Photo By Dan Hickling/Hickling Images
10 players with USHL experience were selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Headlining all picks was former Team USA forward Auston Matthews selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Matthews was the first draft pick with USHL experience to go first overall since Rick Dipietro (Team USA/Boston University) at the 2000 NHL Draft.
Matthews, a Scottsdale, AZ native, spent last season with Zurich of the Swiss National League after spending the previous two seasons in Plymouth and was the almost consensus number one pick heading into the 2016 NHL Draft. In 2014-15, Matthews was named to the All-USHL Third Team after putting up an impressive 48 points in only 24 games.
The Arizona Coyotes picked up Team USA forward Clayton Keller with the seventh pick in the Draft. He spent two seasons with Team USA (2014-16), and broke NTDP’s all-time scoring record during that stretch. In 55 career USHL games, the native of Swansea, IL tallied 74 points.
Two USHL alumni were selected by the same team, as the Boston Bruins selected Boston University and former Team USA defenseman Charlie McAvoy with the 14th overall pick and Team USA forward Trent Frederic 29th overall. McAvoy played for Team USA from 2013-15, netting 29 points in 57 games. Last season at Boston, the Long Beach, NY native had 25 points in 37 games and was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. He also helped Team USA to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship. Frederic, a University of Wisconsin commit, spent the last two seasons with Team USA, recorded 19 points in 58 games during that stretch.
One pick after McAvoy was selected, the Minnesota Wild took Luke Kunin. Kunin spent last season with the University of Wisconsin, scoring 32 points in 34 games. Additionally, the Badgers center also became the first Wisconsin player to be named to the Big Ten All-Rookie Team. A native of Chesterfield, MO, Kunin played for Team USA from 2013-15, earning 37 points in 52 career USHL games.
Kieffer Bellows added his name to the list of USHL players drafted in the first round, as the New York Islanders selected the Team USA and former Sioux Falls Stampede forward with the 19th overall pick. Bellows was named the 2015 USHL Rookie of the Year after tallying 33 goals and 52 points in 58 games. That same season, he was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and recorded 12 points in 12 playoff games to help lead Sioux Falls to the second Clark Cup title in franchise history. Keller, an Edina, MN native who is committed to Boston University, tallied 32 points in 23 games with Team USA during the 2015-16 season.
The 25th pick belonged to the Dallas Stars, and they chose Fargo Force forward Riley Tufte. The number one pick in the 2014 USHL Phase I Draft spent parts of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with the Force, earning 19 points in 34 career USHL games.
The 26th overall pick also featured a USHL alum, as University of Connecticut and former Team USA forward Tage Thompson was selected by St. Louis after the Blues moved up from 28th overall in a trade with the Washington Capitals. Thompson spent one season in the USHL, scoring 14 points in 25 games. Last season at Connecticut, the Phoenix, AZ native put up 32 points in 36 games.
Other USHL alumni selected in the first round include Matthew Tkachuk (Team USA, 6th overall) and Max Jones (Team USA, 24th overall). USHL is expecting a big day two at the Draft tomorrow with round two scheduled to begin at 10am ET. Stay tuned to USHL.com for live updates and more throughout the NHL Draft.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.