If the goal differential is large (for me 4 or 5 goals is a significantly large gap) then it likely would not be a competitive game and it may not make sense for the two teams to play in the first place. This is especially helpful if there is a large tournament and the organizers are trying to group teams into competitive divisions or for leagues to draw the line between A, BB and B levels. There is a lot more detail to how and why, but that is the gist of the ratings.  Well, now that each team has a rating, it is only natural to rank them.  This is where much of the controversy starts with the MHR site, but we’ll discuss the use of rankings separately.

  1. Schedule, Scores and LiveBarn

I track about 10 different teams at various clubs, levels and age groups and I find it much easier to see the schedule and scores in one single location thanks to MyHockeyRankings than going to each individual team’s website or leagues site to find the schedule and/or score.  If I want to dive into a particular game then I might go elsewhere, but being able to see which of those teams has/had games in a particular weekend is very helpful.  As a bonus, having the LiveBarn icon next to a game (especially if one of the teams is playing at an away tournament) it lets me know that I could watch the game if I wanted to. This feature was remarkably helpful for watching games for a prep school team that we are considering for my daughter. Without the MyHockeyRankings/LiveBarn partnership, I might never have been able to see several of the school’s games.

2. Scouting and Researching

When heading to a tournament it is highly likely that most of the teams we will play we won’t have ever seen or played before. We have used the MHR ratings to help decide which goalie to start in which games. If on the first day of a tourney we have two games and one team is clearly rated higher than the other on MyHockeyRanking, then the coach usually has some insightful information on who to start in each game. For a playoff game one coach asked me to download the most recent games of the team they will be playing, thanks to MHR I was able to see exactly when and where to find the game on LiveBarn. Finally, as mentioned above, being able to find games from potential prep schools for my daughter and watch their play has allowed me to research potential future schools/teams for her to play on based on the quality of their teams, including the LiveBarn video identification.

3. AA vs. AAA?

I care about my kids’ hockey development not the number of letters they have for their level of play. Since there really is no standard of what is AA vs AAA (which is a topic for another post), MyHockeyRankings also helps to compare AA vs AAA teams in an apples-to-apples manner. For example, I have one of my kids playing on a AA team this season that is rated slightly higher than the AAA team in our area. This is not a surprise, and while having a higher rating doesn’t really matter, there is a big difference between the two teams. The AAA struggles to compete and loses most of their games and their players are usually chasing the puck. Instead, nearly all the AA games my kids team plays are competitive and the players are developing a lot more both on defense and offense, especially when the games are close. While MHR didn’t really play a role in the decision on which team my child would play on, the ratings have provided validation that they are playing at the right level for their development even though it has one less ‘A’.

4. Scheduling Games

As mentioned at the start, this is the original intent of the MyHockeyRankings. Last season our team played about 30 games.  Which is fine, but a few more would have been nice.

Since there weren’t any local teams that were available in the Spring, we looked to find a few teams that were 5 hours away for weekend exhibition games against 3 or 4 teams. Well, of course I used MHR to find the teams which would be most comparable to our team to reach out to (even though they were a level lower by letter).  Once again, this is exactly the intended use of MHR, to help schedule and ensure competitive games.

5. Triangulation Between Levels

My daughter plays on a youth (boys) team and at some point she will switch to playing with the girls. One of the challenges is for me to compare her current level of play with the boys to the girls of her age.  However, thanks to MyHockeyRanking and using their methodology, I can triangulate her team’s ratings to other girls teams.  Since the local girls team plays enough games in the boys division, I can determine their equivalent boys rating and see the difference to my daughter’s team. It provides an additional piece of data to inform our decision on the where and when she should play in the future. I have used the same methodology to compare between levels between teams from Squirt to Peewee, from Peewee to Bantam and Bantam to Midget. For example, how does a Peewee AA team compare to a Bantam B team? Thanks to MHR I am able to figure out the answer to this question.

6. How are you trending? Last 10 Game Ratings

Figuring out if your team is trending up or down during the season is a pretty important insight.  Almost all teams improve throughout the year, but how is your team improving relative to others. Thanks to MHR you can see if the last 10 games are accretive or dilutive to your rating. Also, with the help of a basic spreadsheet you take any time period and figure it out for yourself.  As a data geek, I like the ability to analyze this kind of stuff.

Finally, as I admitted at the start, I am aware of the rankings for my kids’ teams. The ranking usually doesn’t vary too much from the start of the season to the end of the season, so once it has been established, not much point paying too close attention to it.  But knowing where the team ranks on a national and state/regional level is good to know as a parent. It basically helps me set realistic expectations for where my kids are in their development and what goals to help them set for the coming year.

These are the benefits I have found from using MyHockeyRankings and when used properly it has provided helpful insights for several important decisions for my kids’ hockey development. However, while I have used site for ‘good’, it is pretty easy to use the site in the wrong way. My next post will discuss the watch-outs and using the site in a manner that goes against its original intent.

2023 Update #1: Another strength of MHR has been having USA Hockey use the rankings for at-large invitations to National playoffs. This way the best teams will still participate even if they didn’t win their district championship.

2023 Update #2: I have also used the Women’s College Hockey ratings as part of the college recruiting process. It’s been helpful to see how each of the conferences really compare to each other in terms of level of play. As an example, it shows how competitive the WCHA conference is, and that finishing 6th in that conference would be first or second in a different conference. You could be playing for a Top 10 team in the country and still not make the NCAA tournament. The NCAA might want to change it’s pairwise calculation (which I don’t really understand) and just use MHR for their at-large tournament selections.