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A look at the USNTDP U18 Team

The USNTDP U18 Team takes on the Utica Pioneers on Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center. Here’s a look at that team.

There has been a buzz around Central New York hockey circles recently as the USNTDP U18 will be in Utica on Friday night. They will face a Division III powerhouse in the Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team at the Adirondack Bank Center. Most of the Pioneer’s opponents are other college teams, but the USNTDP U18 Team is very unique. The question is, just who exactly are they?

To start, USNTDP stands for the United States National Team Development Program. According to its website at https://usahockeyntdp.com, the program is described as the following:

The National Team Development Program is the pinnacle of USA Hockey’s amateur player development program. The NTDP scouts and selects the top 22 players in two age groups (Under-17 and Under-18) to train and develop in a highly competitive environment. The two teams (Under-17 and Under-18) face a rigorous domestic schedule including competition against older, more- developed players.

Basically, the overall purpose and goal of the USNTDP is player development. It is made up of two teams – the U17 and U18 teams. The “U” stands for under and the numerics represent the age of the players on the team. Due to the age difference of the teams, the U18 is considered to be the more developed of the two teams.

The USNTDP recruits its players from all over the United States. Once a player signs with the USNTDP, that individual is committed to the program for two years.

Who and Where Do USNTDP Teams Play?

The USNTDP plays a full regular season schedule in the United States Hockey League (USHL) The USHL is an American junior league that is very similar to the major junior leagues (OHL, QMJHL, and WHL) that have been a staple in Canada for decades. The USHL games are played by both the U17 and U18 teams, but it is the U17 team that represents the NTDP in the league’s playoffs. The USNTDP teams play their home games at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.

Episode #5 of the Central New York Hockey Report is live

The USNTDP teams also play an exhibition schedule on top of their sixty-two-game USHL regular season schedule as well. The exhibition games are Division I and Division III college teams and international tournaments as well. The U18 team is currently in the midst of a college tour that will see them play both Division I and Division III teams. On October 14th they defeated Boston University 8-2, but fell to Dartmouth the next day by a score of 7-2. After they play at Utica on October 20th, they travel to Ithaca the next day to face the Cornell Big Red.

In November, the U18 will host Division I power Michigan as well as Adrian and Stevenson – foes familiar to the Utica Pioneers.

Future NHL Stars

The USNTDP has produced several NHL stars during its existence. Superstars like Jack, Quinn, Luke Hughes, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Dylan Larkin are just a few of the high-profile NHL players that have come through the program.

This season’s USNTDP U18 Team features two players who are projected to be top five NHL draft picks. Ryan Sikes, who covers the USHL for USHL Prospecting, reports that forwards Cole Eiserman and James Hagens lead the U18 offense. Eiserman is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft and holds the USNTDP record for goals in a season. The 69 goals he scored last season broke the record of another prolific goal scorer Cole Caufield. In nine games played this season, Eiserman has thirteen goals and five assists for eighteen points. He is committed to playing at Boston University next season.

Read the entire USNTDP season preview by USHL Prospecting here: https://t.co/OvmQZsaBc6?ssr=true.

Hagens is currently only sixteen years old (he’ll turn seventeen in November), but he is already being projected as a top-five pick in the 2025 NHL Entry Draft. Whereas Eiserman is renowned for his goal-scoring, Hagens is an excellent playmaker and skater. In the USHL Prospecting piece, Hagen’s current coach Nick Fohr compared him to Jack Hughes and Logan Cooley, both of whom were taken in the top three of their respective NHL draft years.

In ten games played this season, Hagens has six goals and eleven assists for seventeen points.

Friday night’s game between the Utica Pioneers and the USNTDP U18 at the Adirondack Bank Center starts at 7:00 p.m. For more information about Utica Pioneers hockey, visit https://uticapioneers.com.

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