This weekend marks the 65th NHL All-Star Game, hosted by the Stanley Cup Champion, St. Louis Blues. Once again, in an effort to be both entertaining and relevant, the game will be comprised of three 3-on-3 matches (two semifinals and a final).
If ever there was any doubt that Junior hockey plays a significant role in the development of today’s professional hockey player; every single player in this weekend’s event played Junior hockey in their journey to the NHL. 100% of the players engaged in Junior hockey at some point, either in Canada, the United States or in Europe.
The pseudo-tourney will boast a total of 44 players. Most of which, participated in Major Junior Hockey in Canada. The OHL leads the way with a total of fourteen skaters playing on Saturday. In addition, the QMJHL contributes six players and the WHL follows with five players. Patrick Kane* (CHI), Matthew Tkachuk* (CGY), Mitch Marner (TOR) and John Carlson (WAS) put the OHL’s London Knights in the lead as the Junior team with the most graduates contributing, overall.
International Juniors added to the learning curve of eleven of this weekend’s All-stars. With the exception of Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Bruins’ David Pastrnak (who both skated with Södertälje SK of Sweden), all of the international players skated with different Junior organizations across Europe.
Eight of the weekend’s NHL’s elite played NCAA division 1 hockey. All of which played Junior hockey in the US system. Jack Eichel (BUF / USNTDP) and Brady Tkachuk (OTT / USNTDP) of Boston University tie with Max Pacioretty (VGS / SC Musketeers) and Quinn Hughes (VAN / USNTDP) of the University of Michigan for the schools with the most players entered. Jaccob Slavin of the Chicago Steel played with Colorado College before making his way to the top with the Carolina Hurricanes. Boston College’s Chris Kreider (NY Rangers) played Juniors with the Valley Jr. Warriors of the now defunct EJHL. Minding the net for the Western Central team and representing the Winnipeg Jets, Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) once tended goal for the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL. Prior to pairing with Jonathan Toews in 3 consecutive Frozen Four appearances at the University of North Dakota, 2017-18 Stanley Cup Champion T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals) skated with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL.
It stands to reason that Junior hockey is not only a necessary step in a player’s personal development, it is essential. If you are on the fence, in consideration of whether or not Junior hockey is right for you or your child, consider the players skating this weekend. Research their climb to the top. Regardless if your goal is collegiate or professional Hockey, Junior hockey is a vital part of the process.
Be sure to watch all of the weekend’s All-Star festivities beginning tonight on NBC Sports with the NHL All-Star Skills Competition live from St. Louis.
*Patrick Kane, Matthew Tkachuk and Seth Jones (CBJ) skated briefly with the USNTDP and John Carlson played with the Indiana Ice (dormant) of the USHL before joining the CHL.
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Michael Moore, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.