The National Team Development Program has set a very high standard for elite hockey players in this country to reach. An invitation to its tryout camp is coveted by the top 15-year-old hockey players in the United States. The camp, which takes place March 21-24 this year at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, has become one of the first proving grounds for the elite of the elite in this country.
Tuesday night, USA Hockey released it’s final roster for the 2011 NTDP Tryout Camp featuring the top 45 players born in 1995. Four goaltenders, 16 defensemen and 25 forwards will compete in front of the NTDP decision makers, as well as a host of scouts from the Canadian Hockey League, NCAA Division I and the USHL. You even occasionally find the odd NHL scout looking to get a quick peak at what’s to come in the next few years.
This camp takes a very large pool of players and narrows it down to 45. No small task, but an important one. By paring the large pool down, the camp gives us an idea of exactly which players from the 1995 birth year we should be keeping the closest tabs on.
There have been many players who were seen at this camp first including some of the top rookies in the NHL today, like Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. There have even been infamous ommissions from the camp in the past. Patrick Kane did not earn a selection for camp, yet played his way onto the team with a strong performance at USA Hockey’s Select 16 Festival the following summer. So just because a player isn’t on this roster, doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have a chance to make the team.
However, most of the players selected for next year’s U.S. National Under-17 Team will have competed at this camp. The NTDP player personnel department and coaching staff will usually make offers to several players immediately following camp as well, so the team really starts to form after this event.
Coming up after the jump, a complete breakdown of the roster including where these players come from and which players you should know heading into camp.
First off, the camp usually gives us a great idea of where the elite talent is coming from. It’s sometimes in cycles, but usually Michigan and Minnesota are going to be at the top of the list. So let’s take a look at where the top 15-year-olds hail from:
Michigan – 11; Minnesota – 8; Illinois –
8 7; Massachusetts – 5; California – 3; New York – 2; North Dakota – 2; Texas – 2; Arizona – 1; Connecticut – 1; Florida – 1; North Carolina – 1; Wisconsin – 1
Michigan is almost always the top producer in elite talent for this camp in particular. The midget programs out there make it so native Michiganders never have to leave home. They’ve developed so much talent and have sent so many kids through the NTDP, it’s no surprise we see a high number from the area.
Illinois, for the second straight year, sent as many or more players to this camp than
Minnesota, Massachusetts or New York. The last two years have been big ones for a state that is not often mentioned in the same breath as the traditional U.S. hockey powers. Might that change sooner than later? With a growing hockey population, I think the answer is yes.
Taking a look at the clubs providing the most top talent, it’s no surprise to see the Honeybaked program out of Michigan leading the way. Six Honeybaked players have been invited to participate in the camp. Team Illinois AAA boasts four attendees. Additionally, the vaunted hockey factory Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the LA Selects hockey club each have three players participating in camp.
While those programs were among the top contributors, it’s really great to see players from a variety of developmental backgrounds being invited. For one, it shows that if a player has the talent, he’s going to get found. Secondly, it shows that there are a lot of good Midget, Prep, High School and Junior programs giving players opportunities to shine at a young age.
So let’s get into the real meat of this thing. The players:
There are many intriguing names on this roster. Perhaps the most intriguing is Hudson Fasching of Apple Valley High School. Considered the top sophomore in the state of Minnesota this year and perhaps the best 1995-born forward in the country, Fasching has a unique story. ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside featured Fasching this past February in an article that documented the big forward’s growing up with a younger brother and sister that suffer from a rare mitochondrial disorder that leave both unable to walk or speak. It is a touching story that shows the maturity and depth of the 15-year-old.
The question isn’t whether or not Fasching is good enough to join the NTDP, because he undoubtedly is and it has been reported that he’s been offered a spot in Ann Arbor already. However, due to his unique situation, Fasching’s decision is far more complicated than any prospect. Will he leave home or does he stay at Apple Valley? It is a tough decision, but one that will interest many in the hockey community.
Will Butcher, currently skating for the Madison Capitols Midget Major, also logged some time in the USHL this past season, playing in two games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The defenseman posted two assists while in Dubuque and a plus-2 rating. While Butcher lacks size for a Dman (5-10, 175), he is considered an elite puck mover and may be one of the best blueliners in this class. There are a lot of people in the scouting community that are very high on this guy and with good reason. Playing with Madison’s midget major club as an underager, Butcher registered 30 points (10g-20a) in 34 games in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. His offensive instincts have created a buzz that is sure to make him one to watch closely in Ann Arbor.
