Our Process

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


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

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

In 2021-22, our coaches piloted an evaluation process to assess the ongoing progress of our players using the TeamGenius platform. After collecting feedback and making improvements, we will implement a new, innovative approach to player evaluation for the 2022-23 season.

Our coaches within each birth year will collaboratively assess players and calibrate ratings across an entire age group so players have a clearer picture of how their development trends compare within their team, within their Junior Canes age group, and within a national view of all players sharing the same birth year.

The aim … to ensure that each player is matched with a training and competitive environment that will maximize their development, put them in the best position to achieve long-term goals, and ensure a positive and rewarding experience that will facilitate a lifelong relationship with the game of hockey.

Each player’s development path, and pace, is different. Our system is designed to continuously measure progress towards a player’s goals to make the necessary adjustments to keep them on track for maximizing their potential and keeping their love for hockey strong.


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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 2022-23 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.

Within the stations, we partner with Power Edge Pro (PEP) to utilize training equipment that allows coaches to include multiple skills within a single repetition. Repetitions end with a shot on goal to work our goalies under the on-ice guidance of our goalie development staff.

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 Athletic Lab, 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. 

For our girls teams that draw players from a wider area, we use leading-edge technology platforms to connect with players for “distance learning” when an in-person video session isn’t feasible.

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.  

Through a collaboration with Positive Coaching Alliance and a generous donation from Movement Mortgage towards mental health initiatives for our athletes, our programming is designed to reinforce the importance of hard work, emphasize teamwork, and to teach the value of learning from failure. The experience of setting goals, putting in the personal commitment, relying on the support system of peers and coaches, and achieving collective and personal success is one that equips our athletes for the highest levels of hockey, and for life beyond hockey.


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 play a schedule of exhibitions and showcases aimed at matching our best against the country’s best. Schedules are formed to maximize opportunities for scouts to see our players in person throughout the entire year. 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.  

Generally, our major year Tier 2 teams play an independent schedule on top of league competitions, such as the SuperSeries National Showcase Hockey (NSH). The country's premier Tier 2 league features regional divisions of the top AA teams in the US, with the Junior Canes competing in the Southeast Division.

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.

Tier 1 AAA Tier 1 AAA
Tier 2 Black Tier 2 AA or A
Tier 2 Red Tier 2 A or AA
Tier 2 White Tier 2 A


Our athletes choose the Junior Canes because they want to advance. Whether it’s from team to team within an age group, from Tier 2 to Tier 1, or to the higher levels of hockey beyond youth travel, our players have lofty goals and want to work towards achieving them. 

We target 3 types of advancement and structure our program accordingly:

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    By age group
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    By team
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Age group:

Our primary goal is to prepare each player to successfully advance from age group to age group. Aligning with the USA Hockey ADM phases of development, we structure programming by age to meet the development needs of our players.

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    Our Super 8 program introduces players and their families to the structure of travel hockey to set up a successful transition from House to Travel at the 9U age group.

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    9U through 12U

    Our Squirt and PeeWee programming aligns with the “Learn to Train” ADM Phase, aiming to introduce players to good practice habits and expose them to the mindset required to be a high-level hockey player at older ages.

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    USA Hockey defines this “Train to Train” phase as the transition from “kid hockey” to “youth hockey”. While 9U to 12U is about introducing players to good habits, this phase is designed to instill good habits on and off the ice to form a solid foundation as players move into truly competitive hockey.

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    15U and up

    The “Learn to Compete” phase puts players in the position to showcase themselves in high-level competition.

By team:

Our structure includes two levels of programming: Tier 1 AAA, and Tier 2. 

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    Tier 1 AAA
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    Tier 2 Black
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    Tier 2 Red
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    Tier 2 White

Tier 1 AAA is the highest level of youth hockey competition in USA Hockey, and rosters are formed at separate tryouts in advance of the Tier 2 tryouts.

At the Tier 2 level, teams are structured in order of roster selection as …

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  • Red
  • White

Our coaches constantly assess each player’s development throughout the season and work with other Junior Canes coaches within the birth year to discuss and identify players who may benefit from a move from Tier 2 to Tier 1, Tier 1 to Tier 2, Red to Black, or Black to Red. Players are formally evaluated each season with their ratings calibrated against other Junior Canes in their birth year’s player pool.

Recognizing that our players have goals to advance from team to team within their age group, our coaches and Directors work to ensure that each player is placed in a training and competitive environment that best suits their development needs. In a late-developing sport like hockey, timing is critical and our process is designed to make sure that players are moving forward, staying within their current level, or taking a step back in the short-term in order to maximize opportunities to achieve those long-term goals.

Long Range:

“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 and innovative video and analytics solutions like Hudl to put our athletes front and center. Our co-ed and girls staff works directly with our families to provide education and guidance throughout the entire process. 

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.