It has been quite the week for prospects in North America and not surprisingly, the lack of junior hockey in Canada has been a big driver of that action. As the weeks dragged on, a number of high-end players decided they needed to see some game time, which has meant an incredible influx of talent in the USHL. Franchises have been adding multiple players in the past week or so, drawing from the WHL, BCHL and more. Meanwhile, the usual exodus of players to the Minnesota high school ranks has taken place since that circuit is now playing games. I've always had a soft spot for Minnesota high school hockey and it's fun to see potential top-50 NHL draft picks head home in an attempt to win a state title with their local school.
Another interesting wrinkle this year is the USPHL (a junior league just below the NAHL) playing a bubble in Tampa, Florida. The league just held an all-star game for NHL draft prospects, which included some players who normally would have been in the New England prep ranks.
And of course we still have NCAA hockey going on, plus the imminent return of the QMJHL, so let's take a look at some of the kids making noise right now.
Matt Savoie, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL): There were doubters, but Savoie has indeed arrived in Dubuque from WHL Winnipeg - and arrived with authority. One of the top prospects available for the 2022 draft, Savoie had a three-point debut with the Fighting Saints, showing off great speed and deft hands on his two goals.
Ayrton Martino, RW, Omaha Lancers (USHL): After a nice extended exhibition season in the BCHL with Chilliwack, Martino has come over to Omaha and made an immediate impact. The highly-skilled 2021 draft prospect had a hat trick as part of a five-point night for the Lancers recently and six points overall through four games. He's a Clarkson commit.
Jackson Hallum, C, St. Thomas Academy Cadets (Minn. HS): This is almost unfair: Hallum returns to high school after playing excellent hockey for USHL Green Bay. The speedster and Vegas Golden Knights prospect already has three points in his first two games with St. Thomas and he'll be one to watch all season. He's a University of Michigan commit.
Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL): There's a beastly quality to Sillinger, the 2021 draft prospect and new addition to the Stampede lineup. He's coming down from the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers and has goals in two of his first three USHL games. The son of Mike Sillinger, he can play physical and he can certainly finish, but he does need to iron out some consistencies in his overall game.
Shai Buium, D, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL): Buium started the year with Shattuck-St. Mary's but he will now be sticking with Sioux City full-time. The University of Denver commit and 2021 draft prospect has great size and nice mobility. He has also shown that he can make some pretty sweet offensive moves when given the chance.
Jack Peart, D, Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (Minn. HS): One of the best 2021 draft prospects in the first half of the USHL season with Fargo, Peart is now taking his smart, puckmoving game back to high school in hopes of snagging a title with Grand Rapids. The potential first-rounder is a St. Cloud State commit and he already has three points in his first two games with the Thunderhawks.
Kyle Kukkonen, LW, Maple Grove Crimson (Minn. HS): After an impressive stint with Minot of the NAHL, Kukkonen has returned to Minnesota to play on a very good Maple Grove high school team. The 2021 draft prospect isn't big and his skating isn't perfect, but boy can he put up numbers. The Michigan Tech commit also has a bit of an edge and has seven points in his first two games with the Crimson.
Dylan Duke, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL): Duke is one of The Program's top scorers this season with 13 goals (including two shorthanded) and 26 points in 22 games and not many of his goals have been easy. This is a kid who goes to the hard areas and feasts on pucks around the net. He's a University of Michigan commit.
Ryan Francis, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Once the maritime teams return in the 'Q,' things are going to look a little different. That's because Francis joins the Sea Dogs via trade from Cape Breton. The talented and tenacious Calgary Flames pick has 21 points in 15 games so far this season.
Luke Mittelstadt, D, Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS): The youngest of the Mittelstadt brothers is highly-touted but still has a lot of developing to do. Luke played six games for USHL Lincoln and didn't have much of an impact, but now he returns to Eden Prairie with a great opportunity. The University of Minnesota commit got off to a great start with two assists in his first game.