Youth Teams Off To Hot Starts, Stacking Up Wins

Now that the youth hockey season is firmly underway, we are taking a look at some of the teams that have been thriving to start their campaigns. Check out some of the hottest teams in the United States below. 

Shattuck-St. Mary’s 16U

The Shattuck-St. Mary’s 16U team, at 13-1-1 on the season, hasn’t lost a game since they dropped the opener of the Minnesota Blades Fall Showcase on Sept. 16 to a fired up host team. After picking up a 4-3 overtime win over the Windy City Storm the next day, and a 3-3 tie over Little Caesars on Sept. 18, it’s been all wins since for SSM, as they have outscored their opponents 96-36 this season. Most notably among those victories? Two thrashings of the Blades, as Shattuck recorded 9-1 and 9-0 wins in impressive revenge fashion on the first two days of October. This impressive run has propelled Shattuck into the No. 1 spot in our World Rankings.

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 16U

One loss on Sept. 11, one loss on Oct. 10, but in between that…all wins for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, who are now 10-2-0. The Pens ripped off victories over the likes of the New Jersey Rockets, No. 12 Mount St. Charles and the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies leading up to the USHL Fall Classic on home ice. In that tournament, and then the following showcase they hosted, Pittsburgh has topped the Minnesota Blizzard, No. 23 Florida Alliance, No. 7 Little Caesars and No. 6 Chicago Mission before dropping a tight one 3-2 to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.

Mount St. Charles 15U

You have to go all the way back to Sept. 12 to find the last time that Mount St. Charles lost a game. Since that time, they are 12-0, and in possession of the No. 1 rankings in both North America and the world on our World Rankings. They have posted wins over fellow top squads in No. 10 Little Caesars, Windy City Storm and the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers during this win streak. Prior to that, they had also recorded an impressive 7-3 win over No. 2 ranked Bishop Kearney Selects. Watch out for this Mount St. Charles team; they’re out-scoring the competition 110-36 this season.

Bishop Kearney 15U

Surely itching for another shot at Mount St. Charles, Bishop Kearney has been on a roll since its September defeat at the hands of the Mounties as well. Since that aforementioned loss, they have won 15 games, and only dropped a pair — a 5-4 battle with the Minnesota Blue Ox and a 4-3 overtime loss to HoneyBaked. They’re on a tear, having only allowed two goals the entire month of October. In that same time frame, the Selects have scored 26, and recorded five wins in the process (with one 1-1 tie to the Cape Cod Whalers, too). 

Shattuck-St. Mary’s 15U

The Shattuck-St. Mary’s 15U boys are currently in the midst of beating up on in-state competition. After kicking off their winning streak with a 14-3 win over Florida Alliance, the Sabres have now played the Minnesota Walleye, the Minnesota Loons, the Minnesota Lakers, the Minnesota Blizzard, the Minnesota Green Giants and the Minnesota Blue Ox, and they’ve won every single one of the contests. The Blizzard played Shattuck to a 3-2 final, but other than that, it’s been dominating performances with at least six goals being put up on the scoreboard by SSM each time.

Shattuck-St. Mary’s ‘07s

Well, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U team hasn’t lost a game yet, so it’s been quite a streak. The SSM boys are 17-0 on the 2021-22 season, and they have outscored their opponents 135-22 in the process. Shattuck started the season with a 14-0 victory over the Minnesota Voyageurs, and they have never looked back, having posted double-digital goal totals four more times since. We most recently had them at No. 2 in the rankings, but at the way they’re going, could they claim the top spot soon?

Chicago Mission ‘07s

Keeping pace with the SSM boys mentioned above, the Chicago Mission ‘07s – currently ranked No. 1 in our World Rankings – have only dropped one game on the season. They have built a 14-1 record thus far, thanks to impressive wins over the Buffalo Jr. Sabres (8-0), the Windy City Storm (11-2) and HoneyBaked (9-0). 

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite ‘07s

It sure will be fun to see how the 14U age group plays out at the end, because the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite ‘07s are right there with Shattuck and Mission. The Pens hold a 16-1 record on the season; their lone loss came to Mission in the first week of September. The USHL Fall Classic champions haven’t lost a game since, and they have a 84-25 goal differential on their opponents this season. 

Long Island Gulls ‘08s

There is one undefeated team still standing in the ’08 age group, and it’s No. 21 Long Island Gulls. The Long Island squad is 15-0 this year, and they’re doing it with dominating defensive play to go along with some timely scoring. They have only given up three goals twice this season, and other than that, if you’re holding teams to zero, one or two goals in a youth contest every game, you’re going to have a lot of success. They have only allowed 17 goals in their 15 games, while the Gulls have found the back of the net 72 times at the other end of the ice. 

Little Caesars ’08s

While the Gulls may be the only undefeated team in the country, No. 8 Little Caesars is undefeated in regulation play. The LC ‘08s have two ties to their name — a 2-2 battle with No. 14 Chicago Mission on Sept. 3 and another 2-2 finish with the Middlesex Islanders the next day — but other than that, they have eight wins on the season. 

