Jr. Kings College Hockey Showcase Camp Is A Success

Jr. Kings College Hockey Showcase Camp Is A Success

Youth hockey programs are always trying to find new ways to get more exposure for their most advanced players, and college hockey coaches and junior hockey scouts are similarly focused on finding the best talent for their programs. The Los Angeles Jr. Kings recently put together an event that achieved both goals.

From May 31-June 2, the Jr. Kings, in conjunction with College Hockey, Inc., hosted the Reebok CCM College Hockey Experience at the Toyota Sports Center. The event - open to Jr. Kings players and others - featured 72 top players coming together for practices, games and hockey talk sessions with head coaches or assistants from eight of the country’s most prestigious college hockey programs as well as the director of scouting for the United States Hockey League.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” said Louis Pacella, who coaches the Jr. Kings’ Midget 16AAA team and is involved with many other aspects of the Jr. Kings program. “From the quality of the college coaches we had there to the quality of the players we put on the ice, based on everyone’s feedback, it was a huge success that we can definitely build on. The first one was awesome, and we definitely plan to do it again next year.”

The event, which sold out quickly, was limited to the most accomplished local players from the 1996-98 birth years. The group of 72 was split into four teams, each of which played games to showcase their skills for the college coaches but also was put through practices by the coaches from Denver, Harvard, Minnesota State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire and Ferris State. 

The players also sat in on hockey symposiums with the college coaches.

“One of the great things about the camp was that the college coaches were directly involved,” Pacella said. “There are a lot of these showcase events where they say ‘so and so will be there,’ and they’re up in the stands not really paying attention. These coaches were on the bench, and every team was coached by two NCAA coaches. They were down there with the kids during games, and they were on the ice for practices.

“The major comment from the parents was that there was a lot of thought that went into the practices. The coaches weren’t just out there babysitting. To watch a guy like Mike Eaves from Wisconsin - one of the best college coaches in the country - going through a practice with passion and really instructing the kids was really cool.”

The college coaches were impressed by the level of play they saw on the ice. Scott Borek, the associate head coach for the University of New Hampshire, said he was convinced to fly across the country and attend the event by the reputations of Pacella and Kelly Sorensen, the Jr. Kings’ executive director. 

“I’ve done a number of those things in the past, and in this particular setting, the kids played really hard, and it was real hockey,” Borek said. “Sometimes summer hockey isn’t great quality, and it makes it really hard to evaluate, but at this event, the kids played really hard.

“They played as hard as they could. They were physical and make some plays. The high-level play was there, and we got to see them play under duress, which helped us with our evaluations.” 

While the signing period for hockey players to officially commit to college programs isn’t until November, the College Hockey Experience event held by the Jr. Kings may have helped some players move closer to achieving their dreams of playing in college.

“A lot of kids that really promoted themselves and helped their cause through the camp.” Pacella said. “It generated a lot of dialogue. At least a half-dozen kids at the camp took major steps toward securing a college scholarship.”