Mark Your Calendars For The Biggest Events of the “Offseason”
Let’s be honest, hockey season never ends. Critics will point to burnout and the negative impact of specialization in sports. Advocates will say that kids are constantly looking to get better and improve their game. Pros, cons, positives, negatives, good, bad and ugly. Wherever you’re at on the spectrum regarding spring and summer hockey, it really boils down to a personal preference and what’s best for each individual.
For the hockey hungry, puck crazy athletes and families, WHH has compiled a calendar of some of the best spring and summer hockey tournaments in the world. From breath-taking destinations to elite-level exposure, this list of 10 events has something for everyone in youth hockey.
(Philadelphia, USA) A new event in 2021, it has drawn the interest of some very strong North American spring selects teams. Operated by the team at Play Hockey, and is one-of-30 tournaments run by the organization. This year’s event is slated to feature teams at the 2004, 2005 and 2006-birth years in June and July with a five-game guarantee. There are currently 63 North American teams registered across all three age groups.
(Exeter, New Hampshire) The Atlantic International Trophy (AIT) is an up-and-coming event that prides itself on attracting a diverse pool of teams greater than your average summer showcase. Slated for the second weekend in July, the AIT will feature an ‘04-05 combined division as well as ‘06 and ‘07 divisions, with teams from the U.S., Canada and Europe on the invite list. This New England city won’t disappoint either, with plenty of tourist attractions in the area.
(Finland) The Finland Lions Cup was a European summer event before the idea of summer events in Europe ever existed. Run by Pelimatkat, the event operates like a well-oiled machine with good competition that attracts a nice mix of Scandinavian and Russian teams each year. North American teams would be considered a novelty, and any organization willing to travel would be treated like royalty, welcomed with open arms. The event is held in the middle of the summer camp season, providing a tournament-camp combo option for those interested as well.
(Foxboro, Massachusetts) An iconic East Coast event nestled in the New England hockey hotbed of Massachusetts. If bigger is better, then there are few events that would top the Chowder Cup in size. Multiple age groups competing over multiple weekends spread out over a large geographical region. The talent level varies from super selects AAA all-star teams to AA-level teams that all compete in one open division.
(Europe, various locations) DraftDay and World Hockey Group – Europe teamed up to present the Eurofest Summer Festival. The event caters to a broad audience of AAA-level talent and hosts six different birth years on three different weekends in three different European destinations. Prague, Reykjavik and Stockholm are the host cities for 202. Attendees are treated to opening ceremonies and exclusive player parties with a festive atmosphere. It feels more like a play-cation combining beautiful locations with great competition for an unforgettable experience.
(Oakville, Ontario) The International Prospects Showcase is a relatively new offering but the team at DraftDay has a deep history of success in the youth hockey space. This event is geared towards the best of the best in North America, highlighted by the top-tier local players from Ontario. It has grown wildly in popularity since its inception and pending the lift of COVID restrictions in Canada, should quickly return as a must-attend event.
(Various locations) A series of three events in Montreal, Nashville and Chicago, the Triple Crown by SuperSeries targets the upper echelon of AAA players in North America. The competition level is consistent and strong, and the events run extremely smoothly. The focus here is on the best possible players and it shows, as SuperSeries do a nice job of selecting desirable locations and spots in the events are highly sought after.
(Montreal, Quebec) Loved as much for the location as the hockey event itself. Montreal is a manageable drive from the Eastern U.S. border states, which provides a truly international and timeless feel to the event. It has a level of consistency that reeks of professionalism and win or lose, teams leave feeling like they had a great weekend. The pool of teams is primarily regional to Eastern Canada and New England, with plenty of competition levels and age groups for everyone.
(Edmonton, Alberta) One of the most prestigious events in all of youth hockey. Not only is it hosted in the unique venue of the West Edmonton Mall, it has featured the likes of more than 200 current and former NHL players when they competed at the 10U age level. From the TV broadcast, to the fans hanging over the glass, the environment of the week-long tournament is unparalleled in youth sports and arguably the most coveted roster invite in hockey.
