2022 National Championship: Shades Of Things To Come

Future Stars Take Aim At National Championship With An Eye On NTDP Careers


The one-time home to some of the brightest stars in the game, USA Hockey Arena has been a launching pad for the careers of standout players like Auston Matthews, Spencer Knight and Trevor Zegras.

More than just the home of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, the Plymouth, Mich., based arena has also hosted some of the top teams in the nation at the 15 Only division at several past Chipotle USA Hockey National Championships.

This year’s tournament offered a sneak peek at the next class of American stars who spent the week before Nationals showcasing their talents at an NTDP evaluation camp. And for a select group it was a chance to get the feel of what it will be like next season when they set their hockey careers in motion as members of the U.S. Under-17 National Team.

Any time the top players in the country face off with the same goal in mind, whether it’s a spot on the NTDP roster or winning a USA Hockey national championship, it’s sure to bring out the best in these young athletes.

That was the case for 10 players who were playing their final youth hockey game before making the jump to the next level. Among them were Chicago Mission teammates Charles Pardue and Nicholas Kempf, Austin Baker and Lucas VanVliet of Little Caesars, Rhode Island Saints James Hagens and John Parsons, and four members of Shattuck St. Mary’s Brodie Ziemer, John Whipple, Kristian Epperson and Noah Lapointe.

 “There was a competitive nature here,” Pardue said. “It’s the top-50 American kids who are all competing for a spot on the team, so it was definitely competitive. It was a hard week, probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while, but I thought it prepped me really well for where I’m at today.”

Having spent the previous week skating on the USA Hockey Arena ice and becoming familiar with the state-of-the-art facilities, Pardue and crew may have had a leg up on the competition when the puck dropped.

 “I had just spent a week here,” Pardue said following the evaluation camp. “So, coming back and knowing a bit more of the ins and outs of the rink, I think maybe there might be a little bit of an advantage.”

Judging from the stat sheet, that appeared to be the case as four of the top 10 scorers, including Ziemer, who led the pack with 11 points, will suit up for the NTDP next season.

Pardue helped lead the Mission to the national title with five goals and five assists and tied for second-best of the tournament. Most notably in the semifinal round, the Winnetka, Ill., resident produced on all six of Mission’s goals with four of his own and two assists to help advance his team to the final.

“It’s quite the experience,” Pardue said after his team skated past Shattuck, 4-1, in the championship game. “Getting to play here at the USA Hockey Arena for a national championship with my brothers here at the Mission, it’s the best feeling ever. It was tough, but it was a good experience for everyone.”

Michael Reedy is the 2021-22 Brian Fishman Fellow.


photo by PDQ All Star Photography


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