The Math of College Hockey Part 2

Yesterday’s post broke down the long odds faced by any player looking to play college hockey.  Taking rough numbers, I broke down the percentage of players that make it from the 17-18 year old age group to a college hockey roster.

That’s the breakdown of odds for EVERY player in a given age group. On a macro level, that represents the odds for any player. There are a number of other things that may limit a player’s ability to move on to the next level.

  • Academics – At least 20% of NCAA hockey schools have high admissions standards for their athletic programs. Players must be achievers in the classroom and on their standardized testing. What does this mean? C’s in school won’t cut it – these schools are looking for B’s and higher, as well as strong test scores. A lack of effort and desire in the classroom will severely limit your ability to play NCAA hockey
  • Position & Shot – You’re a defenseman? A team already has 8 defensemen in their program? Unfortunately they’re probably not looking to add another one. While this is unpredictable, schools won’t look to have too many players at any one position. Teams also look to have a balance of left and right shot players – it’s not desirable to have all your forwards or defensemen shoot on the same side. Variety allows for different looks and options in the tactical game.
  • Scholarship $$ – DI scholarship schools are allowed to offer up to 18 scholarships. Hockey is an equivalency sport, this means that they can split up 18 full scholarships among as many as 30 players in any one given year. The players that are getting the most money are the top-6 forwards, the can’t miss studs, the starting goaltenders, etc. More of a third through fifth line player? That’s fine, just don’t expect to have a lot of $$ thrown your way.
  • Team Need – There are a lot of players out there that can play at the next level. Coaches and programs are always looking for different things when it comes to their recruits. Sometimes a school might be looking for a big, physical winger. Another year they need a playmaking center. If you don’t fit that mold, they probably won’t recruit you too hard. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, it just means you don’t fit their needs.

At the same time, it is easy to look at the numbers and think they look a little off. After all, there are teams out there with 10-12 DI commitments and some DIII players as well. How is that the case if so few players make it to the next level?

  • The pyramid factor – teams and leagues differentiate themselves as you move up the ladder. After the U18 level, players begin to mix age groups more frequently. Junior hockey combines players as young as 16 with players as old as 21.
  • Elite programs attract elite players – the more a midget or junior program wins, the more players are attracted to that program. The same thing happens with leagues – the more players move on to NCAA hockey from a league, the more players are attracted to that league. Those teams and leagues are now able to take a higher caliber of talent
  • Pace of play – the biggest question mark that coaches have about players making the jump to the next level is their ability to play at a high speed. Young men playing college hockey are in peak physical condition. The game is played at a high speed and with a lot of energy. Players who play at lower levels may have all the tools to play at the college level, but they are not tested to play with pace. For this reason recruiters and scouts will wait until that player is moved up to a higher level (playing against other recruited players) before he is recruited – this allows the scouts to do their jobs with a greater level of certainty that the player can succeed.

Becoming a college hockey player is a journey that starts for many at a very young age. Sometimes it leads to a conclusion with a scholarship offer to a Division I school. Other times it results in an offer to play club hockey at one of the hundreds of schools that offer ACHA hockey. Regardless of what the college level brings, players can learn a lot about life and themselves from the journey to college hockey. Never limit yourself or your chances to play at the next level during the process. Doors open and close in a matter of days and the last thing you want is to be shut out of any opportunity at all. If you’re one of the lucky few that is being recruiting to play NCAA Varsity Hockey, embrace the experience and enjoy the ride, no matter the level. Your four years in college will be over before you know it.

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The Math of College Hockey

How hard is it to play college hockey? Let’s do some very rough math.

Assumptions: On average, every college team is bringing in 7 new players per season (7 players in a class x 4 classes = 28 players). For the sake of these calculations, we are going to assume that all college hockey players come from the United States (we know this is not true, so the odds will be lower than seen here). We will also look at one age bracket to get a better feel for what a recruiting pool looks like.

In 2012-2013, USA Hockey had 28,961 registered members at the 17-18 age level (midget major). Let’s assume that this is our talent pool.

There are 59 Division I hockey programs. There are 74 Division III hockey programs. This gives us a total of 133 hockey teams.

Assuming a class of 7, there are 413 Division I freshmen and 518 Division III freshmen every year. A total of 931 freshmen across the country.

IF all players in college hockey came from the midget major level in 2012-13, the odds of playing Division I hockey stand at 1.42% and college hockey overall are 3.21%.

You could make the argument to double those numbers, as players spend two years at the midget major level. Doing that gives a player in any given birth year a 6.43% chance of playing college hockey and a 2.83% chance of playing Division I college hockey.

This fails to take into account the roughly 30,500 Canadians playing at the midget major level in any given year – essentially cutting the odds in half (Hockey Canada reports an overall registration level that is 1.0528 times larger than USA Hockey – I multiplied the USA Hockey 17-18 registration number by this variable). College hockey is also becoming increasingly diverse, with players from Europe growing in number every year.

The takeaway? It is extremely hard to be recruited to play college hockey. College hockey as a whole is a high level of play with very talented student-athletes. The pyramid only gets smaller as you go up. Appreciate the opportunity and enjoy the journey – you’re one of a select few who will ever get the chance.