Let’s get one thing perfectly clear:
You’re likely reading this blog post because you want to go from playing ACHA to pro hockey.
If that’s the case, you’re in luck. We’ll cover that and more in this post for you.
We’re going to look at the prospect of playing pro after ACHA candidly.
Because many ACHA players are not cut out to play pro hockey after graduating…
This post will help you determine if it may (or may not) be a fit for you.
- What level of hockey is the ACHA?
- Can you go pro from ACHA hockey?
- Have any ACHA players made it to the NHL?
- ACHA Hockey to European Hockey
Playing college hockey (whether at the NCAA D1 or ACHA III level) is a great multi-year experience which provides you with the best of both worlds.
Other students (and friends) on campus have the college experience.
You get the college hockey experience.
You’re able to receive an education while continuing to play the game you love....
That’s a win-win situation…and one you’ll likely look back fondly on down the road.
As your time in the ACHA winds down, many of your teammates will opt to hang up the skates and move on to a typical 9-to-5-type of desk job.
For a small set of motivated players, you still have the itch to continue playing the game a bit longer.
You have one life to live….and aren’t quite ready to do that just yet.
Over the years, we’ve specialized in helping that goal become a reality for players in this exact position, from ACHA to NCAA players looking to play hockey overseas in Europe.
Not only are players able to continue playing at a high level, but they’re also able to travel the world while doing so.
Not a bad view to walk out to after practice...
Before we talk more on pro hockey, it's important we first touch on the level of play in ACHA to set some expectations leading into pro hockey...
What level of hockey is the ACHA?
The level of hockey in the American College Hockey Association ranges on a wide spectrum from the top to bottom divisions (much like the NCAA or other leagues).
For example, a strong ACHA club may be able to compete well with a good NCAA Div3 club. There are some powerhouse clubs in ACHA from Liberty University to Davenport (just to name a few)...
On the lower end though, a weaker ACHA team may be more on par with a mid-level junior hockey team as you move from ACHA Div 1 through to Div 3.
You then have a ton of clubs that sit somewhere between this range.
If you’re a top player in a weaker division, no reason to worry.
You can still play pro if you're a good player, but it’s important to know that the level of play you will likely face in the pros will be a step up (note: we know some talented players opt to play in a lower ACHA division due to financial reasons or to play closer to home).
Can you go pro from ACHA hockey?
That’s a great question.
Yes, but there are a number of variables at play.
The main ones being your individual skillset, work ethic, and how good the level of hockey is where you’re playing (more on this later).
Coming out of ACHA, your two main options are either playing in North America or Europe if you want to continue playing.
If you choose to play in North America, it's likely going to be an uphill battle of grinding in the lowest minor leagues.
Playing in Europe is another viable route for players to take...
Most players first learning about hockey leagues in Europe though don't understand how competitive many of the leagues are (we've covered this at length in previous posts).
Luckily, there’s a ton of quality hockey leagues in Europe across the continent at a range of levels. This fact lends more options when we’re helping ACHA players place with various clubs here.
Have any ACHA players made it to the NHL?
Yes...one player has.
He's the only ACHA alum to date who's played at the NHL level, suiting up for a game in 2020-21 for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As a pro, he's played in over 375+ games at the American Hockey League level. Quite the accomplishment for any player to sustain at that high a level.
Although it's a bit less common, a good number of players from the ACHA do go on to play professionally at various levels in the minor leagues, both in North America and overseas in Europe.
ACHA Hockey to European Hockey
Since ACHA hockey is lesser known to most European hockey clubs, it’s essential to work with a hockey agency who has the right access to get your name in front of the right teams.
Without this, teams won’t have the ability to learn about you in the first place.
Paired with this, you need to give European clubs a compelling reason on why they should sign you over all other import options.
The two other main options teams have are signing lower cost/quality local players OR bringing in imports with more established resumes (on paper) who’ve maybe played NCAA, major junior, and so on.
Notice how we say “on paper" in the sentence above? That's important to mention.
Just because a player has played at a higher tier does not mean they are currently a higher quality player than you (they could be, but not always). The fact that a player has played in a certain league does influence how European clubs perceive prospects though at first glance.
Luckily, we understand this aspect intricately which helps our players stand out in the eyes of pro teams across Europe within a wide number of lower to mid-tier pro leagues.
In closing, if you’re in a position where you have the motivation, work ethic, and ability on ice to play at the pro level, send us a message. We'll let you know if we can help you based on your hockey aspirations.