Minnesota, Massachusetts the first districts to issue automatic bids

It may only be November, but a few teams can already start making travel arrangements for the 2023 USA Hockey National Championships in April.

Massachusetts crowned its 15O, 16U and 18U Tier-I state champions this past weekend. They join Minnesota as two hockey powerhouses that award national bids well before the other 11 districts in the country.

15O River Rats Are Nationals Bound

The Neponset Valley River Rats captured the 15O title in the Massachusetts Hockey State Championships after entering the weekend tournament the No. 2 seed. They and the No. 1 seed Boston Jr. Eagles had byes into the quarterfinals, which meant avoiding a Friday contest before a jam-packed weekend.

The River Rats took care of business in the quarters, beating Patriot Hockey 7-1. Four players — Joseph Marchi, Jake Assad, Thomas Anderson and Anderson Kilbourne — found the back of the net in the first period alone. That allowed Neponset Valley to quickly assume control of the contest and coasted into the semifinals.

There, things were tighter. The Cape Cod Whalers had the score tied 2-2 in the third period, thanks to a pair of goals from Giacomo Caliri. The River Rats’ Collin Rowe, however, scored two goals in the contest as well, and his second strike broke the 2-2 tie. Michael Munroe finished things off with a late one to give Neponset Valley a 4-2 win.

In the final, it was smoother skating, as the River Rats took down Militia Hockey 5-1, with five different players scoring for the champs.

Top 2007 Performers In Massachusetts

Despite having one game less than most of his peers, Munroe led the weekend in scoring, as he tallied two goals and seven points in three games. Anderson and Marchi both had four points in total.

Alfred Farese, meanwhile, took care of the goaltending duties for the River Rats all weekend. In his three games, he allowed only four goals, which gave him a 1.33 goals-against average in the state playoffs.

The biggest upset of the tournament came by way of the 95 Giants, who ended the Boston Jr. Eagles’ weekend plans rather abruptly. The Jr. Eagles were ranked No. 10 in the country and the top seed in the Massachusetts tournament entering the weekend. However, they fell to the Giants in a 1-0 defensive battle in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Joseph Andreozzi scored the only goal of the contest, and it came at the 15:31 mark of the middle period. The Jr. Eagles sent 34 shots towards Giants’ netminder Angelo Evangelista, and he stopped every single one of them. Militia Hockey ended the Cinderella story the next day, however, beating the Giants 3-2 in the semifinals.

16U Little Bruins Win Big At Districts

At the 16U level, the Boston Little Bruins will be representing Massachusetts at nationals after using their No. 1 seed to march through states.

They faced their fare share of challenges in the weekend, starting with a high-scoring Saturday afternoon battle with Boston Hockey Academy. The Bruins needed five, and got six to beat Boston Hockey Academy 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Second-period goals from Grayson Cohen and Jackson Delleo proved to be the difference in the contest. Boston Hockey Academy’s Tyler Kirchner had two goals and an assist, while Gryphon Watson-Bucci had four assists, but their herculean efforts weren’t enough for an upset.

In the semifinals, the Bruins had a much easier time, as first-period goals from Cameron Cooke, Alex Gomes and Joseph Mense put them on the path to an easy 5-1 win over the Valley Jr. Warriors.

It looked like it was going to be more smooth sailing in the championship game, but the Boston Jr. Eagles made things interesting in the final frame. The Bruins scored five goals through the first two periods, but the Jr. Eagles’ Edward Mutryn registered a natural hat trick in the third to make it a nail-biting 5-4 final for the Little Bruins. 

Balanced scoring carried the Bruins to the state title, as Delleo led the way with five points, while Gomes and Dennis Davidson had four. Sixteen different Bruins found the scoresheet over the course of the three games.

Jr. Eagles Punch Ticket to 18U Nationals

At the 18U level, the Boston Jr. Eagles captured the state title, prevailing over the Cape Cod Whalers 3-2 in the final.

Much like the 16U champs, the Jr. Eagles scored by committee en route to their nationals bid, as four players — Jake McManus, Sean Leetch, Cullen Emery and Jonathan Lanza — all led the team in scoring with three points apiece.

Paul Dalessio played all three games between the pipes to pick up three wins and a 1.44 goals-against average in the process.

Shattuck set to represent Minnesota District

Massachusetts isn’t the only major hockey market to be finalizing national bids this early in the season. Minnesota does the same, with the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U representatives already decided.

Shattuck-St. Mary’s will represent Minnesota at all of the aforementioned age groups, after the 14U, 15O and 16U teams won their Minnesota District titles in the Minnesota High Performance postseason.

At the 14U level, SSM defeated the Polars of District 5 by a 4-0 final. Tynan Lawrence had two goals for SSM, including the empty-netter to wrap things up. Xavier Wendt stopped 18 shots between the pipes for the shutout win.

In 15O play, Shattuck topped the Blue Ox by a final score of 7-1. Alex Donovan registered two goals and an assist, while Andrei Nabokov posted one goal and one assist. Additionally, Grayson Hanggi stopped 20 of 21 shots sent his way.

The 16U SSM squad wrapped things up with a dominating 11-3 win over the Blue Ox.

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of all 13 USA Hockey Districts, automatic bids and USA Hockey Nationals. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for more!

