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A few years ago, Peter Russo, a hockey coach at Brooks School, a college preparatory school in North Andover, MA, embarked on a project to connect with some college hockey coaches and see what they look for when recruiting.

With roster spots on college teams in high demand but short supply, he thought it was important to provide insights from the guys behind the benches.

These thoughts came from coaches at:Division I and Division III schools.

Below are 30 quotes from a list of about 200 he collected. While these thoughts come from U.S. college coaches we have heard similar thoughts from coaches and scouts at all levels including junior, Canadian universities and even the NHL.

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During your high school years, be an athlete, play other sports. Play a lot of street hockey with your friends and be a kid. You don’t need to play in a tournament every weekend in the summer. Be at school and graduate with your friends and teammates. Go to the prom, go to homecoming and learn how to be a part of a program and culture. Don’t bounce around from team to team, show loyalty to your coaches. Be a part of building a culture. You can’t build something in one year.

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Body language can tell a lot. I can usually tell by a kids body language if he will be able to make it at this level. Eye contact is another. I want a kid to ask questions and be engaged. To show an interest in our school. If a kid drives six hours for a visit, and then has no questions, I assume he isn’t that interested or prepared. You don’t have to talk the whole time, but show you have a personality.

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It is easy to tell the teams that play together and as a team. They have the most success. Union was a team like that, and they won a National Championship. Because of that, their players also had a lot of individual opportunities for the future. You want to have team success, for a prep school, you want to be playing in the last week of the season. More scouts watch successful teams. I have run into the problem where I’ve had guys who were more concerned about getting to the NHL than buying into a team game. It is easy to see who is selfish and who is a team guy and the selfish guys don’t make it far.

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Grades are so important. Every 100 points on the SAT’s means you can apply to another 100 schools in the country. Grades open so many doors, and without them, you really limit yourself for options.

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I think kids who spend their high school years traveling and bouncing around miss out on a big piece of their development as people. They lose a lot of important social skills and academic skills. They also don’t learn what it’s like to play for a school or community (which you do in college) and taking pride in who they are representing.
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Academics are the most important thing. Some kids cruise through high school, and then when it’s time to look at colleges, they want to go to a NESCAC School. At that point it is too late. Being the best student you can be is the most important thing. If we are looking at two players, one is an OK student but a rock star hockey player, and the other is a rock star student and a pretty good hockey player, the second player is the one who is going to end up getting in and playing here. The better student almost always comes out on top at the NESCAC schools.
NOTE: New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is a group of eleven highly selective liberal arts colleges and universities committed to keeping a proper perspective on the role of sport in higher education.

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Passion for the game. That is the biggest thing. In the recruiting process, we like to see a kid show he has a strong passion for hockey. That is the type of kid who will play hard and be a good teammate for four years, even with the end of his playing career is in sight.

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Coaches can see which kids are playing for themselves. You can tell in their body language. We want guys who play for their teammates and want to compete.

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Hockey IQ. What they do in different situations. If they have a one goal lead in the last couple minutes of a period, are they dangling around or are they putting the puck in high percentage areas? What are they doing away from the puck?

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We trust coaches that we have good relationships with. We research all angles, former coaches, fall coaches etc. It is important that we get high character guys. It’s a long year as it is and an even longer year if you have bad apples in the room.

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We are looking for great kids from excellent families that happen to be good hockey players too. On the ice we are looking for skating, hockey sense and competitiveness. Guys who will fit our culture.

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We look for how they dress, eye contact, how they treat their parents. We spend time on the phone with them and talking to their coaches. When a kid is on a visit I usually show them around and spend 2 or 3 hours with them. We want kids who want to be here.

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In hockey there is no A+B=C. You see a lot of kids around here with the attitude of “but I did everything I was supposed to. I did Mass Satellite, USA Hockey Festivals, all the tournaments etc.” No path is a rite of passage, or entitles you to anything.

