Categories
Parents Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player

What does it take as a hockey parent to help your player become truly elite? So, the reality is I don’t really know from first-hand experience just yet how to develop a great hockey player. In addition, it also really depends on what your definition of “great” is. But I do feel that I have figured out a few things so far as a hockey parent who was watched not only his kids go make it halfway through U14 (aka Bantam) hockey.  This series of posts will discuss five different factors that in my opinion contribute to becoming an above average hockey player. While I haven’t gone through it just yet with my kids, from everything I can tell is that the major separation of the top 10% of players really comes at the midget age level and above. 

Hockey is a Late Development Sport

While I haven’t gone through it just yet with my kids, from everything I can tell is that the major separation of the top 10% of players really comes at the midget age level and above.  There are lots of books and podcasts which discuss hockey being a late development sport (unlike early development sports like gymnastics and figure skating).

The best current example I have seen so far is Brendan Brisson, an incoming freshman at University of Michigan, who was recently a first round draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 NHL Draft.  While it is clear he was always an elite player, playing AAA youth hockey with the Los Angeles Jr Kings, when you look at his stats from when he was 13, 14, and 15 years old, he was not even in the top 3 or 4 on most of his teams in scoring, let alone the division he played in. He averaged less than 0.5 points per game in each of those years. It was only in his second year of Shattuck St. Mary’s and then continuing on when playing for the Chicago Steel in juniors did his point totals go exponential. This shows you how much a player can develop AFTER they turn 15.

Many Kids Peak Too Early

Recently former NHLer turned parent coach, Patrick O’Sullivan wrote a couple of tweets how size and speed early in a player’s youth hockey career can actually work against them, as it is too easy for them to score goals at 10U (Squirts/Atom) and 12U (Peewee) by just leveraging these assets.

However, as other kids catch up to them in both size and speed, these early bloomers didn’t develop the other attributes needed to maintain that dominance. I have seen this myself on both my kids teams and players on other teams they play. There is almost always a very high correlation to the leading scorers and how much bigger they are than the other team.  This is especially noticeable when watching the finals of the AAA Quebec Peewee tournament. Even from just watching video, it is pretty easy to see that the best teams have the most kids that have already gone through their growth spurts. Of course these kids also have skill, but what helps separate them is their size and/or speed at 12 years old.

The Long Road of Development

To use a cliché (well, this is a hockey-related post, so I’ll allow it), hockey development is “a marathon not a sprint.”  Recognizing that most important development happens at 15 and older, you still need a solid base to build from just to get the opportunity to accelerate when you get there.

For the Love of the Game

In the next post I will discuss what the first factor, which I also believe is the ante, for becoming a great hockey player: a love for the game. I will also try to dimensionlize what that love looks like.

This post is the first in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player (Intro).

Categories
Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Which DI women’s college hockey programs have the earliest player commitments?

In May, 2019, the NCAA introduced new recruiting rules which restricted college recruiting to only allow verbal commitments to start August 1st of a player’s Junior year. This fundamentally changed the timeline for women’s college hockey recruits.  We looked at almost 550 Division I college hockey commitment dates that are posted on the College Hockey Inc’s women’s college hockey commits web page. As you can see, the impact of the new rule has been dramatic.

Some interesting insights:

  • Five prominent schools (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dartmouth, Princeton, Clarkson) have not had any publicly announced commitments since the new NCAA rules were implemented in May, 2019
  • The days-before-starting-school commitment days have been halved since the new NCAA recruiting rules were implements (1113 before, 553 after). Which essentially means the average player’s commitment has moved from mid-February of their Junior Year, to Mid-August of Sophomore Year
  • Before the new rules were implemented, Wisconsin women’s hockey players committed on average 4 years prior to starting at U of W
  • Currently, only 5 school average less than a year for their commits – 294 days (St. Lawrence University, RIT, Sacred Heart University, Post University Lindenwood University)

Now: Here are the Top 10 schools that are the most aggressive to sign recruits (since the new rules were implemented):

Before: Top 10 School who used to sign the earliest commits prior to the rule changes:

This post is part of series on 5 Insights about Women’s College Hockey Commits

  1. What percent of D1 women’s hockey commits come from Canada vs. the U.S.?
  2. Which U.S. clubs/schools are the biggest D1 college hockey factories?
  3. Which D1 colleges have the most women’s hockey commits?
  4. Which colleges have the earliest player commitments?
Categories
Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Which Division I colleges have the most women’s hockey commits?

