NCAA through VIJHL, WSHL, NA3HL, USPHL, etc.

Discussion in 'NCAA, U Sports, and other college' started by BC Hockey Dad, Apr 18, 2020.

  1. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Hello hockey community,

    My sons goal is to play NCAA hockey. I was hoping to hear some feedback from players who have played in these leagues and how they relate to getting an NCAA scholarship.

    My son started playing hockey late and is not a top prospect going into his Sr. year Midget. So he will try to make the jump to Junior by going to as many Junior ID camps as possible. 1 Jr. A (for experience), 3 Jr. Bs and a Global camp in Vegas.

    He's started working with a personal coach (NCAA D1 and 10 year pro) who sees him maybe playing for a lower VIJHL Jr. B team or in the WSHL, NA3HL or USPHL this season.

    He's plays right wing and is not a big guy at 5' 7.5" 155lbs but he has standout explosive speed. He's constantly the fastest guy on the ice, creates a ton of scoring chances and averages about a point per game. Coaches love his work ethic and he's a real team player.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
  2. MiamiHockey Registered User

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    The two most important things are (1) ice time and (2) coaching quality.
    The two things that hurt (not help) but parents get suckered into are (1) travel and (2) lots of games.
    The VIJHL is a much better option than traversing the US playing in either the WSHL or NA3HL.
     
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  3. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Hey, thanks for the reply.

    You make an excellent point about ice time. His coach said the same thing and seems to think he might get more ice time, experience and exposure playing in the states. He went straight to NCAA D1, so he didn't play in these leagues, though. But, yeah, the cost and travel in the WSHL and NA3HL is insane!

    If he does end up making a VIJHL team he will probably be a 4th liner on a lower team. However, he would play against tougher competition, wouldn't have to move or travel so much and be able to graduate from the same high school. Play in the VIJHL is way more convenient for us.

    He's really serious about getting to NCAA level, though. So he's willing to sacrifice home comforts to get there.
     
  4. Hollywood3 Bison/Jet/Moose Fan

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    Honestly, very few Junior B players make the jump to the CW let alone the NCAA. I don't know about the US leagues.

    To increase the odds, play for a coach with connections and a track record of finding placements for his players.
     
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  5. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Thanks Hollywood3,

    Great point. Should he get multiple offers, we will certainly look at this!
     
  6. MiamiHockey Registered User

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    I scouted / recruited for nearly a decade. There are two things I think you need to know:

    1) He's not going to get recruited until he's 20 years old. The NCAA is a man's league for all but the most elite players. So, focus on where he needs to be when he's 20.

    2) He's not going to get any reputable NCAA exposure in any of those leagues you mention. None. Those leagues are not on the radar of any reputable NCAA program.

    I find the business model of the the WSHL / NA3HL / USPHL kind of despicable, to be honest ... they try to sell to parents "exposure" ... it's a myth. Don't buy it.

    His focus needs to be on playing in a league where he can develop and then move up to a higher level (BCHL, AJHL, SJHL, etc.) to play as a 19-20 year old.

    The VIJHL and KIJHL are both strong Jr. B loops where late-bloomers can play and get a good chance to move up to Jr. A.

    A number of players I recruited from the BCHL followed that path ... but never once did I set foot in a VIJHL / KIJHL arena.

    Save your money and keep him in BC.
     
  7. JMCx4 Gateway to Hockey

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    Just to level-set for the OP and his son ... do those two conditions apply to both NCAA Div I *and* Div III hockey programs? Not clear to me what the boy's perception of "NCAA" encompasses, or perhaps if broadening that perception would offer significant options in a juniors path.
     
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  8. MiamiHockey Registered User

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    Fair question.

    I think it's clear to say that any Div I program is not even remotely contemplating those leagues.

    Div III has such a high degree of variance in quality, it's tough to define. I would suggest that reputable Div III programs (e.g., Norwich) are not, either. I guess if a player wants to play any level of NCAA, then there's a broader range of options ... but even the weakest NCAA Div III programs (hello, Albertus Magnus) are still filled with players from good Jr A leagues.