(Various locations) The Granddaddy of all spring and summer events. It has it all, uber-elite talent levels, multiple age groups, amazing venues, breath-taking locations and truly the most international event of its kind. Participants from Russia, Europe, Scandinavia and North America competing in cities like Prague, Bolzano, Stockholm and Mont Blanc. There’s just as much for the parents to enjoy in terms of sightseeing as for the players competing on the ice. The North American event — hosted in Nashville, Tennessee — is the pinnacle of this tournament series, with top 15U selects teams from around the world all in one location for junior and professional scouts to see first-hand. Hundreds of current NHL players and more than 1,000 NCAA athletes have competed in this tournament series from both the boys and girls events. The combination of competition, culture, travel and experience is unparalleled by any one event on the hockey calendar.
Seven Districts Award Bids to USA Hockey Nationals
The field for the 2021 USA Hockey Nationals tournaments are nearly finalized. Mid-American, Rocky Mountains, Southeastern, Central and Minnesota Districts had been completed in previous weeks, with Atlantic, Michigan, New England, Northern Plains and Pacific Districts finishing their respective regional tournaments over the weekend.
The North Jersey Avalanche organization earned a bid at the 16U and 15U age groups after both teams won best-of-three series. The 15s needed a third game against the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers after teams exchanged wins on Saturday and Sunday. The Avs put an exclamation point on Game 3 with a 4-0 shutout. The 16s swept the New Jersey Rockets in two games. It was the sixth and seventh times that the Avs had defeated the Rockets this season, as the cross-state rivals had tangled quite a bit this winter.
The 14U Atlantic championship needed overtime between the New Jersey Colonials and Valley Forge Minutemen. With 9:54 left in the extra frame, Christian Chouha broke the deadlock and punched his team’s ticket to Nationals with a wrist shot through the defenseman’s legs.
A top team in the state at both the ‘05 and ‘06 age groups, Compuware was crowned after a relatively chalky finish in Taylor, Michigan. The 14U squad was the highest-ranked team in the district heading into the playoffs. It became clear why, when Compuware dominated Little Caesars in the three-game series finale, winning the first two games out-scoring LC 7-1. Then, at the 15U level, a similar scenario played out when Compuware went 6-0 including two wins over Little Caesars as well.
Getting hot at the right time, the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies pulled off a bit of an upset as the unranked bunch pulled off wins over No. 10 HoneyBaked and No. 17 Fox Motors in the elimination rounds to survive the highly-contested tournament. First, OJG beat HoneyBaked 4-3 in overtime on Saturday before knocking off Fox twice to steal a spot in Missouri for Nationals later this month.
YOUTH HOCKEY HEADLINES
- Top 10: Spring TournamentsMark Your Calendars For The Biggest Events of the “Offseason”
- Nattys BoundSeven Districts Award Bids to USA Hockey Nationals
- Kier Closes Out SeasonCover Athlete finishes 16U campaign; looks to the future
Mount St. Charles made a statement, nearly sweeping national bids at the 14U, 15U and 16U age groups. The 16s dominated with 44 goals in five games, sweeping through the district and securing a big with a 6-2 victory over South Kent Selects Academy. The 14s battled with unranked Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers, trading wins over the weekend before Mount locked up the bid with a 6-3 victory on Sunday.
MFJR denied Mount of a sweep with a nail-biter at the 15U level. The two teams collided in the championship on Sunday afternoon and after a 4-4 tie carried through regulation and overtime, a shootout would decide the teams’ futures. The fourth shooter off the bench, Logan Renkowski broke the deadlock with a wrist shot low blocker side, putting the puck in the back of the net and his Jr. Rangers squad into the National tournament.
Team North Dakota and Sioux Falls Power were set to face off in all three age groups in a best-of-three format.
Competition was tight at the 14U level, as both Game 1 and Game 2 were decided by just one goal. Needing a decisive third game to determine a series winner, Team ND knocked off Sioux Falls 4-2 to earn the Nationals berth.
The 16U series was a little more lopsided, as Sioux Falls scored 11 goals in two games to sweep Team North Dakota.
