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USHL season preview: The Storm will still rage

Tri-City was first overall in the regular season last year and now the team is gunning for a Clark Cup championship. We rank every team in the junior league and spotlight some players to watch in our exclusive preview.
Eldon Holmes/Tri-City Storm

Eldon Holmes/Tri-City Storm

The United States League kicks off its season this weekend with the Fall Classic in Pittsburgh, so it’s time for a season preview. Because there is so much roster turnover in America’s top junior circuit, the USHL is hard to handicap, but I enlisted a group of journalists who cover the league to help me with these power rankings. Sioux Falls won the Clark Cup last year, though Tri-City was the best team in the regular season and it appears as though the Storm will be a tough opponent once again. One note on the rankings: I do not include the U.S. NTDP in the standings because sometimes the program’s under-17s play and sometimes it’s the under-18s. Neither plays a full USHL schedule, so it would be fruitless to rank them. Instead, I have included some players to watch at the bottom. All the other members of the USHL get players to watch as well, including college commitments (when applicable) and draft status. Let’s get to it.

  1. Tri-City Storm: Offensive defenseman Mike Koster (TOR) is a University of Minnesota commit on a veteran squad with championship aspirations. Up front, Colby Ambrosio (2020) is a Boston College commit.
  2. Dubuque Fighting Saints: Sweden’s Erik Portillo (BUF) gives the Saints a big presence in net before he heads off to the University of Michigan, while power forward and North Dakota commit Stephen Halliday (2020) comes over from Central Illinois via the dispersal draft.
  3. Waterloo Black Hawks: Ryder Rolston (2020) comes over from the NTDP; he’s the son of Brian Rolston and headed to Notre Dame. Also up front is Wyatt Schingoethe (2020), who recently committed to Denver.
  4. Chicago Steel: Sean Farrell (2020), another late-birthday ex-NTDP kid like Rolston, brings offense up front before he heads to Harvard. Owen Power (2021) is a star defenseman in the making bound for the University of Michigan.
  5. Muskegon Lumberjacks: Dynamic left winger Danil Gushchin (2020) will be a load to handle up front, while Alex Gaffney (2020/Harvard) is coming off a solid showing at the summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky tournament.
  6. Fargo Force: Left winger Aaron Huglen (BUF) brings back a great bag of offensive tricks; he’s a University of Minnesota commit. Meanwhile, Cole Brady (NJ) boasts great size in the crease before heading out to Arizona State.
  7. Omaha Lancers: Clarkson commit Alex Campbell (NSH) and hard-working University of Minnesota pledge Rhett Pitlick (MTL) will help drive the offense while big Akira Schmid (NJ) returns in net.
  8. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders: Towering D-man Will Francis (ANA) plays with an edge and has a commitment to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Mike Posma (2020) is a Boston College commit and one to watch up front.
  9. Des Moines Buccaneers: Defenseman and UMass commit Noah Ellis (2020) had a nice Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, while Logan Anderson (2020) brings intrigue up front.
  10. Youngstown Phantoms: Dominic Basse (CHI) brings an impressive 6-foot-6 frame to the crease; he’s a Colorado College commit.
  11. Sioux City Musketeers: Netminder Ethan Haider (NSH) comes in after a great draft year in the NAHL and he’ll head to Clarkson for 2020-21. Up front, University of Minnesota-Duluth Blake Biondi (2020) comes in with a ton of potential.
  12. Sioux Falls Stampede: Evan Bushy (2020) can bring offense from the blueline; he’s a St. Cloud State commit. Look for this to be a younger squad than last year’s champs.
  13. Green Bay Gamblers: McKade Webster (TB) and Ryan O’Reilly (DET) are both veteran USHL forwards and, coincidentally, both Denver commits.
  14. Lincoln Stars: Jake Boltmann (2020) is a right-shot defenseman who comes over from Central Illinois and is bound for the University of Minnesota.
  15. Madison Capitols: The Caps hope a veteran roster can take them out of the basement, while Ryan Kirwan (2020) brings size and scoring before heading off to Penn State.

U.S NTDP: The bar was set high by last year’s under-18 squad and this year’s crew features 2020 prospects Jake Sanderson (North Dakota), Tyler Kleven (North Dakota) and Dylan Peterson (Boston U.), plus 2021’s Matthew Beniers, who has yet to commit to a school.

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