Rutger McGroarty is heading to the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) next year as one of the most hyped hockey prospects in the world in the 2022 draft class.
The Lincoln, Nebraska-native tallied 160 points this past season in 63 games for the Oakland Grizzlies in the HPHL, turning heads around the scouting world.
Representing the USA
When he spoke on the BTS Hockey Podcast recently, McGroarty reminisced on watching the Team USA program when he was a kid, and when he knew that it was a goal of his to represent his country.
“When I lived in Michigan, I only lived five minutes from the rink,” he said. “Going to the rink and seeing the best players as a ten year old, you think it’s so far away, but now it’s actually happening. As a ten year old, I knew I wanted to play for Team USA and that’s where the dream started.”
McGroarty had a chance this past winter to represent the USA at the Youth Olympic games in Switzerland and he said he really enjoyed the opportunity to represent his country earlier than most would get the chance to.
“It was an unreal opportunity and was tons of fun. Playing in front of 10,000 people for the first time. Playing with and against the best players in the world. It was an experience to remember, I loved every second of it.”
McGroarty tallied three points in four games to help the Americans to a silver medal before losing to the Russians in the gold medal game. He went on to say that he learned a lot about playing against the best competition in the world.
“I learned that I had to score on my opportunities, you never know when your next opportunity is going to be. As you get older, it’s harder to score goals, so you really have to bear down on your opportunities.”
The Best of the Best Assemble in Michigan
McGroarty and current and future teammate in Plymouth, Hunter Brzustewicz, have been on the same journey over the past six years. McGroarty says they are looking forward to continuing it over the next two years in Plymouth.
“He and I have been together since the age of 10. We actually lived together last year. We got the email at the same time. We’ve been through this ride together, we both know how hard we have both worked, it was awesome to go through it with him.”
There will also be some friendly rivalries that will be joining forces in the coming season, with the Grizzlies and Honeybaked players coming together to play for the NTDP.
“Going against guys like Frank Nazar and Cole Spicer who played for Honeybaked, we played them five or six times, that was definitely a rivalry. Playing against them day in and day out, that was pretty cool. I think it’ll be awesome to play on the same team next year.”
McGroarty says he’s looking forward to playing alongside those players and seeing what he can learn from the opportunity of having them as teammates.
“It’s going to be awesome to see how they all prepare for games and practices. We can push each other in practice and in games. You’re playing with the best, you have to play the best to be the best.”
Committed to Notre Dame, McGroarty says it was a an easy pick when he was making his decision.
“For me it was a no-brainer. With Coach Pooley, Coach Slaggert and Coach Jackson, I love all of them. The campus is unbelievable, the schooling, the hockey. They could all be coaching in the NHL. Surrounding myself with people like that. It was easy for me.”
Goals For the Program
McGroarty got a chance to watch one of the most talented Team USA classes two years ago, and he says the team’s goal is to achieve the greatness that that group did.
“The ’01 team was a special team to watch. Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Cam York, just all of those guys. I watched them maybe 15 times in their last year. A lot of them will be in the NHL one day, so seeing them shred teams was pretty cool to watch.”
You don’t just get to that level overnight, and McGroarty recognizes this. With workouts right around the corner, he says he just wants to get started.
“There’s a chance to do some summer training. If we can get there in August that would be great, just to see the guys and be there together as a group. We didn’t have the tryout camp, so we really haven’t been together as a group at all. We have our Zoom calls and Snapchat group chat, but I’m really looking forward to getting together as a group for the first time.”
On paper, this newest edition of the NTDP in Michigan looks to be just as talented as any that has come through in the past. McGroarty says that he wants to live up to that, and has confidence in his new teammates.
“I think our whole team can contribute in a way. Looking at the roster gives me chills to think about it. The best players in your country, every single day. No matter what line is on the ice, I think they will have success.”
One thing is for sure, with the amount of talent heading to the Team USA program for the coming season, the next year of hockey in Plymouth is going to be a whole lot of fun to watch.