    I'd think of it this way ... as Groucho Marx once said "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members."

    I wouldn't want to be part of any team that will me just because I'm willing to fork over the money to be on it.
     
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  9. JMCx4 Gateway to Hockey

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    But Groucho also said (as Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup): "I've got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it."
     
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  10. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your experience and knowledge!

    This gives us a bit more breathing room. If he doesn't get picked up by a VIJHL Jr. B team to develop under and hopefully move up to Jr. A, I feel better about him playing one more year at Midget. I know he can make a T1 team on the island here and he wouldn't have to move very far. They won't be a strong team but he would be on the 1st line. I believe they will have a good coach this season that used to coached Jr. B. He's coached my son before and would definitely work with him and want to see him do well.

    Only reason I was talking Juniors was because everyone here keeps saying that unless he's a top prospect his last year Midget that would go straight to Jr. A (which I don't see him being) he needs to be playing Jr. B or Jr. T2/T3 in the States.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2020
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  11. Hollywood3 Bison/Jet/Moose Fan

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    Midget AAA has a LOT more players who go on in hockey than does Junior B.
     
  12. MiamiHockey Registered User

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    That's true in Manitoba, but not in BC.

    The BC Midget AAA leagues have always been weak ... but their Junior B loops have been strong, and a feeder to both Jr A and event the WHL.

    See, e.g., Shea Weber, who played Jr B as a 17 year old, not Midget AAA.
    Shea Weber at eliteprospects.com

    Manitoba is the opposite ... the Junior B loops in Manitoba are terrible. Same with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

    I'm not 100% sure why BC is different, but I'd suggest that the relative isolation of the mountain towns (and difficult winter travel) made it easier to structure a good Junior B loop (with its 5 years of age groups) than Midget AAA (with its 3).
     
  13. Hollywood3 Bison/Jet/Moose Fan

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    Just for the heck of it I checked the Winnipeg Ice roster because they just moved from BC. They only had 4 players from BC. So I also checked the Vancouver Giants. It seems the primary source is Midget, with prep schools (CSSHL) being second, and Junior A and Junior B being quite rare.

    Here's the numbers:

    Winnipeg Ice: 2 from Midget, one split between Midget and CSSHL, and one split between Midget, CSSHL, and Junior B.

    Vancouver Giants: 5 from Midget, 3 from CSSHL, 2 split between Midget and CSSHL, one split between Midget and Junior A, and 2 split between CSSHL and Junior A. One player who came from Midget went down to Junior A and then came back.

    In any event, the gradual promotion from Junior A to Major Junior appears to be (almost) a thing of the past.
     
  14. Barclay Donaldson Registered User

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    Junior A in Western Canada is very much out on its own. The main concentration has been to send their players onto the NCAA, the direct rival development path of major junior, or USport. There's some leagues that stand out as major junior advancement spots, the NOJHL and LHJQ/QJHL come to mind. But if you're a player in Junior A just about anyone in Canada, you're playing to go to the NCAA rather than anywhere else.
     
  15. MiamiHockey Registered User

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    The OP was interested in the path to the NCAA, not the path to Major Junior.

    For all but a few rare players, these are completely separate pathways now. Players now choose to either go CHL early, to gain the 4-5 year scholarship, or they avoid the CHL entirely and focus on the NCAA ... which can mean either Jr A, Prep School, or some combination of the two.

    I should have been more specific in what I meant by "Midget." Midget is now U18, and thus covers ages 16-18. Most provinces have a Minor Midget (aka U16 now) loop for 16 year olds. All but the rarest of players are in Minor Midget at 16, then jump to the CHL at 17.

    BC's Major Midget (17-18 year olds) loop is weak ... which is why many jump to Junior B as 17 year olds. I used Shea Weber as an example ... which, in retrospect, was a poor choice. Here's a better example ... Luke Pierce, now Asst Coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings, who went Jr B - Jr A - USports.