Unranked ‘04 Anaheim Jr. Ducks dominated their district with smothering defense, holding opponents to just four goals in five games. The Jr. Ducks’ 2-1 victory over San Jose Jr. Sharks solidified the championship. Also unranked, Team Alaska earned the 15U district bid after a 3-1 win over the Jr. Ducks. Finally, No. 19 LA Jr. Kings has been a top team in the U.S. at the ‘06 birth year, and a 5-0-0 run through districts clinched a spot at nationals for the west coast squad.
This weekend’s tournaments mark the conclusion of District playoffs across the United States. Updated automatic bids to National tournaments are as follows…
|Atlantic||North Jersey Avalanche||North Jersey Avalanche||New Jersey Colonials|
|Central||Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers||Team Wisconsin||Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers|
|Michigan||Oakland Jr. Grizzlies||Compuware||Compuware|
|Mid-American||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite|
|Minnesota||Shattuck-St. Mary’s||MN Blue Ox||Shattuck-St. Mary’s|
|New England||Mount St. Charles||Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers||Mount St. Charles|
|Northern Plains||Sioux Falls Power||N/A||Team North Dakota|
|Pacific||Anaheim Jr. Ducks||Anaheim Jr. Ducks||LA Jr. Kings|
|Rocky Mountain||Colorado Thunderbirds||Dallas Stars Elite||Colorado Thunderbirds|
|Southeastern||Nashville Jr. Predators||Florida Alliance||Team Maryland|
At-large bids are expected to be announced later this week, which will finalize the field of teams at each age group. All three age groups will compete from April 28th to May 3rd, with the 14s and 15s playing in Dallas, Texas, while the 16s play in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
Want more from the world of youth hockey? Text us at 603-541-7772 to get the latest news, rankings, updates and more.
Cover Athlete finishes 16U campaign; looks to the future
The 2020-21 season came to a close for our Cover Athlete of the Year, as C.J. Kier finished his 16U season in net for NorthStar Christian Academy. The ‘04 goaltender posted a 21-7-0 record for the Knights, with an impressive .923 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average.
NorthStar finished the season with a 34-19-0 record, and ranked 45th among 16U and 15U teams on MyHockeyRankings. The Knights were a perfect 13-0-0 during the NAPHL regular season, and then went 5-0 in the postseason through pool play and and the first two rounds of playoffs. They would come just shy of a perfect NAPHL season though, as Florida Alliance defeated the Knights 5-2 in the league championship.
“Unfortunately, we fell short of the Dixon Cup championship, but as a team we achieved much more than a championship,” said Kier. “All the boys on this team love each other and aren’t afraid to put their bodies on the line for a win.”
In just its third year, NorthStar is an up-and-coming program based out of Alexandria, Minnesota, quickly becoming a popular prep academy in the Midwest. In that short time, two players have gone onto the United States Hockey League (USHL) and seven have appeared in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
As an ‘04, Kier is eligible for the upcoming junior league drafts this summer. The USHL Phase-II Draft is scheduled for May 27th, and the NAHL Draft will be held on July 14th. While there have been conversations of playing at the next level and it certainly remains a goal for him, Kier said the focus is on getting better every day.
“This summer, I plan to return home to work with my goalie coaches, Cam Clemenson and Mountain High Hockey,” said Kier. “I also plan to attend goaltending camps across the country and a few junior camps. Next season, I plan to return to NorthStar to be on the 18U prep team and have an even better season, but more importantly, grow in my faith with my new teammates.”
Want more from the world of youth hockey? Text us at 603-541-7772 to get the latest news, rankings, updates and more.
Numbers to Know Leading Up To The National Title Game
College hockey will crown its champion for the 2020-21 season this weekend, as Massachusetts, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State square off in the 2021 Frozen Four. The field started with 16 teams, and after some having to forfeit due to positive COVID-19 tests, others surviving five-overtime thrillers and nail-biting regional action, only four teams remain. Three programs from the state of Minnesota and one from New England have survived one of the more challenging seasons in history and will meet in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Last year was the first time in 72 seasons that the NCAA did not award a national champion in hockey after the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. So as the event returns to the spotlight, we take a closer look at where it all originated for the players competing for a title.