This post is part of series on 5 Insights about Women’s College Hockey Commits.  As described in the methodology, please note that this data is incomplete since it is not from an official NCAA women’s college hockey commitment source. College Hockey Inc. does not list their sources, which we can only assume are from public announcements (via personal Twitter accounts or team websites). So which DI women’s hockey schools have the most commits?

Division Commits By School

Division I colleges most women’s hockey commits

Some interesting insights:

  • Top 3 colleges are Ivy League schools (Brown, Cornell, Yale)
  • The average number of commits is ~13 across all 41 DI schools
  • The bottom 10 schools average ~8 commits

Here are the outstanding questions:

Candidly, we don’t really know how to fully interpret most of this data.

  1. Why are there so few commits for the “traditionally” weaker Division I teams?
  2. Why doesn’t Harvard have more commits?
  3. What percent of school commits are never publicly announced?
  4. Why is Brown University tied for first given they have not been a powerhouse school? Is it primarily because of the academics and/or location?
  5. St Cloud St also seems like an outlier given that they are consistently a Top 25 team

Over the coming year I hope to get some insights and will post my learnings and link those findings back to this analysis.

This post is part of series on 5 Insights about Women’s College Hockey Commits

  1. What percent of D1 women’s hockey commits come from Canada vs. the U.S.?
  2. Which U.S. clubs/schools are the biggest D1 college hockey factories?
  3. Which D1 colleges have the most commits?
  4. Which colleges have the earliest player commitments?
Categories
Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Which Girl’s Hockey Programs Produce the Most D1 Women’s College Hockey Commits?

If you want to know which girl’s hockey clubs or schools produce the most DI women’s college hockey commits, here is your answer:

Top-25-Clubs-or-Schools-for-Div-I-Womens-Hockey-College-Commits

We looked at 526 college hockey commits that are posted on the College Hockey Inc’s women’s college hockey commits web page starting with the 2020 academic year and beyond.  There were 94 programs that produced at least 2 DI commits, but the Top 25 represented about 50% of all the commits.  And the Top 50 represented about 75% of all the committed players. So, while there is a long tail of places a player can come from, the significant majority are recruited from some of the most well-known girls hockey organizations.

Not surprisingly, Shattuck St. Mary’s Girls Prep is at the top of the list, followed closely by Chicago Mission and Selects Academy.

This post is part of series on 5 Insights about Women’s College Hockey Commits:

  1. What percent of D1 women’s hockey commits come from Canada vs. the U.S.?
  2. Which U.S. clubs/schools are the biggest D1 college hockey factories?
  3. Which D1 colleges have the most commits?
  4. Which colleges have the earliest player commitments?

Categories
Development Camp Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

What percent of D1 women’s college hockey commits come from Canada vs. the U.S.?

What percent of players of D1 women’s college commits come from Canada vs. the U.S. and why does it matter?  Well, as I talk to my 14 year-old daughter about potentially playing Division I women’s college hockey, it’s important for her to understand who she is competing with.

In analyzing College Hockey Inc’s published list of women’s college hockey commits, recognizing that the pool of players is from all of North America is important to know. As you can see below, almost 1/3rd of all Division I players are from Canada.

So, how good do you need to be to play Division I women’s college hockey?

There are 41 Division I college women’s hockey teams.  Assuming 22 players on each team, with 25% graduating every year, then there should be about 225 openings each year (assuming no DIII transfers to DI). With ~32% percent of players coming from Canada, that means a player needs to be one of the best 150 players in the U.S. for their graduation year. Drilling down a little more, at the position level, it means a player needs to be one of the best 25 players at their position. And if your goal is to play for a Top 25 team it means you basically need to be on of the best 15 players in the U.S. at your position.

It is also important to note that a large majority of Canadian players go to the top 25 schools, otherwise they could easily stay in Canada and be closer to home. For example they could play for Julie Chu or Caroline Ouellette at Concordia University. So the competition for these top school is probably a little higher from Canadian players, thus lower the number spots for U.S. players at these schools.

How do you know how good a player is compare to their peers?

Feedback from Coaches

Obviously, the best way to understand if a player is one of the top 15 players at their position is no easy task, even for the best college coaches who travel the country at tournaments and showcases to find recruits. Having several coaches provide feedback to the player and parents from these top schools is probably a good proxy.

National Camps

Another way, is through the USA Hockey National Player Development Camps that are held each non-Covid summer. If a player is invited to the U18, then there is a pretty good chance that they are in the Top 15 for their position. If a player is invited to the girls camp for their age group they are certainly in the running, but they would need to see how they compare to their peers and listen to the feedback at the end of the week.

