The USHL kicks off its regular season Friday and as per usual, there are a lot of players to follow in the league. Talking to scouts, I’m getting the impression that it will be a great year for Team USA, but players from the rest of the squads may have to wait until the second round to get drafted by NHL franchises. Below, you’ll find power rankings for the league, based on a survey I conducted featuring scouts and other USHL insiders. For each team, I’ve noted a couple players to keep an eye on.
And as I’ve done in past years, Team USA is excluded from the standings because they play a different schedule and send their best players to the world under-18s just as the USHL playoffs are kicking off. Let’s get to it.
1. Youngstown Phantoms – Yale commit Curtis Hall (2018) brings good size and skill up front, while Wouter Peeters (CHI) makes his North American debut in net.
2. Waterloo Black Hawks – Matej Tomek (PHI) had a monster pre-season in goal, as did center Jack Drury (2018), who is Harvard-bound in the future.
3. Chicago Steel – Left winger Jack Dugan (VGK) has a ton of raw potential and will hone his game with the Steel before heading to Providence College. Look for Blake McLaughlin (2018) before and after the Minnesota high school season.
4. Sioux City Musketeers – Minnesota commit Sammy Walker (TB) brings skill in a small package; imports Martin Pospisil and Sampo Ranta are both ones to watch for the 2018 draft.
5. Fargo Force – Miami commit Ryan Savage (2018) had a fantastic All-American Prospects Game; slick puckmover Clayton Phillips (PIT) returns on the blueline.
6. Dubuque Fighting Saints – Michigan commit Jacob Semik (2018) and sizzling skater Casey Staum (MTL) are two to watch on the back end.
7. Muskegon Lumberjacks – Big Jachym Kondelik (2018) returns up front and he’ll be joined by diminutive dynamo Emilio Pettersen (2018), the Denver commit from Norway.
8. Lincoln Stars – Tomas Vomacka (NSH) is the truth in net; but teams will have to get past blueline twins Christian and Cole Krygier (2018, Wisconsin) first.
9. Tri-City Storm – Notre Dame commit Nate Clurman (COL) brings size and skating to the defense. Meanwhile, goalie Filip Larsson (DET) has come over from Sweden after a great 2016-17 campaign with Djurgarden’s junior squad.
10. Central Illinois Flying Aces – Formerly known as the Bloomington Thunder, the Aces boast Providence College commit Michael Callahan (2018) on the back end and skilled Northeastern commit Tyler Madden (2018) up front.
11. Green Bay Gamblers – Maksim Zhukov (VGK) returns in net and that will be big for the Gamblers. Elsewhere, keep an eye on young D-man Michael Vukojevic (2019).
12. Des Moines Buccaneers – Providence College commit Jake Kucharski (2018) has great size in the crease, while North Dakota commit Braden Costello (2018) has nice moves on the wing.
13. Omaha Lancers – Noah Cates (PHI) will keep developing his smart game before heading to Minnesota-Duluth. Watch for big St. Cloud commit Nick Perbix (TB) on the blueline.
14. Sioux Falls Stampede – Getting Mikhail Berdin (WPG) back in net will help immensely. Also keep an eye on big, strong Minnesota commit Jaxon Nelson (2018) at center.
15. Madison Capitols – Ryan O’Reilly (2018) is a deadly sniper on the right wing, bound for the University of Denver. Andong Song (NYI) needs a big year.
16. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders – Jiri Patera (VGK) will have to come up big in net; perhaps Boston College commit TJ Walsh (2018) can help with some offense.
*Team USA – The big names to know this year include Oliver Wahlstrom (Harvard), Joel Farabee (Boston U.), Bode Wilde (Michigan), K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin) and Jake Wise (Boston U.). Overall, it’s a really deep bunch.