    Luke Pierce at eliteprospects.com

    Granted that was 20 years ago. Now, as you noted, the CSSHL is (sort of) taking over. I say (sort of) because it's just a way for parents to light $30,000 on fire by having their kid spend half their life on the bus. The reality is that the Matthew Savoies of the world would make it either way, but where there's a dream to be sold, there's money to be taken from parents.

    But that's another story for another day ...
     
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  16. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Thanks everyone!

    Yes, my boy is looking for a path to NCAA and not Major Junior.

    I looked at the CSSHL and you are correct in that the cost is insane. $18000 for the one we looked at. And then here we also have the POE league, which is another Midget Prep school program. It is also very expensive. Last year it was $12000.

    Ultimately, it would still cost less then him playing in the US Jr. T2/T3 leagues.

    Since starting this thread we've had a look at our financial situation and playing in the US won't be an option for him this year. And unless they can work something out, the CSSHL is most likely out too.

    He is currently registered for 1 Jr. A and 3 Jr. B ID camps as well as tryouts for one of the POE Midget Prep school teams. He is also registered to attend the Global Vegas camp, although I'm trying to see if he can get in on the waitinglist for the Global Vancouver camp instead.

    Thanks again for all the replies! Please keep them coming. I'm learning so much from each reply!

     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2020
  17. MeHateHe Registered User

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    Let me be the Connie Contrarian and say your kid should stay home. Junior teams are looking to win games first and foremost and it sounds like he is in need of skills development. He won’t get time to work on his puck skills because junior practices are about team systems rather than skills. If he going to end up a fourth liner in junior B, he will also have limited playing time so he’s unlikely to develop at game speed. So save your money, play association hockey and find time to develop better skills. Then next year, maybe he finds himself better prepared to be a contributing player in Junior B.
     
  18. BC Hockey Dad Registered User

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    Thanks for your comment. I'm starting to leaning that way to. I think he will develop more skills playing on the 1st line of a losing Midget T1 team then on the 4th line of a losing Jr. B team. And who knows, he may have a breakout year there were he wouldn't playing Jr. B, not this year anyway. So I think in my son's case, you may be right. I think what made a difference too was learning that most players don't get to NCAA till they are 20. This gives him more time than I thought to develop.
     
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  19. MeHateHe Registered User

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    Forgot to add: assuming there is junior b hockey this year (maybe a topic for another day) if he can AP for a club close by you might have the best of both worlds.
     
  20. Jgroves Registered User

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    Hey just saw this post and I think I can give you some real insight into this.
    For starters I currently play for the Saanich Braves (VIJHL) and have found some success, I just committed to play for Uvic (BCIHL) who consistently play against DIV 1 teams from the states (ie: last year they play Wisconsin, Princeton, Min state, Providence, Niagara and Holy cross) withmixed results. Not the same league but multiple players last year were scouted at these exhibition games and signed pro contracts in the ECHL and that’s basically what your looking (a foot in the door at pro hockey)
    The hard reality is that if your son is still play minor hockey in midget, his chances of making junior A are none. And hopefully I’m not being too harsh but nowadays VIJHL teams rarely take minor hockey players even as rookies. It’s strictly all from BCMML or CSSHL. If he isint playing junior B at 15-16 or 17 then junior A is out of the question.
    Saying that, what I recommend your son do is try his best to make a VIJHL team, the K and P are not leagues that move on a lot of players. From experience I can tell you that even going from BCMML to the VI is a huge jump. As you have players constantly going up and down from the Whl and BCHL/AJHL/SJHL.
    Hopefully that doesn’t deflate your sons tires but the reality is that B.C. has lots of kids who dominate minor hockey but the VIJHL is giant leap up from that. I’m talking like speed, size, decision making and team systems are not even on the same playing field.
     
  21. Spade Resident Tool

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    Latecomer with some more help. A lot of the advice here might come from conflicting areas or sources, but we would need to know more about your son in order to have a clear path of advice. What's his birth year? What are his grades like? All of those play a factor in whether NCAA Division I teams will be interested in him.

