In one of the more stunning outcomes in World Selects Invitationals history, the Czech Selects shocked the girls youth hockey world last week, winning the 14U championship.
After the conclusion of pool play, the Czechs were fifth out of six teams in the standings, and it’s only regulation win was over the sixth-seeded Alps Selects. When the elimination rounds began, the Czechs needed a 2-0 win over Germany Selects in the quarterfinals. That win gave them a rematch with top-seeded Sweden Selects; a team that had beaten them 4-1 just three days earlier. The Swedes had dominated their way to the top spot, out-scoring opponents 26-3 in round-robin action.
It was a tough semifinal, but a pair of goals from Alena Luxemburgová would change the tides in the rematch. That early offensive surge helped the Czechs knock off the No. 1 team 3-1 and advance to the gold medal game.
The stage was set for the Czechs to take on the No. 2-seeded Finland Selects; another team they lost to earlier in the tournament. Again, this rematch would be all about the Czechs as Merkéta Kafková scored four goals to lead the team to a 6-1 victory and WSI championship.
A pair of Finns Yenna Kolmonen and Julia Kuhta led round-robin action in scoring with 12 points and 10 points respectively. Eventual champion Aneta Florýková also had 10 points. Goaltender Wilma Hallbeck played 139 minutes of scoreless hockey and didn’t allow a single goal against until playoffs. France Selects Lysa Nogaretto had a .914 save percentage, stopping 53-of-58 shots.
It’s just the second time that the Czech Selects have won a girls WSI event and the first time since 2015. This tournament in particular is a unique accomplishment after the WSI had been on pause for the past two years. Circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and international travel had made such events virtually impossible to operate. However, in 2022, the situation was such that several European countries were able to travel in some capacity and the six-team event was able to go off without a hitch.
The early success of this event — and the 12U Boys Elite event — is an encouraging step back towards normalcy regarding WSI. The World Selects Trophy in Nashville will feature 30 teams from eight different countries next week as well. Coupling all that together with the remaining slate of WSI events this month, and it adds up to a lot of progress for a series that was on hold for the better part of 24 months. After a full slate of tournaments this spring, the goal for 2023 will certainly be to have a full slate of teams in the competition, and the return of North American programs in European events.
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The Alps region — Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland — has been represented in some capacity at the World Selects tournaments each year since the ‘96 Austrian national team debuted at the 14U event in 2010. Since then, such programs as the German Eagles, Tyrol Selects, Swiss Selects and most recently, Alps Selects have taken turns carrying the torch for this sneaky good hockey hotbed. Not to mention that Bolzano, Italy, and Chamonix, France — two of the tournament’s primary host cities — are nestled in the Alps Mountains.
An area of the world that’s seen an impressive boom in terms of hockey, the Alps region has produced NHL superstars like Leon Draisaitl and Roman Josi in recent memory. In the last few years, Alps Selects has seen the likes of CHL imports Lorenzo Canonica and Attilio Biasca, as well as 2021 NHL Draft pick Brian Zanetti and 2022 NHL Draft prospect Tommaso De Luca.
This year’s squad will bring some of the best ‘07s from the region, including Bern, Switzerland, native Florian Schenk.
Schenk was Alps Selects’ leading scorer at the 12U WSI three years ago in Bolzano. He scored six goals and eight points in six tournament games, and will be leaned on heavily to produce again at the 15U tournament on May 11th. He’ll be joined by Czech native Matej Pekar, who scored 12 goals and 18 points in 10 games this winter playing on Ambri-Piotta’s U17 team.
The tandem of Schenk and Pekar could skate with any top line in the tournament. Will Alps Selects have enough depth to make it out of pool play and advance to the elimination rounds? The last time they competed in the 15U tournament, Alps was one of 16 teams to qualify for the playoffs before being eliminated by silver medalist East Coast Selects-O.
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Known globally as the premier international event in youth hockey, the World Selects Invitational (WSI) tournament series is slated to begin April 12th, and returns with high expectations for all 11 events scheduled for the 2022 spring season. From 18U girls to 2010-born boys, the mountains of Chamonix to the honky tonks of Nashville, the lineup of events is second to none for this world-class spectacle. For five consecutive weeks, elite youth hockey athletes of various age groups and genders will compete in exotic cities in the ultimate clash of culture and competition.
14U Girls Elite in Chamonix, France
April 12 – 16, 2022
Some of the best amateur girls hockey players on the planet will be in the resort area where France, Switzerland and Italy all come together in the heart of Europe. Near the base of Mont Blanc — the highest summit in the Alps — the only thing more unique than the scenic landscape is the backdrop at the Courmayeur Ice Rink. This event is typically the first opportunity for girls athletes to experience the WSI; a starting point for future events and locations in the years that follow.
15U Girls Elite in Chamonix, France
April 19 – 23, 2022
Less than 48 hours after the 14U girls vacate the rink, hotels, local shops and restaurants, the 15U girls pick up right where their younger counterparts leave off. More exciting action, more sight-seeing and another world champion crowned after the older girls take their turn on the ice. Current NCAA standout and Canadian native, Katie Chan holds the all-time tournament scoring record with 23; a mark that hasn’t been touched since 2015.
