The NCAA is in the process of righting a wrong in college hockey recruiting. Over the course of the offseason, the way in which Division I hockey teams can communicate and associate with potential players will be changing.
Starting May 1, there can no longer be conversations between a coach or prospect prior to Jan. 1 of a prospect’s sophomore year of high school. Furthermore, the NCAA is establishing that official visits and verbal offers can only happen after Aug. 1, prior to a prospect’s junior year.
This will now eliminate any middle school student from possibly being forced into deciding on where their future hockey path is headed. Previously, these young players were receiving offers at the ages of 12, 13 or 14. Before they could decide what electives they wanted to take their freshman year of high school, they were getting offers from top-tier colleges to play for a team that could go through some major renovations by the time that student reaches the college level.
These fresh rules will open many doors and possibilities going forward. Top colleges that are regularly featured in the NCAA Tournament will have to wait to talk to potential players, thus opening the doors for teams in weaker conferences to reach out at the same time other schools are.
There will also be corresponding stability at the junior level of hockey, particularly in the Ontario Hockey League. Each year their Priority Selection Draft will feature players that have already verbally committed to an American university, which will often shake up some teams’ draft boards.
This will no longer be the case going forward. Players eligible for the OHL draft will not have a verbal commitment, per NCAA rules. Recently, Jeremy Wilmer, 15, was selected in the eighth round by the Saginaw Spirit in the 2019 OHL draft. After putting up 61 points in 25 games for his U16 team, a player of that caliber would typically be drafted in the top two rounds of the OHL draft. Wilmer, a Rockville Center, New York, native, verbally committed to Boston University in January, thus rendering him useless to an OHL team.
BGSU should benefit from this system. Located in a region where competitive scouting with the University of Michigan, Miami University, The Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University takes place, Bowling Green is no longer at a disadvantage of losing out on a prospect that verbally commits to Michigan at the age of 13.
With new bench boss Ty Eigner’s Minnesota ties, an influx of Minnesota-born prospects could be on the way. Sophomore Max Johnson, freshman Taylor Schneider and incoming recruits Garrett Daly and Spencer Schneider each played their junior hockey in Lakeville, Minnesota.
There was no loss of recruits when Eigner was hired in April, but it has yet to be reported how much the recruiting process will change with Eigner at the helm. The nine-year assistant turned head coach was one of two heads in recruiting along with former assistant coach Barry Schutte. There should be a better understanding of how much Eigner will be involved once his assistants are hired.