Premier early-season showcase for top U.S. teams

The USHL Fall Classic is quickly becoming a premiere early-season showcase for top teams across the United States.

This year’s edition certainly lived up to the hype, as 84 teams from the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U age classifications converged on the greater Pittsburgh area for a massive tournament from Sept. 22-26.

Let’s take a look at which teams made September statements with tournament victories in front of a big contingent of junior and college scouts:

Windy City Storm takes 16U crown

There were 26 teams in the 16U field, and five of them appeared on the World Hockey Hub’s initial U.S. rankings for the 2022-23 season. The No. 7 Windy City Storm ‘06s have their case for a ratings bump after surviving a five-game gauntlet against top competition from Saturday through Monday in Pittsburgh.

The Storm claimed the 16U crown with a 3-2 victory over Detroit HoneyBaked in the finals Monday afternoon, capping a perfect 5-0 run through the tournament. With a three-game round-robin followed by semifinals and finals, the USHL Fall Classic requires a perfect weekend to take home hardware, and Windy City was the only team to pull off the feat the 2006 age group.

Windy City started things off with stiff competition, taking on Selects Academy Saturday afternoon and prevailing with a 3-2 win. Sunday featured two games with ranked opponents, and the Storm won them both, taking down No. 10 Little Caesars 6-2 in the morning before escaping No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite with a 4-3 win in the afternoon.

In the semifinals, they ran into the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, and the Storm prevailed 3-2 – the same score as the finals showdown with HoneyBaked later in the day.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Storm are off to a hot start on the season, as their line-up sheet has plenty of draftees at forward. Ihnat Pazii, a product of Kharkov, Ukraine, is a Tri-City Storm affiliate, who comes to Windy City after playing for the Anaheim Icedogs last season. Vermont’s James Chase joined the Storm after playing for the BK Selects last season; he’s a Tri-City Storm affiliate as well as a draftee of the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. Tommy Holtby, a returning forward for the Storm hailing from New York, was selected by the Fargo Force last spring, while fellow returnee Tyler Atchison of Nevada is property of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.

On the blue line, Minnesota native Cade Kozak is a Sioux City Musketeers draftee who spent 2021-22 with the Green Bay Gamblers 15O team; Brandt Dubey is a New York product and property of the Tri-City Storm. Meanwhile, the Storm welcomed Alberta native Ryan Seeley into the fold this season – he spent last season with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U16 team and is a Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) draftee.

Little Caesars prevails in 15O Division

It was a major showcase weekend for the 2007 birth-year as their junior draft-eligible season gets underway. Twenty-two teams showed up in Pittsburgh for the USHL Fall Classic at the 15O division, and it was Little Caesars on top at the end of their three-day battle.

Ranked No. 5 in the country by WHH to start the season, LC lived up to the hype, winning games against other Top-10 teams in four of their five contests en route to the title.

They faced the hometown team to start things off on Thursday, and Caesars prevailed over the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 4-1. On Friday, they beat the No. 6 Bishop Kearney Selects 5-2, before shutting out the North Jersey Avs 7-0 in the afternoon.

In the semifinals, the Penguins got a rematch and an opportunity for revenge, but LC prevailed 4-3 once again. In the finals, it was more tough competition for the Detroit-based program, but they took care of business, topping No. 4 Mount St. Charles 4-1. 

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite defend home ice in 14U 

At the 14U age group, the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite successfully defended their home ice, winning the USHL Fall Classic title at the 2008 birth-year.

Making a case to move up in the rankings, the Penguins played two ranked foes in their five wins – taking care of crosstown rival Pittsburgh Vengeance 3-1 Friday night, and beating No. 10 Mount St. Charles in the final on Saturday afternoon.

South Kent captures 18U

Of the 20 teams competing in the 18U division, it was South Kent prevailing over them all in the oldest age group of the 2022 Fall Classic.

The Selects Academy squad, fresh off winning the USA Hockey national championship at the 16U level, won tight ones to start, beating Chicago Fury 4-2 and Windy City Storm 2-1.

From there, however, they didn’t allow a single goal, as South Kent registered a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes, then a 5-0 win over the Chicago Reapers in the semifinals, and a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in the finals.

Want more from the world of youth hockey? Follow WWH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest news from top events in the game today!

Junior, College and Pro scouts converge on Pittsburgh for early-season showcase

The USHL Fall Classic is here to ceremoniously start both the junior hockey season and the tournament season for a lot of youth hockey programs.

In what has become a premiere event over the last six seasons, the USHL Fall Classic brings all of the USHL member clubs under one roof for the first two games of each team’s schedule. Alongside that Tier-1 junior league showcase is a youth hockey one with even more participating clubs, as teams from across the country flock to the greater Pittsburgh area for a unique opportunity to compete in front of scouts and coaches of the USHL clubs, who are literally right there in the UPMC Lemieux Center Ice Arena with them. The concentrated amount of hockey across so many different age groups makes it a must-see event for scouts of junior, college and professional teams.

While the youth edition of the Fall Classic spans from Thursday to Monday, teams will be playing in jam-packed three-day tournaments, with the 14U and 15O teams playing Thursday-Saturday and the 16U and 18U teams playing Saturday-Monday.

