Just hours before the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the New York Islanders Tuesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA, a press conference was held to announce that the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh would host the second annual USA Hockey/CCM All-American Prospects Game.
Making the announcement was Dave Ogrean, the Executive Director of USA Hockey, a man who has been involved with that organization since 1978.
“The second annual USA Hockey/CCM All-American Prospects Game will be held here at the CONSOL Energy Center here on September 26th,” said Ogrean. “This is a new event as of just a few months ago. It showcases 40-plus of the very best American prospects, all of whom will be eligible for the NHL Draft in that following June.”
The inaugural USA Hockey/CCM All-American Prospects Game was held in September at the First Niagara Center, the home to the Buffalo Sabres, and among the prospects present at the event was Seth Jones, a potential first overall pick for the 2013 NHL Draft.
Jim Johannson, the Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations for USA Hockey, said that the event provides an important development opportunity for young players.
“The game itself last year, we had about 150 scouts at it,” said Johannson. “I think for the players that are aspiring to get to the NHL, to be able to come into an NHL building adds to the notoriety, the heightened awareness to the players. To know that the world is watching…and to be in a building that they hope to play in as they rise up the ranks in their games.”
Johannson envisions the event as something that takes place in different American hockey markets every year and has the sole focus of celebrating the American hockey player.
“The All American Prospects Game…in the end for us it is about the celebration of the American player,” Johannson said. “The evolution as players have risen up the ranks within the professional ranks certainly, but we didn’t have something to (specifically) celebrate the American player, and that really is what this event is all about.”
The decision to hold the tournament in Pittsburgh this year was apparently not a difficult one for USA Hockey.
Ogrean credited the overall growth of the sport in the region, but also went on to mention the success of recent Pittsburgh products John Gibson (ANA), Vince Trocheck (FLA), and J.T. Miller (NYR), all of whom were integral in the USA’s recent gold medal victory at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
“This city has become such a tremendous hockey market since the Penguins franchise was planted in 1967,” Ogrean said. “Credit goes to the Penguins for the model they set for engagement with this community at all levels, from the youth programs all the way up, and especially with what they are going to be doing with USA Hockey this fall and in the years to come”
Ogrean also cited a concerted effort in recent years by the Penguins and their CEO/President David Morehouse to bring in as many high profile hockey events to Pittsburgh as possible, including the 2012 NHL Draft last summer, and the upcoming 2013 Frozen Four in April.
“I think this is all a cascading strategy the Penguins and Dave Morehouse have,” said Ogrean.” It really is setting the example and setting the bar that we hope more and more cities in the United States are going to emulate in terms of their engagement with the amateur hockey community.”
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