An Update From The WHH 2021 Cover Athlete
It’s been a big year for C.J. Kier.
After being named World Hockey Hub’s Cover Athlete of the Year in January, he wrapped up a monster 16U season for his NorthStar Knights squad. A productive summer back home in Colorado has prepped Kier for the next chapter in his youth hockey career this fall; his first at the 18U age group.
The last few months have been a busy one for Kier. When the season wrapped up in March, his focus shifted. As a 2004-born goaltender, Kier was eligible for the United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft in May, as well as the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Draft in July. He also participated in the 2021 USA Hockey BioSteel Boy Select 17 Player Development Camp in June. On top of all that, Kier went back to work, training and refining his game with Matt Zaba of Mountain High Hockey.
“We worked a lot on small details of my game,” said Kier. “footspeed, reads, down-low plays. Working with Zabs has for sure been paying off as I feel I am ready to have a personal best season.”
When both junior league drafts concluded, 55 goaltenders’ names had been called. Just nine of them were ‘04s. Kier was unfortunately not among them. Additionally, when Team USA announced its final roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, the Colorado native was not on the list.
Some may take that harsh news as discouraging, but Kier’s focus is much bigger than that.
“I got the opportunity to compete against some of the best goalies in the country for a spot on the U-18 USA team,” he said. “I didn’t make the team but overall had an amazing experience at the camp. To be able to not only go up against some of the best goalies in the country but also shooters was an absolute privilege to be a part of. Even though I did not make the team, I plan to keep working hard and hope to one day achieve my childhood dream of representing the red, white and blue overseas.”
It’s far from the end of the road for Kier. At just 17 years old, he’s playing a position that historically takes a bit longer to develop for junior hockey and beyond. Of the 50-plus goalies drafted in the USHL and NAHL this summer, 25 were coming off the heels of their final 18U season as ‘02s or their first season of junior hockey as a 19-year-old. Kier is set to begin his first 18U season this fall.
“We will be looking to win consecutive Dixon Cup championships,” he said. “I want to be a team-first guy and do whatever I can to get us wins. I’ll be working to make a name for myself and my organization this year for junior and college teams.”
NorthStar’s 18U program is the reigning North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) champion, and Kier will have big expectations as he steps into the net for a team looking to defend its title.
As far as junior hockey is concerned, Kier continues to build his hockey resume and master his craft every day in pursuit of the next level. Sharpening his skills with goalie coaches and making a name for himself at evaluation camps. Reminiscent of the old adage, ‘it’s better to be prepared for an opportunity that may never come rather than having an opportunity and not being prepared.’ A team in the USHL, NAHL or even the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) in Canada could soon be on the horizon for Kier.
“All I can do right now is focus on making myself better for the upcoming season and using my play this year to make one of these teams [in the future],” said Kier. “Right now, the focus is on this upcoming season. If I can do my job to my fullest potential, I am confident I will see myself in a high-level juniors league next season.”
Our Cover Athlete of the Year spotlights a top athlete in youth hockey all season long on the World Hockey Hub website as well as social media channels. Follow WHH on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest on our Cover Athlete and announcements when you can apply to become the next Cover Athlete!