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NHL or College

nhl or ncaa

Coaches and Alumni


Our league does a very good job of making sure that kids are taken care of. We want them to play in the NHL and we do everything we can to get them there, but they have to be good people too. It is a conscious effort from the owners – all of them – right down to the ticket sales person working on commission. Hockey is two hours of practice time and 60 games, which is a lot, but for seven whole months you are a little bit of everything for these kids. You need to take that seriously and our league does it better than anybody.
- P.K. O’Handley, Head Coach/GM of the Waterloo Black Hawks

The best part about the League is the League. Every night the players go out to play, they will be challenged together. And how else would you build a team? You don't build it with a 'you can do it wrong and still get it right' kind of mentality. If you do it wrong in the USHL, you are going to get beat. And until you are through that battle, you haven't proven anything.
- Kevin Hartzell, Head Coach/GM of the Sioux Falls Stampede

We just create a good atmosphere and it is amazing what players are doing with it. Now that I see the benefits, it's phenomenal. The number of players in active leadership roles continue to grow, and are showing that there is something truly special about this program.
- Kevin Hartzell, Head Coach/GM of the Sioux Falls Stampede

The USHL is a great league and lot of the games are played at the same level of intensity and pace as Division I hockey games and that is why our league is the best for developing college hockey players who will have impact at the next level.    Jim Montgomery, Head Coach/GM of the Dubuque Fighting Saints                        

The League is continuing to produce NHL players over the years. When I recently watched an NHL game, there were six players on the ice that came through the USHL on their way to the National Hockey League and I think that is an indication of where our league is right now.
- Mark Carlson, Head Coach/GM of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

I truly believe it is the best developmental junior league in the world – when you compare the opportunity to move on to college hockey and have the opportunity to get a degree, and then you look at the fact of the players that are drafted by NHL teams directly from our league or in their freshman year after playing in the USHL.
- Mark Carlson, Head Coach/GM of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders


The biggest thing the USHL did for my development was help me realize what a team is all about. Going through a full schedule, making the playoffs, and playing in a five-game series – I know that helped me prepare for the future. That year in the USHL helped me a lot. The adjustment from the USHL to college wasn't as big as from high school to the USHL. I felt well-prepared because I knew what kind of style the game was, and how to play the game the right way.
- Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders (Des Moines Buccaneers, 2005-06)

I think the USHL is a really great league and no one really mentions it as often as it should be mentioned when they talk about the top junior leagues in North America. Everyone knows the OHL, WHL, and the QMJHL, but the USHL was a good stepping stone for me. It's good for American and Canadian players who want to come down and eventually play in college and the NHL.
- Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders (Des Moines Buccaneers, 2005-06)

I saw what it did for my brother and for other players – what kind of stepping stone the league was going into college. If you have the opportunity to play in the USHL, it's a no-brainer. It's the best league to get you ready to play in college or as a professional.

First and foremost, I matured as a person. You leave home, you start doing things on your own, and in only a couple weeks you learn a lot about yourself as a person. As far as my skills – the speed, the strength, and the competition was so good that it wasn't such a drastic jump when I went to the college level. You realize how many talented athletes are out there, and instead of playing against 16 or 17-year-olds you're playing against men. Nowadays there are a lot more guys getting drafted out of juniors and out of college, and that really speaks to the process of maturing, which is part of becoming a National Hockey League player.
- Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche (Omaha Lancers, 2002-04)

It was the most important year of my life and hockey career. That's what's great about the USHL – it develops young men not only into hockey players, but individuals off the ice as well. Coming from playing high school to the USHL was the biggest jump in my career— because in the USHL, I was playing against some of the best players in the world. It was a great opportunity and a 'no-brainer' for me.
- Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, 2004-05)

My hat is off to the League – it's the premier development league in the country. Places like Dubuque and Sioux City, places that have these new arenas – it really is a mini-NHL. It's great for the kids who have the luxury to play in this league.
- Gary Suter, 17-year NHL veteran (Dubuque Fighting Saints, 1981-83)

It's one of the more liberating times in your life as an athlete, because you can devote most of your time to playing hockey. This is one of the only times in your life when you can focus – just concentrate on being the best hockey player you can be, and do what it takes to get to the next level. Because before you know it, you have other responsibilities – like children, and work, and all that. When you are with the USHL, it's one of the only times you can really do what you completely love to do, and that's play hockey.
- Shjon Podein, 11-year NHL veteran (Rochester Mustangs, 1986-87)

Definitely the product itself is at a much higher level. If you walked around the stands this year at the USHL Fall Classic, you saw pretty much every NHL team, every D-1 coach in the nation. That's amazing. Also what I've noticed is the level of professionalism in the League from top to bottom. I mean, you try and find the stats from the year I played – they're hard to find. Now it's a multi-million dollar business, thousands of fans every night…it's a huge jumping zone and a giant building block for young players' careers.
- Shjon Podein, 11-year NHL veteran (Rochester Mustangs, 1986-87)