15-year-old Slovakian standout becomes youngest player to score a goal

In 1998, a 16-year-old Slovakian forward set the Tipos Extraliga record as the youngest player ever to score a goal in league play. That teenager is now 38, and has played more than 1,000 NHL games for six different teams, having won a Stanley Cup in 2014 with the Los Angeles Kings. Marian Gaborik has compiled an impressive hockey resume, but last Tuesday, one of those accolades would be topped by Zvolen, Slovakia, native Dalibor Dvorsky

The 15-year-old broke an Extraliga record that stood for 23 years, when Dvorsky scored his first career goal against HK Nitra. He was 163 days younger than when Gaborik achieved the same feat. 

Dvorsky began the 2020-21 season in Sweden’s J18 league with AIK. He was having a very productive start to the campaign with four goals and 14 points in the first six games of the season. Then, Swedish youth leagues began pausing game action in November, into December and well into 2021 as the hockey federation has still limited on-ice play into early February. 

That delay in Sweden brought on an opportunity for Dvorsky to return to his home country, playing for HC Banska Bystrica, in Slovakia’s top professional league. Not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2023, Dvorsky is quickly becoming one of the top young prospects in Central Europe and certainly a name to know in the years to come.

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How youth hockey is on the rise in this unlikely location

Hockey is Canada’s game, right? The United States currently reigns supreme as 2021 World Junior champions. Scandinavia produces more NHL players per capita than anywhere in the world. Plus, Russia has been a virtual hockey factory, cranking out top talent every year for the past three decades.

These four corners of the globe account for 91 percent of the player population in the NHL and six of the last seven Olympic gold medals, as well as the previous 20 world junior championships. 

But what’s a sport without growth? Growth that hinges greatly on the development of the game in remote regions. 

Future and current Hockey Hall of Famers like Dominik Hasek, Jaromir Jagr and Zdeno Chara paved the way for the sport’s popularity in Central Europe, putting the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the world hockey map. Now, more than 50 players in the NHL hail from Central European countries like Czech, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Latvia and Italy. 

The league’s reigning MVP, Leon Draisaitl, is a native of Germany, as is the No. 3 overall pick from the 2020 NHL Draft, Tim Stützle. Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi, starting goaltenders Frederik Andersen and Elvis Merzlikins, rising star Alexandre Texier, as well as top prospects Marco Rossi and Moritz Seider. It’s quite clear that the growth of the game has continued on its upward trajectory to the next generation of hockey players as well.

Now hockey’s crosshairs turn north to the United Kingdom, where it’s quickly become the country’s most popular indoor sport. 

“Hockey is growing in the U.K.,” said 14-year-old Gregor Mills. “Teams are split into age groups – currently U9, U11, U13, U15 and U18. There are about 32 club teams in England at each age level and about 16 in Scotland. These are split into North League and South League in England. Each team plays 20 league games at each age group.”

In addition to league games, players are selected to regional teams. There are four regions: Northern, Midlands, Southeast and Southwest. These are known as conference teams and compete in showcases as well as a tournament in May of each year.

Mills is quickly making a name for himself in youth hockey. A 2006-birth year, he currently plays on both the U15 and U18 Bradford Bulldogs teams against opponents two, three and four years older than him.

Last season, Mills produced 47 goals and 64 points in 16 games. That’s not a typo. Rub your eyelids, let your vision refocus and read the sentence one more time… 47 goals and 64 points in 16 games. He was also the leading scorer in the four-team Winter Classic as the youngest player in the event. 

“I was a late starter to hockey, starting about five years ago when I was nine-years-old,” he said. “I had played lots of sports before this, soccer, rugby and judo mainly. I was on holiday and my family and I went to the ice rink for a day out. I saw some kids there flying around and thought that’s what I want to do.” 

Mills dove in head first, immersing himself in the sport and going all in on training both on and off the ice.

He commutes three hours one way to work with 14-year pro David Clarke to hone his puck skills, shooting ability and hockey IQ with other top players like Liam Kirk and David Phillips. Away from the rink, Gregor’s father Duncan is a former strength trainer, who provides in-depth workouts and exercises to improve his speed, strength and conditioning.