While Butcher may be small, this D class doesn’t lack much size. Steve Santini, currently skating for the New York Apple Core in the Eastern Junior Hockey League comes in at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and is another top defensive prospect. He has 18 points in 49 games as a 15-year-old playing at a very good level of Junior hockey. Already committed to Boston College, I’d expect to see Santini in the red, white and blue next fall, as he has long been considered among the top players in his age group.
Another solid D prospect is Scott Savage, who has reportedly already accepted a spot on the U17 Team for next year. He’s also committed to Boston College. The San Clemente, Calif., native is considered an elite skater and posted 24 points (4g-20a) in 31 games for the LA Selects in Tier 1 Elite Hockey League action.
Other names of interest:
How many 15-year-olds have you seen that are 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds? Not many? I can’t recall seeing one recently, if ever. Well, those are the listed measurements of Michael McCarron of Macomb, Mich. The Honeybaked Midger Major product has freakish size, to say the very least. I don’t know a ton about him yet, but I’m sure we’ll learn more very soon, if he’s learned how to use that frame well.
Another prospect that really intrigues me heading into this camp is defenseman Charlie Pelnik of Cary, N.C. Pelnik is born and trained in North Carolina and has already verbally committed to the University of North Dakota, which has produced its fair share of elite defensemen. Pelnik stands in at around 6-foot-4 and the interest he drew from several top colleges would lead one to believe he’s got the goods to make it at the NTDP. It should be interesting to see how the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes product stacks up against the nation’s elite talent.
A trio of Team Illinois Midget Minor players have been turning heads throughout the year. J.T. Compher, Gabe Guertler, and Anthony Louis look to bring a lot of offense into camp. Louis, who will have to overcome doubts about his size (5-6, 130), led the way in Tier 1 Elite Hockey League play with 60 points including a league best 33 goals (in 35 games). Not far behind, Guertler finished second in the league with 59 points including a league-high 34 assists. Compher, who has already verbally committed to the University of Michigan, posted 39 points (17g-22a) and brings a bit more size standing in at 6-feet. The production of this trio will make them very interesting to watch in camp.
The final observation regarding this group is that the camp will feature a few players who have played with or are currently playing on USHL teams.
As already mentioned, Butcher skated for Dubuque briefly earlier in the year. Additionally, Michael Turner and Sam Provorozniouk both skate for the Chicago Steel currently, while Keaton Thompson followed up his North Dakota high school season by joining the Fargo Force for the remainder of the season.
However, there are also three players currently skating in the USHL that either did not receive an invite or turned the invite down including Ian McCoshen (Waterloo Black Hawks), Adam Erne (Indiana Ice), and Anthony DeAngelo (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders). For the record, DeAngelo had a season-ending knee injury in February. It is not yet known if the NTDP still plans to pursue the defenseman despite his current status with Cedar Rapids.
An interesting topic for analysis, which may come up in a future post: The NTDP rarely (if ever) accepts under-age players into its program, meaning they won’t take a player from outside the given birth year. For instance, you won’t see a 1995-born player playing with the U.S. National Under-17 Team made up entirely of 1994-born players. The USHL has no such self-imposed rule, however younger prospects are a bit of a rarity in the league.
That said, it appears the USHL is beginning to take in more and more 15-year-old players as we’ve seen previously with 2011 Draft eligible Seth Ambroz, 2012 Draft eligibles Nick Ebert and Brady Vail (both now playing for Windsor in the OHL) and now with the likes of DeAngelo, McCoshen and Erne. If this is a growing trend, how will it effect the NTDP selection process? We’ll revisit this topic at another time, but it’s something to watch throughout the off-season.
With 45 players invited to camp, we can’t touch on them all without making you go cross-eyed. However, we’ll have more on the camp as it nears and also get the inside scoop from a few of the folks involved in the decision process of selecting next year’s U.S. National Under-17 Team. So stick close to The United States of Hockey for news and links throughout the next few weeks.
Due to the late-breaking news of the NTDP Tryout Camp roster release, the American Prospect Update has been pushed back to Thursday. Make sure to check back for some Rocco Grimaldi video, statistical updates for several 2011 Draft eligibles, and plenty of prospect-related links.