One of the questions I’ve been discussing with some hockey parents has been how have the new recruiting rules and Covid impacted the timing of college commitments for female hockey players. So I decided to analyze the commitment dates by DI college start year for those student-athletes starting in 2021 vs. 2022 and 2023. As you can see, the rate of 2023 Women’s College Hockey commits is significantly behind previous years.
As of September 30, 2021, what the data shows is that for 2023 grads, the % of commitments expected for 2023 grads is significantly below where 2021 and 2022 grads were. To be clear, 23 months before a player would start at a DI program, only ~26% (57) of the expected available spots have been filled compared to the equivalent time period for 2021 (64% / 132) and 2022 (49% / 105) players.
The number is even more dramatic for goalies which have only seen a single 2023 commit (Holy Cross) occur since coaches were allowed to talk to potential recruits this summer. Only 4 goalies in total have committed for 2023 compared to 16 for 2022 and 22 netminders for 2021.
Top 10 Schools are Moving Slowly
For the Top 10 Schools, more than half of the 2023 commits were made before the recruiting rules changed in 2019, and only half have had a 2023 commit announced this year.
Interpreting the Data
My hypotheses for the significantly lower 2023 commitment rate are:
Many girls still haven’t had an on-campus visit yet. Many have likely been waiting until after the summer to visit DI teams when teams are back practicing and playing.
There is still some ambiguity for 2023 recruiting needs due to the extra year of eligibility for all NCAA players. This can be from transfers or 5th year players.
Covid has restricted or impeded on-campus visits for many prospective student-athletes
Data commitment dates – source: collegecommitments.com
Transfers between DI programs are not included in the number of commits
Total number of commits for 2021 was 215
Please keep in mind there were no adjustments in the number of schools each year (e.g. RMU, St Michaels, Stonehill)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to write for this post. I wanted to specifically discuss what happened at the USA Hockey 15’s camp in St. Cloud. However, I have come to realize that it would be incomplete without providing additional context about the entire women’s college recruiting process. As a result, for this post I am mostly just going to stick to the facts and data I collected. Separately, I will soon publish a detailed post about what I have figured out so far about the end-to-end recruiting process to give the perspective needed for any individual event.
What became obvious quite quickly, is that coaches from all over the country were flocking to St Cloud to see the top 216 15-year old female players. Kristin Wright stated at the opening parents meeting that 90% of schools would be at the Development Camp at some point during the week. Based on all the logos I saw that number must have been pretty close.
Here are the schools I saw first-hand, but I am sure this is not a complete list:
At a basic level coaches had two objectives for attending the event:
Watching players already on their list and track their performance/development
Identify new players to add to their follow list
Since I was sitting in the stands with most of the coaches I had a few observations. Some coaches were very social and others kept to themselves. Some showed up just the first couple of days, others just for the last 2 or 3 days. Unlike 16/17s camp which took place a couple of weeks earlier, coaches can’t talk to the 15’s parents – so there was almost engagement between coaches and parents. Schools that I did not see their logos seemed to have on-ice coaches represented at either the 16/17s camp or the U18 camp. Many coaches had printed rosters or iPads to identify players and take notes. But quite a few did not appear to have a method to take notes or remember players. Each school seem to have a different scouting strategy/plan. Some schools had multiple coaches, while other only had one representative. As well, some scouts only watched games, while other watched all the public practices and scrimmages.
A couple of schools really stood out to me during the week
The first was Boston University head coach Brian Durocher who spent the first three days watching almost every practice and game. He would just stand on his own down along the glass quietly taking notes on a little piece of paper. And when there was a break on one rink he go watch players on the other rink. He was very unassuming, but clearly using his many years of experience to evaluate players and take copious notes.
The other school that impressed, was the team of Ohio State coaches (at least four in total both on-ice and off-ice) who were making sure they watched all the girls on both rinks throughout the week. They typically sat in a group around head coach Nadine Muzerall and watched a lot of hockey together. As a Michigan grad it isn’t easy for me to say nice things about OSU, but clearly they have prioritized scouting and their recruiting process as a key to their success.
In my next post I will discuss what I have learned about different stages of the women’s college recruiting process. This will help answer many of the questions I have received about how much should a player be seen in the spring and summer at showcases and events compared to their regular season team.
