Scott Monaghan, an official with the National Team Development Program, said Wednesday the program “wasn’t thrilled” with the idea of the USHL introducing its tender system but realizes the objective to strengthen the league as a whole.
The new system allows USHL clubs to acquire what are considered to be the elite 15-year-old players in America a year early in the hopes of recruiting players and keeping them from going the Major Junior route or choosing the NTDP, which is said to be the best program for top American players, as an option.
Fargo became the first franchise to use the system with the team signing defenseman Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) on Monday. Green Bay, on Wednesday, followed suit by signing forward Brendan Lemieux (North Dakota) for next season.
USHL Commissioner Skip Prince said in late December the system was created to allow USHL clubs to compete with the CHL and the NTDP but the program was not designed to be an, “anti-NTDP effort.”
Monaghan, who is the senior director of operations for the NTDP, said even if a player signs a tender, the option is still there for the player to accept an invite from the NTDP. He said doing that, however, puts the player in a tough choice when it comes to honoring a commitment.
“In the big picture, we want to have the best 22 kids,” Monaghan said. “There are going to be some kids in our program who are going to get passed up by guys we didn’t select and that’s because the (USHL) and its teams are doing a good job in developing players. Overall, we weren’t thrilled about it, but we understand they are doing this to augment player development and the bigger push is trying to salvage kids from going north of the border.”
Monaghan said as the league was creating the tender process, the NTDP was made aware of what was going on.
Even Monaghan said the NTDP is a “different animal” compared to other USHL teams. Though the NTDP does get a chance to select the nation’s top incoming talent, it is hindered by other problems other USHL teams don’t face.
The NTDP cannot make trades and players can only stay in the program for two seasons before aging out whereas players can stick with a regular USHL team until they are 20 or in some cases, 21 years old.
Another thing which makes the NTDP so different is their schedule. Both the U-17 and U-18 teams play a USHL schedule but it is also littered with international competition. Or in the U-18’s case, they face college teams in exhibition games.
“We try to stress to them winning games in the domestic schedule is important,” he said. “But it is never to bypass the concept of developing them whether its putting them in a position to score goals, running the power play or getting everyone an equal amount of ice time.”
Another point he made was whether a player goes to the NTDP or another team in the USHL, the goal should be to educate someone on the options they have.
Monaghan said the NTDP, which interacts with 13 and 14-year-olds, often talks about how if a kid does not get invited to the program they’ll still receive good development playing in the USHL.
The NTDP is now in the final year of its three-year deal with the USHL. Monaghan was asked if the NTDP will be part of the USHL fold for next season.
“That’s a Skip Prince question, but I believe we are going to continue going forward with the league,” he said. “Overall, we are happy with it and it is a good thing for us and a good thing for the league. It has raised visibility for the league and it has drawn scouts. On a Friday night when our U-18s play against USHL teams, they are getting exposed to 30 to 40 college and pro scouts. We might be in a goofy, little community rink but at the end of the day, it is about getting kids exposed and that has been very valuable for the league.”