Level of Recruiting Interest from Top Schools

Finally, and probably the most important way to know how good a player is during non-Covid times, is to see the level of interest from women’s college hockey recruiter as they start U16 hockey. By attending camps, tournaments & showcases and meeting coaches from all types of schools, a player and their parents can gage the level of interest from Top 25 schools as they progress from their sophomore, junior and senior years.

Implications for U.S. Players

If a player has hopes and dreams to play for a Division I women’s college hockey team, they need to understand that they are competing with the top players in North America. Given the large number of girls AAA and prep schools (>250 clubs/schools), being one of the top 15 players in the U.S (or top 25 in North America) at your position. is roughly where the bar is set.

This post is part of series on 5 Insights about Women’s College Hockey Commits:

  1. What percent of D1 women’s hockey commits come from Canada vs. the U.S.?
  2. Which U.S. clubs/schools are the biggest D1 college hockey factories?
  3. Which D1 colleges have the most commits?
  4. Which colleges have the earliest player commitments?
Categories
Coaching hockey Parents Podcast Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

#1 – The Hockey Think Tank Podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

When the The Minor Hockey podcast was cancelled by TSN Radio a couple of years ago I was very disappointed and was searching high and low for another youth hockey podcast. Almost immediately I stumbled upon The Hockey Think Tank’s fifth episode with Kendall Coyne Schofield (before she appeared in the 2019 All Star Game). Since then I have been one of their biggest fans and making sure my kids listen to their podcast in the car when we are driving to the rink. Topher Scott and Jeff Lovechio are former players who both now coach youth hockey. They are both positive, likeable, sincere & knowledgeable and their guests are spectacular. 

Girls Hockey Talk

When they do have a female hockey player on the show there is always a nugget or two I get from the episode specific to the girl’s game. Alyssa Gagliardi was a guest who provided good insight on her hockey journey starting with boys hockey all the way to the U.S. Olympic team.  This past summer, in collaboration with the PWHPA HTT had a series of shows and online programming specific go the women’s game. Interviews included Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford and University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s head coach Maura Crowell.

Must-Listen for Parents

One of the best parts of the Hockey Think Tank are the discussions about what a successful hockey journey looks like for most kids from youth all the way to the pros. It usually isn’t a straight line.  So many of the guests discuss the struggles they faced and the grit they had to have to make it.  Most parents can relate to not having an ‘early-bloomer’ player and how to navigate the bumpy road by focusing on player development versus wins.  Guests like Patrick O’Sullivan and Martin St Louis discuss being youth hockey coaches and what really matters in player development from 8-18 years of age – which is different from what most coaches practice and preach.

Recently, The Hockey Think Tank published their Parent Survival Guide. It is an excellent resource for hockey parents who want the straight goods about navigating the complex world to from youth to junior to college hockey. While it primarily focuses on the path that boys take, many of the principles apply to women’s hockey (without the extra step of junior hockey between high school and college).

If you are going to listen to only one podcast as a youth hockey player or parent, The Hockey Think Tank is the one we would recommend.

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show

#2 – RUSH Hockey Talk

Categories
Coaching hockey Parents Podcast Women's Hockey

#2 – RUSH Hockey Talk podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

Kelly Katorji is one of, if not ‘the’ most networked and knowledgeable people in women’s hockey. He has literally watched thousands of young girls develop in to college, pro and Olympic hockey players over his many years. With his RUSH Hockey Talk podcast he speaks to coaches, players and on everything related to the women’s game and pursuing a college hockey path. Topics include navigating the NCAA recruiting rules, how coaches evaluate players and comparing Ivy League schools to scholarship schools. If Kelly would consistently release new episodes on a weekly basis, RUSH Hockey Talk would probably be number one on this list! (Hint, hint).

RUSH Hockey runs some of the biggest girls hockey showcases like the Beantown Classic and the RUSH College Showcase. You can also frequently listen to Kelly on SiriusXM’s NHL channel with Steve Kouleas as they discuss all things youth hockey.

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show

Categories
Coaching hockey Parents Podcast

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

Richard Bercuson has been a hockey coach and teacher for decades and really knows more than just about anyone about youth hockey development. This podcast is the reboot of the TSN 1200 show mentioned in my post introducing this Top 10 Podcast list.  Unlike other hockey-related podcasts whose guests are from pro or college teams, most of the Grassroots coaches are longtime Canadian youth hockey coaches. Gregg Kennedy, Richard’s co-host from their previous radio show, re-appears in several episodes to discuss the specifics about on-ice youth hockey development. Recently the show has had a greater focus on the women’s game with guests like University of Toronto women’s coach Vicky Sunohara and longtime female hockey leader, Fran Rider.

