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Annual Showcase Shines Spotlight On Continued Growth Of The American Game

Back when the idea of staging an all-star game for the top draft eligible American players was little more than a glimmer in the eye of USA Hockey's Jim Johannson, he knew that above and beyond the hype and hoopla the basic premise of the event was quite simple.

"This game is about celebrating the American player," Johannson said prior to each of the six All-American Prospects Games he organized.

Even after his passing in 2018, Johannson's vision for the game carries on.

Despite a change in the name and format for this year's event, the BioSteel All-American Game, slated for Jan. 20 at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., will once again showcase the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL draft.

The new format this season will pit players from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program against a group of the best American-born players from the United States Hockey League, the lone Tier I junior league in the country.

And whether the event is held in Buffalo, N.Y., as it has on four occasions, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or St. Paul, Minn., the stars always come out to play before an appreciative crowd of rabid hockey fans and more than 150 NHL scouts looking for the next Seth Jones, Jack Eichel, or another member of the Tkachuk and Hughes family tree.

It's no surprise that so many talented prospects have used the game as a launching pad to their collegiate and NHL careers.

"This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids and you really never know who's going to shine or stand out," said Dan Marr, the NHL's director of central scouting.

Not only do scouts love the convenience of seeing so many top prospects on the same ice, the format also creates a melting pot of players from such diverse playing backgrounds as New England prep schools, Minnesota high schools, the United States Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League.

 "Eight or nine years ago you probably couldn't have played a game like this. But there are more kids playing and a lot more athletes getting involved in the game," said Mark Johnson, one of the many American legends who have taken a turn coaching the next generation of stars. 

"The wider the base becomes the more players you'll see at the top of the pyramid."

 

 

 

 

  • First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Top Picks:

-       Seth Jones (4th overall, Columbus Blue Jackets)

-       J.T. Compher (35th overall, Colorado Avalanche)

-       Will Butcher (123rd overall, New Jersey Devils)

-       Cal Petersen (129th, Ontario Reign)

  • Coaches: Rob McClanahan and Phil Housley
  • Final Score: Team McClanahan 5, Team Housley 2

  • Recap: Hudson Fasching, Seth Jones, Jacob Montgomery and Quentin Shore scored unanswered goals to lift Team McClanahan to victory. Evan Allen scored Team Housley's lone goal of the night, before Dakota Mermis sealed the victory in the inaugural contest.
  • They Said It: "It's a place to be seen. It's an opportunity for scouts to see you. This is going to be something a lot of kids will want to play in because of the scouting and how much fun it is." - J.T. Compher

 

 

 

 

  • CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh
  • Top Picks:

-       Dylan Larkin (15th overall, Detroit Red Wings)

-       Nick Schmaltz (20th overall, Arizona Coyotes)

-       Thatcher Demko (36th overall, Vancouver Canucks)

-       Alex Nedeljkovic (37th overall, Charlotte Checkers)

-       Anders Bjork (146th overall, Boston Bruins)

  • Coaches: Mark Johnson and Joe Mullen
  • Final Score: Team Johnson 5, Team Mullen 2

  • Recap: After a scoreless first period, Dylan Larkin capitalized on a Team Mullen turnover 37 seconds into the middle frame to stake Team Johnson to a lead it would not relinquish.
  • They Said It: "Eight or nine years ago you probably couldn't have held a game like this. There are more kids playing now and a lot more athletes getting involved in the game. You saw a lot of talented kids playing tonight and it won't be long until they have NHL jerseys on and getting paid to play." - Mark Johnson

 

 

 

 

  • First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Top Picks:

-       Jack Eichel (2nd overall, Buffalo Sabres)

-       Noah Hanifin (5th overall, Calgary Flames)

-       Zach Werenski (8th overall, Columbus Blue Jackets)

-       Brock Boeser (23rd overall, Vancouver Canucks)

  • Coaches: Mike Grier and Eddie Olczyk
  • Final Score: Team Grier 6, Team Olczyk 3

  • Recap: Jack Eichel lived up to the hype by scoring a goal and an assist to earn MVP honors. Eichel's efforts helped him become the highest-ever drafted AAPG alumni (prior to Jack Hughes). Other alumni from this game included 2018 NHL All-Star Game MVP Brock Boeser and 2017 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist Zach Werenski. An AAPG-record 28 players from this game went on to become NHL Draft selections.
  • They Said It: "It was an unbelievable event and a great kickoff to my season with college just starting at the beginning of October. It was a good way to begin my year and get some exposure." - Jack Eichel