Windy City Storm ‘08s

The Windy City Storm are climbing up the rankings; they currently sit No. 12 in our World Rankings. Why? Well they’ve already got 20 wins on the season. With a 20-3-2 record, they’re turning heads, especially with wins over the likes of No. 14 Chicago Mission, HoneyBaked and No. 2 LA Jr. Kings (they also tied them once).

New Jersey Hockey Academy ‘09s

The No. 4 New Jersey Hockey Academy has turned in a nearly flawless start to the 2021-22 campaign, as they currently display a 14-1-1 record. Outside of a loss to a talented No. 19 Anaheim Jr. Ducks squad on Sept. 11 and a tie to the Boston Jr. Eagles on Oct. 9, they have been perfect on the season, and have a 71-23 goal differential. 

Want more coverage of the top teams in youth hockey? Follow World Hockey Hub on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, rankings, highlights and more!

WHH Predictions for seven divisions at this weekend’s CCM Motown

The CCM World Invite Motown is coming to Metro Detroit this week, and it’s bringing hundreds of hockey teams from across the country to Michigan along with it.

The annual tournament — this year featuring a whopping 306 teams across 10 age groups — has been a staple in the youth hockey calendar for top teams in North America for more than a dozen years.

With COVID-19 still restricting international travel, it will be limited to teams from only the U.S., meaning we will still have to wait to see how some of the squads stack up with their Canadian counterparts.

Each age group is split into two or three divisions, all named after CCM’s equipment lineups. The Super Tacks divisions will feature top AAA teams from across the country, while the Ribcor and Jetspeed divisions will feature talented A/AA teams with a few AAA squads mixed in.

We’ve focused our attention on the Super Tacks pools, breaking down the teams participating and providing our picks for who we think will come out on top by Championship Sunday. Here we go.

18U Super Tacks

There are eight teams participating in the 18U Super Tacks division, which means plenty of opportunities for the players competing to catch the eye of scouts in attendance. From the looks of it, three Pennsylvania teams — the Mt. Lebanon Hornets, the Pittsburgh Vengeance and the Pittsburgh Predators — will be squaring off with a team of Michigan high school all-star teams in Michigan Hockey Advancement and the Michigan Development Hockey League. We like the in-state programs here, as Michigan’s high school hockey scene brings in top players at the oldest age groups, and they’re hungry to make impressions before the winter season kicks off with their respective high schools.

Predicted winner: Michigan Hockey Advancement 18U

16U Super Tacks

The 16U field seems to be a real toss-up, as there aren’t any teams who have made a lot of noise in earlier fall tournaments. Much like the 18U group, the two Michigan high school collections will have a say in who emerges victorious, but fellow Michigan squads from Belle Tire and Fox Motors will be forces as well. Two teams that are traveling the farthest for the tournament will be ones to watch, too; the Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs and Team Alaska don’t want to make the trek for nothing. We think Fox Motors, fresh off celebrating a college commitment to Lake Superior State for forward Hunter Ramos, will claim bragging rights. 

Predicted winner: Fox Motors

15O Super Tacks

HoneyBaked leads the field in the 15O age group. One name to keep an eye on is defenseman Dakoda Rheaume-Mullin, the son of Manon Rheaume. Dakoda and the HB boys will be challenged by in-state foes in the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies and Belle Tire, as well as the Pittsburgh Vengeance. A unique twist for this age group is that the 12 participating squads will be getting an early taste of what their USA Hockey nationals could be like in the spring, as some of the games will be played at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, which is hosting that age group’s Tier 1 championship in April.

Predicted winner: HoneyBaked

14U Super Tacks

Things really heat up when you get to the 14U age bracket for the CCM Motown. At the 2007 birth-year level, Little Caesars leads the field as the No. 4-ranked team in the U.S., with a fistful of other top American teams Compuware, Victory Honda, Fox Motors, Carshield Hockey Club and Florida Alliance. The Caesars club has a 9-2-1 record on the season, and they’ll be looking to add to it. 

Predicted winner: Little Caesars

13U Super Tacks

A 16-team field fills the 2008 division, including No. 8-ranked Little Caesars, No. 20-ranked St. Louis Jr. Blues, Buffalo Jr. Sabres and HoneyBaked. Caesars checks in at 8-0-2 on the season, but we like the 14-5-1 record the Jr. Blues have thus far. They have logged a lot of games, and that early experience is going to pay off in their visit to Hockeytown this weekend.

Predicted winner: St. Louis Jr. Blues

12U Super Tacks

A deep 2009 group will take over three rinks for the 12U Super Tacks division, and there’s a lot of budding starpower. We’ve got No. 19 Anaheim Jr. Ducks, and they’re joined by No. 20 Chicago Reapers, as well as Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and Little Caesars. All in all, the 12U tournament is going to be fun to watch play out. 

Predicted winner: Anaheim Jr. Ducks

11U Super Tacks

The 2010 class is headlined by No. 5-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 11-ranked Chicago Fury, with plenty of pressure coming from the NEW Jr. Gamblers, the Chicago Reapers and Little Caesars. The little Pens hold a 10-2-1 record and could add to those totals substantially this weekend. 

