Where the NHL has preseason games, junior hockey has showcase events. With the puck dropping on 2018-19 hockey season, junior hockey in the U.S. kicks off the season by showcasing their respective player and team talents with a variety of showcase events.
Here’s a look at what events help junior hockey players showcase their skills in front of collegiate, junior and professional scouts entering the season.
What is it: Now in its seventh year, the USA Hockey All American Prospects Game brings the country’s top prospects front and center for a national audience of fans and NHL scouts. To date, 155 alums of the game have been drafted into the NHL, including up-and-coming stars like Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (2014 AAPG) and Buffalo Sabres forwards Jack Eichel (2014 AAPG) and Casey Mittelstadt (2016 AAPG). The 2018 NHL Draft this past June saw a record-tying 28 AAPG alumni drafted, including 2017 AAPG MVP Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa Senators, fourth overall).
Who to know: Forty-two of the top U.S. players eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, including Jack Hughes (U.S. National Under-18 Team), the projected number one pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. In total, 17 states were represented, including an event-record 10 Minnesotans. Additionally, 40 of the players appear on the 2018-19 NHL Central Scouting Pre-Season Futures List, which highlights players that have potential to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft. U.S. Olympians and Minnesota natives, Jamie Langenbrunner and Jordan Leopold, served as head coaches.
The Rundown: In front of over 100 NHL scouts, Team Langenbrunner came from behind to top Team Leopold, 6-4. Matt Boldy (U.S. National Under-18 Team) scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 1:07 left in regulation, to earn Player of the Game honors.
Learn more at allamericanprospectsgame.com.
What is it: For the 16th straight year all 24 NAHL teams played four regular-season games (48 games played total over the weekend) as part of the showcase. Hosted at Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minn., the event saw over 360 scouts, coaches and evaluators in attendance, establishing a new event record. Among those in attendance were nearly every NHL team and 159 NCAA Division I and III evaluators.
Collegiate Route: The NAHL prides itself on giving its players the opportunity for that next step and the NAHL Showcase plays a big role in that success. Billed one of hockey’s most prominent and popular events of the season, the event has played in role in seeing the NAHL set a record number of 331 players make NCAA commitments during the 2017-18, with 70% of those being Division I schools.
The Rundown: The NAHL Showcase saw a number of high-profile performances, including the Amarillo Bulls and Topeka Pilots, who both finished with perfect 4-0 records. More than 350 scouts attended the four-day extravaganza that saw Keenan Lund (Minot Minotauros), Chad Merrell (Johnstown Tomahawks), Ethan Haider (Minnesota Magicians) and Alex Peterson (Amarillo Bulls) all earn NAHL Bauer Hockey Divisional Stars of the Week honors.
Learn more about the NAHL Showcase here.
What is it: One of the premier junior hockey showcases in the world, the USHL Fall Classic welcomed all 17 USHL member clubs and provides professional, college and junior scouts the opportunity to view top USHL talent. For the third straight year, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pa., will serve as host of the USHL Fall Classic. Last year's showcase helped springboard the USHL towards its strongest-ever showing at the 2018 NHL Draft, as a league record 45 players who skated in the USHL last season were selected. In total, a league record 57 players with USHL ties heard their names called at the 2018 NHL Draft..
New to 2018: For the first time, all 17 USHL member clubs played their first two regular-season games at the Fall Classic to kick off the 62-game USHL regular season.
The Rundown: After 34 games in a three-day span, just four teams skated away from the Fall Classic with unblemished records as the Des Moines Buccaneers and Tri-City Storm share the lead of the Western Conference while the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Team USA are atop the Eastern Conference standings. Earning USHL Player of the Week honors for their performances were Des Moines forward Matt Brown and defenseman Connor Senken as well as Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender Blake Pietila.
Learn more about the USHL Fall Classic here.