2018-19 Finish: 30-24-2-6 (68 points), 5th Eastern Conference, Eastern Conference First Round Defeat
This preview is part of a series highlighting all 16 USHL teams ahead of the 2019-20 regular season.
The USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) U18 team enters 2019-20 after a hard-fought Eastern Conference First Round defeat at the hands of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders while the U17s come into the USHL fresh off respective seasons throughout the United States.
“The league keeps getting better and better, there are more draft picks every year. There’s more players going on to become elite Division I college players and potential future NHLers,” said USA Hockey NTDP Head Coach Seth Appert. “The league gets stronger on a year-to-year basis and it’s important for us to continue to build our strength to have success against USHL teams.”
The U18 roster will look familiar to USHL fans who checked out the U17 roster last season with names like forwards Matthew Beniers, Thomas Bordeleau and Dylan Peterson as well as defensemen Brock Faber, Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven.
Up front, the U18 roster returns Beniers, who led the U17 roster with 31 points (11-20-31) last season. The Hingham, Mass. native’s 31 points finished seventh overall of all NTDP players last season. Bordeleau, a University of Michigan commit, finished last season with 22 points (10-12-22) in 34 games while Peterson, a Boston University commit, registered 11 points (3-8-11) in 31 games.
On the defensive side, Faber finished second among U17 defensemen with 10 points (3-7-10) in 35 games. The University of Notre Dame commit scored a goal in three-straight games from February 16 to March 1 after recording his only multi-point game (0-2-2) against the Green Bay Gamblers on January 19.
Sanderson and Kleven, both University of North Dakota commits, finished with seven points (2-5-7) in 22 games and three points (2-1-3) in 31 games, respectively.
“The USHL is the best junior hockey league in the United States, and one of, if not the best, in all of North America,” said Appert. “To have that level of competition for our young men is extremely important in our developments.”
Meanwhile, the U17 roster will feature a completely new USHL squad all of the 2003 birth year. The U17s feature players from 11 different states, led by Michigan (8), while 19 of the 23 are already committed to college, led by Miami University (4).
The roster also features five players with family members who previously played in the USHL including defenseman Luke Hughes (Quinn, brother, NTDP 2016-18 and Jack, brother, NTDP 2017-19) and forwards Sasha Pastujov (Nick, brother, NTDP 2014-16 and Michael, brother, NTDP 2015-17), Caden Brown (Jeff, father, Indiana Ice Head Coach and General Manager 2012-14), Red Savage (Ryan, brother, Fargo/NTDP/Omaha/Muskegon 2016-19) and Justin Janicke (Trevor, brother, Central Illinois/NTDP 2016-19).
Brown (Logan, brother, Ottawa Senators), Savage (Brian, father, NHL veteran) and Hughes (Quinn, brother, Vancouver Canucks and Jack, brother, New Jersey Devils) also lead a group of six U17 players with family NHL ties. That list also includes Ryan St. Louis (Martin, father, NHL veteran), Colby Saganiuk (Rocky, grandfather, NHL veteran) and Tyler Boucher (Brian, father, NHL veteran).
“We’re different here because we’re all one birth year, we don’t have veterans,” said Appert. “That’s what’s so hard about the 17s year, they don’t have veterans to lean on like the other USHL teams do. That’s why so much progress is made towards the second year of development.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 18th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2019-20. The USHL had 55 players selected at the 2019 NHL Draft, 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.