Team: Sioux Falls Stampede
2015-16 Record: 31-25-4
Top Forward: Parker Tuomie (54 points, 30 goals)
Top Defenseman: Joe Rutkowski (33 points, 7 goals)
Top Goaltender: Stefanos Lekkas (25-15-3, 2.53 GAA, .924 SV%)
Power Play: 14.2% (14th in USHL)
Penalty Kill: 81.1% (11th in USHL)
The Stampede nearly recreated the magical 2015 Clark Cup run last season, as they snuck into playoffs as the number four seed with momentum on their side. After defeating rival Fargo Force for the fourth and final seed, Sioux Falls went up against a nearly unbeatable Tri-City Storm squad that went on to win the Clark Cup championship.
Sioux Falls is expected to return a good amount of talent from last season including Jack Becker, Justin Wells and Charlie Raith. Becker, a Boston Bruins prospect, will be looking to take another step forward this season after scoring 22 points in 58 games for the Herd last season. Wells was selected to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in his first USHL season and could return as the staple of the Sioux Falls defensive corps.
With the trade of Ales Stezka to the Chicago Steel, there is a large question mark in net. One early candidate to take over the starting role is Luke Kania who spent time with the Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL) last season. Finnish newcomer Kasper Kotkansalo, who spent part of July and August playing for his home country at National Junior Evaluation Camp, will look to be one of the foundations on defense. The tough defensive defenseman was listed on NHL Central Scouting Future List earlier this summer.
Scott Owens is entering his second season behind the bench in Sioux Falls. Owens will have the additional motivation of pushing his young talent to aim for the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game that will be played at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 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.