skip navigation

Every NHL Player from Minnesota Played HP

By Drew Herron, 03/19/24, 3:30PM CDT


Sixty-six Minnesotans played in the NHL last season. What do they all have in common other than growing up in the State of Hockey?

Every single one of them played in the CCM Minnesota Hockey Spring High Performance Program.

This winter, a record 233 Minnesotans are playing men’s Division I college hockey. The next closest state is Michigan (138), followed by Massachusetts (127) and New York (109).

Minnesota also leads the nation in women’s Division I players with 221, more than double the next-best state of Massachusetts (103), and more than quadruple the third-best producer, New York (52).

What it helps prove is that Minnesota’s non-profit community-based hockey model  is the most effective model at producing hockey players in the country, as well as with most of our provincial neighbors to the north

Next-Level Development, Right Here at Home

To keep the top talent here at home and develop itself against stiffening competition, Minnesota Hockey wanted something to offer developmentally so that players weren’t compelled to leave for someplace else in order to keep playing at a higher level and get noticed. 

That’s where the High Performance Program came to be.

“If you don’t want kids to leave, you’d better build a good mousetrap,” says Minnesota Hockey High Performance Director Mike MacMillan. “We’ve built that. You look at the scouting for the festival weekends starting at the 15s; it’s NHL teams, NHL Central Scouting, almost every college team, USHL, NAHL…everyone is coming there to watch it.”

Cast a Wider Net, Catch More Fish

Thirty years ago, when MacMillan was working as a coach at USA Hockey’s National Development Camps, he and a group of like-minded coaches began to question the process of how Minnesota players moved on to USA Hockey national camps and why Minnesota players were neck-and-neck with other states like Michigan, Massachusetts and New York in terms of producing high-end talent.

“We felt like being neck-and-neck wasn’t good enough,” says MacMillan, who is also USA Hockey’s National Coach-in-Chief. “And we looked at how we made the teams and the selection process, and it didn’t seem right. To just pick 30 kids from a big state like ours, we felt we could do it better, and that included involving more kids in the development process.”

A new development process was born — one that drove growth, fueled competition, and ultimately made Minnesota Hockey stronger. By the late 1990s, the boys’ programs were running strong, with teams divided by district or section as HP began to gain traction. 

In the early 2000s, as girls’ hockey began to grow, programs were added to match all levels and opportunities of the boys’ programs. It doubled the reach and brought in twice as many hockey players into higher-end opportunities here at home. 

“We wanted to provide for high school players who fall under the USA Hockey age class to move them through this process with the ultimate goal of moving the players on to the national festivals,” MacMillan said.

Must-See Hockey

A process was made to replace the selection process that was void of tryouts. This opened it up. 

Every spring, the High Performance Festivals host a hotbed of emerging talent, and everyone knows it. Scouts blanket the weekend, where Plymouth Ice Center and the HP 16 and HP 17 level is a particular place of interest and can’t-miss event for coaches and scouts.

It’s not an accident. Minnesota Hockey wanted to create an environment where hockey players played at home, and the scouts came to see them. Now, every spring, there is massive exposure as players work through their level.

“I think it brings a comfort level for players here to know they’re going to be taken care of in terms of development,” MacMillan said. “Practices and festivals playing with the best players in the state, not having to go anywhere.”

Proven Results

Starting at the 14U level, about 50 to 60 players per district tryout; 30 are selected to go through a 10-session development program; and 20 are selected for a team for a five-game evaluation to earn a spot at the National Development Camp in Amherst, N.Y.  

The process repeats at the 15U, 16U and 17U levels (the 18U team doesn’t try out) for both boys and girls, meaning that approximately 1,400 players get to experience some part of it. 

It’s become a fixture of Minnesota Hockey’s No. 1 community-based development model. Minnesota is no longer neck-and-neck; as MacMillan put it, “we’re producing the most players at the highest levels of hockey, and it’s not particularly close.”

“I am very proud we are No. 1 (in the country) in so many categories,” MacMillan says. “That was the goal, and I think we’ve achieved a platform that’s going to continue to grow, and the relationship between Minnesota and USA Hockey has gotten stronger because of it.”