For NHL scouts, the Five Nations tournament in November was intriguing.
No scout had seen players on the draft-eligible U.S. Under-18 team face their own age group in 18 months. Last season all of the international Under-17 team events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, so their only job was against former USA Hockey League teams.
One guy in particular caught the attention of everyone in Switzerland at the Five Nations – Grand Forks native Cole Spicer.
Spicer was tied for second in tournament scoring with seven points in four games. He was just one point behind leader Rutger McGroarty, a draft pick in the first round draft.
It was eye-catching for a guy who had just eight points all last season.
But a closer look explains Spicer’s emergence this season with the United States Under-18 team.
A year ago, Spicer had constant setbacks. He spent 24 days in quarantine just before the start of the year. He was found to be close contact with a positive COVID-19 case and spent 14 days in quarantine. On the day of his release, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was returned to quarantine for an additional 10 days.
After playing for just over a month, Spicer had to undergo a hernia operation, which kept him out of the roster for another two months.
“For any kid that comes here it’s a huge leap,” said United States Under-18 coach Adam Nightingale. âIt’s not that the levels they’re from aren’t good, you just skip a few levels and jump straight into the USHL. It’s a tough league. On top of that, Cole had the double lockdown on COVID. . He hasn’t been able to go out on the ice and do some things. This year he’s healthy for the most part and that’s why he’s having a better year. We always thought he was. was a very good player.
UND will have the chance to see this firsthand on Saturday.
Spicer and the United States Under-18 team will face the UND at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday at 2:37 p.m. in an exhibition game.
This will be the first time Spicer has played at Grand Forks since February 2019, when he averaged one point per game as a rookie helping Grand Forks Central to a perfect 25-0-0 season and championship championship. ‘State.
Spicer played for Michigan’s Honeybaked program in his second year and the last two with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Michigan.
âObviously, I’m pretty excited,â Spicer said. âI grew up there. I made a commitment to play hockey there. I just signed my NLI (National Letter of Intent). I am delighted and hope a lot of family and friends will be there. It should be a cool experience. “
Spicer said he’s tentatively scheduled to come to UND next season, but he acknowledged that could change. He’ll likely be a mid-round pick in the NHL Draft this summer.
In the meantime, he continues to show why he is one of America’s best players born in 2004. Spicer, who has mostly played center this season, has 18 points in 25 games.
âHe’s a very smart player,â Nightingale said. âHe makes the guys around him better. He can play center or wing. He’s got good hands and a good stick, but I think his hockey sense is what really makes him a good player.
The 5-11, 174-pound Spicer played along the power-play goal line for the U18s. Nightingale believes Spicer will eventually become a power player at the college level as well.
âHe’s ready to go into tough spots,â Nightingale said. âHe can see the ice very well. He did a good job here. He had a good summer. the power play guy. He can kill penalties. He is intelligent. North Dakota should be excited to have it. “
Spicer said he spent the past summer in Grand Forks working on his strength and recovery from surgery.
âI worked a lot with a coach and a coach on the ice,â he said. “We did a lot of things specifically for my hernia – strengthening and movement. I got my stride back to normal.”
Spicer is quite familiar with a few players on the UND roster. In fact, he spent the Christmas holidays skating with UND’s Judd Caulfield and Kaleb Johnson, also former Central players.
âHe’s going to have a surge of energy,â Nightingale said. âIt’s pretty cool that we can do that. When all is said and done, we’re playing 19 varsity games this season. North Dakota is going to have a kid that’s basically two-thirds of its way through its freshman year. bodes well for him to step in and help them. “
UND vs. United States Under-18 Team
When: 2:37 p.m. Saturday.
Or: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
To note : Grand Forks native Cole Spicer and future UND forward plays for the United States Under-18 team.
UND NTDP rookies who played against the future team
January 1, 2022 – Cole Spicer
December 28, 2019 – Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven (in Plymouth, Michigan)
December 29, 2018 – Judd Caulfield
December 30, 2017 – Gavin Hain
January 3, 2015 – Shane Gersich
October 26, 2013 – Shane Gersich
Oct.12, 2012 – Gage Ausmus, Keaton Thompson
Dec. 19, 2008 – Nick Mattson