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Top prospects turmoil - Junior Hockey News

Published: Thursday, 24 Jan 2013
By: Randy Russon

Hurt feelings that extend to anger and anguish are often the result when a hockey player doesn't make a team or isn't chosen for an all-star or top prospects squad.
Case in point is the North American Hockey League's Top Prospects Tournament, which will be held February 18-20 in the Detroit suburb of Troy. More than 100 NAHL players will be part of six teams representing five regions as well as a Select squad of youngsters under the age of 18.
Needless to say, a number of worthy players were not picked to take part in the Top Prospects Tournament, which will be attended by a huge throng of National Collegiate Athletic Association coaches and scouts as well as bird-dogs representing National Hockey League teams.
But what has become cause for consternation is that the coaches who picked the teams for the Dakota, Frontier, Great Lakes, Midwest, Texas and U18 teams are under fire from a number of players and parents of players who were not selected.
But it says here that it's the selection process that is the problem.
Rather than have the head coaches of the six tournament teams being responsible for picking the players, why not have a committee that chooses the rosters? That would spare the head coach any backlash for not picking certain players, particularly ones that play for his regular NAHL team.
For example, Great Lakes tournament team head coach Dan Daikawa picked five players from his Jamestown Ironmen squad -- forwards Tyler Dunagan, Luc Gerdes and Evan Ritt and defencemen Brett Szajner and Dylan Zink. But in picking those deserving players, Daikawa bypassed a number of others from his Jamestown team, including ones born in 1992 who are in their final season of junior eligibility. Daikawa, one would think, has to feel a bit awkward in not taking key players from his Jamestown team for the Great Lakes tournament squad -- including 1992 birth year skaters such as forward Nico Sierra and defencemen Matt Lanzillotti, Tyler Minx and Aaron Scheppelman.
Whether intentionally or not, the NAHL put the coaches in charge of picking the six tournament teams in an awkward position. Thus, as said, why not go to a committee format for next year and have the teams be selected by a group rather than putting the onus, the pressure and any negative feedback on a single head coach.
As for the NAHL players who were selected to participate in the Top Prospects Tournament, the vast majority were most deserving of being picked.
It's just unfortunate that so many highly-regarded prospects who don't have Division 1, NCAA commitments as of yet were overlooked, notable omissions that include Michigan Warriors winger Connor Lyons, Port Huron Fighting Falcons defenceman Alex Archibald, the Soo Eagles duo of defenceman Michael Lant and forward Michael Sabatini and the Coulee Region Chill troika of forward Hunter Anderson, defenceman Sean Lang and goalie Blake Cates. Et al.


posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 3:59pm
Mateo Stannard says:
Randy -

As much as I enjoy this sport there is so much B- Sh- surrounding it that I found myself not knowing where to begin with a response to your article. I apologize that my comments may not seem to flow in any organized manner:

It begins with 15 year old players weighing in at a measly 150 lbs. getting college commitments before their skates even touch the ice in a single junior game. It's about young players leaving home to be raised by other families in pursuit their dream because somebody said they needed to play junior hockey if they wanted to play college hockey. It's about business owners who care more about their investment than the stability of the players' living situation. It's about billet families who think they're going to make money by housing a player or two. It's about coaches who care more about their winning percentage and next coaching position than they do about the morale of his players. It's about an 18 year old high school graduate moving teams 3-4 times in one season because USA Hockey no longer protects his vulnerability to trading rules. It's about the third wealthiest man in Japan who asks his own players to feed themselves on road trips and blames it on the Tsunami in Japan. It's about buses that break down and roach motels. It's about bi-polar coaches who drop players and send them across the country instead of getting to know them and winning their loyalty. And, yes, it goes all the way to the Top Prospects Tournament where a number of dedicated and talented '92 birth year players worthy of D1 attention are not given a key opportunity they deserve because a coach is infatuated with the same players as usual.

So the point of my response is this: Whoever said that fairness, honor, truthfulness and integrity were a part of junior hockey? The anger and anguish of the players not selected for Top Prospects is just a continuation of the norm and doesn't surprise me. The tournament will be over and the season can continue. It's junior hockey and it sucks.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 4:09pm
Christian Poulsen says:
Ouch!...in all this -- these last 2 plus more subject headings I have posted on -- I guess I must confess and say that my dream is to own a Junior Hockey franchise in about 5 years...good luck, eh?

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 4:16pm
Blake Harrington says:
The success of the Jamestown power play should have eliminated a couple players from Top Prospects right there...

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 4:49pm
Christian Poulsen says:
Mateo, a post by, I think her name was Connie, quite a while back, vented much of the same views about Hockey at the AAA youth level where her family was...and she ended with something like "its an ugly sport"...I can only say at this point I wish I could sit and have a couple of beers with you, maybe while waching a game and after (hey all, it may sound like it, but I'm not a boozer!)...it sounds like this probably, no, actually would not change your or my perspective either way...
...anyway...I, and Im sure many could of/can or did take a left or right on all this...heck I'm no writer...something like that man...

