Friday, September 29, 2006


From USA


The NTDP consists of two national teams, the U.S. National Under-18 Team and the U.S. National Under-17 team, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the program's goal is to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and for future hockey careers. Efforts focus on high-caliber play and on developing well-rounded individuals off the ice. The success of the NTDP is not gauged on wins and losses, but on acquiring skills and experience.The two teams combine to play more than 110 games each season vs. collegiate, U.S. junior and international competition.


From the Fairbanks News-Miner

Development team to challenge Nanooks

By Danny Martin
Published September 27, 2006

This weekend marks the first time the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team has stepped onto a hockey rink in Alaska against the state’s NCAA Division I programs. But head coach Ron Rolston is no stranger to the Alaska Nanooks, his team’s opponent at 7:05 Friday night at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.

Rolston is in his second season at the helm of the U-18 team, but from 1990-95, he was an assistant coach for Lake Superior State, a Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival of the Nanooks. During Rolston’s tenure with the Lakers of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., he occasionally saw a nifty Alaska forward named Tavis MacMillan.

MacMillan, whose 192 career points from 1990-94 rank fourth all-time in Nanooks scoring, is entering his third season as his alma mater’s head coach.

“From what I remember is he obviously worked hard,'’ Rolston said Monday afternoon from the National Team Development Program’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. “He had some good skill level, and he was a heart and soul player, and I’m sure his team plays like that. It’s going to be a challenge for us.'’

MacMillan anticipates a challenge, too, against an Under-18 squad that has enjoyed a 6-0 run through Junior A opposition since its season opened two weeks ago. The unbeaten streak features a 4-0 finish in the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., on Sept. 13-16. The tournament included the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla.

“The thing that’s going to be tough for us early on in that game is going to be adjusting to their speed on an Olympic sheet,” MacMillan said after last Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game in the Patty Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “They will have played (six) games by then.'’

The Nanooks had their first three practices of the season on the Carlson Center’s Olympic-size sheet (200 x 100 feet) but has since practiced and played on the smaller Patty Center ice.
The Nanooks were invited to play the national team after University of Alaska Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak had originally scheduled the Under-18 squad for the Seawolves’ first exhibition game of the season. UAA faces the Under-18 team at 7:05 Saturday night in Sullivan.
“He (Shyiak) said he wanted to schedule us because he had an open date early in his schedule and he said he could have Fairbanks come down,'’ Rolston said. “It also lets us expose our program to the youth hockey teams there.'’

The game against the Nanooks couldn’t be played in Fairbanks because the Carlson Center is playing host to the Fairbanks Winter Show on Friday through Sunday.

The Nanooks are the U-18 squad’s first collegiate competition of the season. Twenty-three of its 41 individual games involve NCAA Division I programs, with five of them from the CCHA. The other CCHA opponents—all road games—are Michigan (Oct. 8), Michigan State (Oct. 19), Northern Michigan (Dec. 15) and Lake Superior State (Dec. 16).

“You’re facing older, experienced players and teams with a lot of depth,'’ Rolston said. “I’m looking forward to playing the college teams because it forces us to play at a high tempo, which gets us prepared for our international tournaments.'’

USA Hockey began the national team development program 10 years ago as a feeder system for its various national teams, particularly the squad for the World Junior Championship tournament (for players under 20). There is also an U-17 team, which like the Ice Dogs and Avalanche, plays in the NAHL.

One current Nanook and several National Hockey League players have been involved in the national team development program, in which participants train full time while living and attending high school in Ann Arbor.

Nanooks junior goaltender Wylie Rogers was with the Under-18 team in 2002-03, appearing in 30 games and compiling a 15-10-1 record with a 2.97 goals against average and .905 saves percentage. He shut out Finland 4-0 and earned a 4-3 victory over Sweden in the 2003 Five Nations Cup in Prague, Czech Republic.

Three players on the 2006 U.S. Olympic hockey team—goaltender Rick DiPietro and defensemen Jordan Leopold and John-Michael Liles—trained in the program, and 27 of its alumni have played at least one game in the National Hockey League.

Seventeen players in the NHL Entry Draft in June came from the program, with six chosen in the first round, including No. 1 overall pick, Erik Johnson, who was selected by the St. Louis Blues.

Johnson decided that rather than the NHL, he’d go to the University of Minnesota, which is coached by former Nanooks head coach Don Lucia.

Many NTDP alumni have opted for Division I hockey rather than the pros, and some of those players were later chosen for the U.S. World Junior team. Since its start, the national team development program has seen about 200 of its players move on to D-I programs.

The path to the development program begins with USA Hockey officials inviting and evaluating players at select festivals, starting with players 14 years old.

Rolston said that by the time players are 16, USA Hockey officials have an idea of who the top 100 players in the nation are for that age, and of that group, which 50 they’ll invite to an orientation camp which is held each fall in Ann Arbor. The campers are narrowed to 22 selections for the U-17 program.

Twenty-one of the 23 players on this season’s U-18 team were in the U-17 program last season.
“We look for the kind of players who can push themselves to become better players,'’ said Rolston, who was also an assistant coach at Harvard, Clarkson and Boston College before joining the national team development program. “We do as much background checks as we can on their characteristics and work ethics. We try to bring each player as close as we can to a well-rounded package that combines work ethic, skill and determination to make him a great player.'’

Staff writer Danny Martin can be reached at or 459-7586.

1 comment:

nordica said...

i wish i had gone. only 200 people showed up! :<