I am sorry to burst some peoples bubbles with this article. Some of you may not like it. Some of you may need to hear this but at the end of the day I hope this helps even one person!
I think where a lot of hockey players go wrong is they get too fixated on one goal, one team, one league and that is it. I believe you should always dream and never give up on your dreams but you do need to sit down and be realistic at some points too. I am not saying throw in the towel and give up but let's be realistic if you are playing 18UA/AA hockey. Your next two routes can be Junior. B or A hockey or go away to college. Now, say you go the Jr Hockey route and play there for two-three years. You age out at 21-years-old and you get a little better, have some fun and end up playing Junior. A by 21 and then you MAYBE go to NCAA D-3. Finally get to that NCAA level just to sit on the bench for a year? Or play maybe 7-8 games your first year. At the end of it all you play realistically a total of 40 games at the end of your four years. Was it worth it?
Now look you probably made several friends and relationships during those years but was it worth it? You had amazing times and made the most of the situation. You can never look back on life with regrets but I do want players to start thinking logically also. Don't you think you could have went of to college at 18/19, played Club Hockey Division 1 or 2, be the best player on the team, a leader, be a 20+ minute guy, get out of college at 21-22, still making amazing friends, etc. than do the age out of Juniors route and be a plug in, role guy in the NCAA. Neither option is better or worse, but like I said let's be logically here and look at options.
Look, if you are playing 16UAAA or even a high 16UAA go and carry on, go for it. See what you can do! If you are 16-20-years-old playing NAHL, Junior A Hockey (USHL, OHL, QMJHL, a good USPHL Premier team) you have a great shot, so go for it.
But there is no perfect route, there is your route however you choose it.
At the end of the day, a lot of players get so fixated on having to play NCAA D3 or even the NCAA level just so they can tell their friends they did it, put it on their resume. Meanwhile by them going to the NCAA D3 level they completely drained their passion for the game, they got tired of putting in the work because "they got there" and they don't do much with that NCAA credential. For the players who play at a solid NCAA D1 level they are usually the ones who come out of it changed, still passionate and willing to give back. I have seen numerous players go the NCAA D3 route, give up on hockey and just play the game and half a** it. Same goes for the kids who played Junior. B to A hockey after high school, age out and play NCAA D3 or sometimes even end up at Club hockey anyways and just nonchalantly walk through the remainder of their playing days.
Kids, players, anyone, it is totally ok to sit down with yourself and say I love the game but looking around I do not know if I have the ability to play D1 in 2-3 years. Therefore there is nothing wrong with playing one more year of Juniors seeing what happens and if nothing happens go play Club Hockey be the star, continue to grow your passion for the game, make endless friends, be a leader and more importantly get better at hockey. You will need the right guidance and someone knowledgeable in your corner telling you what to do for this to be possible. Look I was totally mis-guided and I would be happy to help anyone. Just reach out to me on social media, email, whatever! (Instagram: santageetee, Twitter is the same thing) & (email firstname.lastname@example.org)