Our Process

Each component of the Junior Canes process centers around the player experience as they move forward throughout their development journey.

Our goal is to provide each athlete with an outstanding youth hockey experience that sets them up for short-term and long-term success. A major factor in delivering that promise is ensuring that each player is placed at the correct level of play that will maximize their growth and development.


Player identification is the critical first step to the Junior Canes process as we:

  • Identify the players who will be a good fit for our program
  • Ensure that our program is a good fit for interested players
  • Place each player in the appropriate short-term level to help them meet their long-term goals

Players are identified through open tryouts, continuous in-season evaluation, and recruiting.


Open tryouts are held each off-season, typically between the end of April for Tier 1 AAA and the middle of May for Tier 2. Skaters and goalies are put through sets of drills, small-area games and full-ice scrimmages while being evaluated by our coaching staff.

Registration typically opens each March when the next season's program guide is released.


Our coaches utilize the TeamGenius platform to continuously evaluate our athletes throughout the season. The system allows coaches to calibrate evaluations across teams within an age group/birth year so players have a clear picture of where they stand, and coaches are able to take action where development gaps are identified.

Ongoing, season-long evaluation is the most successful method towards properly placing athletes because it gives our coaching staff several months' worth of data, versus two or three skates during tryouts.


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    Open tryouts
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    Continuous evaluation
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    Heavy focus on long-term goals
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    Maximized experience by matching players with the appropriate level

What we avoid:

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    “Too much too soon” that causes burn out
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    “Too easy” that causes boredom or skews self-evaluation
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    “Too hard” that leads players to quit hockey


Our Focus:

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    Skill acquisition
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    Athletic development
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    Hockey IQ
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    Personal development

Skill acquisition:

With a new, re-designed curriculum for 2023-24 and a fully-dedicated Player Development Director, our staff of PD coaches put players through a circuit of high-intensity stations designed to maximize repetitions and focus on the foundational skills of hockey … skating and edge-work, puck control, passing and shooting. Sessions are strategically designed so that players are moving and touching pucks, not standing in line.

In addition to on-ice player development, our goalies go through SenseArena Virtual Reality training once each month. The VR training is held off-ice at WCC in full pads and under the 1:1 guidance of a Junior Canes goalie coach. This innovative program allows our goalies to see hundreds of additional shots without the additional expense of extra ice time.

Athletic development:

With the construction of the RBC Wealth Management Hockey Development Center and our ongoing partnership with off-site training facilities throughout the area, teams are led through age-appropriate dry land training sessions that focus on speed, explosiveness, balance, strength, endurance and agility. Maximizing potential as a hockey player also means maximizing potential as an athlete. 

Hockey IQ:

While one practice each week is fully dedicated to skill acquisition, the other two “team” practices put players through situational training using small-area games to allow them to apply their skills and test their decision-making in game-like scenarios. Teams will also work on implementing systems of play and focus on key aspects like breakouts, zone entries, and other various strategic components, but the focus of these practices is to force players to make decisions, learn from mistakes, and gain confidence in the way they read the game.

Additionally, the Junior Canes have exclusive use of video review facilities in Invisalign Arena (formerly Wake Competition Center) to help players learn to read the game and become better all-around players. New for 2022-23, girls and co-ed teams at the Bantam level and older will utilize Hudl to break down film into specific, teachable segments for players in USA Hockey’s “train to train” and “learn to compete” ADM development phases. 

Personal development:

A hallmark of the Junior Canes annual program, each team leads a community service project to give to those in need and to learn invaluable life skills regarding leadership and community. 


Much like our approach to continuous player assessment for the purpose of flexibility, our Junior Canes scheduler works with the Executive Directors, Director of Coaching and team coaches to create a system that allows flexibility in placing our teams in age and level-appropriate leagues and competitions.

Our Tier 1 AAA teams and major year Black teams play a schedule of exhibitions and showcases aimed at matching our best against the country’s best. Our 14U and older AAA teams (girls and co-ed) compete in USA Hockey Districts for the opportunity to advance to Nationals. Our 12UAAA team represents the Carolina Hurricanes in the annual Tournoi de PeeWee in Quebec, the world's most famous youth hockey tournament.  

Our Tier 2 girls and co-ed teams also typically compete in the Carolinas Hockey League (CHL) against other associations from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. 

Individual teams work with their coaches and managers to agree on a tournament schedule.


“Exposure” is a popular selling point for associations as they work to set players up for success at the highest levels beyond youth sports. At the Junior Canes, we understand that “exposure” works two ways.

Our process is designed to connect our athletes with a network of scouts and recruiters at the Juniors and collegiate levels, but more importantly, it’s designed to ensure that our athletes are well-equipped and fully prepared to show their best in those situations. 

Our group of highly-respected coaches possesses a deep network of contacts throughout all levels of hockey, and we utilize participation in high-profile events, use video and analytics solutions like Hudl, and provide our 14U and older athletes with premium memberships to EliteProspects to put our athletes front and center. 

Our scouting/recruiting prep process does not begin at 15U with campus visits and showcase participation. It begins at 8U when we begin to usher players through the entire development lifecycle to prepare them not just to be seen at the older age groups, but to be successful at the next levels and beyond.