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Photo by Mike Caples | Take Your Shot Photography
Photo by Mike Caples | Take Your Shot Photography

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. 

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