As part of this year's NHL Entry Draft extravaganza in St. Paul, Minn., USA Hockey offered many of the area's children a chance to participate in an American Development Model clinic with a few NHL players and seven of the top draft-eligible prospects at St. Thomas Ice Arena on Thursday.
Top prospects Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
of Red Deer, Gabriel Landeskog
of Kitchener, Jonathan Huberdeau
of Saint John, Dougie Hamilton
of Niagara, Adam Larsson
of Skelleftea, Sean Couturier
of Drummondville and Seth Ambroz
of Omaha offered their assistance to about 50 children aged 6-8.
Several representatives from the Minnesota Wild
, including players Cal Clutterbuck
and Brad Staubitz
, and Toronto Maple Leafs
General Manager Brian Burke
were also on hand.
With USA Hockey's Red, White and Blue initiative, coaches can promote creativity among players, increase player involvement and create a positive environment to learn and play.
"The ADM is going to revolutionize how we develop hockey players in America," Burke told NHL.com. "I think people feel this system is geared toward developing players for us and that's not the case. The elite athletes will find their way to us and we'll find them. We want the program to develop hockey players for life. We want people to become proficient at the game, have fun at the game and play it for life.
"Those are the people who'll put their sons and daughters in hockey, watch it on TV," Burke continued. "We're trying to make the sport bigger and better."
The ADM includes shrinking the ice surface during practices during which players split up and rotate throughout six different stations to hone a specific set of skills -- forward/backward transition, partner pass with movement, acceleration puck toss, tight space and agility skate. It enables everyone to be involved and the more participating there is, the more likely those children will develop a passion for the game. Focusing on smaller areas allow kids more time with the puck and less time worrying about the technical aspects of the game such as positioning, staying in lanes or skating offsides.
Mike Snee, the executive director at Minnesota Hockey, undoubtedly takes great pride in the type of players the state has produced via the ADM model.
"Minnesota prides itself as being the state of hockey; we have more kids playing hockey than any other kids in the country," Snee told NHL.com. "We've had a lot of success with some of our higher end players being drafted in all rounds. It's inspiring for our young players to see neighbors and kids that went through the same association as them of being drafted in the NHL."
There were 18 Minnesotans, including first-round picks Derek Forbort
of Duluth, Nick Bjugstad
of Blaine and Brock Nelson
of Warroad, who were selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. There are 18 Minnesota natives rated by NHL Central Scouting for this year's draft.
"We think USA Hockey based a little bit, or a lot, of the ADM off what Minnesota has been doing for a long time," Snee said. "A number of our 160 associations have been implementing some sort of ADM program into their development models. The motion of having many kids on the ice at once and keeping them moving and having a multiple station practice that is not only fun, but better for development, has kind of been a part of Minnesota hockey and part of our community-based associations for quite a while. To see it being promoted nationwide as the official development model in the county is pretty special."
The top-rated Minnesotan at this year's draft is Ambroz, who just completed his third season with the Lancers in the United States Hockey League. According to NHL Central Scouting, Ambroz is rated No. 31 among North American skaters.
"Doing this ADM clinic is a lot of fun; anytime you get to help out kids, it's special," he said.
Landeskog and Larsson, who both trained in Sweden during the early stages of their career, saw many similarities between the ADM model and the instruction back home.
"I think there's a lot of skill development in Sweden, and they work on that a lot with the ADM clinic," Landeskog said. "Obviously, skating is a big part of the game and you need to be good at that. I think what USA Hockey is doing, is great. They mix in a lot of fun games and some fun drills so it makes it a lot easier to play.
"The (ADM) is a great program and it has a very bright future if they keep going like this; having the kids involved and NHL players and prospects out there helping out. It's nice to see the smiles on the kids' faces."
Said Larsson: "It was pretty much the same like we did back in Sweden, the same stuff on ice and off ice. It's good to start practicing at a young age; it's what you need to do to be a better hockey player."
Burke also had one final message to those parents of children wanting to give the sport a shot.
"They should have as much fun as their kids have and a lot of them don't," he told NHL.com. "Parents have to intercede if you see a crazy parent yelling at his kid, yelling at the referee. You have a duty to intervene and say 'OK enough, that's not how we do it here.'
"I coached my son, Patrick, in hockey and we had great experiences with the parents. We talked about it the first day of practice. I'd kick the kids out of practice and have the parents sit down and I'd tell them this is how we're going to it - no one is ever going to yell at their son, no one is ever going to yell at an official. We're going to have fun and we did it."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale