Age Group Enters Pivotal Stretch With Scouts and Evaluators Ahead of Junior Drafts
The U16 age group — or 15O in the U.S. — tends to be the most pivotal and important seasons for top-level youth hockey prospects. For many players worldwide, it is their final season at the youth levels before embarking on junior hockey careers and beyond.
In eastern Canadian provinces, 2007-born players have the next 10 months to bolster their resumes ahead of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Drafts next spring. Western Canada is unique in that the Western Hockey League (WHL) has already selected top ‘07s in its Bantam Draft process that took place last month.
Similarly, one year from now, top players from Sweden, Finland and Russia will be promoted to the ranks of J18 Nationell, U18 SM-Sarja and MHL — each country’s comp to junior hockey in their respective regions.
For Americans, the goal for top 2007s is the country’s top player development model, the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP). USA Hockey chooses the top 23 players through a pretty extensive selection process that is typically finalized by April of each year. That team competes in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and other major international tournaments.
So with the next several months being so pivotal for youth hockey players around the world, WHH takes a closer look at the biggest upcoming events for the age group and what to watch for this season.
CCM 68 COMBINE
Chicago, Illinois, USA
August 11 – 14, 2022
An invite-only event designed to consolidate the top 68 players in the country from the age group in one place, at one time, for one weekend. The eighth annual CCM 68 Combine consists of on-ice practices and four games over the course of four days. College and professional coaching instructors are on-hand, and all participants get to sample new equipment products by CCM. The 68 skaters are split up into four teams to compete in some of the most high-level game action of the year at Seven Bridges Ice Arena.
SWEDEN HOCKEY TROPHY
September 15 – 18, 2022
The Sweden Hockey Trophy (SHT) hosts six different age groups over the course of four weekends in September. Last year’s tournament featured 63 teams from five different European countries, and the ‘07 tournament was headlined by four of the top 10 teams in Sweden as well as the top program in the Czech Republic. This year, the ‘07s are the featured age group now competing at the U16 level. Will names like Melvin Novotny, Ruben Westerling and Theo Stockselius return to the SHT to cement themselves as top prospects in the birth year? Or will new names arise as the tournament gets underway?
SYLVIA JACOBS MEMORIAL FALL CLASSIC
A Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) official tournament, the Sylvia Jacobs Memorial Classic featured eight member teams and six other Ontario-based programs. The field included six of the top-10 teams in the country at the U16 age group last season. The championship game served as a prelude to the OHL Cup championship — more on that tournament later — as the Mississauga Senators and Toronto Jr. Canadiens clashed for the title. Thirty-five games over the course of four days at two different rinks; last year’s tournament featured 112 of the 303 players drafted in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection.
CCM WORLD INVITE
Chicago, Illinois, USA
November 4 – 6, 2022
It’s the second event on this list hosted in the Windy City. The biggest factor in why the CCM World Invite in Chicago is the world’s largest youth hockey tournament? Location, location, location. Nestled in the heart of the Central District, the state of Illinois, its surrounding states and nearby USA Hockey Districts account for more than 35 percent of all registered hockey players in the country. More than 500 teams in total, and a full slate of 30-plus teams at the 15O age group, November will be a who’s who of top programs in youth hockey.
FEDERAL DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nov. – Dec., 2022
One of the more unique national tournaments in the world, the Federal District Championships are an all-star event of sorts for youth hockey in the country. Russia is segmented into eight federal districts — Central, Far Eastern, Moscow, Northwestern, Privolzhsky, St. Petersburg, Ural and Siberian — with each district responsible for assembling a team of the best players from their respective regions. Traditional youth hockey seasons are put on pause for 10 days while the best players in the country represent their districts in a round-robin style tournament. The St. Petersburg District went 7-0-0 in to win last year’s championship, thanks to SKA St. Petersburg’s Andrei Korablev and SKA Strelna’s Vyacheslav Vasilyev and Arseny Ilyin. Can the trio repeat as Federal District Champions again in 2022 or will they be dethroned by another district?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Arguably the most elite-level, highest-profile youth hockey tournament in the world with media coverage, full video-streaming broadcast and top teams from Ontario and the United States. Automatic bids, at-large spots, play-in games… the OHL Cup format is nothing short of professional in the youth hockey space and the product on the ice is as good as it gets. It’s also prospects’ last opportunity to make a big impression as the OHL Cup takes place just days before the OHL Draft and USHL Draft. It worked out well for 2007-born Michael Misa. He earned tournament MVP honors as an underager in the tournament this year and earned exceptional status. He will forego his final season of youth hockey to play in the OHL this fall. The remaining ‘07s will look to make their mark in the tournament next spring.
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