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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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 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 pair of ‘07 Toronto teams look to climb WHH’s first ever Preseason Rankings

For the first time in World Hockey Hub Rankings history, Canadian teams have made the cut. 

Now, we know what you’re thinking, ‘How can that be possible? It’s Canada’s game and some of the best hockey in the world comes from The North!’ When the World Rankings debuted last November, Canada — along with much of the world — was in the midst of a pretty strict nationwide shutdown due to COVID-19, and the entire 2020-21 youth hockey season was lost. This presented an extraordinary challenge, making it impossible to rank Canadian teams in the absence of games last season.

September marks the beginning of a new season for youth hockey players around the world, and the #OurGameIsBack movement is sweeping across the provinces as Hockey Canada sets the stage for a safe return to the ice. The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) announced that tryouts would begin this month and game action could start as early as Nov. 1st. 

The global climate regarding COVID-19 continues to change by the day. However, Canada’s return to the ice, Sweden and Finland set to return, as well as the United States and Russia already off and running, has the hockey community feeling a sense of normalcy for the first time in a long time. 

The ‘07 World Rankings put high expectations on the Toronto Jr. Canadiens and Toronto Marlboros, who check in at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. Both are members of the GTHL, and should see plenty of head-to-head action as they battle for supremacy in ‘The Six’ as well as the top spot in the World Rankings. Three other Canadian teams check in to the Top 25 as well, including the London Jr. Knights and Ottawa Myers. It’s been 18 months since London last took the ice in March, 2020. That ‘07 squad won 60 games as PeeWees two seasons ago, and we expect the Jr. Knights to return to that level of dominance this season. 

Russia’s Dynamo Moscow debuts at the top spot of the Preseason Rankings, followed by Kiekko Espoo of Finland, then the pair of Toronto teams and Sweden’s HV 71 round out the Top 5. Dynamo won the 2007-born Moscow Open Championship last season as the top team in the region with an 11-0-0 record. However, it appears their top two leading scorers from a season ago, Yanush Kheybatov and Roman Rizvanov, have found new homes to play for in the 2021-22 season.

WHH will continue to follow the 2007-birth year closely all season long with the latest news, rankings, highlights, prospects and more. Check out your No. 1 resource for everything regarding the 14U (or under-15) age group HERE

Sweden Hockey Trophy marks the return of youth hockey in Scandinavia

The Sweden Hockey Trophy (SHT) returns to Scandinavia this month, after the region spent much of the 2020-21 season without youth hockey. Concerns around COVID-19 put the Sweden youth hockey season on pause last December, and strict government guidelines prohibited game action in the local ice rinks.

Only recently have restrictions begun to lift, permitting youth hockey players to return to the ice. The Swedish Ice Hockey Association’s 2021-22 season typically starts in September, and the Sweden Hockey Trophy tournament symbolizes a new chapter for many. 

The month-long event features five different age groups competing over four separate weekends. The 2007s took to the ice first at Ishuset Arena, home of IFK Tumba. This Thursday, the 2008s will follow up the action with 16 teams at JM-Hallen in Bromma. Fourteen teams at the ‘09-age group will square off next weekend, and the ‘10s and ‘11s will close out the tournament September 23 – 26th.

Last weekend, Täby HC was crowned champions of the ‘07 AAA division, while Wings HC took the AA division. A 4-1 record in pool play put Täby into the top seed of the six-team playoffs, earning a first-round bye and a spot in the Final Four. There, they faced off against HC Hvezda Prague, as Isac Nilsson, Melvin Novotny and Romeo Edvarsen Sӧrensen combined to score six goals in Täby’s 9-2 semifinal victory.

Täby HC captain Filip Puhakka accepts the Sweden Hockey Trophy from tournament director Alexander Holtz.

The championship pitted the No. 1 team in Pool A against the No. 1 team in Pool B, as Nacka stepped up to challenge Täby for the title. The matchup featured the top three scorers in the tournament with Novotny (23), Ruben Westerling (15) and Matiss Zilitis (14). Midway through the second half of the game, Zilitis scored to tie it up for Nacka at 2-2. In the final moments of the contest though, Marcus Nordmark would score the game-winning goal with 1:50 left in regulation to give Täby the 3-2 win and the SHT championship.

Sweden Hockey Trophy features some of the best youth hockey teams in the country. In total, 83 of the top Swedish youth hockey teams will compete for the SHT championship this month. Also worth noting are the nine international teams expected to be in attendance. Previously mentioned HC Hvezda Prague is a top program from the Czech Republic, and was the only non-Sweden based team in the ‘07 Division. Ukraine’s Sokol Kiev will compete in the ‘09 Division next weekend. The ‘08 Division — set to begin on Thursday — is the most diverse field of the tournament with 16 teams from seven different countries. In addition to the nine Sweden programs, Bartulus Hockey Club (Latvia), Barys (Kazakhstan), HC Hvezda Prague (Czech Republic), RUSS Moscow (Russia), two teams from Tappara (Finland) and Seacoast Spartans (United States). 

Participating in international tournaments like SHT is becoming a bit more commonplace than before in youth hockey. Programs like the Czech Knights and Slovakia Stars had traveled abroad for historic events like Pee-Wee Quebec, and CSKA Moscow has made similar trips to the U.S. for iconic tournaments like the Motown Classic. North American winter teams have rarely returned the favor to travel across the Atlantic. However, with programs like Seacoast paving the way to compete at SHT, it could become a more common practice amongst top teams in the States. 