It’s all about development

What I love about the show is the continuous reinforcement of the message that youth hockey is entirely about player development and not winning except at the very highest levels.  Nearly every episode looks at different ways to change the mindset of these game-result oriented coaches and parents. Ideas like coach mentoring, equal ice time for players, positive & productive coach-player relationships and effective practice planning are themes that are repeatedly discussed. The show has really helped me provide a framework to assess how my kids are developing and the role their coaches play in enhancing or impeding their development.  

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

Categories
Coaching hockey Parents Podcast

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

The Coaches Site is an incredible resource for hockey coaches, but can also be helpful to parents. In Aaron Wilbur‘s podcast series Glass and Out, he interviews many of the top NHL, college and junior coaches from North America and Europe. What makes this podcast so helpful is not specifically the women’s hockey content, but the general hockey development information. Specifically, how to help your hockey player become the best they can be, regardless of gender. In every episode there is a nugget on how coaches are trying to develop and motivate players at all levels of hockey.  Hearing the strategies and complexity involved in planning and executing on improving player performance is powerful. Understanding how coaches think from the other side of the bench can help a young player or parent appreciate their role even more.

An episode that stands out is the conversation with Hall of Famer Cammi Granato about her hockey journey and how much the women’s game has changed over the past 20+ years.

While separate from the podcast, The Coaches Site subscription website is chock full of information for hockey players at any level. As the parent of a defenseman, there are several TCS videos from which I have shown my daughter. Without the help of her team coaches she has been working to incorporate these teachings into her game.

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

Categories
Development Camp Girl's Showcase

5 Things I Learned Attending Our First Girl’s Showcase

Premier Ice Prospects

This past weekend, my 14 year old daughter and I flew to Rochester, New York to attend the Premier Ice Prospects girls showcase event.  It was the first time my daughter has attended this type of weekend and also her first time playing with girls. Since the whole experience was new to us, I thought I write up some of my learnings for other parents who are also being initiated into the women’s college recruiting process.

During the weekend there were 3 practices and 4 controlled scrimmages (since games are not yet allowed in NY) all run by Division III coaches since there is still a blackout period for Division I coaches, and thus not allowed to attend.  From what I could tell, there were girls from at least 12 different clubs with the biggest presence from the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and the local Selects Academy.

Here is what I learned…

1. College Coaches are Experts at Evaluating Players

I was impressed at how efficiently the coaches were able to get a read on my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses.  From the spectator side of things,  on several occasion I saw one of the coaches giving feedback to my daughter.  When I asked her about what the coaches said, it was pretty consistent with the direction she has previously heard from this past season.  Thus, it became clear to me that over the course of a weekend-long evaluation it would be pretty hard to fool a college coach about what you can and can’t do on the ice.

2. It’s Hard to Compare Players at these Events

One of my hopes for the weekend was to learn how good a hockey player my daughter is.  However, this wasn’t as easy as I thought. Given that the age of high school players in attendance ranged from 14 to 18 years old, in many ways it became a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. Especially since I didn’t have a list of names and ages to go with the other participants. For example, there was one girl who I thought was the best defensemen during the weekend. When I asked my daughter about her, she told me she was 18 years old. So it was hard to really compare my daughter to someone almost 4 years older than her. Next time, I would try to get direct feedback from the coaches to see how she rates for her age group.

3. There was a big standard deviation between players

Even though it was hard for me compare my daughter to her direct peer group, I was still able to see big differences between the top players and the weaker players.  Almost all the players had some key strength that was on display, but as I watched more and more shifts it became clearer which girls were able to consistently make good plays and decisions. On the other hand, several struggled create offense or keep the puck out of their net on regular basis.

4. The Importance of U16 vs U19

Binoculars

I got to speak to some coaches at the event, and l didn’t realize the somewhat greater importance on the U16 years over the U19 years with respect to the recruiting process.  Since the Division I conversations starts at the end of a player’s sophomore year they are being watch heavily during their U16 years and in many cases have already committed by the time they play U19.

5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the girls at the hockey showcase were. As I mentioned earlier, this was the first real time my daughter was playing with other girls. Unlike the boys teams that she has been playing on recently, the positive attitude and sincere effort to create relationships with other players was very noticeable. While still competitive on the ice during play, it was very nice to see the difference in wanting to create personal bonds with other players in between the on-ice activities.

Hopefully these learnings are helpful to other new-to-the process parents like me. I look forward to attending more of these events and accelerate up the learning curve as a hockey parent.