All four age groups will play in a high-stakes preliminary round, having three games to establish themselves as one of the four teams that advance right to the semifinals. While the tournament fields quickly get whittled down, all of the participating teams will still play in consolation games to make the trip to Pittsburgh worthwhile and maximize exposure opportunities for the players.

The tournament schedulers did their homework while putting together the matchups for the preliminary round. If things go as expected — though youth hockey sure is unpredictable — there will be some monster early-season games between teams ranked very, very high on the initial U.S. rankings for the 2022-23 campaign. That’s not to say that there aren’t some big games to keep an eye on in the round-robin; we’re going to take a look at some matchups to watch below. 

In the 14U division, the 2008 birth year has 16 teams in the Fall Classic, and five of them are in the American Top 10. The top-ranked Windy City Storm show up in Pittsburgh, as does No. 3 Bishop Kearney, No. 7 Pittsburgh Vengeance, No. 8 Seacoast Performance Academy and No. 10 Mount St. Charles.

On Friday at 4 p.m. the Windy City Storm and SPA wrap up the round-robin for the two highly-ranked squads. Meanwhile, four hours later, it’s the Battle of Pittsburgh, as the Vengeance gets Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 14U in the 14U preliminary-round finale.

Mount St. Charles better bring their ‘A’ game for their first tilt Thursday, as well, as they square off with HP Team Minnesota — you never know what type of talent might be lurking in a Minnesota all-star squad.

At the 2007 birth year, 22 teams from the 15O classification converge on Pittsburgh, including seven of the names appearing in the Top 10: No. 3 Mid-Fairfield, No. 4 Mount St. Charles, No. 5 Little Caesars, No. 6 Bishop Kearney, No. 7 Los Angeles Jr. Kings, No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 9 Buffalo Jr. Sabres.

Little Caesars has quite the gauntlet to get through if they want to reach the semifinals, as the Detroit-based program starts things off with the home team Pittsburgh Penguins Elite on Thursday before playing Bishop Kearney Friday morning.

After that game, BK gets to play the Jr. Kings in their Friday night matchup, which means quite a day for the Selects, too.

The largest field of them all is at 16U, where 26 teams will battle for four spots in the playoffs Monday. The No. 4 ranked Boston Jr. Eagles lead the field, alongside the No. 6 Buffalo Jr. Sabres, No. 7 Windy City Storm, No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, No. 9 North Jersey Avs and No. 10 Little Caesars.

The biggest game we’ve got circled on the calendar is No. 7 Windy City vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, which takes place at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday. 

It’s a crazy weekend of hockey, but it does provide an early idea of which teams the hockey world should be watching this season, as teams from across the U.S. come together for the annual USHL Fall Classic.

For more coverage of the USHL Fall Classic and other major youth hockey events around the world, follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

Early-season showcase sets the stage for top teams in the Great Lakes State to shine

The concept is nothing new to the youth hockey audience, but it’s the participating teams list that makes the MAHA Tier-1 Showcase one of the more unique events in the sport.

First organized and executed in 2019, the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) has created an annual Tier-1 Showcase, which brings all of the state’s AAA programs at the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U age groups together for a series of games over a three-day weekend.

That’s eight Tier-1 organizations, and four age groups, all bringing the best Michigan has to offer for the 2022-23 campaign to the Troy Sports Center in Metro Detroit to start the season with a bang.

“The MAHA Tier I Showcase is a highly competitive weekend of hockey,” said Jason Reynolds, MAHA Director of Operations and Marketing, in a press release. “There’s a great deal of pride taken in being able to highlight some of our top hockey talent in Michigan. We know there will be eyes on these games, whether in-rink or streaming online, and the early-season exposure may lead some of these elite players to opportunities in the future.”

In regards to the streaming, YouthSportsPLUS will be bringing all the games to interested parties who cannot attend the weekend showcase. 

“The Showcase is a great kickoff event for all of the Tier-one organizations in Michigan,” said Mike Slobodnik, Hockey Director at Fox Motors Hockey Club, in the press release. “For the players, the opportunity to compete against peers from across the state is always exciting. It’s also a chance for college, junior and professional scouts to get an early look at our teams and players. For coaches and administrators, we’re proud to bring this one-of-a-kind experience to all of our participants.”

The Troy Sports Center is a four-sheet facility, which means each of the age groups get their own rink for the weekend. On Rink 1, the 18U teams will welcome the lone non-Michigan organization in, as Chicago Mission makes the trek to Detroit for games with Biggby Coffee, Belle Tire and the Soo Indians. That last team, the Soo Indians, is the reason Mission gets an invite — the Sault Ste. Marie-based program was grandfathered in when MAHA reclassified its Tier-1 operations, and the Indians continue to operate a 18U AAA team out of Northern Michigan. That brings the total of 18U Tier-1 teams in Michigan to nine, so an at-large team fills in to make it an even number.

Last year, Belle Tire won the 18U Tier-1 state title. Along with Mission, they will also take on Fox Motors and the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies in the weekend showcase; both could serve as early tests for the club looking to defend its title.