Programs can spend thousands of dollars per person to partake in some of the cross-country road trips to elite showcases and popular tournaments. The cost for an East Coast team to shoot across the Atlantic can at the very least be comparable, if not cheaper than domestic travel to destinations like Nashville, Florida, Denver or the West Coast. Flights and hotels and food for a 17-man team, coaches and family members can add up quickly, only to spend the weekend in another run-of-the-mill hockey town. That same typical trip could be turned into an international experience filled with culture and competition against top European programs in exotic European cities. 

The SHT continues on Thursday and throughout the rest of the month. World Hockey Hub will have exclusive coverage of the tournament on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to like and follow for more updates.

Interested in challenging your team against international competition? The team at World Hockey Group can help set you up with a destination, comparable opponents and an experience of a lifetime. Connect with a team member HERE.

Tournaments in Michigan, Massachusetts help kick off 2021-22 campaign

It’s finally here, people.

The 2021-22 youth hockey winter season is underway. 

In the United States, there’s already been a flurry of hockey action, as top teams across the country have started competing in big-time tournaments, making their marks on the new campaign.

It’s wonderful to see, of course, after the 2020-21 campaign was made so difficult by COVID-19. Challenges will continue to present themselves, but some events have helped the hockey community return to some sense of normalcy.

While some teams begin play with familiar foes close to home, two major tournaments have already brought together top talent to start the season with a bang.

The Eastern Alliance Kick-Off took place over the weekend. While no individual statistics were available online, the championship scores certainly tell the biggest stories of the event.

At the 16U, the Boston Jr. Eagles beat the Long Island Gulls 2-1 in overtime to secure a championship in their age group. The Jr. Eagles finished with a 6-1 record, out-scoring their opponents 32-13.

Defenseman Aidan Connors scored the game-winner in extra time for the Eagles, while Jake McManus — fresh off an appearance at the USA Hockey Select 16 Camp in which he recorded four points in five games — had the lone goal in regulation for the squad.

Bishop Kearney appeared in the 15U final as well, and this time the squad emerged victorious, topping Boston Advantage 4-3. The BK Selects went on an undefeated 7-0 run through the weekend tournament, with a whopping 43 goals for and only 12 against. In the elimination rounds of the tournament, BK posted 5-1 wins over the New Jersey Rockets and the North Jersey Avalanche on Sunday. Then on Labor Day, a 5-2 win over the Valley Forge Minutemen and a 4-3 championship victory over Boston Advantage

The BK Selects brought in Los Angeles native Jackson Silverberg to compete for time with incumbent Patrick Curtatone, and the duo is getting things done between the pipes thus far. 

And in the 14U Red Division championship, the Neponset Valley River Rats posted a 6-5 victory over Bishop Kearney. The River Rats finished the tournament with a 5-2 record, and a 26-17 goal differential. It was an impressive conclusion for head coach Dan Panciocco’s club, after Neponset Valley opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Yale Jr. Bulldogs and a 3-0 loss to the South Shore Kings before ripping off five straight wins. 

In Michigan, Total Package Hockey (TPH) hosted its Grand Rapids AAA Kick-Off Classic, welcoming teams from as far away as Florida and Tennessee to Hockeytown West for a slate of games in the final weekend of August. This past weekend, two leading Labor Day tournaments in the New England area teamed up to host the Eastern Alliance Kick-Off in Marlborough, Mass.

They didn’t bring the entire youth hockey community together for either of the big weekends, but it certainly provided an early flavor of teams and players to keep an eye on this season.

At the Kick-Off Classic, participating teams played four games apiece in a showcase-style format. While no trophies or medals were awarded, the scoresheets still tell a significant story.

In the 14U age group, Florida Alliance posted a 4-0 record during their brief stay in Michigan. Tommy Fellman led the way in points, as he racked up one goal and five assists; teammates Nolan Mara and Jason Musa both recorded two goals and two assists apiece. Between the pipes, Frank Copestick posted two shutout victories.

Host team Fox Motors had one overtime loss keep them from a perfect record; Carter Dominowski (three goals, one assist) and Travis Lefere (two goals and two assists) led Fox on the scoresheet. Zander Holsinger allowed only three goals while recording two wins.

Eight teams showed up for the 15U division, and Little Caesars delivered a perfect 4-0 record after making the three-hour drive west. Caesars’ Charlie Michaud — a Denver native who played in Canada for St. George’s School last season — posted four goals and two assists for six points over the four contests, while teammate Austin Baker recorded three goals and two assists.

J.J. Salajko — son of Detroit Red Wings goalie coach Jeff Salajko — and Garrett Dudlar split the wins for the Little Caesars squad.

Jordan Geike of the Windy City Storm and Chicago Mission’s Jake Merens are both top 2006-born prospects and teammates at this summer’s USA Hockey Select 15 Camp. Both tied Michaud for most points in the age group, as each chipped in six for their respective clubs. Between the pipes, Aidan Rasmussen helped his Nashville Jr. Predators to a 3-1 overall record by leading them to a 2-1 win over Mission and a 3-1 win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.

At 16U, Fox Motors enjoyed its home cooking, as the host team posted a 4-0 record, thanks to an eight-point weekend from Blake Bechen and a five-point performance from Allan Bottari. James King picked up two wins between the pipes, including a 5-0 shutout win over Michigan Hockey Advancement

Annelies Bergmann, a Cornell University commit, continues to impress against the boys, as the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies goaltender led her club to two victories – a 3-1 win over Compuware and a 5-1 win over the Jr. Predators. Overall, the Jr. Grizzlies finished in second on the weekend with a 3-0-0-1 record.

It’s just a taste of some of the top teams and players to get out of the gate first in the 2021-22 season. World Hockey Hub will have much more from youth hockey in North America, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia all season long! Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, updates, rankings and events.