ARLINGTON, VA. – When CONSOL Energy Center opened in September 2010, Penguins management promised to bring high-profile events to their new home.
Since then, hockey fans in Pittsburgh have been fortunate to host the 2012 NHL Draft last June, the 2013 Frozen Four and the Three Rivers Classic college hockey tournament featuring local Division I men’s hockey programs Robert Morris University and Penn State University.
Another top attraction will make its way to town next month when the CCM / USA Hockey All-American Prospect Game is held on September 26 at CONSOL Energy Center.
That night 40 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft will take the ice in Pittsburgh for the second annual Top Prospects Game.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who was in Arlington, Virginia on Monday morning for the United States Olympic orientation camp when the roster for the CCM / USA Hockey All-American Prospect Game was released, spoke about how hosting this particular event is another opportunity to show what a hockey town Pittsburgh has become, while at the same time serving as further inspiration for youth hockey players across the region.
“In Pittsburgh, we have had the opportunity the past couple years to have events like the NCAA Frozen Four,” Shero said. “We also hosted the Tier-1 Nationals at Robert Morris University last spring. In 2012, the Penguins hosted the NHL Draft. Finally, we are hosting a college hockey tournament at CONSOL Energy Center around Christmas. There is a lot going on in city of Pittsburgh.
“The Penguins have done a fantastic job youth-hockey wise growing the game at the grassroots level in Pittsburgh with David Morehouse, our CEO, and Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, our owners. The opportunity to host this game with these 40 players is exciting to us.”
The CCM / USA Hockey All-American Prospect Game is one of the first opportunities of the young season for the top American talents to showcase their skills to NHL scouts.
Last year’s inaugural game was played in Buffalo, New York. Team McClanahan defeated Team Housley by a 5-2 count.
Among the players that donned the red, white and blue that night was defenseman Seth Jones, who was recently selected by the Nashville Predators with the sixth-overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft.
“That was an awesome game last year,” said Jones, who despite having yet to play in the NHL was among the 48 players invited to Arlington for the Olympic orientation camp. “I had a great time in the game. It was very competitive. USA Hockey put on a great event. The fans at that game were awesome.”
This year’s roster features several players who are currently rated as potential 2014 first-round draft picks. Leading the way is forward Blake Clarke, who will skate for the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2013-14, Jack Glover, a defenseman on the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 squad and center Nick Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). All three are ranked among the top-21 prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft by Red Line Report, an independent scouting service.
Of the 40 players invited to participate, a total of 17 were ranked among the top 100 players eligible for the 2014 draft by Red Line Report.
Penguins fans should be very familiar with the two men who will be behind the bench on Sept. 26 – United States Hockey Hall of Famers Joe Mullen and Mark Johnson.
Mullen, currently an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, was a member of the Penguins’ 1991 and ’92 Stanley Cup championship squads and was the first-ever American-born player to reach the 500-goal plateau. Johnson, the son of legendary head coach ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson, was one of the heroes of the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ team in Lake Placid.
Shero believes each of the players invited to play in this game will benefit from being around two of the greatest Americans to ever lace up the skates.
“This is a chance for these prospects to be coached by guys like Joe Mullen, a hockey Hall of Famer and also, Mark Johnson, a former Penguin and 1980 gold medal winner,” Shero said. “Looking back when I was in prep school, (Mark Johnson) was Magic Johnson before there was Magic Johnson.
“To welcome Joe and Mark back is a great thing for us.”
For the complete roster, click here. For more information or to purchase tickets to the event, visit AllAmericanProspectsGame.com.