At the 16U age group, teams will be trying to dethrone the ’06 Little Caesars club, which won the 15O state title last spring. It will be a new-look Caesars team, however, after Austin Baker and Lucas Van Vliet made the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) Under-17 Team, and Liam Storch has already signed with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit as well. 

Caesars starts things off with a showdown against Victory Honda on Rink 2, before running into Biggby Coffee and Fox Motors in the final two days.

The ‘07s start their important 15-Only season on Rink 3, and just like the aforementioned age group, Little Caesars is looking for a state championship repeat. Can the storied AAA franchise connected to the Detroit Red Wings repeat in the 15O age group as the 2007 team moves up into their junior draft season? 

The LC ’07s feature plenty of firepower with the likes of Aiden Janz, Easton Pace, Evan Jardine and William Horcoff, son of former NHLer and Red Wings assistant general manager Shawn Horcoff. They start things off with a rivalry battle against HoneyBaked as the first game of the weekend on Rink 3 Friday afternoon, and then LC gets Fox and Belle Tire to round out the weekend.

The 2008 birth year begins its first season with a spot at USA Hockey Nationals on the line. Last year, HoneyBaked claimed the crown at the end of the state tournament for the age group. Will they be repeating this season?

The HB squad starts things off with a battle against Biggby to wrap up the Rink 4 activities on Friday. Saturday, they close the rink after a skate with Victory Honda. On Sunday, they wrap things up with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, who are the de facto host team as the primary resident of the Troy Sports Center.

There can be some big turnover on rosters from year-to-year in the state of Michigan, which makes forecasting an early-season showcase hard to do. That said, the one thing we can be sure of is that there will be a whole bunch of junior and college scouts watching from the corners of the rinks, looking to see what the Mitten State has to offer this year. 

Want more coverage of youth hockey in your area? Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest news from around the world!

Two teams to watch coming out of opening weekend of the USA Hockey season

The AAA Kickoff Classic was the first big tournament of the fall in the United States, and in the process it provided an early look at some teams to watch for this season.

While the 15U, 16U and 18U divisions were showcase-style events with no true playoff structure, the 14U division featured a round-robin preliminary round before semifinal and championship contests, allowing Seacoast Performance Academy to flex some muscle at the 2008 birth year.

The SPA crew finished 5-1-1 over the course of the four-day event, leaving Grand Rapids, Mich., with a tournament title before the calendar flips to September.

In the championship game, the Spartans and Team Wisconsin both scored three goals apiece in the opening frame, but in the final two periods, SPA took control, and eventually won 6-3.

It was a big victory for SPA in terms of winning the AAA Kickoff Classic title, but also because they avenged their only loss in the early-season tournament. The Spartans started things off with a 3-2 nail-biting loss to the same Team Wisconsin club, ending up on the wrong end of a three-goal third period between the two clubs.

That was the only time they would lose in Grand Rapids, however, as Seacoast rebounded with a 7-1 thumping of Team Illinois Friday morning. In their second Friday tilt, SPA played one of the two clubs from Czechia, battling the Pilsen Wolves to a 5-5 tie.

On Saturday, SPA won their two contests by scoring five goals in each – first they beat Chicago Fury 5-2, before taking care of the Nashville Jr. Predators 5-1 later in the day.

In the first of two playoff games on Sunday, SPA took on the other Czech club, and HC Trinec dragged them all the way to a shootout. The Spartans prevailed in the shootout session, leaving with a 2-1 final on the scoreboard and a rematch with Team Wisconsin at 2 p.m.

In the title contest, Timothy Kazda wasn’t about to let SPA fall to Team Wisconsin again. A native of Slovakia, Kazda was dominant in the final, scoring a hat trick in the first period alone, and finishing with five goals in the 6-3 win.

That five-goal outing put Kazda in first place in scoring for both the 14U division and the Kickoff Classic field across all age groups. He finished with 12 goals and 13 total points. Aside from Kazda, SPA had well-balanced scoring throughout the tournament, as Jackson Smail had six points, while Daniel Trucka, Rockland Babcock, Hunter Chadbourne and Garrit Turcotte all had five. 

Kamden Jackson and Filip Vavro took care of business between the pipes for SPA, both appearing in four contests apiece.

Team Wisconsin had plenty of firepower throughout the tournament, as well, as the next three spots in the 14U scoring race went to members of the second-place squad. Mack Diggins had 11 total points, while Grant Molski and Owen Porter both had nine.

Team Wisconsin 16U makes early statement

They didn’t play in as many games as the 14U division, but the 16U Team Wisconsin made their own early-season statement in Grand Rapids.

After making the trek across (or probably around) Lake Michigan, Team Wisconsin played to a perfect 3-0-0 record in the showcase-style event.

None of their games were decided by more than two goals, showing that TW can go up against top competition and hold their own when things get tense. 

On Friday, they took down SPA 3-1. Caden Feinstein scored in the first, Dylan Bryne scored in the second, and Will McDonald wrapped things up in the third.

Saturday, they took care of Team Minnesota, a collection of high school players from the ‘State of Hockey.’ Bryne’s third-period goal turned out to be the difference in that one; Riley Boyle and James Flanigan also scored for TW.

