The last consideration, junior hockey (be it the NAHL, USHL, and others), is the avenue that is (1) seeing an influx of players, especially as college coaches look to it increasingly more for developmental purposes, and (2) the option that seemingly comes with the most questions and the least understanding.
The best thing players can do if they are considering junior hockey (or...are asked to consider it from a coach), is to ask a lot of questions, arm themselves with as much information and understanding as possible, and look to generate open lines of communication between coaches (past and future), agents, mentors, and parents. You want to start your junior hockey path with a plan (Who am I connected with? What college is recruiting me? What are my specific next steps?) as opposed to going in with no plan, staying on your heels, and thinking/assuming "Someone will find me." (*those days are going by the wayside).
A starter set of questions that you (or your athletes) can consider asking the junior hockey coaches are below -- this will help you (and your family) get increasingly more comfortable with the team, the steps to college, etc. In turn, the coaches and staff will get insight and understanding of you as well. *I'm using the NAHL as my example, these can be reframed to various leagues and opportunities.
> While the NAHL is 'tuition free', you want to get an understanding of just what costs ARE involved. This is a straight-forward inquiry.
> What will your in-season routine look like?
> Ask about living arrangements, etc.
> Ask about recent players who have gone on to college - where are they now? What separated them from the rest?
> What is your coaching philosophy? (Asking this will have the coach explaining the foundation of his team, and any expectations he may have for athletes both in practice and at games.)
> What are expectations both in and out of season? (Are there team workouts? Team meetings? Determine timing, regularity).
> How do you see me potentially fitting into your plans? (Very straightforward question to get a very straightforward answer.)
> What happens before, during, and after signing (tender) periods? When are those?
> Have them explain the 'NCAA Pathway Seminar'.
While not an exhaustive list, this will certainly get the conversation started (and will provide more confidence than you may have had at the outset of the process!).
Any questions? For hockey players in high school, prep/boarding school, college and beyond, do not hesitate to reach out and contact us!