Percent of the 109 players rostered across the four teams are from Minnesota. Not all that surprising, given that three of the four teams remaining are from the State of Hockey. What may be a surprise is that this is the first year in history that multiple schools from the land of 10,000 lakes qualified for the Frozen Four in the same tournament.
Different Minnesota high schools produced at least one of the previously mentioned players. Hermantown High School (6), Holy Family Catholic (3) and Elk River High School (3) are at the forefront, and the Minnesota High School Hockey League (MHSHL) continues to be a leader in development of youth hockey players in the United States.
American youth organizations have at least one representative in Pittsburgh. The Arizona Jr. Coyotes, Chicago Mission, Chicago Young Americans, Colorado Thunderbirds, HoneyBaked, LA Jr. Kings and Selects Academy are among those with multiple alumni vying for the national title.
Canadians are represented on all four teams, including nine from Ontario, five from Alberta, two from Saskatchewan as well as one from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Four of them played their youth hockey in Ontario’s legendary Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) which has produced hundreds of current and former NHL players.
Countries — aside from the obvious U.S. and Canada — including three from Finland, two from Czech Republic and one from each of Germany, Slovakia and Japan. Six of those nationalities are represented on St. Cloud State’s roster, with the Huskies’ top two scorers hailing from the Scandinavian country.
Get more from the world of youth hockey by texting us at 603-541-7772 for the latest news, rankings, updates and events.
Historic event canceled after one-year postponement for 2010s
On Friday, the Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament announced the official cancellation of the tournament for 2010-born players. This comes after a 12-month postponement of the event, which was initially scheduled for July, 2020.
The Brick is an annual event that hosts some of the best 10U players in North America at its 14-team tournament in the West Edmonton Mall. Since 1990, the event has seen the likes of Jack Hughes, Mathew Barzal, Auston Matthews and more than 200 other current and former NHL players.
Last spring, the 2010s were slated to take the spotlight, but amidst shutdowns and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, tournament organizers agreed to postpone the 2010s to the following summer, and host two age groups in 2021. Now just a few months away from the expected start date, the country of Canada remains shut down and international travel restrictions are still heavily in place.
“It had been our hope, and strong desire, to provide all those players the experience of a lifetime at The Bright Invitational and combine that with the 2011’s in back-to-back tournaments,” said chairman Craig Styles. “Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding the uncertainty of hold the tournament, including new strains and variants of the virus, tightening government restrictions on travel and gatherings, the continued closure of the U.S.-Canada border and vaccination scheduling, we are simply unable to hold multiple tournaments this year.”
The announcement also included an update on the status of the 2011-birth year, pushing its expected start date of early July back to August 2 – 8 this summer.
“[This] is subject to our ability to safely hold the tournament with no restrictions, including safe travel without quarantines and the ability to hold indoor gatherings within the province of Alberta, and rink availability,” said Styles.
A final decision on the status of the 2021 tournament for ‘11s is expected to be made by April 30th.
What do you think? Text WHH at 603-541-7772 and share your thoughts on The Brick as well as other upcoming spring and summer events this year.
Minnesota Finals Feature Two Bids At Undefeated Seasons
The Minnesota high school state playoffs concluded on Saturday, with Class-AA and Class-A championship games at Xcel Energy Center. Both matchups featured teams looking to finish the season undefeated. Gentry Academy entered the Class-A final with an 18-0-0 record while Lakeville South came to the Class-AA championship with a 20-0-2 record.
Gentry Academy left little doubt as to who the top team in Class-A was, after out-scoring opponents 21-4 in three state tournament games, including an 8-1 finish in the championship. ‘03 forward Damon Furuseth tallied a goal and three assists in the finale, leading the Galaxy in scoring as he did all season long with 16 goals and 49 points. Classmate Nick Sajevic finished his own perfect season, adding a goal and an assist to successfully record at least one point in every game for Gentry Academy this season.
The Class-AA final was filled with drama, as two of the top teams in the state tangled. Eden Prairie’s high-powered offense averaged 5.2 goals per game; almost as impressive as Lakeville South’s 6.0 average. However, it was the goalies who stole the show, as a pair of ‘02s in Cody Ticen and Zach Hayes combined to stop 58-of-60 shots faced. Expecting and offensive onslaught but caught in a 1-1 stalemate, the two teams skated to a tie deep into two overtimes.