To wrap things up, they went toe-to-toe with Little Caesars in a Sunday afternoon affair, taking on a team that was a national title contender last season. All three goals in the contest were scored in the third period; TW scored twice, while LC only scored one. Quinn Smith and Jackson Hoem had the goals in a 2-1 win, as TW picked up a statement win early in the year.

Smith ended up leading TW in scoring with five points in the three games, while three players — Bryne, Vincent Greene and Joseph Coghlin — had two points apiece. 

Rowan White started two games, finishing with a .938 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average. Devin Rustlie played in one game, allowing two goals and registering a .913 save percentage. 

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

Top American youth hockey teams begin ’22-23 season with showcase in Michigan

It’s the first big tournament of the 2022-23 schedule, which means one thing — hockey season is officially here. The 2022 AAA Kickoff Classic is back for its second year, bringing together talent from across the country — and the globe — to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Played across the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U age groups, the early-season event kicks off today at the Southside Ice Arena and Kentwood Ice Arena on the west side of the Great Lakes State. 

Let’s take a look at the competition for each of the divisions:

14U AAA

Eight teams are coming to Grand Rapids for the 14U age group, as the 2008 birth year begins play in its first nationals-bound season. The first game of the age group, however, features one of the teams that won’t be competing for a USA Hockey national title — HC Trinec of Czech Republic. HC Trinec, which will play the Nashville Jr. Predators to kick things off at 3 p.m. EST, is joined by the Pilsen Wolves, as two 14U teams from Czechia are making the pilgrimage to Grand Rapids. 

Joining those three squads in the eight-team field are the Chicago Fury, Team Wisconsin, Seacoast Performance Academy, Team Illinois and Fox Motors, Southside Ice Arena’s primary tenant.

The 4:35 time slot at Kentwood will be a good one; the matchup between SPA and Team Wisconsin will certainly be one to keep an eye on. Last year, TW finished as the No. 8-ranked team in the country on our World Hockey Hub rankings, while SPA checked in at No. 19 on MyHockeyRankings. Rosters change every fall, but when those two squads clash, it will be a good matchup of Top-20 teams in the country.

15O AAA

The 15-Only age group features six teams competing from the 2007 birth-year. Team Minnesota and Michigan Hockey Advancement bring high school talent from two hockey powerhouse states together for the tournament. SPA brings its ’07 group, Fox Motors is in, and the Pittsburgh Predators and the Nashville Jr. Preds battle for the title of best Preds squad in the age group. It may just be six teams, but it’s going to be a fun weekend of hockey in the age group.

On Saturday, MHA and Team Minnesota battle it out; that’s definitely one to tune in for.

16U AAA

In the 16U group, we have 10 teams slated to participate. Like the younger age groups, there’s SPA, Fox Motors, the Pittsburgh Preds, Team Wisconsin, Michigan Hockey Advancement, Team Minnesota and the Nashville Jr. Predators. To spice things up a bit, Little Caesars, the Tri-State Spartans and a Team Wisconsin Prep team also enter the ring for the 2006 birth-year bracket.

Last year, the Little Caesars ’06s finished ranked No. 5 in the country and No. 11 in the world by World Hockey Hub. The roster will look a little different this fall, like it will for most teams, as some of the players have moved on to junior hockey. Still, LC will be expected to compete for a national title again this season, and they’re one of the many teams in this group to keep an eye on.

Caesars takes on SPA on Saturday, and Team Wisconsin to round things out on Sunday. Each of those battles could provide a glimpse into our preseason rankings set to come out next month.

18U AAA

In the biggest field of any age group, 12 teams will be competing in the 18U division at the Kickoff Classic. HoneyBaked makes the drive from Metro Detroit to GR for the tournament, as does Compuware. They will be battling SPA, Fox Motors, Team Wisconsin, Chicago Fury, MHA, Tri-State Spartans, Team Minnesota, the Nashville Jr. Preds and the Pittsburgh Preds over the four-day span.

The 18U Nashville Preds and Team Wisconsin squads finished two spots apart in last year’s 18U final rankings on MyHockeyRankings — they clash on Saturday for a big early-season battle. 

Fox Motors and SPA wrap up a wild first day of hockey with an 8 p.m. puck drop Thursday night as well. 

WHH will have more coverage from the Kickoff Classic, and other major tournaments to start the 2022-23 season. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest news!

Puck drop is right around the corner; Here’s what to watch for out of the gate

The bad news? It’s back-to-school season.

The good news? It’s hockey season.

While youth hockey players pack up their backpacks to begin another school year, they’re also loading up their hockey bags for the beginning of the fall hockey campaign.

While the Canadian hockey community may be waiting a few more weeks to really get going, the end of August marks the start of some big, early-season tournaments in both the United States and Europe.

Let’s take a look at some of the early-season offerings and tournaments the World Hockey Hub will be keeping an eye on as we put away our sunblock and dust off our preferred rink attire.

AAA Kickoff Classic
August 25 – 28, 2022

The AAA Kickoff Classic brings top talent to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a season-opening tournament in the 14U through 18U age groups. At the 14U level, eight teams will do battle, including two from Czechia — HC Trinec and the Pilsen Wolves. The six-team 15U division features the likes of Team Minnesota and New Hampshire’s Seacoast Performance Academy, while 10 teams show up for 16U, including Little Caesars, Team Wisconsin, and the Nashville Jr. Predators. The largest field is a 12-team 18U division.