Predicted winner: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the CCM Motown, including recaps and analysis of this weekend’s games. Like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TwitterTikTok and YouTube for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

More From The World Hockey Hub

Insights and perspective on player advancement in youth hockey, and how to stand out from the rest.

Ryan Kosecki spends his days helping players advance to the highest levels of amateur hockey.

If you see him at a rink, he will be wearing one or more of his many hats. Kosecki is a co-general manager and vice president of hockey operations for the United States Hockey League (USHL) Youngstown Phantoms. He is the assistant general manager and scout for the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Maryland Black Bears. He is the head coach of the Fox Motors 15U team in Grand Rapids, Mich. Oh yeah, and when he’s not busy with any of those hockey-related responsibilities, he’s also coaching his son’s 10U team.

It is quite the hockey job list, and it makes Kosecki — previously an assistant coach with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks — a unique source for sharing knowledge on what it takes for athletes to make it to the next level.

So if he shows up to your game, how do you catch Kosecki’s eye? What does he look for in a player when he’s scouting for the Phantoms or the Black Bears? Kosecki said it’s four things, in this order:

  1. How the player thinks the game
  2. His compete factor
  3. His skill
  4. His skating

If those don’t pass the eyeball test, he’s moving on to the next player on the bench. 

“I want to see how they make plays, how their stick is, whether they have a good stick or not, do they make their teammates better, are they able to beat a guy one-on-one, stuff like that, because you have to be able to make players around you better,” Kosecki said. “Most of the game is played without the puck, so are you able to make that five-foot slip pass? Are you able to puck protect and fend off that defender to be able to get that shot on net? Are you hard on as F1 on the forecheck? How do you play in your own zone? Will you block shots? Will you go to the dirty areas in the offensive zone? Stuff like that. 

“One thing I really, really, really look for is are you a good teammate. Once I’ve zoned in on a kid that I like, I look for things like how is he on the penalty kill, how is he on the power play, but then I’ll watch him on the bench, see how he acts, or reacts, I should say, after a loss, after a bad goal, after he misses a shot or doesn’t get a pass from a teammate. I’m watching body language, all that stuff, to see what kind of kid he is and what kind of teammate he is.”

It takes a lot more than just a strong performance on the ice for Kosecki to welcome players into either of his organizations, however. He will do his homework on a player, and that starts with having a conversation with the person who knows the player best — his coach.

“The first thing I’ll do is after the game I’ll talk to the coach, and literally the first question I ask the coach is ‘what kind of kid is he?'” said Kosecki. “Obviously, if you’re not a great kid and a great teammate, I want nothing to do with you and I don’t care how good you are. The next thing, we’ll talk about grades, and the third one is how hard does he work? Does he work hard in the weight room, is he a kid that cares about hockey or is he just a kid who shows up? Is he one of the kids that wants to do video, wants to study analytics, wants to work hard in the weight room and will do whatever it takes to get to the next level?”

And grades are more important than just maintaining eligibility. To Kosecki, a player’s performance in the classroom shows a great deal about his character and his determination for having success in hockey.

“Yeah absolutely, it shows what type of kid he is and whether he’s serious about his hockey career,” Kosecki said. “If he doesn’t have good grades, he’s not going to be able to get into college and play college hockey, and that’s why we’re recruiting these kids, it’s so they can play college hockey.”

When asked what he would tell a kid who approached him in a rink lobby asking for advice, Kosecki highlighted his most important points, because there would be many.

“Oh wow, I could go on for hours about that,” Kosecki said. “There are so many different factors. The number-one thing I tell every kid is stop feeling like you have to score to impress scouts or be the leading scorer to impress scouts. Even as a coach, I’ve never had a scout ask me how many points a kid has. Scouts already decided if they like the kid. I’m the same way, I’ve never asked a coach how many points a kid has, I already decided whether I like that kid or not. Be one of those kids who can play all three positions as a forward, be the kid who’s willing to play both defensive spots.”

He also said to not sweat it if you’re not getting power-play time.

“You don’t have to be one of the kids on the power play. For some reason…we’ve become a generation who, if you ask 100 parents, 99 of them would say they would rather have their kid on power play than the PK, and it’s the stupidest thing ever. If you want to make it to the next level, you have to be a kid who…unless you’re the best of the best, you’re a kid who’s going to need to be able to play in all three zones, all three positions, be on the power play or the PK, be able to know different systems.

“The kid who can step in and say, ‘yeah, I can play right wing in a 1-2-2 or I can go out there and penalty kill,’ – those are the kids who are going to make it. That’s why a lot of times the most skilled player doesn’t make it. it’s the kid who’s going to work the hardest and the kid who is the smartest hockey player.”

And finally, Kosecki illustrates the value in watching a lot of hockey — your own, as well as higher levels of play.

“The other thing I would say is study the game. With social media and everything, [young athletes] don’t watch a lot of hockey. So if you’re not going to watch a lot of hockey, you better do a ton of video then, so that you’re learning the game. There is no better way to learn the game than watching your own video and having a coach break down your video and teach you the things you’re doing good and the things you’re doing bad.”

