Life is good if you’re a hockey player suiting up for the New Jersey Hitmen 18U Midget team, or for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ 16U squad.
You already have the inside track on a future with those organizations’ top teams in the National Collegiate Development Conference.
By Joshua Boyd
The United States Premier Hockey League, in drawing up the charter for the tuition-free NCDC, made sure that each organization can protect its own Organizational Assets.
These players don’t have to be drafted by their own organizations, and unless they individually opt out of protected status and into the draft pool, they can’t be drafted by any other NCDC team.
“When we put this whole concept together, there were a lot of different angles we had to look at,” said Jim Hunt, President and Director of Player Development for the Hitmen.
Hunt was in on the ground floor discussions that led to the creation of the NCDC last winter.
“What makes us unique, and different from any other tuition-free organization in the country, is that players can start at Mites and climb to tuition-free junior hockey within one organization, if they so choose.”
The NCDC allows its teams eight tenders – players from outside of their organizations that they can protect from the draft. There are also draft picks in both the Entry Draft and Futures Draft. The teams would rather not have to use these spots on players they already have in their organization.
“If you have your own 15-to 18-year-old kids, and if you had to tender or draft your own kids, you’d create a rift in your own building by not drafting or tendering these players,” said Hunt. “Our league wants to keep kids in their buildings, close to home. If a Midget player is under contract for the next season with your organization by April 15, you don’t have to tender or draft them. They are in this whole separate category of Organizational Assets.”
The NCDC set up the Organizational Assets classification so that the league’s teams would not “cannibalize our own league,” as Hunt said.
“We are not going to take each other’s midgets, players whom we’ve invested in, developmentally,” he added. “In New Jersey, it’s only us and the Rockets. But, in the Boston area, a kid could jump between any one of five teams. That seems like an awful lot of movement and it runs counter to what we’re trying to do in terms of our player development model.”
Hunt said this also gives players at the Midget, and possibly even Bantam, levels the confidence that they have greater possibility to work their way up to their organization’s NCDC team. On the other side, the NCDC allows players within a member organization to opt out of Organizational Asset status if they want to try their luck in each season’s NCDC Entry Draft.
“If a kid is tired of being with the Hitmen and wants to go somewhere else, he just doesn’t sign with us. We have three or four kids from our 18U team who want to try to play in the NCDC. They just passed that April 15 date without signing, and now they can enter the Draft,” Hunt added.
Being an Organizational Asset does not guarantee a roster spot on a NCDC team. It only protects that player from being drafted or tendered outside of their home organization.
“They still have to go through the tryout process. We have kids signed for our 18U team who will go to the Main Camp in July,” said Hunt. “If they make the NCDC team, we just rip up the 18U contract and sign them to a NCDC contract. If they don’t make the NCDC, they get to remain with our Midget team.”
This also applies to players who played for the Hitmen’s junior teams last year. Many of the returning Hitmen from the USPHL Premier team will be top candidates to make the NCDC team. However, players on the 2016-17 Elite team who want to try to move up can sign a junior contract before April 15 and be Organizational Assets.
“If a player from last year’s Elite team doesn’t make the NCDC roster,” said Hunt, “they’ll still have a spot on what will be our USPHL Premier team this year.”
Read past National Premier Development Conference articles in our archives:
Our March cover feature, America’s Future: USPHL Transforms, Provides New Opportunities for Fifth Season in 2017-18