What is the USNTDP and What Makes it Special?

The United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) is widely considered home for top amateur level American talent to develop and grow into elite level ice hockey players.

Based out of Plymouth, Under-17 (U17) and Under-18 players are scouted and tracked two years prior to joining the program. At the end of the two year scouting process, top players are invited to USA Hockey Arena (originally known as the Compuware Arena in Plymouth), to participate in an evaluation camp.

It is at the camp where 22 players from the invitees will be selected to form the Under-17 Roster. Meanwhile the previous Under-17 roster is made into the Under-18 team as the program graduates go on to compete in college or the NHL.

The USNTDP consists of two teams, the U17s and the U18s. The U17s compete in the United States Hockey League, along with international competition. While the U18s compete against NCAA Division I competition, Division III competition, USHL teams, and international competition.

In regards to what makes the program unique, the program has several key aspects that stand out and exemplify why the program succeeds in producing and harnessing top level talent.

(Image Credit: USNTDP)

Development of Tenacity

One key highlight of the USNTDP program is how it teaches players to be tenacious. The scheduling is rigorous, as mentioned by the amount of games that players need to compete in. Even though the schedule is split up, players are competing alongside one another against many different oppositions on a regular basis.

It must also be stated that the USNTDP players are at a age disadvantage given how NCAA, and USHL teams are comprised of older players. What this means is that there is a major age disadvantage, given the bodily maturity of the players.

Focus on Development

The main feature of the program is to key in on the development of young elite American talent. The program is aware of the challenges of facing older and more developed players, but the goal instead is to focus on development.

The USNTDP uses USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) as a key outlook on the development of the players within the program. The development system is meant to focus on key aspects of the game such as technical skill, tactical awareness, physicality, and the psychological aspect. These four pillars are the principles of the program and are meant to be instilled in everyone participating under the USA Hockey banner.

In the program, there is the principle of development of these four pillars, over winning games. Although the program does strive to have the teams be performing at the highest level, especially at international events, progress is the key goal of the program and success is not determined by wins and losses.

(Image Credit:NHL)


One final aspect of the program that stands out like no other is the idea of commitment. When a player accepts to be part of the USNTDP program, they form a relationship with a team that goes both ways.

No player who is part of the USNTDP can be traded from the program (to another USHL team), or be cut from the program.

At a young age, the players endure struggle and in some cases leave their families at home. This could lead to struggling performances on the ice. However, the program recognizes this and understands the situations.

With the commitment of the program, players can focus on the development of their talents, rather than worrying about losing their spot on the program.

(Image Credit: NHL)

In conclusion the USNTDP program is one of the finest talent development programs in sports. Through the values it promotes, and the unique structure, American players are developing at a faster rate and specifically USNTDP alumni are succeeding at the highest level of the sport.

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