This is the first in a three-part series on my experience as a parent at the 2021 USA Hockey 15’s Girls Select hockey camp. In this series, I will first cover the schedule and operational details about the event. In part two, I will discuss the USA Hockey player development perspective and finally, in part three, I will discuss how the camp related to the college recruiting process.
Please keep in mind that this these posts are about my experience at the event and the information I collected. I wasn’t a participant and did not track every activity my daughter or the other girls had scheduled during the week. This is just my perspective as a parent who talked to a handful players and several parents during and after the week and what I took away from the experience – your mileage may vary.
On the first day of the camp, I really appreciated Kristen Wright, the USA Hockey Female ADM Manager, answering a bunch of my questions and providing additional perspective on the camp and helping me understand the “how” and “why” on a bunch of topics related to the Player Development Camp process. I really hope to get Kristen on the Champs App Podcast after all the USA Hockey camps are done.
The USA Hockey Girls 15’s Camp was held from July 10-15, 2021
The camp took place at the St. Cloud University campus with the hockey events taking place primarily at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The facility has two Olympic sized rinks. Rink 2 is a practice rink with limited stands for parents and scouts and no above-ice seating or views. Rink 1 is the main rink for the varsity hockey teams and is where a full sized arena with seating of ~6000 seats and a few club boxes at one of the rink behind the net (where many USA Hockey organizers/coaches observed practices and games).
While many coaches and scouts easily moved back and forth between the two rinks, it was clearly easier to watch players anywhere on the ice on Rink 1 compared to Rink 2. In addition, for a handful or observers (USA Hockey representatives or scouts), Rink 1 was the primary rink from which they watched players. For example, from what I saw (and I didn’t watch every game or practice), Katie Lachapelle, the USA Hockey U18 coach, seemed to only watch activity on Rink 1 (note: she may have had a screen to watch a Rink 2 feed). Thus, it seemed that there might have been a slight advantage to having more ice time on Rink 1 vs Rink 2 throughout the week, especially for games.
There were approximately 216 2006 birth-year girls in attendance at the camp. You can find a complete list of the players here. The girls were selected from the 12 USA Hockey district camps with the number of players directly in proportion to the percentage of registered females for this age group for each district. Therefore, if a district had ~10% of the female 2006 players registered in all of USA Hockey, there should have been 21 or 22 players from that district.
In addition, there was anywhere between 70 and 100 USA Hockey representatives on and off the ice throughout the week. During many of the on-ice practices it was typical to see a 3:1 player-to-coach ratio with 3-5 coaches running each station – this was awesome for the players. Also, there were many (a little hard for me to estimate) USA Hockey representatives in the stands or along the glass watching practices and games – many with computers or notebooks – likely scouting and evaluating players.
Upon arrival at the camp players there was some on-ice and off-ice testing. About a week prior to the start of the camp, players were sent a list of 8 metrics that each player would be tested on. They included off-ice strength (push-ups and pull-ups, vertical jump) and on-ice speed (20 yards sprint, blue line-to-blue line). While the attributes being measured were pretty similar to those in the past, there were a couple of changes to previous years. As discussed on the Champs App Podcast, at this age these measurements aren’t of significant importance, it is really to track improvement over the coming years. However, it probably makes sense next time to publish what will be tested when the original invitation to players were sent out (about a month beforehand) to allow the girls time to properly train for the testing.
During the week there was a lot of on-ice and off-ice activities for each team. Here is a list of some of those activities and what was published with regards to the daily schedule:
The schedule included a wide range of activities including”
Stickhandling and shooting
The on-ice program included 3 practices (60 or 90 minutes), 3 games (2 x 25 minutes stop-time periods), and two 1-period (25 minute) playoff games on the final day. In addition, Goalies had an addition two practice times with coaches.
For the most-part practices were really well-done. Every practice was run like a typical USA Hockey practice with a variety of stations and small areas games. During regular practices there were typically 12 or 13 coaches on the ice which was awesome to see. It is my understanding that for the two goalie sessions it was even better – with more coaches than goalies on the ice. Even better was how awesome it was that ~90% of the on-ice coaches were female.
