Two of the biggest Canadian major junior leagues have already completed their league drafts. Now, the USHL gets its shot.
On Monday, America’s top junior league will see its 17 teams stock up for the future with some of the best and brightest young talents. Some top prospects have already committed to the U.S. National Development Team Program or OHL teams, but the talent pool that the USHL has to select from is still one of the most impressive around, particularly given it is not a region-locked league that forces franchises to choose players from certain states or provinces.
To keep things simple, this is the second USHL draft of the year. In April, teams took part in the dispersal draft, absorbing players from the Central Illinois Flying Aces, who will be on hiatus for the upcoming season. On Tuesday, teams will participate in the Phase II draft, selecting players born before 2003 who are currently unsigned by USHL organizations. But first, it’s all about the first-year eligible prospects, the 15 and 16 year olds from the 2003-birth class. Players come from various midget and prep programs from around North America with one of the main goals being to sign an NCAA deal at some point. Some of the top prospects, including Cam MacDonald, Matthew Argentina and Davis Codd, have already signed tenders with USHL teams, with teams giving up a first-round pick in order to select a player beforehand and guaranteeing a player a spot on the roster for the upcoming season.
With that in mind, here are some of the players to keep an eye on when the draft kicks off on Monday evening:
Jack Silich, F
Small but crafty, Silich led the HPHL U-15 league with 15 goals en route to helping the Chicago Mission win the league title. A Quinnipiac University commit, Silich finished behind Jack Devine for first in team scoring on one of the most notable minor hockey programs in the country. Silich has a lot of confidence in his game, especially when dealing with the puck, and doesn’t waste time trying to make plays along the boards. In terms of pure, raw talent, not many players can match Silich.
Luke Mittelstadt, D
You’ve likely heard of his older brother Casey. Now, it’s the Luke show. Mittelstadt led all U-16 Minnesota high school defensemen with 28 points in 25 games and finished second among defensemen of any age with seven points in the playoffs. A nice bonus for Luke was getting the chance to play with his other brother, John, at Eden Prairie High. (John is set to join the University of Minnesota in 2020-21, the same school Casey played at and Luke is committed to for 2021.) Mittelstadt has strength, speed and good hockey sense. Mittelstadt was offered a spot on the United States National Development Team Program but declined the offer.
— YHH (@YouthHockeyHub) December 5, 2018
Peter Reynolds, F
Reynolds was the best forward at Shattuck St. Mary’s during his three-year tenure with the storied program and finished this season with 71 points in 51 games. Reynolds played for New Brunswick at the Canada Winter Games and is one of the top Atlantic prospects for the QMJHL draft, but the USHL seems the likely route after he committed to Boston College. Reynolds has already received attention as one of the top prospects for the 2021 NHL draft due to his ability to dominate a game around the net and his on-ice intelligence.
Can’t say enough good things about the efforts of NBs Peter Reynolds so far in this game. He has been everywhere. Drawing penalties, launching rushes, taking it end to end and scoring 2 beautiful goals against a very good Ontario team. #CWG2019 #ONvsNB
— Ross MacLean (@rossmaclean) February 17, 2019
Anthony Agostinelli, F
Currently uncommitted to an NCAA school, Agostinelli was selected by the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, not far from his home in Rochester, N.Y. In 44 games with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres U-16 program, Agostinelli finished with a respectable 19 goals and 34 points while developing his game as a shoot-first forward. Agostinelli has a great skill set to work with and can step in immediately as a speedy two-way skater.
Vincent Salice, F
The small winger brings so much skill to the table. Salice played with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies this season, tallying 16 goals and 35 points in 48 games this season. Considered one of the fastest skaters in his age group, Salice, an Ohio State commit who had previously committed to Vermont, was one of the more noticeable forwards to get cut from the U.S. NTDP. He displays smarts with the puck and the ability to stickhandle himself out of most situations. Salice was selected by the Erie Otters in the 10th round of the OHL draft last month, but he won’t wait long at the USHL draft.
Little Caesars 03 Vincent Salice with some slick hands. Recent U of Vermont commit. pic.twitter.com/x8Q9HzgeKY
— Pete Judge (@petejudge9) March 6, 2018
Jacob Napier, D
Also out of the Jr. Sabres program, Napier had 12 points in 20 T1EHL contests this season. Of all prospects yet to commit to an NCAA program, Napier was the best at the U-15 USA Hockey Nationals earlier this year, showcasing his quick feet and physical presence all around the ice. Napier won’t wow you with his two-way game, but he’s reliable in his own zone and can play a mean shutdown style.
Griffin Jurecki, F
Perhaps lost in the Luke Hughes hype with the Detroit Little Ceasars was Jurecki, a smooth-skating forward that had an impressive 10 points in six games at the OHL Cup in March. Selected in the 11th round of the OHL draft by the Saginaw Spirit (221st overall), Jurecki had 78 points in 73 games. He’s a high-end talent capable of putting up impressive offensive numbers, but his defensive game needs work.
Aito Iguchi, F
You’ve definitely heard about Iguchi, or at least seen his mind-blowing highlights, but now the Japanese prodigy is set to play in North America. Some people absolutely love what he can do with the puck while others question what he’s actually capable of against stronger competition in the United States. Is Iguchi just a product of social media hype, or can he really become a true game-changer for Japan? Yuki Miura is the only Japanese player who has played in the USHL, but after an impressive USHL combine last year, it looks like Iguchi, who will be a target for teams this week, could become the second.
11 year old Aito Iguchi makes hockey look easy pic.twitter.com/vgKcQ8NXrH
— 30 Second Plays (@30SecPIays) December 2, 2015
Paul Davey, F
A tall forward with a strong first stride, Davey had a good showing at the U.S. NTDP evaluation camp but it wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the team. Davey played with the Brunswick high school prep team in Greenwich, CT., this season, finishing seventh among U-16 players in scoring and second on the team behind Martin St. Louis’ son, Ryan. Skill-wise, Davey is a tremendous passer and his head is always on a swivel. The team that drafts him will get a defensively-responsible forward who always looks to make his teammates better.
Declan Loughnane, D
There’s a lot to like about Loughnane, a smart, two-way defender who hasn’t yet committed to a NCAA program. He has the skills to be a very good USHL player in the near future. Loughnane had a good U-15 USA hockey showcase a few weeks back and has been among the best in his age group defensively over the past few seasons. Loughnane does a nice job of pinching in on a rush without putting himself too far out of position. He’s very athletic, energetic and smart with the puck.
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