    Before anything else, make sure he's registered and has his grades uploaded on the official NCAA Eligibility Center portal. It'll put your son in the database for all NCAA schools to see, and it will help you in figuring out what schools he's eligible for and what he might need to upgrade, if anything. Make sure he's prepared to study too, he will need to take the SATs at least once in the next 2 years. If your son gets to a point where schools are interested in him, having a NCAA Clearing House ID and being in good standing grades wise makes a lot of difference. It might be the difference between being eligible for 8 schools vs. being eligible for 28, and the NCAA has strict GPA guidelines for athletes and teams that they have to make in order to ensure they're eligible to play. The better his grades, the more options he leaves open for himself.

    If your son is born in the 2003 age group, playing Major Midget AAA in the BC league is fine, especially if he's going to get a lot of minutes in the top 6. The BCHL and AJHL pull the best players from the VIJHL, KIJHL and BCMML on a regular basis. Unlike Ontario, where most elite players move up to Jr. A/B or the OHL after playing Minor Midget (which dilutes the caliber of the Major Midget league), the Minor Midget leagues in BC and Alberta are where the players who aren't quite ready for the Major Midget leagues play. The best players in the 2003-2005 age group will be playing in the Major Midget leagues out here (if they haven't gone to the CSSHL route), guys who will go onto the WHL or Jr. A eventually. There's a decent amount of kids who play Jr. B first, such as @Jgroves above, but as long as you are playing at a level that's still tough enough to push your son and which still has a ton of scouts, you will be fine. If the team is high in the standings they might even get invited to elite Midget showcases like the Mac's Midget Tournament, which are chock full of junior, college and pro scouts.

    Do not go WSHL unless you can 100% eat the cost without batting an eye, and even then only use it as a stepping stone to better leagues. The caliber of the league isn't good enough to justify the cost. Once in a blue moon they'll commit a player to the NCAA Div I level and then that player will be a role player on a poor team. That's what the best players in the league do. The odds are not good for any player either way, but you're paying more for even less in the WSHL as compared to the AJHL or BCHL, which do not have costs besides whatever your son wants to eat outside of his home/billet family, personal items and other entertainment and gas expenditures he might have.

    If your son's goal is to play high-level college hockey, he will need to likely work his way to the BCHL, AJHL or OJHL eventually. The length of time it takes him to get there and his play when he does dictates the odds of him getting a good look at ANY college level, US or Canada. Within that, expect growing pains as most rookies experience jumping up leagues, as Jgroves said there's a huge difference even going to Jr. B because of the age gap and systems. Unless he immediately is able to show star potential, he will likely have to earn top 6 minutes by playing hard and creating offense in a 4th, maybe 3rd, line role whenever he ends up in the Jr. A level. But as a late bloomer he might also be more intriguing for schools and junior teams who will believe they can refine him more due to his "fresh" outlook on hockey. Either way, once he reaches junior levels he will have to first show that he can produce without good linemates before he will get a look in the top 6 or on the power play.

    At 5'8" your son will face an uphill battle even in today's world (big players have to prove they can't play, small players have to prove they can). He might move around a lot as Juniors are a tough go, and you can be traded for any reason at any time. It might be his fault, it might just be that a better player was available and he was one of the best assets the team was wiling to part with, either way he should know that the only thing he can control is his own attitude and work ethic. Even if he does everything right from here on out, he might not get a good scholarship offer down south (NCAA Div I teams have a limited number of scholarships, and only a select few will get full rides. The rest may only get half, or even none if they're walk-ons). Even if you aren't quite good enough for that level or USports (which is heavily populated with the best of the rest of the CHL) the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) and NCAA Div III offer some high end play (think mid-high end Jr. A and the occasional WHL player for the ACAC, similar players except for the lack of CHL players for Div III) and the very best in those leagues will find lower level pro deals in Europe or North America.