Games were just okay, there were moments of beauty surrounded by long periods of sloppy play (especially the first day of games). Given these were the top 2006 players in the country, the lack of team practice time was pretty noticeable – even for an amateur like myself. Most teams improved their chemistry as the games went on and players learned to trust their teammates instead trying to do everything themselves. And while I don’t want to complain about the refs, it was clear there was a bias to minimize the number of whistles for icings/offsides and calling infractions unless they were pretty blatant. It was definitely not the same standard as the USA Hockey National playoffs. There was a two-game singe-period playoff on the final day based on the round-robin standings. With the finals on Rink 1 for each division while the consolation game was played concurrently on Rink 2.
On the first day Kristen Wright held a session for the parents to explain the objectives of the camp. While I am sure I am not capturing all the goals of the week, from what I saw here is what USA Hockey’s intent was:
Introduce the girls to USA Hockey national team program and educate the players on the values and skills required to play at the highest level with USA Hockey
Give USA Hockey scouts a first look at the 2006 birth year and begin benchmarking their level to track their progress as they continue to develop
Allow players to see, compete and benchmark themselves with their peer group and begin to form relationships from players from across the country
As explained to me by Kristen Wright, due to Covid and a compact summer schedule, unlike previous years, none of the 15’s camp participants would have the opportunity to be invited to the U18 camp (which was different from the 16/17’s camp from a couple of weeks earlier which sent 13 players to the U18 camp). So the camp would be the final USA Hockey event for the participants before the start of the fall season.
All the games were broadcast live on HockeyTV and available on demand. While the camera angles were challenging…very high on Rink 1 and for Rink 2 the only reasonable position for a live feed that follows the play with a cameraman being in one of the corners – it was certainly better than no feed at all – especially for parents and family who could not attend in person – but was hard on the eyes.
One final note…surprisingly, the cost per player was less than $200 for the camp – the only major cost was the transportation to get to Minnesota. So, from an out-of-pocket perspective, this camp was great value for the buck – even though this was secondary to all the other benefits from the week.
In the next post I will go into detail on my thought how the camp relates to the USA Hockey National Player Development program from a player perspective.
This past weekend my 2006 daughter and I attended our first showcase with Division I coaches participating and scouting at the event. The 585 PIP Showcase – Roc City Style took place in Rochester, New York at the Bill Gray Iceplex from June 18-20, 2021. Here is what I learned…
Who participated in the 585 PIP College Hockey Showcase?
In attendance were 180 players with birth years 2004, 2005 and 2006. Their break down by birth year and high school graduation year were as follows:
Included in these players, were many girls invited to the different 2021 USA Hockey Camps next month in Minnesota. Of particular interest to us, were the three players at the 585 Showcase who were the only 2006’s invited directly to the U18 Camp – thus, at least by USA Hockey’s assessment, considered the top three 15’s in the country.
From the recruiting side, there were 28 DI and 6 DIII schools represented (note: 13 schools were previous guests on the Champs App Podcast):
This 585 event was the first step in the long journey of my daughter’s recruiting process with the intent of being seen by some of the schools she currently has an interest in. Something which makes her situation unique, is that she has only played on boys tier hockey teams and will once again play boys tier 1 hockey next season. While this is great from a hockey development perspective, this puts her at a disadvantage because she does not get seen at in-season girls tournaments or the USA Hockey Girls National playoffs. This is why spring/summer girls showcases are so important for her specific college recruiting journey.
What were our goals for attending a girls college hockey showcase?
One of the challenges I struggled with leading up to the weekend, was defining the objectives for the showcase and how would we measure success? Unlike the USA Hockey district camp we attended last month, where it was clear that the goal for my daughter was to be invited to the 15’s national camp and thus easily measurable (even though it took almost a month to learn the results). For Rochester, this is what we came up with:
Initiate scouting coverage by a handful of schools that my daughter has an interest in
Ideally, create the beginnings of a relationship with those schools via the on-ice coaching opportunities
Get on the radar of other schools. This is a long process and who knows where the best fit(s) may be for my daughter when she gets closer to being able to talk directly with colleges.
See what makes the Top 3 2006’s special
Being Proactive – Planning for a Girls College Showcase Weekend
To help with the first goal for the showcase, during the week prior to the event, my daughter sent a handful of emails to coaches who would be in attendance. She let them know why she was interested in their school and invited them to watch her during the weekend. Per NCAA recruiting rules, since my daughter cannot be contacted prior to June 15th, 2022 (at the end of her sophomore year), coaches could not email her back.