Eastern Exposure Series
August 26 – 28, 2022

While the west coast of Michigan will have a big-time AAA tournament taking place, the east coast of the United States will be having one, as well. The NJ August Showcase for the Eastern Exposure Series is bringing a select group of teams together in the same 14U through 18U age brackets for an early-season tune-up. At 14U, the St. Lawrence Steel, Mercer Chiefs, New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Jets will square off for a five-game weekend, while the older groups will play three-game showcase-style tournaments. Showing up in the older brackets are the likes of the North Jersey Avalanche, the Philadelphia Hockey Club, the New Jersey Rockets, and the PAL Jr. Islanders. It will be some tough competition for teams that will be spending a lot of time together this year.

Sweden Hockey Trophy
September, 2022

The Sweden Hockey Trophy tournament series kicks off Sept. 1 – 4 for the 2008 age group. 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 birth years will follow suit over the following weeks, making Stockholm the place to be in Sweden. This preseason event regularly sets the tone for top teams in the country, separating contenders from pretenders. It isn’t just local, either. Teams from Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia and other Central European countries have competed in this Swedish tournament in recent years.

DIF ElitCup
September 9 – 11, 2022

Another top-level, early-season Scandinavian event is the U15 DIF Elitcup, set to showcase 2008s next month. Hosted by one of the top clubs in the country, Djurgårdens IF welcomes other reputable programs like Frölunda HC, Färjestad BK and a select few others to compete in an elite eight-team tournament. Nearly 30 games in three days of some of the best teams in Sweden.

ZERO CUP
September 3 – 4, 2022

Tuki-Areena in Rauma, Finland, will host a bevy of teams from the 2010 age group across three different divisions. The AAA+ Division features arguably the top eight clubs in the country with Jokerit, Kärpät, and Tappara leading the way.

SYMPPISTURNAUS
August 19 – 21, 2022

Just concluded over the weekend, but worth noting another event out of Finland. The Symppisturnaus featured 16 teams at the U15 age group across two divisons: AAA+ and AAA. Only one team was shut out on the weekend; each of the other 15 teams all picked up at least one point in the three-game round robin. Tappara Black defeated KalPa Black 3-2 in the AAA+ championship game; the last of 23 tournament games to be decided by two goals or fewer over the weekend.

When is the unofficially official start date to your season? Tell us about it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube

Three straight weekends of hockey end with eight teams taking home gold

After more than 400 teams rolled through Massachusetts for three consecutive weekends of hockey action, World Hockey Hub breaks down each division, including champs, MVPs and all-tournament teams below. Complete tournament infohere’s a look at how the three editions of the Chowder Cup played out.

Senior Chowder Cup

Jr. A Elite Champion – Nailers HC

Most Valuable Player – Ben Kotylak (Nailers HC)

Jr. A Elite All-Tournament Team:
Yusof Genderguneov
Ben Jenkinson
Matteo Turrin
Cole Crusberg-Roseen
Will Felicio
Dan Heroux

The Nailers HC squad picked up a 4-2 win over the Little Rhody HC/DMV Elite team in the championship game of the Jr. A Elite division on July 24. After Jake Hewitt scored first for the Nailers, two goals from Little Rhody HC’s Philippe Lamarre put the eventually victorious Nailers back on their heels for a bit. Will Felicio straightened things out with the game-tying goal before Owen Fowler scored the go-ahead goal and Ben Kotylak wrapped things up with No. 4.

The MVP of the Elite division was Kotylak; the Nailers HC forward is set to play for the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL next season. Last year, Kotylak split time between the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks and the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, compiling a total of 20 points in 59 games. He is a product of West Van Academy of the CSSHL.

Jr. A Division – Ontario Wolfback

Most Valuable Player – Connor Haynes

Jr. A All-Tournament Team:
Hunter Dunn
Shane Kozlina
Kyle Burton
Nick Foster
Zach Ladd
Ethan Labbe

The Ontario Wolfpack beat the CWE Express White squad 2-1 in the championship game on Sunday, July 24. Jack Mcara had the game-winning goal for the Wolfpack, while Ethan Labbe picked up the win between the pipes.

The MVP of the Jr. A Division went to Connor Haynes, a Sault Ste. Marie native who will be suiting up for a second season with the Hamilton Kilty B’s of the GOJHL in the fall. He is a former captain of the Markham Majors during his GTHL days. 

College Open Champion – Quebec Prospects

Most Valuable Player – Marcus Gomes

College Open All-Tournament Team:
Amine Hajibi
Charles Thomassin
Aiden Aqpik Savard
Thierry Lizotte
Janvier Ludovic
Adam Lecours

The Quebec Prospects wrapped up their dominating weekend with a 2-0 shutout win over Rapid Hockey Development in the final. Mason Czaban and Charles Thomassin took care of the scoring in the title bout, while Marcus Gomes, a native of Beaconsfield, Quebec, recorded the shutout between the pipes en route to an MVP nod from tournament organizers. Gomes played for Bishop’s College School Prep U16 this past season, recording a 29-5-2 record.