    To sum up, your son's development pathway should look similar to the following if he's a 2003-born turning 18 this year:

    20-21: Major Midget/Jr. B -> 21-22: Jr. B/Jr. A -> 22-23: Jr. A/elite Jr. B star -> 23-24: Jr. A -> 24-25: College

    He should make it a priority to develop himself enough to maintain this pathway at least, and if he overachieves then you can expedite the process a bit in certain areas. The harsh reality is that if he wants to go to the NCAA, he cannot really afford to miss a step here. Even for the 2nd tier leagues such as the ACAC, which still produce lower-level pro players, the best programs and teams in those leagues will largely recruit mid-high end junior players for the most scholarship dollars, and there's no guarantees for even elite Jr. B players to crack the elite squads in the ACAC.

    If your son wants to eventually step into the meat grinder that is junior hockey, you as a father have 2 responsibilities: number 1 is to always be there for him emotionally. Cheer him on when he does well. Give him space if he's frustrated, and there's going to be a lot of that. If he needs to vent, or you notice that he might be looking for outlets, you need to just listen and let him get it out instead of passing judgment. And if he needs a kick in the ass or the hard truth, you have to be prepared to give it to him respectfully as well. Number 2 is to always have a backup plan quietly in your back pocket because your son might be focused on the things he can control right then and there, not doubting for a second (which is fine, if kids want to dream there's nothing wrong with that). You're already off to a good start by looking for help but be prepared if the plan changes, whether for good or bad. Good junior players out in BC or the AJ will always get looks from colleges, it's just that some of them might not be your top-top choice. You can start doing all of this while your son is still playing Midget or Jr. B, so might as well get a plan of action going (such as moving fees, RESPs and other things he might need for school).

    Good luck, looking forward to hearing the exploits from a proud dad on this website every so often. And you are welcome to private message me at any time if you wanna know more!
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  22. cshrimp Registered User

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    Do you think i made the right choice of playing in the VIJHL over BCMML for my midget third year next year going into grade 12? i'm a goalie from the lower mainland. could of made a top BCMML team probably or top CSSHL but chose the VIJHL to get used to the faster pace and to AP with a Island BCHL team.
     
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  23. Spade Resident Tool

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    What's your definition of right and wrong? I would say if you did your research well and thought about it before coming to your conclusion that you did the right move with the info you had on hand. If only the end result matters, we don't really know yet.

    14 BC-born goalies had over 20 appearances in the BCHL last season. Of those 14, 8 had played in either the VIJHL or KIJHL at some point and 6 played more than 25 games in Jr. B before making the jump to Jr. A. And with Island teams like the Grizzlies and Clippers, just being nearby means you can potentially get extra practice time if they need more bodies. So you have a real opportunity to double down on practice hours and really put in the work while showcasing yourself to those teams, who only have a couple of APs on the mainland for road trip purposes.

    Goalies are tough and you're competing for jobs with Americans, Albertans and Ontario kids for just 18 starting spots. But playing and succeeding in Jr. B is just as likely to lead to an eventual role as BCMML. The key is to make sure you have all your bases covered so that teams have no reason to let you go. That means being a good teammate, working hard on the ice and off, having good grades so that you have scholarship opportunities, showing you can learn and actively grow from feedback, and showing that your skills can translate. If all of that is true then teams will keep doors way more open for you than an equally talented guy who maybe doesn't have the same intangibles you do.

    Honestly, goalie is the one position that Jr. B pushes guys the most efficiently. Skaters might be limited due to various circumstances but goalies will get opportunities as long as they show well and facing older, stronger shooters, getting more reps and playing more games in Jr. B as a 17 or 18 year old is more valuable for development than being a backup in Jr. A or playing younger competition with overall less reps in midget (although this is dependant on whether you've actually outgrown U18 hockey). So rest assured if you're as good as you think you are, teams will happily come around to sign you.

    If you were a 17 year old skater it might be a little different as @MeHateHe said, as junior teams have more of a focus on systems. But with the added amount of ice time in the VI and KI and the improved coaching and development there, it's really more dependant on their own personality for skaters and for 18 year olds who don't have the option of going back Jr. B is still better than not playing at all. But for your situation, if you know you're going to get some runway as a goalie for whichever VIJHL team you're playing for, you will get looks. And if you're really good in that league you might even get called up to the Jr. A squad faster than you think.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
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