As a parent, it is unclear to me how college coaches scout at these events
My first takeaway from the showcase is that I really don’t understand how coaches scout at large showcases and tournaments – from my uninitiated perspective, there are just too many players and games to watch. During my podcast interviews, coaches have told me that while showcases are good to get to know players, they really prefer watching them play real games with their regular season teams. I did see most coaches carrying around the color-coded player lists for each team, many taking notes while coaching from behind the bench and when scouting games. However, given there were 180 players, I have many questions on how they decide which games to watch, which players to focus on and what they are evaluating. In my upcoming podcasts, I will be sure to dive deep on how coaches collect their information at these types of events with so much going on.
Showcase teams with more “top-program” players had more coaches watching them
Another takeaway from the weekend, is that luck played a role in which team you were on – which then translated into how likely you were to be seen by as many coaches as possible. It is unclear how teams were formed for the event, but it was obvious that some teams had many more players from well-known teams (e.g. Shattuck-St Mary’s, Little Caesars, BK Selects, East Coast Wizards, Chicago Mission) than others. The more “brand-name-team” players on a team’s roster, the more coaches were likely to watch that team play and how often. Some games had what appeared to be a couple of dozen coaches watching from above or along the glass, while for other games I could count the number of non-bench coaches scouting the action on one hand.
For example, there was a game with 20+ players on the ice from those “top programs” playing each other with a full-house of DI coaches, while simultaneously, on a separate rink, there weren’t many coaches watching a game with only 3 “top-program” players.
It’s hard to immediately measure the success for a summer showcase weekend
One of the challenges of the weekend was quantifying some key metrics. Based on discussions with my daughter and from what I was able to observe from the stands, at least half of the six coaches she emailed had watched her play in a game – plus she was able to talk with another targeted coach during one of the skills sessions. In addition, she had direct interactions/conversations with about 8 additional DI coaches during the on-ice practices and games. Of course, it is impossible to know which coaches and how many actually scouted her from off-ice positions, this is something we may only discover sometime in the future. So in the end, measuring success of the weekend is a little opaque and one can only hope that sometime after June 15, 2022 we can see the benefits.
USA Hockey’s Top 2006 Players for 2021
It was great to watch the three 2006’s who were invited directly to the USA Hockey U18 Girls Camp play. All three were big, strong players and very noticeable when they were on the ice. One of them scored a wonderful goal by powering their way to the net and popping the puck top-shelf over the goalie’s shoulder. It was the prettiest play I saw all weekend.
First Steps in a Long Journey
Overall, for a first DI showcase event, it seemed to be a pretty good start. Clearly, several schools now know who my daughter is and the process has begun. We have three more opportunities for her to be scouted this summer (2021 USA National Development Camp, 2021 NAHA College Showcase and the PIP 702 Vegas) before she returns to her boys team in the fall.
I was doing some research over the holidays to understand the state of women’s hockey in North America and found a few interesting insights between the U.S. and Canadian female hockey participation and coaching at the university level. Here they are:
Overall Female Participation
1. Total hockey participation is about 8% more in Canada over the U.S., but female participation in Canada is 21% more than in the U.S.
Male to Female Participation
2. The ratio of Male to Female hockey players in the U.S. is ~6:1. In other words, female hockey players only make up 15% of all players in the U.S. While in Canada the ratio is ~5:1 while female players represent 17% of all players in Canada.
Under 18 Girls in Canada vs U.S.A.
3. While female hockey players in both the U.S. and Canada grew by a little more than 2% in 2019-20 (compared to male player which had declines in both countries), there are still about 25% more female players under 18 in Canada compared to the U.S.
Female U.S. Division I Women’s Hockey Coaches
4. Only 33% of U.S. Division I women’s hockey coaches are female, while 67% of their assistant/associate coaches are female
Female Canadian U Sports Women’s Hockey Coaches
5. 46% of U Sports Head Coaches in Canada are women while 54% of their Assistant/Associates Coaches are female.
Here is my interpretation of the data:
The U.S. still has some work to do to catch up to Canada on female participation in the sport. “Girls Give Hockey a Try” is a phenomenal start, but I think there is even more that can be done.
I suspect it will take a major change in one of the countries development programs before one will be the dominant hockey power. Due to density issues in the States with less players distributed in more metropolitan areas than Canada, it would take a significant commitment/investment to build a sizeable lead over Canada.