Want more from next-level scouts and how young athletes can elevate their games to junior hockey and beyond? Follow World Hockey Hub on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

More From The World Hockey Hub

Have A Story To Share With The Hockey World? Connect With Us Today!

Striving for growth and change in hockey’s birthplace

The impacts of COVID-19 have brought changes and new ideas to almost all aspects of life.

Why would hockey be any different?

In hockey-crazed Canada, leaders of the youth hockey community have identified the need for change. At the “birthplace of hockey” as Canada is affectionately known, it is time to make the sport more welcoming and accessible to the changing demographics and lifestyles within the country.

The Future of Hockey Lab — first opening in Nova Scotia — will be actively pursuing the aforementioned needs, as its founders strive to find new ways to grow the game outside of its traditional audience.

Spanning across the top of the program’s new website upon each visit: ‘The Future of Hockey Lab enables the creation, experimentation and testing of game-changing ideas and innovations to make the sport of hockey more accessible for all who wish to participate.’

A five-point list outlines its mission just below the mission statement. Those are:

The Future of Hockey Lab was co-founded by Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh and Carolyn Townsend, previously with Sport Nova Scotia. 

“We know the sport of hockey is truly loved by many, but it’s really only accessible to a select few and that select few is getting smaller and smaller,” Walsh said in an interview with CBC. “So this is really about testing ideas and new innovations that might make the game more accessible to all people.”

Hockey Canada is assisting with the creation of the lab, and there is financial support from Bauer Hockey, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire through their Jumpstart Charities initiative.

It’s a project that has been in the works for a few years now, as Hockey Nova Scotia commissioned a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in December of 2019 to speak with the general public about how to better make hockey a welcoming sport for all.

That task force spoke with 840 members of their community — many who had bad experiences and left the game or never started at all — and produced a report to make the hockey community take a look in the mirror.

From there, Hockey Nova Scotia created “The Player’s Journey” in which they mapped out the experience of a player from start to finish, creating hundreds of data points on how to improve the customer experience for players of all ages. The Women’s Worlds Legacy Development Plan, meanwhile, was created by female hockey players to help better support the girls’ game and help grow and enhance it.

The Future of Hockey Lab’s ‘theory of change’ shared below is something that can be embraced by all hockey nations, not just Canada.

“WHAT IF… Folks from communities across the province could get all the supports they need to develop and TRY game-changing ideas and innovations? Running experiments to address barriers to access in hockey, and learning what works and what doesn’t—then growing, expanding and supporting everything that works. This is our theory of change, and how we can one day realize a more inclusive game.”

There’s always room for the sport to grow, and to do that, everyone needs to do their best to make hockey a fun, rewarding and welcoming experience for all its participants and their families. 

Want more news from the world of youth hockey? Follow World Hockey Hub on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

A pair of undefeated teams lead the ‘08 and ‘09 World Rankings

The latest world rankings were released on Wednesday. Many teams have begun building their respective resumes for the ‘21-22 season, with only Canada and Sweden — and Finland at some age groups — yet to begin. A pair of No. 1s, though, have wasted little time stacking impressive performances in their respective age groups, in the early stages of September.

The 2008-born LA Jr. Kings have pulled ahead of the pack, with a 7-0-1 record. Four of those wins came over the weekend, including a dominant 6-2 victory over HoneyBaked; the 10th ranked team in the States. The Jr. Kings’ only hiccup was a 4-4 tie they skated to with the Windy City Storm on Saturday. The Chicago-based program is fourth in the country, and 11th in the world, with three wins of its own over ranked opponents.

The upcoming schedule will certainly present bigger challenges, with trips to Pittsburgh in October and Detroit in November. With a trio of forwards Sammie Ochoa, Tyus Sparks and Logan Stuart up front, the Jr. Kings should present difficult matchups for future opponents.

CSKA Moscow validated its preseason No. 1 in the 2009 age group with a 17-game win streak to open the season. Four victories have come against fellow Russian Top-10 teams, including not one, not two, but three dominant performances against No. 4-ranked Dynamo Moscow. In those games, CSKA out-scored Dynamo 29-5. They are averaging nearly 10 goals a game with 169 goals already this season.

Daniel Ermolov, Artem Karsuro and Nazar Privalov lead the way for CSKA. Expect the schedule to be a bit more challenging as the season wears on, but there’s no mistake in who the clear-cut No. 1 is at the end of September.

Check out the complete world rankings to see who the top teams are at the ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘10 age group HERE. Our world rankings are updated every two weeks, and you can submit your rankings to the committee! Or, follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

Canada’s top youth league set to return for ’21-22 season

Since its inception in 1911, the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) has seen its share of historic moments.

The 2020-21 season made history, in a way that nobody ever wanted to see.

After missing an entire season of hockey because of COVID-19, the GTHL — arguably the best youth hockey league in the entire world — is set to return for 2021-22, a welcomed sight for the Canadian hockey community.