Junior Chowder Cup

2006 Elite Champion – Mass Edge 67’s

Most Valuable Player – Teddy MacAusland

2006 Elite All-Tournament Team:
Mason Landry
Thomas Kuipers
Gavin Cornforth
Nicholas Pawlowski
Joseph Mense
Ryder Shea
Sam Caufield

The Mass Edge 67’s protected home ice for the 2006 Elite division of the Junior Chowder Cup. They capped things off with a 3-2 win over CHE Navy in the championship game on July 31. Nakate Benjamin exchanged goals with the CHE squad until Dennis Davidson broke a 2-2 tie for the game-winner. Ryder Shea was between the pipes for the victory. 

Teddy MacAusland, fresh off a trip to the USA Hockey Select 16 Camp, was named MVP of the tournament. He was selected in the eighth round of the QMJHL Draft by the Cape Breton Eagles earlier this summer, while he was also drafted by the Boston Jr. Bruins in the NCDC Draft.

2006 Champion – Central Hockey Academy

Most Valuable Player – Daniel Stefi

2006 All-Tournament Team:
Charlie Hilton
Henry Kastenberg
Riley Clark
Josh Brady
Lucas Preiano
Evan Cherry

Central Hockey Academy cruised through the finals with a 3-0 blanking of DevCo Hockey. Julian Mandarino scored twice, while Daniel Stefi added the exclamation point and Evan Cherry took care of business between the pipes. Stefi was named MVP of the division after the contest.

2007 Elite Champion – Maroon Hockey

Most Valuable Player – William Moore

2007 Elite All-Tournament Team:
Jessie Orlowsky
Marko Liscica
Jeremy Martin
Donny Bracco
Cameron Reid
Jack Ivankovic

Maroon Hockey wrapped up an impressive weekend with a 5-1 win over Coaches Choice Elite in the 2007 Elite finals. Kieran Witkowski, a Toronto Marlboros product, recorded a hat trick in the title game, while Mississauga Senators standouts Matthew Manza and William Moore also found the back of the net. 

Moore, fresh off playing up with the Sens U16s and helping them win a OHL Cup title, was named MVP of the ’07 group. He’s definitely one to watch as the ’07 group enters its junior draft year. 

Mini Chowder Cup

2008 Champion – Maroon Hockey

Most Valuable Player – Cole Emerton

2008 All-Tournament Team:
Al Diorio
Blake Zielinski
Christian Luo
Calum Croskery
James Reilly
Machala Musty

Maroon Hockey wrapped up a 2008 division championship at the Mini Chowder Cup with a 6-1 win over V Hockey. MVP honors went to Cole Emerton, a defenseman who suited up for the Barrie Colts U14 team last fall. 

2009 Champion – Quebec Prospects

Most Valuable Player – James Scantlebury

2009 All-Tournament Team:
Loik Gariepy
Drew Fox
Ethan Sung
Malik L’Italien
Max Yakub
Thomas Bedard

Coached by former NHLers Marc-Andre Bergeron and Simon Gagne, the Quebec Prospects dominated the 2009 field at the Mini Chowder Cup. They wrapped up a tournament title with a 4-3 win over the East Coast Kings in the final, thanks to goals from Alex Desruisseaux, James Scantlebury, Oliver Boivin and Loik Gariepy. Thomas Bedard was between the pipes for the win.

Scantlebary was named MVP; this past season, he played for the Lac St-Louis Arsenal M15 AAA club to face some intimidating older competition. 

Tons of international hockey coming up this month, starting with the under-18 showcase in Canada

While the hockey world may be fired up for the rare summer edition of the Under-20 World Junior Championships coming up in August, there is also a pretty sizable international preseason tournament for bright, young stars that can’t be overlooked.

The 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup takes place July 31 through Aug. 6 in Red Deer, Alberta, as some of the world’s best Under-18 players converge on Canada.

It has had its share of different titles, debuting as the Phoenix Cup in 1991 in Yokohama and Sapporo, Japan. After three years there, it moved to Mexico City for one year, back to Japan in 1995 and then to Nelson and Castlegar, B.C., in 1996. In 1997, the tournament — by then called the Junior World Cup — moved to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where it first alternated between countries from 1997-2001 and then became a joint affair from 2002-17.

The tournament was renamed in honor of Ivan Hlinka, the Czech hockey legend who passed away after a car accident in 2004. When it moved back to Canada in 2018 (Edmonton and Alberta), it was renamed once again, this time the Hlinka Gretzky Cup to include none other than Wayne Gretzky.

In short, it’s the kick-off event for the players’ NHL Draft season, and it’s always worth a watch when you consider some of the players that have skated in the tournament.

It’s a who’s-who of Canadian hockey royalty on the alumni list – Paul Kariya played in the inaugural event, while Jerome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, Steven Stamkos, Nathan MacKinnon, Aaron Ekblad and Alexis Lafreniere have represented their country at the event.

The international list is star-studded, as well, as the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Tomas Plekanec, Teuvo Teravainen, Kirill Kaprizov and Mikko Rantanen are just some off the top. 

The Americans, however, handle the tournament a little differently. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup for USA Hockey is the opportunity to get international experience and exposure for the players not playing for the National Team Development Program. Talented players are on every roster – Johnny Gaudreau, Mikey Anderson, Casey Mittelstadt, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Nedeljkovic and Kyle Connor are some of the more recent – but it’s not exactly the ‘best-on-best’ you will see at the World Juniors. 