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 5:15pm
Mateo Stannard says:
Hockey by itself is not an ugly sport. Junior hockey and all the money hungry gold diggers who thought it up are ugly. Let the kids graduate high school and move on to college like every other sport. If you're serious about owning a junior team my question for you is this. What is your true motive? If you want to make money quit now. It's not going to serve you in the end and will never serve the players. A very non-gratifying course.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 5:54pm
Christian Poulsen says:
Oh no my friend...break even at $0 in that account or loose some on my end is all i would hope for...and from what i can tell, that would be an exception at T2 or T1 and a lot of T3!...lol...(no, i wouldn't be on the ice at practice, well, maybe a few lol)

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 7:08pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Good luck with that and I don't agree.

Of the nearly 400 junior teams on the continent, I would say that 360+ are operated with good intentions.

Sure we are going to have a few bad apples, every cross section of society has them and sports are no exception.

Most are in the game for the love of it... very few of us have been able to carve out a niche and make a lifelong career from it. I feel blessed for being able to do what I love to do.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 7:40pm
Mateo Stannard says:
I knew my comments would not be popular with the founders of Junior Hockey News. After all, if junior hockey didn't exist (as I propose) then what would you all write about? May I ask Stephen, have you ever been a junior player, billeted a junior player, are you the parent of a junior player, coached a junior team, owned a junior team? This is a serious question as I am unfamiliar with your background. Thanks for the response.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 7:54pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Not a junior player or parent.

Billeted? Yes, I had as many as eight at my house at one time.

Coached? Yes, on the bench for a USA Hockey National Championship in '96.

Owned? Yes, owned one of the worst Western States Hockey teams of all-time... and lost my a--.

Worked? Yes

Since 1998-99 I've stayed as close to the game as possible. As a consultant and as a pain in the butt.

I found my niche on Glassrattler.com, started this site back in 2009, took a few college classes to be a teacher while trying to be a better writer. A week of student teaching at a local high school set me on the path of just doing this...and the rest is history.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 7:59pm
Mateo Stannard says:
Your opening sentence was all I needed to hear.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 8:14pm
Mateo Stannard says:
And the second sentence about billeting 8 players...were you paid a billet fee by the families of all eight players? Did anybody from the junior team or USA Hockey ask you why you wanted to do this? By the way.... why did you? Serious question.

posted Jan. 24th, 2013 - 8:51pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Billet fees? I did it for free because I owned and operated the team. Player fees? We tried to get $1,000 for the entire season and that was it. Not everybody was able to pay.

Get off your high horse. I've DONE more than my fair share to elevate junior hockey long before I started this site. JuniorHockey.com is just the gravy.

Since we are asking questions, why is it that NOTHING appears when we google your name or email address?

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 6:30am
Randy Russon says:
Mateo is hardly the only person here not using his real name.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 7:35am
Hockey SP says:
Scheppelmen is one of the hardest working athletes out there. It's a shame that his own coach didn't give him the recognition he deserves.

Rich Tremblay (my real name)

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 8:14am
Randy Russon says:
Rich aka Hockey SP,

Which is why I say the coach should not be in a position to have to bypass his own players. It's why I think selection by committee is the better way to go.



posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 8:31am
Stephen Heisler says:
...better way to go... and the North American Hockey League are generally never used in the same sentence.

We are at the end of January already, and the NAHL has yet to release the format or location of the Robertson Cup.

The one fact I can tell you is this, the event will include the NA3HL, NAPHL, and possibly even the new NA-MiniMites-HL. All teams will be forced to go through a round-robin for seeding, a day off to rest, than onto the the semi-finals, and finals.

The event will utilize the maximum number of room-nights because we know that SOMEBODY is getting that 5-6% commission.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 10:13am
Martin Breen says:

Randy, as a coach, I hate prospect games, all-star games and all individual awards, anything that divides a team's unity impairs winning since hockey is the ultimate team sport. Interestingly, one year I asked my players if we could have a lottery for such things and they did not want too.

Mateo, honestly, I feel your anger and emotion through your posts but I think you're being unfair to Stephen. Stephen and Randy are the good guys in junior hockey, constantly looking out for players, asking the tough questions to owners and league management and questioning rules that are not for the benefit of the players. As opposed to other hockey writers who are just PR guys for the big clubs and never question anything. On your son the 92 (or someone close to you), I am very sorry that he did not make it to the Prospects game, it obviously meant a lot to you, however, I think you are putting too much emphasis on this one event. As I have said in other posts, I do speak to D1 coaches fairly regularly and no player is given a scholarship because of an all-star game or prospect game. If your son is playing in the NAHL and is a 92, he has been seen by every D1 scout (usually college asst coach) for many years. While it is true that college players are getting older and older (check Union College's average roster age last year), a 20 year-old should be a junior in college by now and there are many college opportunties (D3 & ACHA) that may provide your son a great college and hockey experience.

