Top ’06s In The U.S.

Mar 25, 2022 | John Klinck


USNTDP Evaluation Camp Shines Spotlight On 2006 Birth Year

Each season, USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) holds its Evaluation Camp; one of the most prestigious events for a particular birth year.

It’s the final tryout of sorts, for players hoping to secure a spot on next season’s NTDP Under-17 Team; while the Team USA scouting staff has been watching the birth year all season, they like to bring the best 40 or so players together to see what they look like on the same sheet of ice.

It’s essentially the final evaluation opportunity for the staff that annually constructs the next squad to represent Team USA over the next two seasons. The team will compete and train at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., and is also a fascinating look at which players the USA Hockey brass thinks are tops in a birth year.

This year, 47 of the top players from the 2006 birth year were invited to participate in the NTDP Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, which took place from March 20-24. While the roster will be announced in the coming weeks for the 2022-23 U.S. National Under-17 Team, all of the players invited to the eval camp are now names to know. How did they reach this point, a coveted invite to the NTDP camp? Let’s take a closer look.

Nine players invited hail from the state of Minnesota. Massachusetts was next up with seven, while Illinois and Michigan have five, and California has four.

Thirty of the 47 players on the eval camp roster played for a 15-Only AAA team this season, as the push continues across the country to make the 15-Only age group the top place for players to play in that respective year, instead of competing against older competition at 16U or even 18U.

Thirteen of those players played for a high school program, while also playing some sort of AAA hockey alongside. 

Minnesota high school players include forwards Brendan McMorrow, Ben Miller and Max Plante, and defensemen Logan Hensler, Adam Kleber and Will Skahan. Plante is fresh off celebrating a Minnesota High School Class-A state championship with Hermantown High School; no players from Class 2A champion Andover High School were invited. 

Random outliers include Reid Varkonyi, a forward from Fountain Valley, Calif., who played for the Northern Alberta Xtreme of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), and E.J. Emery, a defenseman from Surrey, B.C. who played for Yale Hockey Academy U17 of the same league.

Sam Laurila, a defenseman from Moorhead, Minn., is listed as playing for the Moorhead Spuds Bantam AA, but he has also skated with the MN Blue Ox AAA and MN North Stars AAA this season.

The name Shattuck-St. Mary’s appears in the 2021-22 team column more than any other program, as players from across the SSM field of teams received invitations. Cole Eiserman, regarded as one of the top players in the birth year, represents Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep – one of the rare cases of a player playing all the way up on Shattuck’s top team despite being in the 15U age bracket.

Forward Aidan Park and defenseman Drake Murray are on the Shattuck 16U roster, while forwards Kristian Epperson and Brodie Ziemer, as well as defensemen Noah Lapointe and John Whipple, skate for the SSM 15O team.

From there, the eval camp roster is remarkably balanced in terms of representation from various teams across the country. The Mount St. Charles 15O team — ranked No. 1 in the country on the World Hockey Hub rankings — saw three players invited; forwards James Hagens and Callum Hughes, along with goaltender Jack Parsons.

As previously mentioned, four players from the No. 2-ranked Shattuck St. Mary’s 15O team were invited, while two were invited from No. 3 Little Caesars — forwards Austin Baker and Lucas Van Vliet. Chicago Mission (No. 4 in the rankings) sent goaltender Nicholas Kempf and forward Charles Pardue, while No. 5 Bishop Kearney sent forwards Geno Carcone and Christian Humphreys

The player who wins the award for the longest plane ride to Plymouth is Mac Swanson – the Anchorage, Alaska, native and standout on the Team Alaska 15O team didn’t let any jet leg get in the way of him impressing this week.

Players with notable last names include local skaters in HoneyBaked’s Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen, son of legendary goaltender Manon Rheaume, and brother of former NTDP goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, and Lucas Fischer, son of former NHL defenseman and Detroit Red Wings director of player evaluation Jiri Fischer. Noah Lapointe, son of NHLer Martin Lapointe and brother of University of Michigan forward Philippe, is also a camp invitee.

To view the full evaluation camp roster, click HERE.

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