Growth of the game starts with passion for the sport at the youngest age groups. Look at the path of Auston Matthews and the influence from the Arizona Coyotes as an example.

In 1996, the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. The middle of the desert. A very unlikely hockey destination and very brand new concept to an area that thrived on outdoor sports and arid weather. A few years later, a youth hockey organization would follow in the professional team’s wake, establishing what would now be known as the Arizona Jr. Coyotes prior to the 2006-07 season.

Ten years after that, Matthews, a product of that very youth organization, would be selected first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. It is a 20-year story in the making to explain how a kid from the desert becomes the top prospect in all of hockey.

It may take years, even decades, for regions to truly see tangible, big-time results for their efforts in youth hockey. With the rapid growth of the game, and passionate players like Gregor Mills at the ground floor, we could very well be witnessing the upswing of hockey in the U.K.

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Top Youth Hockey Players In The Alps Region of Central Europe

The National Hockey League is composed of the best hockey players on the planet. There are nearly 800 athletes from 21 different countries competing in the 2021 season. The world of youth hockey is a reflection of the professional landscape, I mean after all, even Connor McDavid got his start playing Mite hockey somewhere.

Youth hockey is filled with top talent from a wide range of countries and regions across the globe, and the team at World Hockey Hub is watching closely. We are constantly looking to identify the biggest up-and-coming names in the sport. Want to catch your first glimpse of a soon-to-be household name? Watch U15 highlights of a future first-round draft pick? Check out a team with a fistful of future pros on the roster? WHH features the absolute best in youth hockey today.

Native region of Swiss defenseman Roman Josi and French forward Alexandre Texier, The Alps has quietly produced 17 players currently rostered in the NHL this season. It spans from eastern France through Switzerland and the northern part of Italy, and into Austria. 

Not typically considered a hotbed, yet some of the best athletes in youth hockey regularly frequent the region for the most competitive international tournaments in existence. Chamonix, France, and Bolzano, Italy, have served as host cities of the U12, U13 and U14 World Selects Trophy (WST) tournament series for nearly a decade.

The team at WHH has identified some of the top players in the region at the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 age groups.

2004s

ALESSIO BEGLIERI: A goaltender out of Biel-Bienne, Switzerland, Beglieri currently plays U20-Elite in the Swiss League. He has represented Team Swiss on three different occasions, twice for the U16 team at World Juniors and the Youth Olympic Games as well as the U17 team at World Juniors. 

TOMMASO De LUCA: He’s a 5-foot-11 forward out of Aosta, Italy, whose spent the last five seasons playing in Swiss leagues. In 33 games for Ambri-Piotta U20, De Luca has 12 goals and 23 points.

2005s

DAMIAN CLARA: A native of Brunico, Italy, Clara is a big goaltender who takes up a lot of net. At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, he’s spent the 2020-21 season split between U18 RB Hockey Academy and U20 EC Salzburg in Austria. 

TOMMASO MADASCHI: Currently playing for U17 Biel-Bienne Madaschi is a native of Torino, Italy. In his first full season of junior hockey, he has scored five goals and six points in 12 games.

COLIN LINDEMANN: The 15-year-old left-hander played a portion of the 2020-21 season in Sweden while skating for Leksands IF. Currently with Zug U17 in Switzerland, Lindemann has scored a total of seven goals and 11 points in 14 games this season.

2006s

WILLIAM RAIS: A 14-year-old currently playing junior hockey for ZSC U17s in the Elite League, Rais is one of the top young prospects in all of Switzerland.

JUAN-ESTEBAN BARRAUD: Also playing at the U17 level, Barraud has scored seven goals and nine points in 26 games this season. The lone defenseman on the list for his play-making ability and puck skills.

2007s

FLORIAN SCHENK: In his first season at the U15 level, Schenk scored 14 goals and 24 points in 26 games. He’s competed on an international level at both the 2019 WST and the Pee-Wee Quebec in ‘19 and ‘20. Schenk led his team in scoring in all three tournament appearances.