In late August, the storied organization announced its “Game Plan 2.0” framework for returning to play this season, setting out how it plans to handle the unique environment North America still finds itself in during the battle with COVID-19. A substantial part of that plan is requiring vaccines for GTHL directors and staff, GTHL member executives and staff, team officials, timekeepers, on-ice officials, instructors, in-arena employees of the GTHL and players who were born in or before 2009 (barring medical or approved exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code).

The competitive divisions of the GTHL are slated to begin on November 1, while some of the house leagues and learn-to-play programs have an earlier start.

“The Game Plan 2.0 and the Vaccine Policy puts the safety and well being of players as the top priority as we begin the much-anticipated return to programming.” said Scott Oakman, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the GTHL. “Players, their families, and minor hockey associations are excited to be able to return to play and we are working hard at creating the safest environment for them.” 

A very robust return-to-play plan can be viewed here.

One of the highlights is that while face masks must be worn at all times inside facilities, players, team officials and on-ice officials will not be required to wear masks on the ice. Coaches must wear a face mask on the bench.

The 2019-2020 GTHL season was cancelled on March 12, 2020, and while plans were in place for a 2020-21 season, it did not come to fruition.

A return to play means that some of the best young players in the world get a chance to return to action during a crucial time for their career aspirations. The largest minor hockey league in the world, the GTHL annually showcases more than 40,000 hockey players in Markham, Mississauga, Toronto and Vaughan. 

The league has gone through a variety of changes as it has expanded over the years. Today, age groups start at Under-7 (the 2015 birth-year for this season) up through Under-18 (2004 and 2005 birth years) at the AAA, AA and A levels. The Under-14 through Under-17 AAA age groups are some of the most heavily scouted divisions of hockey in the entire world, with a recent alumni list featuring the likes of John Tavares, Jack and Quinn Hughes, Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin and many, many more.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the league itself, you will surely have come across some of the member clubs. Storied programs like the Don Mills Flyers, Markham Majors, Mississauga Rebels, North York Rangers, Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Toronto Marlboros and Vaughan Kings are just some of the powerhouses routinely competing for GTHL titles. 

In every generation of GTHL alumni lists, the names jump off the page. In some of the early days, the likes of Red Kelly, Frank Mahovlich and Ken Dryden stand out, and it only gets better from there.

In the 1970s, spectators of the GTHL got to see Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy and Adam Oates. A few years later, it would be Adam Graves, Brendan Shanahan and Sean Burke. Blockbuster names continued, with Eric Lindros, Anson Carter, Mike Peca, Kevin Weekes and Jason Allison all spanning three birth years between 1973 and 1975. 

As the league continued to establish itself more and more as an international powerhouse, talent continued to appear and develop within its member programs. We won’t list them all, but just from a quick skim…check out these NHLers (with their birth year in parentheses):

Mike Cammalleri (1982)
Ray Emery (1982)
Jason Spezza (1983)
Rick Nash (1984)
Brent Burns (1985)
Andrew Cogliano (1987)
Wayne Simmonds (1988)
P.K. Subban (1989)
Sam Gagner (1989)
John Tavares (1990)
Alex Pietrangelo (1990)
Ryan O’Rielly (1991)
Tyler Seguin (1992)
Jeff Skinner (1992)
Dougie Hamilton (1993)
Max Domi (1995)
Darnell Nurse (1995)
Connor McDavid (1997)
Mitch Marner (1997)
Jakob Chychrun (1998)
Quinn Hughes (1999)
Jack Hughes (2001)

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the GTHL, and other top youth leagues around the world all season long. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

Standouts from September’s Sweden Hockey Trophy

The Sweden Hockey Trophy (SHT) took place earlier this month, serving as a top-level preseason tournament for European teams in the ‘06 through ‘11 birth years. Regular-season action is slated to begin in October, so the SHT functions as a good measuring stick for teams before the schedule gets underway. The under-16 age group is a crucial one for 2021-22, as it’s their final season of youth hockey before many graduate to J18 junior hockey.

The ‘06s took to the ice in Tumba, Sweden, on Thursday, September 16th, with 10 teams competing in 33 games. Flemingsbergs IK defeated Täby HC in an exciting 4-3 finish in the championship game. There were several standouts from the weekend that was, and we’ve narrowed it down to six contributors who played significant roles in their team’s success. 

Melvin Fernstrӧm, Forward, SDE Hockey

In just six games, Fernstrӧm managed to compile enough points to lead the tournament in scoring with six goals and 12 points. Two of them came by way of the man advantage, and Fernstrӧm also posted a hat trick against Sӧdertälje in a 4-3 win on the final day of pool play. He also scored SDE’s lone goal in their 4-1 quarterfinal loss to Bjӧrklӧvens.

Joel Barrefjord, Forward, Bjӧrklӧvens IF

Barrefjord tied for the lead in points, also scoring six goals and also totaling 12 points, helping Bjӧrklӧvens reach the semifinals. He posted a four-point game against Flemingsbergs and then followed it up with a hat trick against SDE in the very next game. Barrefjord factored in on 44 percent of his team’s goals in the tournament, serving as a major contributor to Bjӧrklӧvens’ success at SHT.

