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Daily Dish: Summer Grind to Season Start - Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 13 Jul 2021  
By: Stephen Heisler,

The traditional summer junior hockey camp tour is back in full swing in 2021 after last summer’s mixed bag of skating opportunities. And it looks like prospects are hitting every opportunity that's available.

Coaches are being pressured to fill camps in an effort to make up for lost revenue from the COVID season and players are taking the bait in record numbers. 

Like in years past, the players are starting to gain an advantage over the teams when it comes to where they are going to play. This summer has only proven that there are multiple options for players at every level. Despite what is being said on the other webpage, it looks like Canada will be opening for players from the United States. This will certainly influence where North American Hockey League prospects go if they find themselves on the outside looking in on opening day.

That is not going to be good news for pay-to-play level teams. We anticipate a record number of 20-year-old prospects playing in the NAHL this season. The norm will likely be two lines of 2001 birthday players, another line of 2002's, and the younger player is fighting it out for the remaining opportunities. The smarter pay-to-play coaches will focus on the development of younger prospects while the other guys fight over the twenty bombs without a clue.

Let's face it, coaches want to win. It will be exceedingly difficult to pass on opportunities to sign veteran players from other leagues. The North American Hockey League is one of the only leagues to not restrict a number of these 20-year-old players.

2003 birth year prospects will be fighting for every minute of ice time they can get. Many will take a hard look at Canada instead of resorting to the pay-to-play levels. And that's understandable, players should exhaust every opportunity to play for free. The problem is that too many players fail to recognize the need to have solid Plans B and C in place.

This is not going to be the season to fall through the cracks. Players should not make the mistake have remaining in a substandard situation. If you see signs of instability early in the season, that's not something that should never be overlooked. This is not the year to take chances with individual development. Little things like off-ice conditioning, video sessions, nutrition, hydration, and rest are all part of the equation that goes along with the on-ice practices.

2020-21 was all but a completely lost season. It was a developmental Mulligan. There will be no excuses for shortcomings after this upcoming season. Now is not the time to let up, to glide through a zone, or get too comfortable. If you want to make a move, and advance your game, this is the time to do it.

There are a lot of players that assumed they were NCAA Division I prospects but now find themselves looking really hard at Division III. The ACHA Division I level we'll see a heavy influx of players from the free to play leagues because of the lack of stalls at the NCAA level.

2002 and 2003 prospects are going to have to worked extremely hard to overcome the COVID season. those that commit to getting better, stronger, and smarter will see a nice return on that investment. The other guys will find it difficult the land spots on anything other than ACHA rosters.

Players without a solid plan in place could easily find themselves stuck on Brokeback Mountain playing for the Harriers. Nobody wants to fall into that trap. 

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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