Conclusions and discussions:
1) ONLY the truly ELITE players are actually signing at 18 years or under – Remember, the WHL scoops up the top 30-50 players of each age group at 14. By the time the MML (Major Midget) or comparable Elite Midget season is over, which ALL players must player before being able to play Junior full time, most have been persuaded to sign WHL contracts. Thus the majority of the elite of each age group have destroyed their NCAA chances before they can play a regular junior shift at 16 year olds. Therefore, if you are just coming out of the MML league or have completed your first season or even two of Junior B or Tier II, don’t get your feather ruffled stressing about why you haven’t received multiple offers yet. It is clear that NCAA teams are only willing to sign the truly elite 14-17 year olds. If they are missing out on the majority of the cream of the crop, it only makes sense to take a ‘wait and see approach’ with whomever remains and allow players to develop for an extra year or three so that they know what kind of finished product they are going to get for their $100,000+ investment in your hockey future and education.
2) BCHL LOSS is your Gain – If the ‘Elite’ 30-50 players of your age group have already signed in the WHL, this creates more opportunity for you in securing a scholarship with a better level school. In essence, that means you have LESS competition at your age group when it comes to signing in the BCHL or PIJHL. More importantly, if you were player #51 on the list of the 1994 age cohort, while the top 50 signed early in the WHL, you are NOW #1 on the NCAA list by a process of elimination. Think about that….
3) Tier II Talent Levels have dropped significantly – This statement will have some people up in arms, but the fact remains that in most of my recent conversations with NCAA coaches we lament the fact that the high end talent of the recent past is just not as evident in today’s Tier II hockey. Yes, there are good players, but not as many high impact players on as many teams around the league. Taking nothing away from the Jones brothers in VERNON and their repeat championships or even Beau Bennett, but when you look back at say the 2006-07 BCHL season and see names like: Tyler Bozak, Kyle Turris, Casey Zabotel, Riley Nash, Jamie Benn, Ben Winnett all in the top scorers, its pretty obvious there was more high end NHL potential talent in the league at that point. Of course, the fact that the WHL is NOW not only skimming off the cream of the crop of each age group, but they are effectively signing the majority of the elite players from each age group, the ELITE talent level in the BCHL, AJHL and other tier II leagues could ONLY measurably drop over the past 3-5 years. This isn’t to say the league isn’t full of talented players, I’m merely arguing that less and less elite level players are choosing to go the Tier II route and the league reflects that fact with more and more older players filling the various rosters.
4) BCHL is not a 16-17 year old league – ONLY 3.5% of BCHL scholarships were awarded to players 16-17 years of age. You only have to casually look at the BCHL leagues rosters from the 2009-10 season and it will become OBVIOUSLY clear that few 17-18 year olds (1992 Birth year) made an impact, let alone 1993 birth year players. For all intents and purposes, first year players (1993 Birth years) were almost being ignored by the league entirely at this point as there wasn’t a single 1993 in the TOP 100 in League scoring. The overall conclusion to this discussion point is that the BCHL is becoming an older league and the NCAA teams are clearly willing to wait and let those players develop to their fullest before they sign them. So IF you are 1 year removed from Bantam and don’t have a Junior A job secured yet, don’t panic, you have time to do so and still ensure a hockey future! Where are ALL these 1992-93 aged players playing you ask? Well, the majority are playing Midget hockey, but the elite are playing in the WHL of course… And I will provide an analysis of the WHL’s problematic issues with younger players and their development in one of my next articles….
5) Don’t jump on the first offer you get when you are 19 or under – more are certain to come. You aren’t too old, don’t panic. There is a Hierarchy in the NCAA where in essence, the best clubs get first crack at the best players and you move down the priority list from there. Thus, if a bottom team in the low 50`s comes at you hard, it is for a good reason. They need to pressure you to sign early so they can have a shot at actually getting you before the big dogs step in. Don’t fall for it. I shake my head in disbelief every season when it is obvious many players just took the first offer to come available because they were scared they were going to get shutout if they didn’t. An easy example to illustrate is with Connor & Kellen Jones signing in Quinnipiac in 2007-08. Not to disparage their program, but players with their pedigree should have signed with a top 10-15 program, not a mid to lower level ECAC club in the 30-40+ Ranking Range. One cant pretend to know all the personal factors in their decision, however, had they NOT signed so early in their Junior career, 3 Years later, they would have ended up at an elite program like a Denver, Boston College or Michigan. So keep this in mind and do your homework, if there is one team interested, there are probably more out there; take the time to find out, you won’t be sorry.
6) 63% of ALL BCHL scholarships are awarded to players when they are in their final two years of junior eligibility (20-21 years of age) – While the top clubs sign players as they can, lower ranked programs in the #45-55+ rank range, more often then not, teams like Bentley or Robert Morris – in the Atlantic Conference – don’t even bother trying to recruit players until they are in the final year(s) of their junior eligibility. First off, they can’t compete against Boston College for talent and second they can’t take risks on undeveloped players not panning out. So they take 20-21 year olds and are able to get a more finished product into the line-up right from day one. They also typically have LESS scholarships to offer then the bigger conferences so, they cannot make ‘mistakes’ and need every player they sign to have a positive impact. This means explore ALL your options before you consider signing with a lower ranked team, they typically don’t have the leverage to force you to sign RIGHT NOW when you are 18-19 years of age. You have time; make the right choice for your future academic and athletic career.