Joakim Engholm, Forward, Flemingsbergs IK

Nobody scored more goals than FIK’s Engholm. The 5-foot-10, 161-pound left-hand shot totaled eight goals for SHT champions Flemingsbergs; no other player on the team had more than four in the tournament. Five of those tallies came during the elimination rounds, including a hat trick in the quarterfinals 3-1 against Red Bull Salzburg, and the game-winning goal in the championship game. 

Oliver Marcelius, Forward, Täby HC

Täby came up just one goal short, falling to FIK in the final, but Marcelius proved to be a major contributor in getting his team to the finale. He scored five goals and 11 points, and posted three consecutive multi-point games, adding a fourth in the championship with a goal and assist. The 5-foot-7 forward is small, but shifty and makes heady plays with the puck on his stick.

Wiktor Jerneheim, Defense, Täby HC

Marcelius’ teammate Jerneheim looked like one of the better defenders in the tournament, leading all defensemen with four goals and eight points. He is 5-foot-10 with a good stride and quick release, opening up the tournament with points in five of the team’s first six games. Bjӧrklӧvens’ Oliwer Sjostrom was the only other defenseman to match Jerneheim’s eight points over the weekend.

Lukas Hӧglind, Goalie, Färjestad BK

In net for six of his team’s seven tournament games, Hӧglind posted a 4-2-0 record with one of those defeats coming in a low-scoring 2-1 shootout finish. He compiled a 1.78 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, going 148 minutes and 42 seconds consecutively without allowing a goal. Hӧglind had a 52-save win over Nacka, a 37-save shutout over FIK and 27 saves in Färjestad’s shootout loss in the elimination rounds.

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage as the Sweden youth hockey season gets underway in October. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

USHL brings elite youth talent together for season kick-off

It’s become one of the premiere youth hockey events of the fall – and that’s even without who else is in the building.

The United States Hockey League (USHL) Fall Classic marks the opening weekend of the country’s top junior league. It also brings top youth hockey teams from across the United States to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh, Pa., for a weekend tournament that runs in conjunction with the USHL’s first games of the season.

All of the USHL member clubs play a pair of games to kick off their respective seasons in the same building as the youth tournament, which means a scouting bonanza for both the youth and junior levels of play.

“The Fall Classic has become a top-tier hockey event in the United States for scouts and fans alike,” said former USHL President and Commissioner Tom Garrity at the time of the announcement that the showcase would return in 2021. “With all 16 USHL teams in attendance, and a plethora of youth teams, scouts from every level of hockey and every type of hockey fan will find something to interest them at this event. Our partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins for this event is always top notch and we anticipate another amazing event to kick off next season.”

This unique event offers an exclusive opportunity for youth hockey players to experience and learn about the USHL, which represents the best of American junior hockey. Geographically, though, it is contained primarily in the midwest region of the country. Players from the likes of Florida or California rarely get to see a USHL contest up close, but at the UPMC this upcoming weekend, they get to see the entire league in action in between their own games.

Along the same lines, the leadership for USHL clubs get a great look at a whole bunch of talented youngsters. That’s one of the obvious reasons that highly-ranked programs seek out the USHL Fall Classic, and the 2021 edition of the event — after a one-year hiatus — features some elite competition. A total of 86 youth teams will be arriving in Pittsburgh this week; 18 at the 14U level, 22 at the 15U level, 26 at the 16U level and 20 at the 18U level. 

At each age group, there is top-level talent, too. In 14U play, scouts will get an early look at a 2007 birth-year class with such teams as the World Hockey Hub’s No. 4-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 6 Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers.

In the 15U age group, teams will get a crack at the No. 2, No. 6 and No. 10-ranked squads. The No. 2 Bishop Kearney Selects, fresh off putting on a clinic at the Minnesota Blades Fall Showcase last weekend, arrive in Pittsburgh with a substantial amount of momentum. Meanwhile, the No. 6 Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers and the No. 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite will be looking to make statements of their own.

The 16U group is just as, if not more, loaded. Five top-ten teams will suit up at the UPMC: No. 2 Compuware, No. 4 Florida Alliance, No. 6 Team Wisconsin, No. 7 Windy City Storm and No. 10 New Jersey Avalanche. With the changes in college hockey recruiting rules that reined in early commitments, the ’05 class will be even more hungry to impress the coaches and scouts in attendance.

The players will also get to see just some plain and simple great hockey when they’re not worrying about their own games, too. The USHL is the main gateway to college hockey for a reason. For more information regarding the USHL Fall Classic, click HERE.

Want more from the World Hockey Hub? Follow us on InstagramTikTokYouTubeTwitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

MN Blades host fall showcase for some of the top teams in the country

When the Minnesota Blades bring together some of the most notable programs in the country, it gives the youth hockey community an early measuring stick to see how top teams stack up at the start of the season.

The annual Minnesota Blades Fall Showcase brought in 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U teams to the Brooklyn Park Ice Arena in Minneapolis. While most of the teams were still finding their sea legs with both bright spots and blunders this early in the season, a few took advantage of the opportunity to solidify themselves as contenders for national supremacy.

