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NHL Keeping Watch On USHL Players

09/23/2014, 5:45pm CDT

NHL Central Scouting released its "Players to Watch" for the 2014-15 season and it includes a large number of USHL players.

Scouts evaluating loaded USHL talent pool during the 2014-15 season

NHL Central Scouting is well into their process of evaluating top hockey talent that is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, and that includes keeping a close watch on the elite players that fill the USHL. 

The NHL’s scouting body released their “Players to Watch” for the 2014-15 season from around the world and included those set to play in the USHL this season. 

Four players received an “A” rating from NHL Central Scouting, meaning they are a candidate to be selected in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft next June in Sunrise, Florida.  Those “A” skaters included forwards Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms), Thomas Novak (Waterloo Black Hawks), Jordan Greenway (Team USA), and Colin White (Team USA), all of which appeared in the USHL during the 2013-14 season and are set to play prominent roles for their clubs this year.

Among the “B” rated skaters, meaning they are candidates for the second and third round of the 2015 NHL Draft, are 13 players on USHL rosters, including defenseman Joseph Cecconi (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Brent Gates (Green Bay Gamblers), and Erik Foley (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders).  All three were selected to compete in this week’s CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, New York.

A host of USHL players were also listed as “C” skaters, meaning they are candidates for the fourth through sixth rounds of the NHL Draft.  Included in that list are forward Robby Jackson of the Chicago Steel, the 2013-14 USHL Rookie of the Year, forward Mikey Essimont of the Fargo Force, the team’s leading returning scorer, and defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf, who helped the Sioux City Musketeers capture a bronze medal at the 2014 Junior Club World Cup last month in Russia.

Additionally, six goaltenders playing in the USHL this season are among the “Players to Watch”, including “B” rated netminders Chris Birdsall of the Youngstown Phantoms, who won 17 games over the last two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, and Luke Opilka of Team USA, who enters his second USHL season after competing on the U.S. Under-17 squad last season.

USHL Players to Watch

“A” Skaters

Kyle Connor (F), Youngstown Phantoms
Jordan Greenway (F), Team USA
Thomas Novak (F), Waterloo Black Hawks
Colin White (F), Team USA

“B” Skaters

Jared Bethune (F), Lincoln Stars
Brock Boeser (F), Waterloo Black Hawks
Jeremy Bracco (F), Team USA
Joseph Cecconi (D), Muskegon Lumberjacks
Christian Fischer (F), Team USA
Casey Fitzgerald (D), Team USA
Erik Foley (F), Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (F), Omaha Lancers
Brent Gates (F), Green Bay Gamblers
Cooper Marody (F), Muskegon Lumberjacks
Nikita Pavlychev (F), Des Moines Buccaneers
Jack Roslovic (F), Team USA
Brendan Warren (F), Team USA

“C” Skaters

Nick Boka (D), Team USA
Callahan Burke (F), Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Kevin Conley (F), Youngstown Phantoms
Tory Dello (D), Tri-City Storm
Christian Evers (D), Team USA
Mikey Eyssimont (F), Fargo Force
Matthew Freytag (F), Tri-City Storm
Grant Gabriele (D), Team USA
Adam Gaudette (F), Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Dennis Gilbert (D), Chicago Steel
Bryce Hatten (D), Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Jacob Henderson (F), Omaha Lancers
Robby Jackson (F), Chicago Steel
Caleb Jones (D), Team USA
Zach Jordan (F), Omaha Lancers
Wyatt Kalynuk (D), Lincoln Stars
Tanner Laczynski (F), Chicago Steel
Tom Marchin (F), Muskegon Lumberjacks
Steven Merl (F), Muskegon Lumberjacks
Sam Miletic (F), Green Bay Gamblers
Chase Pearson (F), Youngstown Phantoms
Steven Ruggiero (D), Team USA
Vili Saarijarvi (D), Green Bay Gamblers
Ryan Smith (F), Green Bay Gamblers
Ethan Spaxman (D), Bloomington Thunders
Troy Terry (F), Team USA
David Trinkberger (D), Muskegon Lumberjacks
Daniel Warpecha (F), Sioux Falls Stampede
Spenser Young (D), Dubuque Fighting Saints
Miha Zajc (F), Des Moines Buccaneers
Ryan Zuhlsdorf (D), Sioux City Musketeers

“B” Goaltenders

Chris Birdsall, Youngstown Phantoms
Luke Opilka, Team USA

“C” Goaltenders

Logan Halladay, Bloomington Thunder
Michael Lackey, Team USA
Ryan Larkin, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Eric Schierhorn, Muskegon Lumberjacks


Additionally, several alumni of the USHL competing in NCAA Division 1 hockey this season are also among the “Players to Watch”, including Jack Eichel who could potentially be the top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.  He spent the last two seasons in the USHL with Team USA and was selected to the 2013-14 All-USHL Second Team.

“A” Skaters

Jack Eichel (F), Team USA (2012-14)
Noah Hanafin (D), Team USA (2013-14)
Zach Werenski (D), Team USA (2013-14)

“B” Skaters

Karson Kuhlman (F), Dubuque Fighting Saints (2012-14)

“C” Skaters

Ryan Hitchcock (F), Team USA (2012-14)

“C” Goaltenders

Edwin Minney, Team USA (2012-14)


Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 13th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2014-15.  A record 35 players were chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.  For more information, visit us on the web at or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (, twitter (, and YouTube (  Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (

It’s not just hockey. It’s the USHL.

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