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.

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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.

Bold predictions for the 200×85’s CCM Tournament

More than 250 teams are set to converge on metro Detroit for the 2020 CCM World Invite Motown, with tons of top-tier talent and big-time matchups. There are plenty of primetime matchups between Top-10 teams scheduled during the first two days of the tournament, and we’ve spotlighted the four biggest ones. Preview this weekend’s games and get our picks for who wins in Detroit.

The ’09s headline the biggest matchups of the tournament, beginning with No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite versus No. 7 Chicago Young Americans. CYA took the first meeting 3-1 few weeks back, but I think PPE gets some redemption here, with a power-play goal or two and this feels like a 4-2 final to me in favor of Pittsburgh.

Another big matchup in that division is No. 3 Highland Park against No. 5 Little Caesars on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

This is another rematch here, H.P. outscored Caesars 6-4 back in September and I think it’s going to be high scoring again. I don’t know that the Falcons can beat Caesars a second time though, so we’ll take the hometown team to even the season series.

One more ’09 matchup, this one on Saturday morning between No. 8 Jr. Flyers and last year’s No. 5 Chicago Mission. Two relative unknowns so far in 2020; Mission hasn’t seen much action at all and the Jr. Flyers haven’t faced real tough competition yet. We’ll roll the dice a bit with Chicago 4-1 in this one.

The 2007 Division has a monster matchup between top-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 5 Little Caesars on Saturday morning. These two teams played a three-game series at the beginning of this month in Ohio, where PPE scored a total of 18 goals in those contests. I think Caesars keeps it closer, but the Pens are just too much at the end of the day. I’ll take Pittsburgh 5-2 over LC.

In addition to that, we’ve got predictions for Sunday and who wins the championship across all nine elite divisions:

2011: HoneyBaked
2010: Chicago Mission
2009: Little Caesars
2008: Chicago Fury
2007: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
2006: Compuware
2005: Little Caesars
2004: Chicago Mission
02-03: Belle Tire

Who do you got? Make your picks and tell us who’s gonna win on Twitter.