JEREMIAH MUNDY: He’s young at just 13-years-old, but Mundy is already 6-foot and competing at the U17-Elite level for Davos in Switzerland. He has plenty of intangibles to develop into a dominant forward.

JUSTIN ALLAIRE: A one-time teammate of both Schenk and Mundy at the 2019 U12 WST for Alps Selects, Allaire is a great contributor offensively. From Bern, Switzerland, he will certainly be one to keep in mind as this birth year climbs through the youth hockey ranks.

Think we missed a premiere player from the Alps Region? Connect with WHH and let us know! Fill out the form below to get prospects on our radar and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to see upcoming highlights from the world of youth hockey.

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Covid Restrictions easing up in select areas of Russia

News began to break on social media regarding the Moscow Hockey Federation’s approval of 50 percent spectator attendance in arenas for games contests. Previously, hockey games both professional and amateur had been played in front of empty stadiums. 

Parents and family members throughout the Moscow Region will certainly celebrate being able to return to the bleachers, watching their kids take the ice with a front row seat. Conversely, players will welcome an uptick in the atmosphere with cheering fans, noise makers and chants of support. 

All people in attendance will continue to observe COVID-19 restrictions in terms of face masks and social distancing during these events.

How has your season been impacted or altered? Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for more from the world of youth hockey.

DraftDay’s search for the best players in Western Canada

The West-Can Hockey Summit is a highly competitive event providing all those in attendance with a first-class tournament experience. Slated for June 25 – 27, 2021, at Winsport Arena in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the event will run in conjunction with another one of DraftDay’s events, the Western All-Star Prospects Showcase

The Summit weekend offers a five-game guarantee with seminars and information sessions for those interested in future DraftDay programming. In addition to the on-ice action and off-ice information, there will be an e-gaming area set up all weekend long where participants can enjoy some virtual competition at the video gaming station. 

Open to 2008 – 2011 Boys and 2007 – 2008 Girls, participants will not only experience great action on the ice, but also a front-row seat to what their future may hold. 

The Western Prospects Showcase will feature some of the best 2006 and 2007 Boys athletes from eight regions in Canada. This showcase is designed to identify the best players leading up to the WHL Priority Draft, with many top prospects and league personnel in attendance. Hockey Summit participants can witness the process first-hand and see exactly what it takes to be a part of the 2022 event.

DraftDay selection staff will be on-site at all games throughout the weekend, evaluating players for upcoming opportunities North American, International and European events.

For more from DraftDay and how you can get involved, click HERE.

Public Health Agency approves one game per week format.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) came out with guidelines for a return to play strategy last week. The Public Health Agency provided recommendations and general advice to allow individual games to resume, with the caveat that teams only play one game per week and stay local. The measures are meant to avoid potential risks of exposure and spreading of COVID-19. 

The complete list of guidelines from the SIHF is as follows…

Youth hockey in Sweden has been on pause since November, but the recent guidelines allow for teams 2005-born and younger to return to the ice for competition. 

How has your season been impacted or altered? Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for more from the world of youth hockey.

2005-Birth Year with a big shake-up at the top of the world rankings

The Chicago Mission has proved to be without question one of top teams in the world at the ‘05 age group. The team debuted at No. 3 on our initial rankings back in November, and held strong in that position for the next eight weeks thanks to an undefeated record. 

Now 20 games into its season, Chicago has just one blemish in regulation — a 5-1 loss to No. 14 Compuware — producing a nearly flawless 18-1-1 record. The one defeat over the weekend is quite the anomaly, because it was Mission defeating Compuware 5-1 less than 24 hours prior to the upset on Sunday. 

With a 14-year NHL veteran behind the bench in Yanic Perreault, his son Gabriel Perreault and forward Carter Slaggert lead the team in scoring, according to Elite Prospects. Mission has also gotten stellar goaltending from both Max Weilandt and John Gedraitis, combining for a 1.70 goals-against average. 

Chicago has been in the mix among top teams all season long, and now that they’ve climbed to the top spot it begs the question, “Can anyone out there challenge them for the top spot?” 

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for the latest in youth hockey news. For more from the most recent World Rankings, or to nominate your team amongst the best on the planet, click HERE.

