This weekend the Spartan hockey team will not be playing any B1G games. In fact the Spartans only play one game this weekend, an exhibition game against the U.S. National Team Development Program. The NTDP is consisted of some of the best players across the nation and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The National Development Program consists of a U-17 and U-18 roster. The U-17 team competes in the USHL Junior A league and participates in three international tournaments. The U-18 team that the Spartans will play on Saturday plays a schedule consisting of USHL teams, Division 1 and 3 college teams and three international tournaments.
The U.S. National Program was developed in 1996 to create a development model that kept top American players home and would create a more fluid development for rosters for tournaments such as the Olympics. The National Program in only it's 17 seasons can boast having some of the best talent in the NHL as alumni, including Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane and former Michigan Wolverine Jack Johnson.
The Spartans are only 3-5 against the NTDP in their series history and lost to the U18's last seaon 3-0. Granted none of those players are still a part of the U18 but there is more than a good chance that the Spartans are in for all they can handle this weekend. The NTDP is 4-7 against Division 1 programs this season with victories over Bowling Greem, Michigan, Miami and Lake Superior State.
|Team USA||vs||Michigan State Spartans|
|4.02||Goals Per Game||2.10|
|2.68||Goals Against Per Game||2.35|
|24.2%||Power Play Percentage||12.6%|
|81.9%||Penalty Kill Percentage||79.3%|
|Sonny Milano (18G, 43A= 61 pts)||Leading Scorer||Greg Wolfe (11G, 12A= 23 pts)|
|Ed Minney 15-8-1 .906 save%||Goaltender||Jake Hildebrand 8-13-7 .931 save %|
Coach: The NTDP is led by coach Danton Cole. Cole played his college hockey at Michigan State from 1985-89 and was a part of the National Championship in 1986 registering 21 points as a freshman. Upon completion of his playing career Cole became a coach in both the UHL (winning a league championship with Muskegon) and the AHL as the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Cole became a college head coach for the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. Cole left the program when it looked like they may get rid of hockey (they now play in the WCHA) and has been the leader of the NTDP for 4 seasons. Cole was a popular pick to replace Rick Comley (present company included) and if Anastos were to be let go anytime soon would probably be a leader to replace him.
Players To Watch: For Spartan fans they will be most excited to see goaltender Edwin Minney and forward Dylan Pavelek. Both of these players are committed to play for the Spartans next season. Outside of those two players forwards Jack Eichel (Boston University), Sonny Milano (Boston College) and Dylan Larkin (Michigan) will be guys to pay attention to.
Around The B1G: Wisconsin is off this weekend. Penn State will travel to Minnesota to play the Gophers and Michigan and Ohio State play a pair.
Josh Jacobs (D, Indiana Ice)- Jacobs has had an outstanding season with the Indiana Ice in the USHL. The Ice finished in last place in the Eastern Conference a year ago and this year have turned around to be first in the conference with a 30-8-7 record. Jacobs has been a huge part of that turn-around with 19 points and a +24 rating. Jacobs has picked up steam as a NHL prospect getting featured by The Hockey News and being rated as the 41st North American skater in the NHL Central Scouting Service midterm rankings.
Edwin Minney (G, US NTDP)- Minney and Jacobs are definitely the two headliners of this recruiting class. If it wasn't for the Spartans already having a great goaltender in Jake Hildebrand, it is likely that Minney would be the most exciting recruit coming to East Lansing next fall. Minney is a 6'4" goaltender who uses his size well and is sound positionally already as an 18 year old. Minney was featured in this interview with The Hockey Writers. Minney was rated as the 2nd best goaltender in North America in the NHL CSS midterm rankings, behind only current Boston College freshman Thatcher Demko. Minney has signed his letter of intent and will be on campus this weekend for the exhibition game versus the Spartans.
Dylan Pavelek (F, US NTDP)- Pavelek is the 6th and most recent commitment to this recruiting class. Pavelek has 10 goals and 16 points in 43 games with the NTDP this season. Pavelek was originally an Ohio State commit but opened his commitment up after the Buckeyes let go of coach Mark Osiecki. Pavelek is 5'11" and 190 pounds and will be expected to come in next year and contribute some depth scoring for the Spartans, who as constantly mentioned here have a problem scoring consistently.
Cody Milan (F, Tri-City Storm)- Milan has had a struggle this season in the USHL as he was traded from the Sioux Falls Stampede to the the Tri-City Storm. Milan has only 3 points in 34 games between the two teams and you can learn a little more about Milan in this Q&A here. Milan will be a depth player next fall for the Spartans and is probably a little more of a long term development than the three players listed above. Don't sleep on Milan though as he reminds me of current Spartan Mike Ferrantino, a smaller physical forward who can use his hands well and make great plays. Milan was in the NHL CSS rankings earlier in the season but did not appear in the midterm rankings.
Marcel Godbout (F, Des Moines Buccaneers)- Godbout is 4th on his team in scoring with 10 goals and 20 points for the Buccaneers. Godbout has been my favorite under the radar Spartan commit from this class,as I think he will contribute right away, even though he isn't receiving the attention like Jacobs or Minney. Much like Michigan State this season, Des Moines has struggled to score goals yet Godbout has been one of the best contributors on the team. He has a great shot and above average hands and will be a strong player on the 2nd or 3rd line next season.
Go to 1:34 to see a beautiful goal from Godbout
Sauce Hockey Top Plays of Week 16 (via USHLinteractive)
Carson Gatt (D, Muskegon Lumberjacks)- Gatt has been a pretty steady defenseman for the Lumberjacks who sit in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference of the USHL. Gatt is the younger brother of current Spartan defenseman Nickolas, who is graduating this season after transferring from Alabama Huntsville. Gatt has 5 goals and 13 points and could provide a spark for the Spartans from the blue line, an area that has severely lacked since Torey Krug graduated.