My suggestion is that you reach out to some NAHL or USHL coach you know and ask for a scouting report on your son. You would be surprised how much info you can get by asking and being nice.

Good luck to your son, I wish him the best.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 11:02am
Kirk Trammel says:
Don't be too hard on Mateo, he makes some good points. Having experienced junior hockey as a player and as a parent - as well as a high school coach sending players to juniors - the system has its flaws. This site makes its hay exposing those flaws.

Some problems as I see them:

1) ASAH age classifications do not dovetail with school age classifications, one reason kids are forced to decide between what's best for them for school vs. what's best for them for hockey. Helps USAH for international competition, screws everyone else.

2) Colleges, even most D3, tell kids they recruit 20-year olds. For a kid that has to work to succeed in school, the year, two or three off from studies reduces his chance of success in school when he eventually gets there as a hockey player (or not).

3) Not enough opportunity at the college level. The funnel narrows at the top in this sport like no other. An intiative to add more signicantly more NCAA D1 and D3 teams would go a long way toward serving the hockey players we raise and develop. A strong high school age player that wants to go right to school should have decent college options. What's the point of the adding more and more junior teams if there's nowhere to go from there? Change the focus to adding more college options and start breaking the logjam.

4) The NA scouting/tryout system is a joke. Why not have week-long regional league-sponsored camps with open invitations to see all kids interested. Cut down or separate by talent each day so the cream rises and others can be identified by lower levels as potential players. Make it mandatory for all teams, eliminate their separate fundraiser tryout camps. Huge numbers of kids, share the pot among teams, charge lower level leagues to participate, etc. Kids will make or break it on their own and not be as subject to the whims of the good ol' boy system, plus more kids can afford to show up and put their best foot forward.

Can you imagine if football and basketball ran their sports like hockey? How many of those kids would be able to afford/survive the merry-go-round of tryout camp fees, travel, pay-to-play, leaving high school early, taking years off between high school and college? It would be the end of those sports as we know them.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 11:21am
Martin Breen says:

Kirk, nice post, indeed, football does not make kids wait 1, 2 or 3 years before they go to college so why does hockey? And, statistically speaking, the longer anyone stays out of college, the less likely they will attend college. This is my biggest issue with college hockey. I might add that when I played back in the 80's, they were more D2 teams, why doesn't College Hockey Inc. focus on creating a robust D2 (& D3) division. To me it's absurd, making these kids wait so long to attend college. Why not have kids play 10 years before they go to college? They will be way better right?

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 11:42am
Kirk Trammel says:
One can only imagine the development...

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 12:27pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Mateo Stannard writes:
I knew my comments would not be popular with the founders of Junior Hockey News. After all, if junior hockey didn't exist (as I propose) then what would you all write about? May I ask Stephen, have you ever been a junior player, billeted a junior player, are you the parent of a junior player, coached a junior team, owned a junior team? This is a serious question as I am unfamiliar with your background. Thanks for the response.

All I did was answer his questions...

It became quickly apparent that he believes I am not worthy to be a writer because I did not play in one of these junior leagues or have a child that played.

I wonder just how many junior owners have actually played junior.

Mateo also challenged that we had as many as 8 players in our home at one time and assumed I was cashing in on the billet fee. What billet fee? I think one parent helped out to the tune of a few hundred dollars a month, but he had his own room in our house. Everybody else was in the garage that we converted to a bunk-house with four bunk beds.

I'd spend as much as $1,000 a week to feed these kids and they were fed well. People can yap all they want about me, I don't care, but don't ever try to accuse me of under delivering on my end of the bargain. I took care of the players then, and I take care of the guys now.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 1:08pm
Mateo Stannard says:
Whoa. I missed all the fun until now. I didn't mean to sound challenging of Stephen's expertise (my bad.) But I am definitely challenging numerous aspects of the current junior hockey system that is in place. Thanks to both Stephen and Randy for being the watch-dog and for providing a means for raising questions through this website. I am a big Randy fan and will work on liking Stephen more (he's a little feisty.) And I still think anybody who wants 8 hockey players in their house at one time might also be a little loopy (that was a joke...) But anybody who sticks his neck out this far on behalf of the players can't be all bad either.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 1:35pm
Randy Russon says:
Thanks for the nice words, all.

