Photo by Hickling Images
Team: Des Moines Buccaneers
Head Coach: Dave Allison, 4th season
"The introduction of six teams in the playoffs will be really good for the league. It’s going to allow players to grow more throughout the year and make for great development from top to bottom on our roster. We are very confident in the guys we have coming back, they learned a lot last season. The first-year guys will need to lean on the older guys early, and this will help to build healthy competition and make our team better."
2016-17 Record: 36-20-1-3 (76 PTS, 4th in Western Conference)
Top Returners: Scooter Brickey, Reed Lebster, Julian Napravnik, Cameron Orchard, Tommy Parrottino, Colin Ugbekile
Notable Additions: Braden Costello, Jake Kucharski, Will MacKinnon
Fresh off their first playoff appearance in a decade, the Buccaneers will look to improve on their strong 2016-17 season and get back to the Clark Cup Playoffs for the second straight year. Fourth year head coach Dave Allison welcomes back a number of players, including forward Julian Napravnik and veteran defensemen Colin Ugbekile and Scooter Brickey, who was a big part of the Buccaneers’ success in the second half of the 2016-17 season after being acquired via trade from the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Braden Costello, the second overall pick in the 2016 USHL Phase II Draft, played in six games with the Buccaneers toward the end of last season. In those six contests, the North Dakota commit tallied a pair of goals and assists, and he will look to continue that success over the course of a full season. Des Moines also picked up former Team USA defenseman Will MacKinnon in the 2017 Phase II Draft, and he will aim to bring an immediate impact, both offensively and defensively, on the Buccaneers blue line.
One of the big keys for Des Moines heading into 2017-18 will be who take the reins between the pipes following the departure of goaltenders Jan Ruzicka and Nick MacNab. The Buccaneers will turn to Jake Kucharski, the Providence College commit who suited up for two games with Des Moines last season and spent the majority of the year with the Austin Bruins (NAHL). Ryan Snowden, another former NAHL goaltender, and Christian Stoever, who spent last season with the prestigious Victory Honda (T1EHL) program, will also be battling for time in goal for Des Moines.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five 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.