Congrats the to Eden Prairie Eagles, they are your class AA champions this season. pic.twitter.com/sp7pnkd0zm— FollowThePuck (@FollowThePuck) April 4, 2021
Then, 2:06 into the second OT, ‘03 forward Jackson Blake buried a rebound to break the deadlock and bring Eden Prairie its third Minnesota state championship in the school’s history. Blake is verbally committed to play college hockey for the University of North Dakota and is one-of-four players from EP with Division-I commitments.
#Ploffs season is in full effect. The State of Hockey crowned its champions for 2021, USA Hockey Districts are in the midst of naming champions and awarding bids to Nationals, and Russia’s District championships at several age groups have concluded as well. Got a playoff hockey update for us? Text WHH to 603-541-7772.
Movement from the month of March includes a new team at the top
World Hockey Hub’s latest rankings are out and the 2005-birth year saw plenty of movement, with teams shuffling throughout the Top 25. We’ve got a new team atop the rankings, another cracks the Top 10 for the first time and two prep schools making moves as well.
For the first time this season, a Russian-based team takes the top spot as Dynamo Moscow moves us from the No. 2 spot. Dynamo dominated the Championship of St. Petersburg, going 5-0-0 and outscored its opponents 3-to-1 against top competition in the region. There are four more games in the month of April that will decide the champion and Dynamo is currently second in the standings with a game in hand. Makar Khanin leads the way, with 20 goals and 42 points.
Fellow Russian team Avangard Omsk gets a nudge from fifth to No. 4, after more than doubling its win total from eight to 18 and just two defeats. Avangard earned top honors after going 8-0-0 in the Ural Region Championships.
The Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers moved up the rankings for the third consecutive month. Ranked 21st in December, got a small bump to 20th in January, then 12th in February and now cracking the Top 10 at ninth. Ignore the 7-6-0 record during the month of March because four of those defeats came at the hands of teams in the Top 15.The Jr. Rangers lost a three-game series to No. 2 Chicago Mission 2-to-1 and split a four-game set with No. 11 Florida Alliance.
A pair of prep schools continue inching their way up the ranks as well, with Mount St. Charles up to No. 15 and Shattuck-St. Mary’s to 18th. Both programs were also part of a major announcement in the youth hockey world, with the unveiling of the Prep Hockey Conference earlier this month.
Three teams make their debuts on the ‘04 world rankings
World Hockey Hub’s latest rankings are out following games from the month of March. A bunch of Russian teams made significant moves up the ranks, including three that were previously unranked. Strong months from Traktor Chelyabinsk, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and Spartak Moscow made a statement to move them into the Top 25 world rankings.
Led by Ruslan Aglamzyanov with his 13 goals and 36 points, Traktor makes its debut on the rankings at No. 13 with a 20-4-0 record this season. Lokomotiv and Spartak battled over the weekend, with Spartak posting an impressive 5-0 victory. Both teams also debuted on the rankings for the first time at No. 13 and No. 15 respectively.
Certainly worth noting is the new name at the top, North Jersey Avalanche jump from No. 5 to No. 1, after going 10-2-0 in the month of March. Both defeats came at the hands of current No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 12-ranked Seacoast Performance Academy. A first-round selection in last year’s OHL Draft, 2004-standout Nicholas Moldenhauer leads the way for the Avs with 33 points in 13 games and had a six-game stint in the USHL earlier this season.
Speaking of Seacoast, they make the largest leap amongst teams that were ranked the previous month, climbing from 20th to 12th. Three of the Spartans’ six wins in March were against fellow American teams in the Top 25, including the NJ Avs, No. 7 Bishop Kearney and No. 14 New Jersey Rockets. Through 40 games, Seacoast has six players that average a point per game, led by Swedish import Kim Hilmersson with 51 points.
State Tournament Underway In The State of Hockey
It’s really the perfect storm. A combination of elite-level youth hockey players, legendary programs that are deep-rooted in the community with passionate fans and student bodies. It’s the mecca of hockey in the United States; where the sport just means more than it does anywhere else. It’s dubbed “The State of Hockey” for good reason.