Ironically, the other countries are being forced to adopt a little bit of the Americans’ strategy this go-round, since players who are going to be competing in the World Juniors later in the month won’t be expected to play in two tournaments. The biggest name to not be skating in the tournament is Connor Bedard, the projected No. 1 overall pick in next summer’s NHL Draft. He was on Team Canada’s roster for the canceled World Junior tournament last winter, and he’s not on the Hlinka Gretzky roster, so we’re expecting to see him in action in the U20 event later in the month. Adam Fantilli is not on Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky roster, either, but he is a late ’04 birth-year. 

Slovakia’s Maxim Strabak and Dalibor Dvorsky are 2023 NHL Draft eligible players who were on their country’s World Junior rosters in the first go-round, as well; Dvorsky especially is appearing high on way-to-early mock drafts.

And while COVID-19 may not be impacting the tournament like it has the last few seasons (Canada didn’t play last year out of safety concerns), the continuing war in Ukraine has led to tournament organizers deciding to not invite Russia to the Hlinka Gretzky.

Star-power abounds, nonetheless, as we are excited to see Brayden Yager of Moose Jaw (WHL), Calum Richie of Oshawa (OHL) and Zach Benson of Winnipeg (WHL) lead a high-powered Team Canada offense. Theo Lindstein is one to watch out of Sweden, as is Eduard Sale of Czechia and Kasper Halttunen of Finland. 

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USA Hockey prepares for Summer Showcase and World Juniors at the same time

Since the organization acquired the building in 2015, USA Hockey has used USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., as a home for major Team USA events.

One of those is the World Junior Summer Showcase (WJSS), in which USAH brings together the country’s top players eligible for the upcoming World Juniors, as well as top talent from Canada, Sweden and Finland.

Missing out on a traditional Summer Showcase in 2022 is one of the last (hopefully) hockey-related casualties of COVID-19 restrictions, but the event is just being altered this summer, not completely canceled.

And for good reason, of course, because the hockey world will be getting a summer edition of the World Juniors this August.

This time around, USA Hockey is hosting the 2022 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, where Team USA will take over USA Hockey Arena from July 24 through Aug. 3. It will just be U.S. players, and while fans won’t be able to see Canada, Finland and Sweden, there will be more American talent skating than usual. Sixty-three players will be at the camp, because USA Hockey has to work on two World Juniors rosters, not just one.

They are split into two groups; the schedule shows a 2023 group and a 2022 group. The 2023 group began skating on Sunday (July 24), while the 2022 group takes the ice on Tuesday (July 26). 

The 2023 group that’s currently skating features a mix of 2003 and 2004 birth-year players. 

The lone outlier is Amherst, Mass., native Ryan Leonard, a 2005 birth-year forward who just wrapped up his first season in Plymouth with the NTDP Under-17 Team. Leonard is a 2023 NHL Draft-eligible player; he is joined by late 2004 birth-year members Jacob Fowler (a goaltender from Aspen, Colo.) and Charlie Stramel (a forward from Rosemont, Minn.) as camp invitees who have not had the opportunity to be drafted yet.

Taking a full look at the 63-man roster, however, will show you a whole bunch of players who have heard their names called by NHL teams. Fifty-three of the 63 players are property of NHL clubs. Ten of those were first-round picks, while 14 of them were second-round picks.

Thirty-one of the players played college hockey last season — we’re including in that count Thomas Bordeleau, who signed with San Jose after his freshman season with the University of Michigan and played in professional games immediately after. Only four played in the OHL.

Eleven of the players invited just concluded their second and final season with the NTDP, while a total of 36 are alums of USA Hockey’s elite training program in Plymouth. That means that 57 percent of the participants are NTDP products, which shows both the strength of the program, but also that players who do not make the NTDP or choose to go elsewhere can still reach junior hockey’s highest plateaus.

Players have come from all across the country, showcasing USA Hockey’s growing footprint for player development. Twenty-one states are represented on the evaluation camp roster, though Minnesota (11) and Michigan (eight) still lead the way. Pennsylvania has five as the hockey world sees the impact of the Sidney Crosby era in Pittsburgh, well documented by Logan Cooley’s No. 3 overall selection in this year’s NHL Draft. Illinois and Massachusetts both produced four, which is the same number as California. A skim of the roster shows you other locations like Fort Myers, Fla. (Seamus Casey), Bozeman, Mont. (Braden Holt), Dallas, Texas (Brent Johnson), Salt Lake City, Utah (Ian Moore) and Scottsdale, Ariz. (Josh Doan and Cutter Gauthier) as the hockey footprint expands across the States.

The U.S. group is practicing through Tuesday, Aug. 2 – in previous years at the World Junior Summer Showcase and similar events, cuts would take place throughout the duration. We will see about that this time around. Two ‘2023 Team Evaluation Scrimmages’ will take place on Thursday, July 28 and Monday, Aug. 1, while there will be a 2022 Team Intrasquad Scrimmage on Friday, July 29 and then a 2022 Team vs. 2023 Team game on Sunday, July 31.