People are starting to realize just how good the United States League is. When players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Kyle Connor and Brock Boeser are your flagbearers, that tends to happen. But because most players only spend a year or two on a team before moving on to college, it’s a tough circuit to handicap. I’m doing my best here anyway, thanks in part to some knowledgeable scouts and other experts whom I surveyed. As always, I rank Team USA’s NTDP squad last because their roster is transient and their best players go to the world under-18s while the USHL playoffs are on. Below you’ll find predictions and a player or two to watch for on each squad.
1. Tri-City – Denver commit Adam Goodsir (2017 draft) has great hockey IQ and work ethic. And the Storm returns a lot of talent.
2. Fargo – Goalie Matthew Murray (UMass) won gold at the World Jr. A Challenge last year, while defenseman Clayton Phillips (2017) is a Minnesota commit.
3. Bloomington – Calgary Flames pick Mitchell Mattson will try to get his offense going before heading off to North Dakota.
4. Green Bay – Mobile D-man and Wisconsin commit Matt Berkovitz (ANA) is back, while Casey Mittelstadt (2017) will play before and after the Minnesota HS season.
5. Dubuque – Arizona State commit Patrick Kudla (ARI) had a monster pre-season from the blueline.
6. Sioux City – Boston College commit Eeli Tolvanen (2017) is a dynamic star. He’ll be joined by fellow Finn Aapeli Rasanen (EDM).
7. Sioux Falls – Goalie Mikhail Berdin (WPG) had some huge games for Russia last year, while Wisconsin commit Jack Becker (BOS) brings size up front.
8. Chicago – Ales Stezka (MIN) is back in goal, while Baker Shore (2017) is a Harvard commit with three older brothers in the game.
9. Waterloo – Shane Bowers (2017) is smart, fast and skilled, while Providence commit Jake Ryczek (CHI) is an offensive whiz on the blueline.
10. Lincoln – Goalie Cayden Primeau (2017) is a Northeastern commit and Eero Teravainen (2017) is dynamic on the blueline.
11. Muskegon – Look for North Dakota commit Collin Adams (NYI) to put up points, while Andrei Svechnikov (2018) gets his first North American action.
12. Des Moines – Big defenseman Adam Parsells (SJ) is a Wisconsin commit who comes over from the Steel.
13. Cedar Rapids – Center Marc McLaughlin (2017) kicked his career off nicely with a solid pre-season.
14. Youngstown – Penn State commit Brett Murray (BUF) is a monster power forward in the making.
15. Omaha – Small but skilled Brannon McManus (2017) is a Minnesota commit.
16. Madison – Andong Song (NYI) made history as the first Chinese national drafted, now he joins the Caps’ blueline.
17. Team USA – The hot-house team features Minnesota commit Scott Reedy, Wisconsin-bound Max Gildon and future North Dakota banger Grant Mismash, all 2017 draft prospects.