In the fall of 1999, when the Carolina Hurricanes arrived at their permanent home in Raleigh, Glen Wesley shared the ice with a young teammate, David Tanabe, who was only two years removed from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Last week, Wesley’s son Josh accepted an offer to join the NTDP, the same Josh who skated around the arena with his father when Wesley’s No. 2 was retired three years ago.
“It does, it does,” said Glen Wesley, now a front-office executive with the Hurricanes.
The NTDP, a residential program in Ann Arbor, Mich., designed to groom 16- and 17-year-olds for international play, attracts the top U.S. players.
College and NHL scouts alike swarm over the NTDP, looking for the blue-chip recruits and first-round draft picks of the future. The NTDP provides the backbone of the U.S. under-17 and under-18 teams that compete internationally.
“It’s a huge honor for me, just growing up looking at the USA Hockey magazines and being a kid, looking at Team USA,” Josh Wesley said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be there. It’s a huge honor for me.”
Wesley will be the first North Carolina player to join the NTDP, yet another milestone for the growth of hockey in the Triangle, yet another contender joining the race to be the first player raised in North Carolina to be drafted in the NHL.
North Dakota-bound defenseman Charlie Pelnik still has the best shot in 2013. Red Line Report, an independent scouting service, has Pelnik ranked in the 70-90 range now, but chief scout Kyle Woodlief said he could move into the second round with a good season.
Two North Carolina players in the U.S. Hockey League – forward Bryan Moore (Matthews) and defenseman Trevor Owens (Raleigh) – were on the NHL’s preseason watch list for June’s draft but weren’t ranked among the top 210 North American skaters at midseason. Wesley will be eligible in 2014.
Wesley was one of three Triangle players who were invited to try out for the team, joining forward Laythe Jadallah, who played at a prep school in Connecticut this season, and goalie Logan Halladay, a Junior Hurricanes teammate from Holly Springs.
“People up north try to brainwash these parents, telling them, ‘You got to get out of there, you got to get to Detroit, you have to leave,’ ” said Colin Muldoon, the director of player development for the Junior Hurricanes program. “It’s nice to show these guys, it’s not where you’re from, it’s what you do.”
The odds were stacked against all three, with the vast majority of NTDP players historically coming from the 3Ms – Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan. As the geographic diversity of U.S. hockey has grown, so has the national representation on the NTDP. Wesley always thought he could get North Carolina onto the list.
“Honestly, I believed I could,” Wesley said. “Hockey’s growing here in North Carolina, slowly, but surely. It’s been great.”
A 6-foot-2, 175-pound defenseman who will turn 16 next week, Wesley hasn’t decided whether he’ll go the college route or play junior hockey like his father, the third overall pick in the 1987 draft.
“To be able to have him grow with his peers and be able to get some international experience and also play with the U.S. program, I think that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Glen Wesley said.
The family still has to sign the paperwork, which is why USA Hockey hasn’t announced Josh Wesley’s addition yet, but there’s no turning back now. Another Triangle player is a few strides closer to the NHL.
DeCock: email@example.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947