In the 18-year history of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Men's World Championship, the United States has skated away with 14 medals; nine of them gold. No other country has ever won the tournament more than three times.
What is the secret formula that keeps the United States on top?
“Preparedness, good training and a strong development program,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.
Members of Team USA celebrate after winning gold at the 2015 IIHF U18 Men's World Championship.
Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews are just two of the many success stories from the American development pipeline. Kane played for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program before going first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has won three Stanley Cups and last season became the first American to win the Hart Memorial Trophy; all before the age of 30.
Matthews, another first overall pick, won two gold medals at the U18 World Championship. He is currently in the midst of his first NHL season for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is a leading candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie. Team USA experience helped both of these players get to where they are today.
From their youth hockey days to being named to the U.S. roster for the U18 World Championship, the players spend countless hours together at development camps, club teams, junior teams in leagues such as the United States Hockey League.
“They’ve built these bonds and friendships and a brotherhood. At the end of the day there’s the camaraderie that really brings us together (at U18 Worlds),” said John Wroblewski, head coach of the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team..
For many of the players, the U18 Men's World Championship is not their first competition against international opponents. Each year there are typically three Under-17 events and two Under-18 tournaments that bring American players together.
“You always have those [tournaments] to look towards and build on,” said Wroblewski.
Having international competition under ones belt is beneficial for the players because those games have a different strategy and focus.
“The international game is really a different animal,” Wroblewski said. “When you put it on the Olympic ice there’s so much space. Line changes, puck placement and things of that nature become pivotal.”
On any U.S. roster, coaches like Wroblewski try to teach players more than hockey skills and strategy. He said players are challenged to grow off the ice as well.
“I think that a lot of the stuff I learned playing for Team USA I’ve been able to keep with me throughout my career and help me get to this point,” Compher said.
|April 7||Exhibition vs. Belarus||W, 5-2||Hodonin, Czech Republic|
|April 10||Exhibition vs. Finland||W, 5-2||ZS Spisska Nova Ves|
|April 13||Belarus||W, 7-0||ZS Spisska Nova Ves||NHL Network|
|April 15||Russia||W, 5-4||ZS Spisska Nova Ves||NHL Network|
|April 17||Czech Republic||W, 5-2||ZS Spisska Nova Ves||NHL Network|
|April 18||Sweden||W, 5-1||ZS Spisska Nova Ves||NHL Network|
|W, 4-2||ZS Spisska Nova Ves||NHL Network|
|W, 4-3 OT||ZS Poprad||NHL Network|
|April 23||Finland • Gold Medal Game||W, 4-2||ZS Poprad||NHL Network|