International Ice Hockey Federation

Where stars are born

Where stars are born

USA Hockey celebrates 20 years of NTDP

Published 28.12.2015 11:37 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Where stars are born
HELSINKI, FINLAND - DECEMBER 26: USA's Zach Werenski #13 celebrates with Charlie Mcavoy Jr #25 and Auston Matthews #34 after scoring Team USA's second goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
1996 was a big year for USA Hockey. Not only did the Americans win their first World Cup of Hockey, but they also founded the National Team Development Program.

It’s proven to be one of the greatest successes in U.S. hockey history, emphasizing speed, skill, and smarts. Celebrating the NTDP’s 20th anniversary in 2016 is also about embracing a bright future.

The NTDP is designed to help identify America’s top hockey players under the age of 18 and centralize their training in the state of Michigan. Long based at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, the program has shifted this season to the 3,500-capacity USA Hockey Arena (formerly Compuware Arena) in nearby Plymouth. It’s a dream destination for the 44 players that suit up for the national U17 and U18 teams.

USA Hockey has pumped $3.5 million into renovating the facility, with a state-of-the-art weights room, skating treadmill, and running track, plus office space. Future IIHF tournaments could be held here. For USA Hockey, the return on investment will be measured in wins.

With nine gold medals since 2002, the United States is the dominant power at the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships. It’s gunning for its third straight title on home ice in Grand Forks, North Dakota this April. And the NTDP deservedly gets the lion’s share of the credit.

That success often carries over to the IIHF World Junior Championship, as a quick glance at the scoresheet from the U.S.’s opening 4-2 win over Canada reveals.

Twelve of the Americans in Helsinki feature NTDP participation on their resume: defencemen Louie Belpedio, Brandon Fortunato, Chad Krys, Charlie McAvoy, and Zach Werenski, and forwards Anders Bjork, Ryan Hitchcock, Ryan MacInnis, Auston Matthews, Sonny Milano, Matthew Tkachuk, and Colin White.

In Game One, they combined for 10 out of the 12 points scored by their team.

NHL scouts recognize the quality of these NTDP talents as well. Three of them are NHL first-round picks (Milano, Werenski, White). It’s likely that DeBrincat, Krys, Matthews, McAvoy, and Tkachuk could all end up going in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo – which, incidentally, will also host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The NTDP has already produced a who’s-who of contemporary U.S. hockey heroes, including Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter, James van Riemsdyk, and Jimmy Howard. Looking at the continued growth of hockey in the U.S., which has half a million registered players and 1,900 indoor rinks, the best is yet to come for the NTDP.

If the Americans go on to capture their fourth World Junior gold medal ever this year, it’ll be another proverbial feather in the NTDP’s cap, but it’ll come as no surprise to savvy hockey observers.


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