I was expecting to see more female head coaches in both Canada and the U.S.. However, given the male to female ratio of participation in both countries, the male coaching advantage in women’s college hockey is not a complete surprise. I would suspect that these numbers will flip to favor female head coaches over the coming years as they are given more opportunity and the recent generation of women players move into and up the coaching ranks.
In this fifth post about how to develop a great hockey player, we discus how talent, natural gifts and luck play a key role in hockey development. While it is possible to consider these attributes out of a player’s or parent’s control, they can certainly be influenced.
Let’s be candid, being blessed with size and/or speed gives a young player an advantage. Combine that with the luck of being born in the first 3 months of the year and basically they are born on first or second base (to mix our sports metaphors). They are given a lead over their peers that combined with the other factors that contribute to being a great player can be hard to catch-up to. In addition, natural talent also helps. If you just don’t have the coordination or adeptness for the game it can be hard to come. I was at a game recently, where the natural build of one of players was just not a “hockey body”, short legs big trunk, so not matter how hard this player tried, they just couldn’t keep up with the top players on the ice and likely would never will. However, having natural gifts, while necessary are not sufficient for greatness.
The one attribute which you may not be born with but can develop is talent. Hard work is essential. Getting better every day. Because even if you were born with talent you have to continue to improve, otherwise others will pass you over time. There is a long list of talented players whose NHL careers didn’t appear to achieve their full potential (names who come to mind are Rob Schremp, Josh Ho Hsiang and Nail Yakapov) despite being having tremendous natural talent. These types of players struggled to sustain lengthy careers because they were not able to fill in gaps in their game. As you make it to each new level, players can’t just continue to rely on just their natural gifts they need a work ethic and a continuous improvement mindset.
Yes, luck plays a role in hockey. And not just puck luck. For example, I know of a youth player who didn’t make a team they tried out for and then ended up playing for a fantastic coach that changed the trajectory of the player’s hockey development. In another instance, a player was able to get more power-play and penalty-kill time because a teammate broke their leg (well, not so lucky for the teammate). Even at the pros, whether it is a scout who just happens to be in the stands for a game, finding the right coach or team situation, luck can certainly play a role in which path a player follows and can accelerate their road to greatness.
In this fourth post about how to develop a great hockey player, the focus is on quality coaching. Let me be clear that I am not talking about what makes a great coach. What I am talking about is a coach who makes a great player. These are not necessarily the same thing. For example, a coach who only plays his best players at 12 years old in order to win games and championships at the expense of all the development of half the team is not necessarily a great coach, but if your kids is the one getting lots of ice time and feedback, then that coach could indeed be accelerating the development of that individual player. I hope to write another post about what makes a great coach at a later date.
Time & Effort:
First and foremost a coach who cares by putting the work to help at both the team and individual level is the table stakes for developing into great player.
Striking the balance between leaning how to play team hockey and individual skills development. Specifically, the basics like skating, shooting, puckhandling but also position-specific tools to be great at their position (both on offense and defense – unless you are a goalie). Examples would be on-ice positioning, decision making, finding time and space, creativity and using deception.
A quality coach gives feedback that is actionable to the player. They personalize the communication so the individual can understand how to change their behavior in a way that is specific to them. Darryl Belfry wrote an excellent chapter on how to give feedback in his new book Belfry Hockey.
While the old-school hockey way has been motivation by intimidation, times have changed. And each individual player is different. But finding a coach who can get the most out of a player by figuring which buttons to push to help make them a great player is obviously a critical attribute.
I will talk about this more in my next post, but teaching a player how to be resilient during the ups and down of a season. Helping teach a player the tools to handle failure and overcome obstacles is one of the key life lessons that hockey is supposed to teach youth athletes.
Encourages two-way communication:
Every hockey coach is different and each has their own philosophies on how they want their players to play the game. As your player moves from coach to coach they will bring their past experience and habits/methods from their past coaches with them. The ability for a great player to discuss and debate with a coach the “why” and the “how” a certain situation should be played is a critical problem solving skill great players should possess.
My favorite book on a great coach who developed great players is “Thank You Coach” by former CFL player Angus Reid who had a long football career despite being highly undersized to play the center position. The book is dedicated to a coach who taught him what he needed to be a successful player despite “having no business playing professional football for 13 years”.
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.
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.
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.