At the 15U level, Bishop Kearney continued its early-season dominance. Fresh off winning the Eastern Alliance Kick-Off, BK posted an impressive 4-0 record over the weekend. Ranked the No. 2 team in the 2006 birth-year in our preseason rankings, and No. 6 world-wide, BK Selects have already compiled a very impressive resume. 

They started with a 7-0 shutout victory over Team Wisconsin to open their showcase schedule in style on Thursday, and they never slowed down. Then, BK went on to beat Detroit Little Caesars 6-4 Friday and topped the host team Blades 5-4 on Saturday. Before heading home to New York on Sunday, they polished off a perfect weekend with a 5-2 victory over No. 4-ranked Chicago Mission.

Bishop Kearney’s Christian Humphreys made our list of top 2006 birth-year players last year, and he’s picking up right where he left off. Meanwhile, the Selects have a goaltending tandem of Patrick Curtatone and Jackson Silverberg that should have the BK program feeling confident for the remainder of the 2021-22 youth hockey season.

The showcase opener for the 15s was a battle of in-state powers, as the Blades started things off with a bang against a Shattuck-St. Mary’s team that won the 14U national championship a season ago. The All-Minnesota battle went the Blades’ way, as the host team prevailed 3-2.

And while Chicago Mission fell to Bishop Kearney in the final day, it was the 15O squad’s only loss on the weekend. On Thursday, they beat Little Caesars 6-5 and on Friday, they took care of Team Wisconsin 5-3. Saturday’s matchup was a convincing 4-0 victory over Florida Alliance to give Mission a three-win weekend.

The 16U age group was a star-studded affair, as well. Six of the eight teams participating in the showcase appeared on our preseason rankings: No. 1 Detroit HoneyBaked, No. 3 Chicago Mission, No. 4 Florida Alliance, No. 5 Shattuck-St. Mary’s, No. 6 Team Wisconsin and No. 7 Windy City Storm

Unfazed by the status of their counterparts, the Minnesota Blades made sure to establish themselves in the conversation with three straight wins to begin the weekend. The Blades took down Shattuck 4-3, then shut out Little Caesars the next day. And on Saturday, they recorded a dominating 7-1 win over defending national champion HoneyBaked to put an exclamation mark on their weekend.

It’s a full roster of names to keep an eye on, but two to highlight are forwards Cam Briere and Simon Seidl. Briere, a dual citizen, was playing for the Nashville Jr. Predators before making the move north to Michigan, and he’s already made a verbal commitment to Nebraska-Omaha. Seidl, meanwhile, is the younger of two brothers who were adopted and brought stateside from the Democratic Republic of the Congo a decade ago. Seidl and his brother, Sawyer, have been profiled by the likes of NHL.com and NBC Sports for their on-ice talents and unique background. Simon is a 2006-born forward who played up an age group this weekend for the Blades’ 16U squad.

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the 16U, 15O and 14U age groups in the U.S., as well as worldwide content throughout the entire 2021-22 season. Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

A Breakdown of the International Players Bound for the CHL in 2021-22

Since its inception in 1992, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft has served as a way for the three major junior leagues to manage international talent entering their storied franchises. 

The 30th edition of the Import Draft featured 57 CHL clubs participating; all 22 of the Western Hockey League (WHL), 18 of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and 17 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Only the Halifax Mooseheads, the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Mississauga Steelheads opted to pass, as they retained both of their previous import draft choices.

The CHL clubs traveled the globe for their selections; a breakdown by countries of origin paints a very diverse picture of a talent pool.

What may garner some eyeballs is how quickly Latvia and Ukraine appeared on the draft board – No. 1 and No. 3, to be exact.

Fitting surprises for the strange situation that was this year’s Import Draft, as it took place before the NHL Entry Draft, not afterward like usual. Normally, the Import Draft is filled with recent NHL draftees who make the decision with their new parent organization to come to the CHL in order to acclimate with the North American game immediately.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 players, normally all a safe bet to appear in the CHL the following season (there’s already one exception, which is noted below):

No. 10 – Louis Robin – Forward – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Rounding out the top ten was the first Swiss player selected in the CHL Import Draft, as the Rimouski Oceanic selected right winger Louis Robin. A 2003 birth-year skater, he went undrafted this summer by NHL clubs, but after racking up 51 points and 81 penalty minutes in 45 games with Zug of the U20 Elit league in his native Switzerland, the Oceanic must like what they saw. He has been with Zug for the last three seasons; before that, Robin skated in the Lausanne organization from 2014-18. Robin wore an “A” for his Swiss club at the Under-18 Worlds this past spring, recording two points in three games. 

No. 9 – Filip Mesar – Forward – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

The Kitchener Rangers opted for Slovakian forward Filip Mesar, a 2004 birth-year winger who is considered a possible first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. At 5-foot-10, he won’t be an intimidating presence, but those 41 points in 33 games with his HK Poprad U20 team in 2019-2020, and 14 in 36 against professionals a year later looks appealing to any franchise. As it stands now, however, Mesar is not on the Rangers’ preseason roster; perhaps another season of pro hockey in his home country will be Mesar’s preferred route leading into the NHL Draft.

