MUSKEGON - If you're going to clear the calendar to make sure you catch a fast-paced hockey game, this Saturday's the time.
West Michigan will be in for a treat when the Team USA NTDP U18 squad takes on the host Muskegon Lumberjacks Saturday at 7:15 at L.C. Walker Arena.
Nowhere else will you be able to see so many top NHL draft picks and future NHL stars on the ice at once.
Leading the way for the talent-laded Team USA is Jack Hughes, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound savant who is expected to be the top pick in the 2019 NHL draft. Hughes tallied 12 points, including five goals, in the International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Men's World Championship on his way to best forward and most valuable player honors.
Hughes is just one of six A-rated skaters, or likely first-round draft picks, who will hit the ice for Team USA. The other five include Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Alex Vlasic (cousin of NHL defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic) and Cam York.
Future 2nd-3rd round draft picks for Team USA include Marshall Warren, Cameron Rowe and John Beecher. Most of the rest of the team is rated "C" skaters, or those projected to go in the 4th, 5th, or 6th rounds.
The talented Team USA squad will face a Lumberjacks team on a roll, led by potential 2020 NHL first-round pick Danil Gushchin and newly acquired Igor Larionov II, the son of the Detroit Red Wings Hall-of-Famer.
It's an intriguing battle to see if the 7-0 Lumberjacks, who have been the embodiment of team play so far this USHL regular season, can slow down the talent of a NTDP squad which is good enough to beat NCAA Division 1 teams such as No. 2 Notre Dame.