As for Mateo calling Steve "feisty" -- that's one of the nicer adjectives used to describe my chum. The descriptive words linked to Steve that I often hear are not nearly as flattering.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 1:52pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Feisty is much better than *******, bastard, ****, **** head, and my personal favorite, Frankenfeld's business partner.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 3:42pm
Michael Bourne says:
I appreciate this site for the work that Stephen, Randy et al put in so that we may be better informed to the inner workings of Jr hockey. I've been around hockey my entire life and I'm still learning things from the boys here. Thank you.

Kirk- Well said...agree 100%

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 3:57pm
robert hutch says:
I am no big fan of All-Star games either as someone or many feel slighted.If this is to showcase players for the scouts to see then let the scouts make a list of players they want to take a look at.Then let the coaches fill the remaining spaces.At least the scouts would get to see the players on their radar screen at one time.And it may not be that the best players would be there.Being the best players in the league those scouts already know about them.Then , what do I know.

posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 4:32pm
Randy Russon says:

Very, very good points.



posted Jan. 25th, 2013 - 10:27pm
John Conley says:
So the NAHL decides to hold a weekend to spotlight its better players and some people think that's a bad thing.

posted Jan. 26th, 2013 - 6:59am
Randy Russon says:
Michael Bourne,

Thanks for the nice words.



posted Jan. 26th, 2013 - 8:00am
Dave Williams says:
There is really no true method of picking all star game players. It is inevidible that some deserving candidate gets left off the team. The great thing about hockey is that the better players get recognized no matter where they play. My question to both Stephan and Randy is, why get so uptight when questioned on certain points? A difference of opinion is healthy for a good debate, as well as it opens up an understanding on why a certain point was made to start with.
When you write a story that is opinioned based, there are some out there that may view the story from another angle.

posted Jan. 26th, 2013 - 8:25am
Christian Poulsen says:
I'm thinking maybe it would be nice if room service brought me a straitjacket

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 4:08am
John Smith says:
Why not have a NAHL 92 Showcase ?

Also maybe the players mentioned as not being picked, maybe the coaches know their grades are not college level and won't get them through the NCAA clearing house.

Also - remember in Basketball, Michael Jordan got cut from his High School basketball team his junior year of high school.
Motivation can elivate ones ability beyond imagination.

Hockey is just a step in life that teaches life is not fair, it teaches, adversity and what you do with it and learn from it.

Good luck to all.

It's a great game - a great teacher in life.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 8:32am
Randy Russon says:

Good points made. Very good points.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 10:03am
Christian Poulsen says:
"Word Up"...(Cameo" version),...Urban dictionary

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 10:04am
Kirk Trammel says:

Good points, but Michael Jordan never got cut in high school - he just didn't like it that he had to play JV with the rest of the sophomores before starring on varsity his junior and senior years. Not as sexy as the "Jordan was cut in high school" myth, but still a good lesson about working hard while waiting your turn - got to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. See article below.


posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 1:08pm
John Smith says:
I stand corrected in detail that Jordon didn't make the cut for the Varsity squad.

Sub quote "Jordan had been wildly competitive before he had been cut [sic], after the cut he seemed even more competitive than ever, as if determined that it would never happen again."

That being said......."Motivation can elivate ones ability beyond imagination."

FYI - My son didn't make an all star team one year and talk about Motivation...... comes back the next year, gets chosen for a regional team, gets to fly across country and scout's comments were "Not the fastest skater but rarely out of position, great size and hands, does things coaches ask for and sees the game. Only player to wear a business suite to and away from the rink and very professional"
Mean something ? Yes - its' called details. That was years ago but if there are players that read this - motivation ? If your playing - no one questions heart, keep motivated, work on your details. Not only hockey but, the scout noted "only player that wore a business suite to and from the rink and very professional"..... the details are noticed off the ice just as much as on the ice fellas.

Good luck and hard work will get you somewhere farther in life more than not.

posted Feb. 11th, 2013 - 12:33pm
Jeff Wood says:
Catching up on some reading. These posts raise some great topics regarding junior hockey. I wonder what the stats are for players aging out of juniors that receive no NCAA commitments. As said during one reply we have over 400 junior teams and growing and by my guess less than 1000 NCAA spots a year. I see rankings of teams all the time based on strength of play and wonder if the correlation to number of commitments a team has necessarily means success on the ice.

It is probably impossible to do an analysis since teams don't post everything. Especially they don't like to advertise it when a player does not succeed in getting a commitment. As a parent that stat has more meaning than a win loss record and league championships.

posted Feb. 19th, 2013 - 11:03pm
Alan Scheppelman says:
Just wanted to thank Rich Tremblay for his words of encouragement. Just found this blog now or would have posted sooner.

As for the content of the blog, since my son was one of the slighted players, I agree that the selection process is flawed. I wouldn't expect a college commitment out of a single showcase event but the exposure does help the deserving players.

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* Article disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Randy Russon, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.

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