In 1996, USA Hockey launched a revolutionary new initiative called the National Team Development Program, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. In its 18th season of play in 2014-15, the goal of this full-time development program is to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers. Its efforts focus not only on high-caliber participation on the ice, but creating well-rounded individuals off the ice.
The program is composed of two squads - the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams. The Under-17 Team competes in the United States Hockey League and also participates in three international events annually. The U.S. National Under-18 Team’s schedule includes games against NCAA Division I and III opponents, contests versus USHL teams, as well as competition in three international tournaments.
The Ann Arbor Ice Cube, a first-class facility consisting of three ice sheets, locker rooms, offices, a training area and weight room is home to the NTDP. Unlike other competitive athletic teams, the success of the NTDP is not gauged on wins and losses. Instead, the focus is on the development of skills and acquiring experience against older competitors.
“My time spent at the NTDP was a big turning point in my career as it helped to achieve my goals,” said Columbus Blue Jackets superstar Jack Johnson. “I not only developed on the ice but off the ice as well. The training is second to none, and the chance to represent your country is the greatest feeling in all of sports.”
“Playing for your country is one of the greatest things any athlete can do,” said Vancouver Canucks superstar Ryan Kesler. “The NTDP’s on- and off-ice programs built the foundation I needed to become the player I am today.”
“I think if you have a chance as a junior player in the U.S. to go and improve and develop your game that’s the place (the NTDP) to play," said Nashville Predators head coach Phil Housley. "Granted it’s not for everybody, some kids like to stay home and develop which is okay also. But if you really want to push yourself to the limits you have access to outstanding coaches and great facilities and tough competition, especially at the U18 level where you’re playing college teams and playing two or three times a year in Europe.”
“I really enjoyed my time there," said Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane. "I thought it was a huge part of my development and Coach (John) Hynes was awesome to me. He was very hard on me, but at the same time, he tried to get the best out of me. I’m really happy I went there.”
“(The NTDP) helped me a ton," said recent Nashville Predators draft pick Seth Jones. "I went there to develop on and off the ice, and we’d work out really hard there, and I came out of there weighing 20, 25 pounds heavier after two years. That was my main goal when I went there, and it happened, and that definitely played a huge part in my career. I’m very thankful I went there.”
|Location:||Ann Arbor, Mich.|
|League:||United States Hockey League (USHL)|
|NHL Draft Impact:||246 players drafted including 51 first-round picks|
|First Overall Picks:||Patrick Kane (Chicago, 2007), Erik Johnson (St. Louis, 2006), Rick DiPietro (NY Islanders, 2000)|
|NTDP in the NHL:||In 2013-14, 69 players suited up for 26 different NHL teams.|