NTDP, Russian style
NTDP, Russian style
U18 national team to be centralized in MHL
The United States have had tremendous success in the U18 World Championships thanks to their National Team Development Program (NTDP) with centralized U17 and U18 teams. Now Russia is planning to go a similar route for the upcoming season.
The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia (FHR) and the country’s cross-border junior league Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL) join forces by having a centralized U18 national team with the best players born in 1998 play together in the league in the 2015/2016 season.
The team will be based outside of Moscow in the Russian Athletes’ Training Base Novogorsk.
“It’s correct. It’s an idea we have already had before. It’s wonderful. The federation supports it,” then-Executive Director Valeri Fesyuk told championat.com back in the last season before the project was eventually confirmed during summer. “The idea stems from coach (Vitali) Prokhorov. It’s an interesting idea after the American experiences.”
The federation was working on implementing a centralized team before, but now it has the funding to make the project come true for at least two seasons.
“There were difficulties first. Don’t forget the international calendar. This is a priority,” he said, meaning that the U18 national team will also play in international tournaments with the selections from other countries as until now and they will only play against the U21 club teams of the MHL outside of the international breaks.
“One year ago, as instructed by the Ministry of Sport, I went to study the American example to provide recommendations. Now the decision is to establish a team,” former MHL Managing Director Dmitri Yefimov told sportbox.ru. “For the MHL it will be a pleasure to have the U18 national team and I can guarantee that we will create all conditions for this special team.”
One reason the Russians were looking at their American rivals was the country’s track record of success at the U18 level. USA Hockey implemented the National Team Development Program for the 1997/1998 season. Since winning the first U18 Worlds in 2002, the Americans have amassed 13 medals in 14 years including nine gold medals. 218 players who competed in the NHL have gone through the program and the Americans also harvested the fruits at the U20 level with five medals since 2004 including three World Junior titles.
The Russians on the other side had one of the worst seasons in U18 play with a 5-0 quarter-final loss against host Switzerland at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Only once did a Russian team end up worse than last season’s fifth-place finish. Improvement is inevitable.
Unlike the American model, the Russian project will keep the players together for one rather than two years. The best players from the class of 1998 will have the chance to play against fellow countrymen from club teams that are older than them, in order to get to the next level and develop team chemistry ahead of the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Grand Forks, United States. The same will happen one year later with 1999-born players, and maybe also two years later in 2018 when Russia will host the U18 Worlds in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk.
Since 2003 the class of 1998 has been coached by Vitali Prokhorov. The 48-year-old represented the Soviet Union in the 1991 Canada Cup, won gold at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games with the Unified Team consisting of athletes from most of the former Soviet republics and later also appeared in two IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships and 87 NHL games for the St. Louis Blues.
Last season the MHL included 71 teams from Russia, Austria, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova playing in two tiers including 39 in the top league. The league spanned even more time zones than the KHL covering nine time zones and 8,460 kilometres (5,260 miles) between Salzburg in Austria and the Pacific island of Sakhalin.
Although no schedule is announced yet, the numbers will be slightly shorter this season. Foreign teams were banned from the top-tier MHL except for the junior teams of the foreign KHL clubs who want to join, which means that one junior team each from Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan will compete.
Roster centralized Russian U18 national team
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