Inside stories behind the start of the United States National Team Development Program

Copy Link Email Print Reactions Like 66 Fire 3 Interesting 1 There was infighting within USA Hockey. There was a heated physical altercation over recruiting a player. There was the agent who got fired for buying kegs and hiring exotic dancers to recruit teenagers. There were parents who signed guardianship of their sons over to people they had never met. There was a boxing ring. There was a trip to Russia, where political protesters and armed soldiers surrounded a game’s rink. Then there was the legacy that came from all those events. The United States national team development program has become well known among hockey fans. The NTDP, as it’s more commonly known, has become the proving ground for some of America’s top underage male talents before they reached the NHL. In total, 91 first-round picks and 380 NHL draft picks have come through the NTDP since the program started in 1996 and began play in 1997. Those NHL players include Jack , Luke and Quinn Hughes ; Patrick Kane ; Auston Matthews ; Seth Jones ; Brady and Matthew Tkachuk ; Tage Thompson ; James van Riemsdyk ; Trevor Zegras . While those players and the program that helped foster their development have become familiar, the origin story behind the NTDP itself isn’t well known. ESPN spoke with more than 20 people, including the NTDP’s creators, its first coaching staff and the players from the first class about the beginnings of a program that forever changed the face of men’s hockey in America. “Even now, and it’s more than 20 years later, I have a 14-year-old son who plays with a phenom and I know that kid’s goal is to get invited to the NTDP,” said former NHL defenseman Jordan Leopold, who was part of the NTDP’s first […]

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