No. 8 – Jesper Vikman – Goaltender – Vancouver Giants (WHL)

The first of five Swedish products was selected at No. 8, as Jesper Vikman was claimed by the Giants to make it back-to-back net minders in the import draft. Vikman is older than most of the prospects selected, as he is a 2002 birth-year goaltender who was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020 (fifth round, 125th overall). Elite Prospects lists him as a dual citizen between Sweden and Finland, but he has spent the majority of his days skating with the AIK club in Stockholm. While the Giants haven’t released a preseason roster to date, Vikman has been skating with the team and he told members of the media that he’s excited to be in Vancouver.

No. 7 – Ivan Zhigalov – Goaltender – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

The first goaltender selected was the 6-foot-3, 165-pounder Ivan Zhigalov, who hails from Minsk, Belarus. He caught some scouts’ eyes at the U18 Worlds but went undrafted in the NHL selection process. This will be his first taste of North American hockey, after Zhigalov rose through the ranks with Dynamo Moscow

No. 6 – Kirill Kudryavtsev – Defense – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)

Another ’04 birth-year defenseman, Kirill Kudryavtsev was the first Russian product taken in the 2021 CHL Import Draft. A native of Yaroslavl, Kudryavstev has been playing for his hometown Lokomotiv Yaroslavl through his formative years, playing in the top U20 league in Eurasia in 2020-21. He’s been a key piece of a Russian club that has dominated in prestigious international tournaments, helping his country to gold at the Youth Olympic Games with four points in four games, and then gold again at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with two points and a plus-5 rating.

No. 5 – Rayan Bettahar – Defense – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

This one’s definitely coming across the pond. Rayan Bettahar, a prospect eligible for the 2022 Draft, is a 2004-birth year defenseman who is listed as a native of Germany on the CHL site, but a dual citizen with Poland, citing a hometown of Nowy Targ on EP. He racked up 29 penalty minutes in three games at the U18 Worlds, so the Broncos know they’re getting somebody who won’t be afraid of fighting some battles in front of the crease and in the corners. Bettahar has been playing for Jungadler Mannheim of the Germany U17 league for three seasons, while getting the call up to the U20 team on occasion.

No. 4 – Simon Nemec – Defense – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

In the weird world of 2021, it looks like the No. 4 overall pick in the CHL Import Draft may not be coming to North America. Cape Breton took a chance on defenseman Simon Nemec of Slovakia, but he doesn’t appear on their preseason roster. It was certainly worth the risk, as Nemec is rated the No. 3 overall prospect in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft in Elite Prospects’ consolidated rankings system. The 6-foot-1 native of Liptovsky Mikulas appears to be playing another season with HK Nitra back home. He wore the ‘C’ for Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer, recording six points in five games from the backend.

No. 3 – Artur Cholach – Defense – Barrie Colts (OHL)

Selected in the NHL Draft shortly after the CHL edition, Artur Cholach became the first Ukrainian to be selected by an NHL club since 2007. A native of Lviv, Ukraine, Cholach played with Sokol Kyiv of the Ukrainian Professional Hockey League in 2020-21, playing an increased role in the playoffs (he recorded a pair of goals in nine games). This won’t be his first time playing North American hockey, as Cholach came to the United States to play with the New Jersey Jr. Titans of the NAPHL and AYHL in 2019-2020. Before that, he skated for CSKA Moscow of the Russia 16U junior league, while being called up for a few games at the 18U level with the same club. His 6-foot-4, 201-pound frame made him an appealing late-round choice for the Vegas Golden Knights, who selected him in the sixth round this summer.

No. 2 – Niko Huuhtanen – Forward – Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Niko Huuhtanen, a native of Helsinki, Finland, heard his name called twice this summer, first by the WHL’s Everett Silvertips at No. 2 overall, and then, by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL Draft. After playing many of his formative years with the Espoo Blues organization, this past season Huuhtanen suited up for Tappara U20 in the SM-Sarja — Finland’s top Under-20 league — where he posted 34 points in 37 games, along with 73 penalty minutes. In the 2021 Under-18 Worlds, he recorded two goals and three assists, along with a plus-3 rating, for Finland in seven games.

No. 1 – Niks Fenenko – Defense – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

Baie-Comeau selected Niks Fenenko with the first overall pick of this summer’s selection process, a notable pick as there hasn’t been much talk about the 2004 birth-year defenseman out of Latvia. Fenenko, a 6-foot-1 left-handed blue-liner, has been playing for HS Riga, his hometown club, in the top-tier Latvian league. He skated for Latvia at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship this past spring, finishing with a minus-3 rating in four games. Before his time with Riga, Fenenko spent two seasons playing in the Latvia U17 league with HK Pirati, playing up multiple age groups.

The CHL is still widely considered the top developmental league for junior hockey players around the world. More than 1,100 active professional players first competed in one of the CHL’s three subsidiary leagues before being drafted into the NHL. It routinely bridges the gap between youth hockey and college/professional hockey for hundreds of players each year, and the season is set to start next month.

World Hockey Hub continues to monitor and track top youth hockey athletes as they climb the hockey ladder to higher levels of competition. For more from WHH, follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.