Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Prospects Camp

This is a USHL team prospects camp: 90 skaters, 12 goalies, only a few taken to main camp. Lots of money for the team (these camps aren't cheap) in exchange for slivers of opportunity.

If you want to understand how something works in youth/junior hockey, remember that, at it's core, it's a financial engine. Money must flow. So every team has a prospects camp, and its primary purpose is to generate money for the team to fund other parts of the operation that aren't profitable. Its how some teams survive, and the size of some of these camps is legendary.

Think 6 teams and 90 skaters is a bit much? Try 16 teams and 240 skaters. There's a NAHL team that does that (maybe more than one). For many teams, these camps are the only thing that keeps them alive.

"We talked about this before," I said, as we drove to Detroit, "but the way to get a chance is not to play great one weekend, or be the best goalie for one tryout, but to be the best goalie at every tryout, and eventually, someone is going to notice."

"I know," Eli 16.10 said. "That's how this works."

"I think I may understand part of this now," I said. "I thought that goalies would get evaluated from the bottom up, where you have a checklist and every skill gets evaluated. You'd come out ahead of almost anyone if it was done that way. Instead, though, it's top down, where they watch for a few minutes, write down a thing or two, and move on. And if it's done that way, size is always going to be one of the things."

Eli has a problem, and it's not how he plays. Even though he's 6' 1/2", he's starting to look small next to older goalies. And no matter his level of technical skill (very high), or his game management (also extremely high), or his athleticism (off the charts), he has a hard time getting noticed.

The four games he played are easy to describe: he was terrific. Shutouts in the first three, two goals in the last game. He dominated, and he did everything. He played the puck. He made defensive calls (and his teammates listened). He controlled the puck. He scrambled. He just looked better.

No hesitation. 100% certain with every move he made.

They didn't take him.

I saw the other goalies, and some of them were good. They weren't as technically skilled, though, and they didn't manage the game. He was clearly better, and I say that as someone who understands what his limitations are, because I've seen every game he's ever played.

No matter.

Like I said, that's his problem right now. Enormous command of the position for someone his age, but no one is noticing.

So the weekend was a huge positive, for him, because he was so dominant, tinged with real disappointment that he wasn't going to main camp, because what else could he possibly need to do?

On Tuesday, I opened up my email and saw this: 2018 MAIN CAMP INVITATION.

Probably, someone canceled. Didn't matter. He deserved it.

This was Tuesday night. Camp started on Thursday morning.

"Hey, looks like you're going to have to rearrange a few things," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

"Um, because you just got an invitation to main camp," I said.

"What? No way!"

"Look for yourself," I said, and showed him the email.

Looks like someone is going to main camp.

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