The USA Hockey National Team Development Program under-18 team could lead the first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft for the second time in four years.
A record eight NTDP players, including seven in the top 15, were selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Three NTDP players were selected in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft and one in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
“It’s a strong team with a lot of players that will obviously get drafted but will also be very attractive to NHL clubs just because they’re capable, talented and competitive,” said NHL senior manager of central scouting David Gregory. “Most of them are excellent skaters and that’s what teams are looking for.”
The middle is the leader Logan Cooley (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), No. 2 inches Central Scouting’s definitive ranking of North American skaters. The 18-year-old was second in the NTDP with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games. He had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and had 23 shots on goal in six games to help the United States finish runners-up at the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
“We’re a really competitive squad and I think it’s a group of lads who really enjoy competing and that’s their best quality,” said Adam Nightingale, this season’s U-18 team from NTDP coached before taking the coaching job at Michigan State University. “I think it’s a group of guys who put the team first and it’s not about them. That’s the challenge when you have a lot of talent; these guys did a really good job of parking their egos and making it a team. “
There are 19 players on the U-18 list included in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American Skaters and Goalies who are draft candidates. Thirteen players from the program attended the 2022 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo in June.
“The similarity to the 2019 NTDP draft is the depth of high-quality NHL prospects available, but this 2022 NTDP draft is different than any other team I can recall just for the speed, who they play with,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “The combination of quickness and speed made this team difficult to control and almost impossible to keep up or keep up the pace over the course of a game.
“When you add the skill component and play the execution at top speed, they are a very entertaining group to watch and many will have bright futures in the NHL.”
Each of the NTDP players ranked in the top 32 in Central Scouting’s final rankings represented the United States at the U-18 World Championships.
His finish in the top three marked the 17th time in the last 18 tournaments that the US had won a medal, the highest of any country. The US run includes nine championships, five second places and three third places. The event started in 1999.
The current group has had many individual successes during their two-year NTDP stints. After Cooley, there’s the left wing Tailor Gauthier (No. 3), center Isaac Howard (No. 9), right wing Jimmy Snuggerud (No. 11), defender Ryan Chesley (No. 18), middle Frank Nazar (No. 21), right wing Rutger McGroarty (No. 22), defender Lane Hutson (No. 25) and defenders Seamus Casey (No. 29).
“It just goes to show that we’re a very special group,” Gauthier said. “I think every one of us comes out on the rink every day with a mentality to get better. I feel like this mentality only gets us closer to our dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. I think that kind of environment, that competitive mentality, makes us very special.”
Gauthier (6-2, 200) climbed three places in the final rankings after being sixth in the intermediate rankings in January. The 18-year-old has 65 points (34 goals, 31 assists) and five power-play goals in 54 games and nine points (three goals, six assists) in six games for the USA at the World U-18s.
Hutson received the EJ McGuire Award of Excellence, presented to the 2022 draft-eligible prospect who best exemplifies a commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
“I think we have a lot of good players [really] talented players who wanted to get better every day,” said Cooley. “The coaching staff is really pushing us to get better every day and we have the right guys in the dressing room who love to compete every day and that shows how good the team is.”
“It’s funny … I turned a boy over to the NTDP and got a man back,” said Cathy Cooley, Logan’s mother. “The way they prepared him is really amazing. I’m like, ‘What happened to that little shy boy?’ “
Also goalkeeper Dylan Silverstein (6-0, 179) is No. 3 in Central Scouting’s North American goaltender rankings and Tyler Muskelik (6-2, 195) is #4.
“Two completely different goalkeepers,” said Central Scouting’s Al Jensen. “Silverstein is fast, athletic and very intense. He has that competition in him, balance, power at the net. Muszelik is more positional. He’s calm there and uses his big body to cover the holes more than Silverstein because Silverstein is is a little smaller.
“They both have great potential with good skills but they are different types of goalkeepers. You have to appreciate them for what they do.”
Photos: Rena Laverty, USA Hockey NTDP