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Compete level. Does a player win 50/50 pucks? Does he back check to the right spots and battle hard? Does he have hockey sense and know where to be and what to do with the puck. I don’t like when a player asks me where I think he should be. I brought him in because I thought he knew where to be.

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Compete level. How does a player battle. How many times does he go into the corner and come out with the puck. That and Hockey IQ.

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Nothing is more transparent to a recruiter than a kid playing for people in the stands. I want a kid who wants to win for his current team, and is doing everything he can to help his team win.

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I love loyalty. Loyalty is huge with me and goes a long way. If a kid is a good player in a not so good program, I like to see that he sticks it out and finishes there. Obviously it’s a different story if the level of play is holding back his development, but that usually isn’t the case.

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We like to look for guys who play well with their teammates. Hockey is a team sport and you can’t do it alone. A lot of kids are too worried about comparing stat lines with kids from other schools who are going to certain colleges. We always watch a player and make an assessment with our own eyes on his game. We don’t recruit from a stat sheet, it depends what roles we need filled.

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Grades are the most important thing. Our guys need to be around the school averages, and we need a good amount of guys who could get in on their own if they didn’t play hockey. We are only allowed 1 “C-Band” player a year, which is a guy we have a little more wiggle room with in admissions.

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I do a lot of digging. I talk to current coaches, head coaches, assistant coaches. Guys I know that have played with or against the kid. Guys who are behind the scenes with the player. I hope to find a common theme amongst everyone I talk to. Negative feedback from one person is a bad sign. My advice to a kid would be to represent yourself how you want to be thought of, at all times. Be consistent. You never know how it will come back to hurt you. Handle yourself appropriately.

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Coaches like guys that do what it takes for their team to win. They like selfless players, who know their role and have high compete levels. Guys who trust their coaches. If they aren’t coachable in prep school or junior, they won’t be in college. Worry about team success first and individual success will follow.

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If a kid uses Twitter, I like to see a kid tweeting about hockey. Being supportive of his team and teammates. Giving a shout out to a friend that just won a big game or committed to college, etc. I don’t like to see negative things after a loss. If a guy is tweeting a lot, but not about hockey, it makes me wonder what his commitment level is to the game. Hockey guys want to talk hockey.

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I watch how they act with their parents. If they don’t respect them they probably won’t respect me. I look to see who is controlling the situation, is it a parent or the kid?

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Compete is the biggest thing. It is an overlooked skill. Attitude and body language are two more. What is he doing away from the puck? We can teach a kid how to play better defense. That stuff we aren’t looking for as much as the intangibles. You can teach a kid a lot of he has a strong work ethic.

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I look at how a kid interacts with his parents. If he doesn’t really listen to them he probably isn’t going to listen to me. I look at their appearance, are they wearing sideways hats, are they clean shaven? Do they shake your hand and make eye contact? Things like “yes sir” go a long way. I also notice what questions they ask, and if they are asking the right questions.

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I like when a player realistically describes his game to me. That it is accurate and matches up with how we see him. Here is a good example. One recruit told me he was a hunter, and penalty killer. He said his new team must not be that good since they want him on the Power play and that isn’t his game. I loved this because we saw him as that type of guy too. He was honest and all business. Know your role, find a niche, and don’t just say you are a goal scorer.

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I am looking for character and maturity. I need to know a freshman coming in at 19 years old is mature enough to be around 23, 24 year old seniors.

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A lot of it is talking to their current coaches, former coaches and former teammates. When a player comes for an overnight visit, we get great feedback from our current players who hosted him for the night. They are the ones who will be in the locker room with him, so they are always very honest. If a kid goes out with the team and is a jerk or rude to a girl, that stuff gets back to the coaches and is an instant red flag.

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I like when a guy asks good questions and shows a genuine interest in the school. If a kid said he wanted to be a business major, I know he doesn’t know much about the school because we don’t have business. Take the time to research the school, and ask honest questions. You should know the school inside and out before you visit.

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Always contact a coach yourself and not through your parents. Find out how a coach communicates whether it is email, text or phone and use that method.