12U Boys Elite in Bolzano, Italy
April 26 – 30, 2022
A team from Canada or Russia has accounted for each of the last five 12U Elite championships. The best boys from the 2010-birth year and below will take to the ice in the South Tyrol city of Bolzano. PalaOnda Ice Arena has hosted several WSIs in previous years, and will do so once again with teams from around the world expected to be in attendance. In 2016, Matthew Savoie (28), Ivan Miroshnichenko (27) and Shane Wright (22) finished one, two and three in scoring in what proved to be one of the highest-scoring events in the tournaments’ history. Six years later, that trio of names is slated to be high first-round picks in this summer’s NHL Draft.
14U Boys Elite in Bolzano, Italy
May 3 – 7, 2022
The boys go back-to-back in Bolzano, with the 14U Elites stepping in the very next week. The 2008s were supposed to make their WSI debut in the spring of 2020, before COVID-19 shut down — or restricted — international travel for the next 18 months. So two years later, the world will get its first look at top-level 14U talent. The past five teams to win the 14U tournament have come from five different countries: East Coast Selects (USA), DraftDay (CAN), RUSS Moscow (RUS), Finland Selects (FIN) and Czech Selects (CZE). The 2022 event is anyone’s to win.
2009 Boys AAA in Chamonix, France
May 4 – 7, 2022
The AAA series of WSI tournaments is unique, in that it works similar to that of relegation and promotion in soccer leagues. If a team wins the AAA tournament, they could find themselves competing in the elite event the following season. It’s a way for any AAA-level player to enjoy the same experience as the elite events, while potentially earning a spot in the following season’s premier field of teams. One of four WSI events — joining 14U and 15U girls, and 13U boys elite — slated to be in Chamonix, it is the most WSI tournaments hosted in one location in a single season.
2010 Boys AAA in Prague, Czech Republic
May 4 – 7, 2022
The first event of the spring in the city of Prague, this field of teams will have a heavy European contingent. In fact, it will be the most diverse group out of all WSI events with representatives from Alps, Austria, Czech, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Ukraine. The week will be filled with the beautiful sights of medieval castles and gothic cathedrals, as well as an competitive champion looking to climb the WSI ladder to greater heights in the years to come.
15U Boys Elite in Nashville, Tennessee, USA
May 10 – 15, 2022
DraftDay is the reigning, defending, two-time champion of the 15U Elite tournament. The event moved to the Music City for the first time last summer, and will return again this May. The best 2007-born athletes on the planet will be on-hand to compete for the world championship in one of the most highly-scouted events of the summer. Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Adam Fox, Andrei Svechnikov, Miro Heiskanen, Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras… More than 400 current, former, and soon-to-be NHL players first competed in this very tournament. Get your first look at the next wave of elite hockey talent right here.
13U Boys Elite in Chamonix, France
May 10 – 14, 2022
Running parallel to the ‘07s, the best ‘09s will be competing at the same time, just on the other end of the globe. With great coordination, the team at World Hockey Group is able to plan and execute multiple events in multiple countries, seamlessly. European teams have won three of the last four 13U world championships, and will once again feature a heavy contingent of nearby teams. Belarus, Czech, Finland, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden are expected to be represented, among others. A 13-year-old Connor Bedard once led this tournament in scoring with 32 points in seven games and didn’t win the championship.
2008 Boys AAA in Prague, Czech Republic
May 11 – 14, 2022
The last boys event in Europe for 2022, it will run concurrently to the 13U Elite event which will be happening less than 1,000 kilometers away from each other. The Letňany Ice Rink has been home to several WSI champions in years past, and 12 teams will have a shot at being the next to do so in 2022. “The City of A Hundred Spires” has breath-taking sight lines of old architecture and beautiful bridges that span across the Vltava River. The boys’ European finale should feature plenty of fireworks with teams from as many as 11 different countries.
16U Boys Elite in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
May 26 – 30, 2022
The United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft and Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection are slated to take place just days before this event. Many of the 2006-born participants in this tournament will be fresh off having their names called in one or both leagues, and should be one of the biggest events of the summer for the age group. Hosted in the heart of college hockey country, it’s an easy destination for nearby scouts to get to, with more than a dozen Division-I universities within an hour drive of the venue.
18U Girls Elite in Prague, Czech Republic
July 27 – 30, 2022
The finale of the World Selects tournament series, the oldest age group of girls has closed things out as the final event of the season for the last several years. Hosted in one of the most historic and colorful cities in Europe, Prague is filled with old architecture, beautiful scenery and excellent hockey at the nearby ice arena. Typically one of the smaller fields of teams, the 18U group only consists of eight-to-ten teams, providing for a very intimate and exclusive experience for participating players.
