Tryout season is right now

by Tim Droogsma

"HOW ARE ELITE LEAGUE PLAYERS SELECTED?"

That's probably the most common question we receive at the Elite League, and the most important thing for players to know is that the process of becoming an Elite League player begins during the high school hockey season.

Approximately 120 of the finest high school players in the Upper Midwest are chosen for the league, and are selected through a multi-stage process that attempts to identify the players while gathering input from a number of sources.

As mentioned, the primary try-out stage for the Elite League is actually the current high school season. Throughout the high school season, players are watched numerous times by the Elite League coaching staff (approximately 18 coaches), along with NHL scouts and coaches from various college and junior teams. All of these individuals are invited to provide input as to which players they would like to see in the upcoming Elite League. High school coaches are also asked to nominate players they feel are capable of playing in the Elite League. 

As the high school season progresses, regular meetings among Elite League coaches and others gradually produce a lengthy prospect list that can include as many as 300 or so players. By the time the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is over, this list is used to issue invitations to 80 or so players to participate in the upcoming Elite League season. In that group of 80, there will usually be 40-45 players who competed in the Elite League the previous fall, and whose development has kept them at an Elite League level.

In April, the Minnesota Hockey Advanced Program is scouted for additional players. Players on the prospect list will also have new information – their final high school stats, all-conference or all-tournament status, etc. - added to the information in their file.

During the summer, approximately 100 players are chosen from the prospect list to be brought in for a final evaluation, which consists of several hour-long games played in one day. These games are watched – and players evaluated – by a group of about 20 coaches and scouts. Enough players are chosen from this evaluation to provide the 40 or so spots needed to fill out the 120 spots on Elite League rosters.

While Elite League teams have geographical designations for the regular season – Northwest, Southeast, etc. – there are no district or section boundaries when it comes to player selection, and no “quotas” to be filled from any particular region. The ultimate goal of the selection process is to identify the top 120 players in the state and give them a chance to showcase their skills in the Elite League.

For any player hoping to one day make an Elite League team, it’s important to remember that the high school season is always going to be the primary way to get noticed. Scouts and coaches are always watching someone, somewhere, and consistently working hard, putting in a great effort and working to help your team reach its goals will always be the best way to get noticed.