Don’t Forget About U-16 Hockey

Don’t forget about U-16 hockey, because it’s making a difference.

Some people around the game might believe that league’s and team’s popping up all over the hockey world in this region are “watering down” the talent pool. Clearly those people don’t understand the game or the process.

The one and only negative effect that “Minor Midget” programs is having is on some high school programs, which is unfortunate, but that’s the only and I mean only negative effect of having a developmental league.

Obviously, U-16 programs are all about developing players and giving them an extra year of growth. It’s not about wins and losses, it’s all about development.

Sadly, some people around the hockey world will never darken the door when it comes to watching “Minor Midget” (what they refer to it still) or U-16 games.

As a scout if you’re not watching these games throughout the season you’re not doing your job.

“Oh those players are long-shots to make it.”

That take or perspective is horrendous.

There’s countless stories out there with regards to late-bloomers excelling after a year of U-16.

Obviously, some hockey minds disregard those stories and consider them all one-offs.

Players playing at the U-16 level shouldn’t be focused on the draft or stats or numbers, they should be focused on the process.

“You have to run your own race.”

That analogy comes to mind when considering the path of players who are currently playing U-16 hockey.

Countless young players are taking full advantage of playing at that level or extra year of development and parlaying that into an opportunity at a higher level the following year.

All these young players need is an opportunity to get more reps, touches or game action.

U-16 action might not be as sharpe or crisp, the players still have some gaps in their games, but the caliber of hockey is still very high and deserves the attention of scouts from all over the hockey world.

You see this level of hockey is all about making solid projections, not rolling the dice or trying to find diamonds in the rough. Throw the draft percentages out the window, these players need some extra time to develop, they need some extra time to grow. Let’s hope “hockey minds” understand the process and not jump to conclusions or overlook the U-16 circuits around this region.

U-16 is good hockey, there are good players playing at that level and it’s my hope scouts and hockey influencers disregard all the potential “bull shit” and negative perception that comes with this level and understand the impact and importance that it plays in the growth and development of the players and the caliber of hockey in this region.

U-16 programs are making a difference, don’t believe me, go watch a game, you won’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately, and sadly politics or old thought processing will potentially be the only thing that will hold back the success of U-16 programs moving forward.

There are still those within the game that feel that U-16 is an inferior brand of hockey and that it doesn’t matter what happens down there that a player’s resume means everything.

You see where you played last year still means something. “They” or the powers that be can say it doesn’t matter, but it does and that’s the difference maker right now. That thinking will sink the league if “Major” programs don’t support or consider U-16 programs as legitimate and worthwhile options for development.

U-18 and U-16 programs must work together, but more importantly U-18 programs can’t hide anymore behind the promises of affiliation and not honour it.

Whatever you do, don’t forget about U-16 hockey, there’s great stories and players there, don’t believe me, just go watch!

“The U16 league is about setting up players for success. Our primary goal is giving a place for them to learn and understand how to reach their full potential. We are happy to invest ourselves as coaches in hopes to graduate our players to the next level. This league belongs and will only grow and continue to succeed,” said Voyageurs HC Assistant Coach Kevin Furze.

“We have a few games on Rink A this year. I challenge scouts to stay after a U-18 game or come early to check out some U-16 games. Sure the speed is not the same as U-18 but some of these guys skill level is through the roof,” said Moncton Thunderbirds Head Coach Jeremy LeBlanc.
“Some players are just missing one tool to make the jump next year. It’s our job to identify and work on this with them.”
“Some scouts might see the opportunity to grab a late round pick because they know their staff can get the kid where he needs to be. The league has size, skill and speed. With a few Jr.A and Q draft picks last year hopefully people will start noticing this is a place to keep the dream alive,” explained LeBlanc.
LeBlanc speaks very highly about the development aspects of coaches and other team personnel.
“There’s great opportunities for everyone involved in the league to keep pushing and pursuing their dreams. It’s all about development, that is what makes the league so special,” LeBlanc said.

“The one thing that I would say is that U16 is not a detriment to HS Hockey..HS hockey should see U16 as a opportunity to allow players to further develop; especially grade 9 players. They get more ice times and will allow their games to develop. With the affiliation rules, the players can get the best of both worlds by playing games for both programs,” said Moncton Thunderbirds General Manager Denis Sheehan.

“U16 programs are about giving players opportunities..opportunity to develop their skills, continue to build their hockey portfolio, opportunities to be seen by scouts and teams, explained Sheehan.

“Whether it is getting drafted by a Q or Jr.A team, been offered a scholar to a prep school or sharping their skills for years of HS Hockey to come.”

“The true value of U16 programs are about not about where are playing now, it is where they will play in the future,” added Sheehan.

See you at the rink,

One comment

  1. In our area, U16 is a level you play before High School. If you can make a high school team over a U16, take that option, as the ones who play a year of U16 fall behind in the high school level.
    A couple move on to U18, but they are on the U16 team because there was no room on U18 team at that time.
    Many parents don’t know why you pay 5-6 times as much for less development than they get at the high school level. They say it’s for scouting purposes but I our local team has had one player in the last 6 years move on to Jr A. Many can’t even crack a Jr B roster, yet Jr B is full of players who played high school.
    If you can play high school or Prep school. It’s much better for your development and getting to that U18 major level, or even Jr.A.


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