As the popularity of ice hockey continues to grow in the United States, more and more high school players are looking for ways to elevate their game and gain exposure to potential collegiate and professional opportunities. This has led to a highly competitive recruiting landscape, with junior hockey teams vying for the top talent in the country. In this environment, the Minnesota Wilderness has emerged as a top destination for young players looking to further their hockey careers.
The Minnesota Wilderness was founded in 2012 and quickly made its mark in the North American Hockey League (HL), one of the top junior leagues in the United States. The team is based in the small town of Cloquet, Minnesota, but has built a reputation that extends far beyond its local community. With a focus on development and a winning culture, the Wilderness has become a major player in the recruitment game.
So what sets the Wilderness apart from other junior hockey programs? How have they been able to consistently attract top high school talent? Let’s take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to their success.
Strong Coaching Staff
One of the key factors in the Wilderness’ success is their coaching staff. Head coach Jon Vaillancourt, who has been with the team since its inception, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. Vaillancourt has worked at all levels of hockey, including stints with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and the U.S. Men’s National Team, and his expertise and reputation in the hockey community are a major draw for young players.
In addition to Vaillancourt, the Wilderness coaching staff also includes a number of former professional players who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. This combination of experienced and well-respected coaches has been a major factor in the Wilderness’ ability to recruit top talent.
Culture of Development
The Minnesota Wilderness prides itself on its commitment to player development. The team’s coaching staff places a strong emphasis on skill development and providing players with the resources and support they need to excel on the ice. This commitment to development has paid off, with several of the Wilderness’ former players going on to play Division I college hockey and even reaching the professional level.
In addition to on-ice development, the Wilderness also places a strong emphasis on academics and character development. The team’s players are expected to maintain a high level of academic performance and are encouraged to give back to their community through volunteer work and other initiatives. This focus on developing well-rounded individuals has been a major factor in attracting top talent to the program.
Strong Ties to Colleges and Universities
One of the main goals of junior hockey is to provide players with a path to college and professional hockey. The Wilderness has done an excellent job of forging strong relationships with colleges and universities across the country, which has given their players a leg up in the recruiting process.
The Wilderness also takes a proactive approach to helping players navigate the college recruiting process. The team’s coaching staff works closely with players to create highlight reels and promote them to potential college programs. This personalized approach has been effective in helping players find the right fit at the next level.
Success on the Ice
Ultimately, a team’s success on the ice is a major factor in attracting top talent. The Minnesota Wilderness has a long list of accomplishments and accolades that make them an appealing destination for high school players. In their first nine seasons in the HL, the Wilderness have made the playoffs eight times and won the Central Division title twice. They have also produced several Division I players, including NHL draft picks and players currently playing in the NHL.
Success on the ice not only attracts top talent, but it also creates a winning culture that players want to be a part of. This culture of success has been a major factor in the Wilderness’ recruiting efforts.
Community Support and Facilities
Cloquet, Minnesota, may not be a big city, but the Wilderness has a strong following and support from the local community. The team’s success on the ice has helped to solidify their place as a beloved local team, and their commitment to community involvement has only strengthened that bond.
In addition to community support, the Wilderness also boasts top-notch facilities that rival those of many higher-level junior hockey programs. This includes a state-of-the-art arena and training facilities, providing players with everything they need to succeed both on and off the ice.
The core message
Recruiting top high school talent is a competitive and ever-evolving process, but the Minnesota Wilderness has found a formula for success. With a strong coaching staff, an emphasis on development, and a culture of success, the Wilderness has become a premier program for young hockey players looking to take their game to the next level. As they continue to attract top talent and achieve success on the ice, the Minnesota Wilderness will undoubtedly remain a top destination for high school players looking to reach their full potential in the world of hockey.