World Hockey Hub will have exclusive coverage of all the action, highlights, recaps, top performers and more from all 11 World Selects events. Be sure to follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest regarding WSI, and learn more to get involved in future events.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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The 2021 IIHF U18 World Junior Championships are set to begin Monday in Frisco and Plano, Texas, with a field of teams from 10 different countries. Teams Czech and Germany will begin the festivities with puck drop at 4 p.m. CT, and will be the first of 28 games over the span of 11 days.
Team USA won the U20 World Juniors in Edmonton four months ago, and the U18 squad will be a strong favorite to win as well. Team Canada may have one of its strongest teams in recent memory because of the pandemic and Team Sweden brings a strong group across the Atlantic as well.
With the top countries from around the world all in one location, we take a deep dive into the players’ origins and the youth organizations they represent.
A pretty diverse group with 25 skaters stemming from 19 different youth programs across five different provinces. Team Canada is unique in another way as well, as three players also hail from different countries with Mason McTavish (Switzerland), Cole Sillinger (USA) and Danny Zhilkin (Russia) all claiming dual citizenship. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see that two teams from the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) account for the largest portion of the locker room, with the Don Mills Flyers and Toronto Marlboros producing three members each.
Stanislav Svozil was a member of the Czech’s U20 team earlier this year, where he picked up an assist in the tournament and the team finished with a 2-2-0 record. The U18 squad is slightly different than previous tournament teams. Of the 25 rostered players, only four are not currently playing in the Czech Republic, making this year’s group a homegrown bunch with little influence from the CHL or other international junior leagues. Those Czech roots run deep through the youth ranks, with three players from HC Plzen and three more from HC Prerov, including the 6-foot-1 Svozil who last played for the club’s U16 team.
The Finns have had great success in this tournament, winning a medal in four of the last five events including two gold and two silver. Defenseman Kalle Ervasti has ties to the States, having spent his 16U season with South Florida Hockey Academy (SFHA), scoring 61 points in 59 games for the club. In addition to him, the Blues, Jokerit and Pelicans are among some of the most represented programs on the team, but Karpat leads the way with four former players, including standout forward Samu Tuomaala.
A country on the rise in the sport of hockey, from NHL MVP Leon Draisaitl, to last year’s third overall pick in Tim Stützle. Germany is back in the top level of the World Juniors tournament for the first time in six years, and the players are part of an international development plan to build up the country’s competitiveness in the event. Part of that comes from an investment at the youth level, where a program like Starbulls Rosenheim and its 2017-18 under-16 team that produced three members of this year’s national team.
It’s one of the smallest countries by land area in the tournament and the national team is limited in terms of resources it can tap into for players. Just eight youth hockey programs account for Team Latvia’s entire roster makeup, and SK Riga alone produced five forwards, two D and a goalie who last played youth hockey for the club’s U16 and U15 teams. While their origins are similar, the players’ current situations vary greatly with skaters actively playing in Finland’s U20 SM-Sarja, Switzerland’s U20-Elit, Norway U21 and Russia’s MHL.
The Russians will bring plenty of offensive firepower to the tournament with Ivan Miroshnichenko and Matvei Michkov headlining the list of forwards. Fyodor Svechkov, Nikita Chibrikov and Ilya Ivantsov are also dangerous, in addition to several others. Eleven members of the team originated from the Central Federal District of Russia; the region surrounding the city of Moscow. One of the most storied and historic youth programs in the country, Dynamo Moscow, accounts for six of the players.
Without a tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Swedes should still be considered as defending champs after defeating Russia in the 2019 event. This year, it may not have the big names on the roster that it normally boasts, but the country should certainly be considered in contention this week anyway, given its history in international play. Frolunda is one of the most recognizable youth programs in Sweden, most likely because it produces international and professional players at an impressive clip. Five Indians alumni, including some of Sweden’s top prospects, will suit up for the Swedes. Keep an eye out for forwards Liam Dower-Nilsson, Noah Hasa, Fabian Lysell and Ludwig Persson as well as defenseman Simon Edvinsson.
Just one player (Attilio Biasca) is currently playing junior hockey outside of Switzerland. The rest of the current roster resides in the surprisingly competitive U20-Elit Swiss League. Biasca suited up for the U20 team in January and has spent the 2020-21 season in the QMJHL. The Swiss will rely heavily on his experience because the country hasn’t fared very well in the U18 tournament. In 21 tournament appearances, Team Swiss has won a medal just once, and it was 20 years ago. Switzerland’s roster is comprised of 25 players from 17 youth organizations, with Kevin Pasche, Nathan Cantin, Benjamin Bourgo and Louis Robin hailing from Lausanne’s U15 team.
Hockey in the States starts with the three M’s: Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota. The U18 team, however, starts with just one M… Michigan. Ten players on the roster either reside in, or played their most recent youth hockey in the Mitten State. Dylan Duke, Ty Gallagher, Sasha Pastujov and Red Savage played for Compuware’s 16U team in 2018-19 before all four of them went on to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Plymouth, Michigan. Five others also played for Michigan-based youth programs including HoneyBaked (2), Fox Motors, Little Caesars and Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.
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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.
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