For most NCAA sports, student-athletes play for their high school, then they go play for a college.
Hockey, of course, is a little different.
With junior leagues and competing against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) for players, the Division-I college hockey recruiting landscape needed some administrative help.
In 2019, hockey-specific recruiting rules were put in place to slow things down — a rare instance where the NCAA acknowledged that hockey can’t always be under the same recruiting guidance and rules of the other major sports.
If you’re looking for examples of how things were getting out of hand, just Google Oliver Wahlstrom and read about how he committed to Maine at 13 years old. He never ended up playing for the Black Bears, but at least his story isn’t a tragic tale; the No. 11 overall pick in 2018 played for Boston College for a year before turning pro, and he just wrapped up his first full NHL season with the New York Islanders.
Still, 13-year-olds committing wasn’t going to work long-term. The NCAA now has hockey-specific rules in place for the recruiting timelines of each birth year.
For those really plugged in, a wave of college commitments came in over the wire on Monday, Aug. 1. That’s because on the first day of August leading into a player’s junior year of high school — 16U for most hockey folks — schools are allowed to extend verbal offers to prospects.
It’s an important date in the recruiting timeline, but it’s not the first, nor the last key date on the calendar. Here’s a full look at what the 2006 birth-year — players just now able to make verbal commitments as of Monday — is moving through on their way to college hockey.
While the second date on the NLI info page is the final day to sign for the upcoming season – Aug. 1, 2023 for this year – the important thing to remember about college hockey is that players can continue pursuing college hockey opportunities well after they finish high school. In fact, College Hockey, Inc., is quick to remind people that the average age of a player when they commit to a college is 19, not 16.
The players already making commitments this week are outliers, not the norm. Typically, they are the most sought-after prospects in their birth year, but they don’t always end up staying with that particular school, nor do all of them end up being the best in their birth year a few years down the road.
It is a massive achievement to make a verbal pledge to a college hockey program in the first week it’s possible, of course. It is an evolving list, changing in real-time, but here are some of the highlights of early commitments this week: