How good are professionals?
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01-27-2010, 02:20 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Originally Posted by
This is a good thread. A lot of people don't realize how much of a jump there is from level to level in hockey. I'll give you guys a quick timeline here;
When I was 14-15 I played AAA in London, ON. Got drafted to the O and went to the teams orientation camp. At this point, you don't know many of the guys names, and most of you are 16-17. The skill level is pretty close for people who were drafted as scorers and then you have people on the same skill level that were drafted to be fighters, or defensive d-men, etc..., but you can tell some guys are just built better at this point and that gives them a clear edge. The competition there was pretty good. I was lucky to be about 6' feet tall and about 165 lbs by that age, so I had the size to not get rocked too hard, but the guys who were a year older and had been drafted the year before, but not made the big club yet stood out a lot.
That year I started the season playing junior B in St Thomas, and that was the first time I sat back in my career and went 'Holy ****, I had better keep my head up'. The jump from AAA to junior where you are playing guys that are anywhere from 16 to 21 is ridiculous. Most of the guys did this as a side job for fun, being 19 or 20 while some of us were placed here because St T. has some affiliation with some junior A teams. I was in the top 3 scorers on my AAA team the year before, on a team that is perrenially a top-3 team along with Elgin and another stand-out, and for the first 10 games, I got either 4th line minutes, or no minutes and was trying very hard just to keep up. Where I really benefited at that time was the practice where you just learn things from the other guys.
I got more decent playing time and got 3rd line minutes by about the 15th game in and levelled out there until the 26th game of the season where I got lucky and was called up to the O due to injuries on the big club. I was there only for insurance issues and finished out the season playing only 3 games, which I managed to survive.
This jump is the one that makes you see how good you have to be to really make it. I'll tell you all right now what it is.
Quickness. The quickness of everything; Your skating, decision making, HOW FAST YOU CAN GET A GOOD SHOT OFF (probably THE most important).
You want to be able to put it near the cross-bar from the opposing goal line in practice if you don't want to get chirped about having a muffin for a shot.
Anyways, from there I progressed and played out 2 and a half full seasons of junior, spoke to some GMs after not getting a look at all in my first year of draft elligibility, but still didn't get taken after my second year in the draft. Got lucky that season and got a try-out contract with the Minnesota wild and was invited to their prospect camp in Traverse city. These tournaments are basically OHL all-star games with some talent from europe fused in there from the draft and plugs like me on the 4th line trying to make some kind of impact. From there I went to their rookie-camp in late august and saw an even bigger jump in talent. Here we had guys who were 23, who had been playing in the A but couldn't crack the big leagues yet, and I can tell you. Because of the size and skill they brought, they were at that point about 10 times better than anyone but the TOP END talent in the OHL at that time (Gagner, Kosti, etc...), and pretty much ran through us younger guys.
Of course I didn't make the team, and got sent back to my OHL team to play a season as an over-ager. I played there and after the season was done, got invited to a try-out by two ECHL teams, Florida and Victoria. I made one and played 1st and 2nd line minutes for a season, with one AHL call up (where I make an extra $75 a week to get dangled and softened up in practice for a week and a game, woo!) making an ok salary, but decided that I needed stability because making 32000 a year wont cut it when I wasn't able to play at my highest level in 7 or 8 years.
So basically, a re-cap. I played pretty much the highest level possible my entire life growing up. I had good size, a good head for the game, and decent skills. I was dominant in AAA, played well as a rookie in junior-B, levelled out to a pretty good player in Major Junior, but got almost no looks to even be a late draftee. I was an average to below average player in the prospects tournament and rookie camps and when I hit 21, I think I peaked early because I played probably about 3 times better than I ever have that one season in the Coast and all it got me was about 2 months on the first line, a call-up because some of the better players couldn't get called up due to contractual obligations and a bus-ride home at the end of the season with my twigs and hockey bag. And I can tell you, I always worked hard in practice, and in games, but when it comes down to it, some guys are just born with this skill a step above 99% of all the other guys who give 20 years of their lives to hockey. That 1% is the guys you see in the NHL right now.
Awesome post. Thanks for writing all that out, very well written and very very informative.
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