The Minnesota high school state playoffs are set to begin on Tuesday, with eight teams at the Class-AA level and eight teams at the Class-A level. All games taking place at the 20,554-seat Xcel Energy Center where the Minnesota Wild play their home games. In a typical season, this venue would be packed to the brim — yes sold out — for a week of some of the best local youth hockey on the planet.
Nearly 50 current NHL players call Minnesota home; that’s more representation in the league than every other country in the world with the exception of Canada, Sweden and of course, the U.S. as a whole. It’s no surprise that this hockey hotbed is also home to one of the best events in all of youth sports.
Teams are divided into two groups based on student enrollment at the schools they represent, with the largest schools making up the AA Division and the smaller schools occupying the A Division. In order to qualify for the state tournament, a team must first win its district tournament, which is a bracket of 8-to-12 teams in a localized region of the state.
Brackets are set, matchups are made and the Class-A tournament will take the stage on Tuesday, with Class-AA opening up on Wednesday.
In Class-A, top-seeded Hermantown looks to return to the title game after finishing as runner-up in the 2020 tournament. The Hawks are 19-1-0 this season and have won five in a row. Standout ‘04 sophomore Zam Plante leads the way for Hermantown with 28 goals and 58 points in 19 games. On the other half of the Class-A bracket is undefeated Gentry Academy with a 16-0-0 record. An impressive 13 players average a point per game for the Galaxy’s high-powered offense. The Academy has scored six-or-more goals in all 16 of its games this season. Are these two teams on a crash course to meet in the final on Saturday?
The puck will drop for the Class-AA tournament on Wednesday, in what will certainly be a competitive clash of powerhouses. Five of the eight teams in the field have won 18-or-more games this season, including both teams in the 4-v-5 matchup between Andover and Maple Grove. Top-seeded Eden Prairie has made it to the championship game three times in the last five tournaments, but is still in search of the Eagles’ first state title since 2011. With four NCAA Division-I college commits on its roster, No. 1 Eden Prairie is the likely favorite in the field, but will be challenged at every step of the tournament. Defending 2020 champion Hill-Murray and its 18-2-0 record could pose a threat as the No. 2 seed, as well as No. 3 Lakeville South, looking to make a run at an undefeated season.
It will be a star-studded event in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the high school state tournament. Text us at 603-541-7772 to make your predictions for who wins the championship in the State of Hockey.
Set to open its 15th Center of Excellence in the United States
Last week, Total Package Hockey (TPH) announced its newest partnership with the Florida Panthers to bring the Center of Excellence (CoE) academy model to aspiring elite hockey players in southeast Florida for the 2021-22 season. This combination of training and academics will be the 15th of its kind from TPH, where the model allows student-athletes to receive a completely individualized, customized, NCAA-accredited education, sport-specific training and mentorship, while still participating for their youth or club organizations.
“We are beyond grateful to Keith Fine and the Panthers organization for trusting us to house a Center of Excellence in their facility,” said TPH CEO Nathan Bowen. “ We are thrilled to grow our Florida footprint and feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to play a role in developing driven, goal-oriented student-athletes who are looking for a flexible, individually-tailored academic learning option that allows them to pursue their sport, school, and life goals all at once, without having to worry about fitting into a traditional school structure.”
While training hockey players has always been at the core of TPH, the main focus has been strengthening its academic resources. Delivered in partnership with Edmentum, the Center of Excellence education model is created in a blended learning environment that combines online curriculum and online learning with on-site infrastructure and academic support.
Coursework can be completed on-demand, with 24/7, fully accessible NCAA courseware and full-time instructors who are dedicated to the student-athletes across all Centers of Excellence. CoE attendees have access to their instructors as well as a virtual tutoring service, in the event academic assistance is needed after-hours or right on the spot during the CoE school day. A full-time academic leader will be on-site daily and will ensure that all student-athletes are held accountable, are studying in a positive learning environment and are receiving an experience that is tailored to when, where and how the individual learns best.
What are your thoughts on TPH and its combination of online learning with on-ice training with its Center of Excellence? Text us at 603-541-7772 to talk about it!