The 2013 Entry Draft is still over a year away, but the top US-born prospects for that draft will be looking forward to an event that will take place nine months earlier that could help shape their professional careers.
USA Hockey announced today it will stage the first-ever All-American Prospects Game on September 29 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. The All-American Prospects Game will include 40 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft.CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS!
"It's a concept we've been talking about for a couple of years and we're excited to bring it to life in partnership with the Buffalo Sabres," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "The talent level on the First Niagara Center ice on September 29 will be exceptional. We view this game as an opportunity to gain additional exposure for hockey and help influence growth of the sport through showcasing the future stars of the game."
"We're extremely pleased to have this inaugural event come to Buffalo," said Ted Black, president of the Buffalo Sabres. "We have a tremendous working relationship with USA Hockey and I know our fans will embrace the All-American Prospects Game."
Black added: "It’ll be a wonderful event for us. It’s really about an investment in a relationship we have with USA Hockey, and with hockey in general. It’s not about selling an extra hot dog or an extra ticket. It’s about providing these types of opportunities to the city, and to elite hockey players, and to hockey in general. It’s really about promoting hockey, and promoting Buffalo as a hockey destination to keep it top of mind from the professional player and all the way down."
USA Hockey expects to announce the players selected to compete in the game in late June or early July. The selection process will be fine tuned over the coming weeks, using individuals from both USA Hockey's operations staff and NHL Central Scouting. Under the current structure, players born between Jan. 1, 1993 and Sept. 14, 1995, will be eligible to be selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
"Players will come from junior hockey and college hockey, as well as the high school and prep school ranks," said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. "We'll be in contact with NHL Central Scouting as we build the final list of players invited to compete in this inaugural event."NHL.com News: Defenseman Seth Jones could be centerpiece of prospects game
Ogrean said the early season was date was chosen for the event because "the least disruptive time to do this was at the start of the season." Holding the game in the spring or even closer to the NHL Draft could potentially conflict with junior hockey playoffs or NCAA championships, and Ogrean said it wouldn't be fair to any teams to have their players taken away from them at a crucial time of the season.
Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe
is a product of USA Hockey's development program, and he understands what a unique event this will be for all involved.
"It’s an awesome opportunity for the players. Also for the players to get to know each other while they are here," Gerbe explained. "I was fortunate to be part of the Development Team for two and a half years, so I’ve seen a lot of the really good US players come up like Patrick Kane, Jack Johnson and Phil Kessel. I was fortunate enough to see that, but now everyone gets to come together and see what all these kids are really made of."
Johannson noted more information will be forthcoming, including how the teams will be divided and who will be selected to coach the teams. NOTES: Of the first 40 Americans selected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 17 came from the United States Hockey League; seven were from U.S. high/prep schools; six played U.S. college hockey; six came from the Ontario Hockey League; four played in the Western Hockey League; and one competed in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.