Team: Chicago Steel
2015-16 Record: 27-26-7
Top Forward: Jake Jaremko (20 goals, 48 points)
Top Defenseman: Ruslan Rakhmatov (5 goals, 25 points)
Top Goaltender: Daniel Vladar (12-12-1-3, 2.31 GAA, .920 SV%)
Power Play: 19.2% (6th in USHL)
Penalty Kill: 86.2% (2nd in USHL)
The Chicago Steel will be one of the most interesting teams in the league to watch this season. It was a busy offseason, as the organization had three players selected in the 2016 NHL Draft, an NHL entry-level contract offered to one of their starters and a handful of players advancing to their college hockey careers.
Second year head coach Dan Muse has a foundation in place that could help his club advance to the Clark Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008. Like many other teams around the league, Chicago’s biggest departure is in net, as last season’s mainstay between the pipes Daniel Vladar signed his first professional contract with the Boston Bruins in the offseason. The Steel will replace Vladar with another NHL prospect, Ales Stezka of the Minnesota Wild, who spent last season with the Sioux Falls Stampede. Both Stezka and Ohio State commit Tommy Nappier bring veteran experience and either player could come out of training camp as the go-to starter.
Chicago will also bring back several key players from last season including defenseman Matt Kiersted, last season's leading scorer Jake Jaremko and veteran forward Marc Johnstone. Should the team be able to replicate its discipline on special teams, fans in Fox Valley could be cheering for their Steel well into late April. Muse shared his feelings about his team on the eve of the season:
“We are expecting to have a team that competes extremely hard in all three zones. While we are still making roster decisions, we feel that the core group that we expect to have with us will be able to play with speed, will have strong puck moving ability, and will have strong work ethic and attention to detail.”
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.