2004 Rankings have a new team atop the list to begin the New Year.

The hockey calendar turned over after the holidays and into the backstretch of the 2020-21 season. Many teams saw a fairly quiet month of January, with squads like No. 2 North Jersey Avalanche playing just three games and No. 5 Shattuck St. Mary’s idle completely. 

It was a huge month for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, with a 5-1-1 run in January, earning them a bump in the standings from the fifth spot to the No. 1 overall ranking in the world among ‘04 teams. 

Led by Penn State commit Matthew DiMarsico, that stretch includes a 3-1 win over No. 16 Fox Motors, a 1-1 stalemate with No. 8 HoneyBaked and two wins in a de facto best-of-three series with No. 6 New Jersey Rockets

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for the latest in youth hockey news. For more from the most recent World Rankings, or to nominate your team amongst the best on the planet, click HERE.

First release of 2021 features plenty of teams from Finland shooting up the charts

The third edition of our World Rankings were released on Monday, as World Hockey Hub’s search for the top teams in youth hockey continues into the 2021 calendar. Canada has yet to see winter season action, while Sweden and most of central Europe have been at a standstill since late November. Most states in the U.S. are allowing game competition to some extent, same goes for certain regions of Russia, as well as Finland.

The biggest movers in the January rankings were the Finns. The Land of a Thousand Islands made its impact felt across all three birth years, most significantly among the 2005-birth year.

Under-16 squad KalPa — previously unranked in the December rankings — propelled up the charts into the Top 5, settling in at No. 3 with a 12-0-0 record. Kärpät joined them as a previously unranked team to crack the Top 5, as a 9-3-0 record slotted them in the 5th spot. Three other unranked Finnish teams made the global Top 25 as well, including No. 18 Tappara, No. 23 Jokerit and No. 25 TPS.

Teams in Finland are not true 2004-birth year teams, as the youth hockey structure is designed for Under-18 teams combined of ‘03s and ‘04s on the same roster for the 2020-21 season. For that reason, WHH makes an exception to include these teams among other 2004-birth year teams around the world. 

Previously ranked No. 17, Kärpät jumped into the fourth spot after going 8-2-0 in the month of January and putting together a 20-3-0 overall record. Ӓssät also benefited from a successful first month of 2021. Previously unranked, Ӓssät reached the No. 12 spot on Monday. Two other Finnish teams debuted this week on the 2004 Rankings, including No. 17 HIFK and No. 22 KalPa

The 2006 Rankings also saw a Finnish team crack the Top 5, with unbeaten Kiekko-Espoo as the highest rated European team. KJT and KalPa both made their first appearances on the list as well, with KJT at No. 11 and KalPa at No. 23 overall.

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for the latest in youth hockey news. For more from the most recent World Rankings, or to nominate your team amongst the best on the planet, click HERE.

Premier Ice Prospects hosts brand new showcase

Over the past weekend, Premier Ice Prospects hosted its first ever PIP Showcase with the Buckeye Girls Fest at Chiller Rinks in Columbus, Ohio. The event featured 18 of the top girls’ teams in the U.S., in a round-robin format at each of the 14U, 16U and 19U age groups.

Teams from four different states met in the 14U Division. Top-ranked Chicago Mission proved their No. 1 spot on MyHockeyRankings was well deserved, going 5-0-0 during the weekend. That was no easy task going up against a pool of opponents that included No. 7 Little Caesars and No. 10 Chicago Young Americans.

No. 2-ranked Little Caesars cruised with a 5-0-0 record as well, capped off by a come-from-behind shootout win over No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. Two more top teams collided on Sunday as well, with No. 12 Chicago Mission pulling off a slight upset of No. 9 Selects Academy by way of a 4-1 final.

In the 19U Division, both No. 4 Chicago Mission and No. 14 Selects Academy headed into their final matchup of the weekend with a perfect 4-0-0 record. When the two teams collided in the finale, it was Mission narrowly escaping with a 2-1 shootout win and undefeated trip to Ohio.

For more from the world of girls hockey, or to check out more upcoming events from Premier Ice Prospects, click HERE.