 

 

 

 

  • First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Top Picks:

-       Matthew Tkachuk (6th overall, Calgary Flames)

-       Clayton Keller (7th overall, Arizona Coyotes)

-       Charlie McAvoy (14th overall, Boston Bruins)

-       Luke Kunin (15th overall, Minnesota Wild)

-       Alex DeBrincat (39th overall, Chicago Blackhawks)

-       Adam Fox (66th overall, N.Y. Rangers)

  • Coaches: Derek Plante and Jeremy Roenick
  • Final Score: Team Plante 6, Team Roenick 4

  • Recap: Luke Kunin opened the scoring for Team Roenick just 10 seconds after the puck dropped. Matthew Tkachuk and Kunin also scored a pair of tallies 10 seconds apart, the quickest by one team in AAPG history. Despite the early surge, it was Team Plante that would finish victorious thanks to McInnis' go-ahead goal.
  • They Said It: "When you're down that low [to the ice] and you see their speed and their explosiveness, it was really impressive. These kids today, they've been bred to be winner and champions and great hockey players and you could tell tonight they wanted to put on a show." - Jeremy Roenick

 

 

 

 

  • Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
  • Top Picks:

-       Casey Mittelstadt (8th overall, Buffalo Sabres)

-       Ryan Poehling (25th overall, Montreal Canadiens)

-       Jake Oettinger (26th overall, Texas Stars)

-       Evan Barratt (90th overall, Penn State)

-       Cayden Primeau (199th overall, Laval Rocket)

  • Coaches: John LeClair and Mark Howe
  • Final Score: Team LeClair 6, Team Howe 4

  • Recap: Grant Mismash scored for Team LeClair just 1:43 into the game, and the goaltending tandem of Jake Oettinger and Cayden Primeau stopped 29 of 33 shots to secure the win. Minnesota prep star Casey Middelstadt kept the game close with a pair of goals for Team Howe.
  • They Said It: "I was encouraged by the ability, talent and drive of all these kids. It's a great honor to be a part of this event, meet these kids, and see them go off to have great careers in the NHL and with USA Hockey." - Mark Howe

 

 

 

 

  • Keybank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Top Picks:

-       Brady Tkachuk (4th overall, Ottawa Senators)

-       Quinn Hughes (7th overall, Vancouver Canucks)

-       Joel Farabee (14th overall, Philadelphia Flyers)

-       K'Andre Miller (22nd overall, Univ. of Wisconsin)

  • Coaches: Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch
  • Final Score: Team Leetch 6, Team Chelios 5

  • Recap: Jake Pivonka opened the scoring as Team Leetch jumped out to 5-2 lead before Team Chelios roared back with three goals to tie the game. Brady Tkachuk potted the game-winner with just over five minutes remaining to earn Player of the Game honors.
  • They Said It: "These kids know they're right there, knocking at the door. They see all their buddies making it to the NHL so I'm sure they're just chomping at the bit to go out and have a good game because you never know who's watching." - Chris Chelios

 

 

 

 

  • Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Top Picks:

-       Jack Hughes (1st overall, NJ Devils)

-       Alex Turcotte (5th overall, Univ. of Wisconsin)

-       Trevor Zegras (9th overall, Boston Univ.)

-       Cam York (14th overall, Univ. of Michigan)

-       Cole Caufield (15th overall, Univ. of Wisconsin)

  • Coaches: Jamie Langenbrunner and Jordan Leopold
  • Final Score: Team Langenbrunner 6, Team Leopold 4

  • Recap: Despite the hype surrounding eventual No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, it was his NTDP teammates Trevor Zegras and Matt Boldy who stole the show. Boldy scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 1:07 left in regulation, and Zegras netted the game-winning goal with 35 seconds remaining. The 7th annual AAPG was a back-and-forth affair that saw Team Leopold take a 4-2 lead early in the third before Team Langenbrunner scored four unanswered goals.
  • They Said It: "Guys like Jeff Jackson, Bob Mancini and Jim Johannson really changed the landscape of where we are today with the gold medals internationally and guys in the NHL. I was on the forefront of it, and while I didn't experience the success of these guys now, I'm quite proud that we are to the place we are today." - Jordan Leopold

 

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2020-01

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