Eight USHL graduates going for gold for United States at 2014 Winter Games
A team of 25 players will represent the United States at the Olympic men's hockey competition beginning this week in Sochi, Russia and among that group are eight alumni of the USHL.
Included in the eight graduates of the USHL are three that were part of the team for the 2010 Winter Olympics and won a silver medal – David Backes (Lincoln Stars) of the St. Louis Blues, Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks) of the San Jose Sharks, and Paul Stastny (Omaha Lancers) of the Colorado Avalanche.
Backes and Pavelski both won the Clark Cup title with their respective teams while playing in the USHL. Six of the players were selected in the NHL Draft immediately following their USHL careers, including first-rounders T.J. Oshie (Sioux Falls Stampede) by the St. Louis Blues (2005) Max Pacioretty (Sioux City Musketeers) by the Montreal Canadiens (2007) and John Carlson (Indiana Ice) by the Washington Capitals (2008).
The eight USHL alumni on the team represent eight different USHL Member Clubs. The Olympic Team also includes Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter who recently became part of the ownership group for the Madison Capitols, the newest USHL team that will begin play in 2014-15.
USHL alumni on U.S. Olympic Team
David Backes (F), St. Louis Blues – Lincoln Stars (2001-03)
The Minnesota native scored 90 points (39g, 51a) over 87 USHL regular season games. He would lead the Stars to the Clark Cup title in 2003 and was named All-USHL First Team after tying for third in USHL scoring with 69 points (28g, 41a). He was then selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft. Backes played three seasons of college hockey at Minnesota State University, Mankato before making his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season. The 29-year-old Blues captain played his 500th NHL game earlier this season and has 42 points (20g, 22a) through 52 games.
T.J. Oshie (F), St. Louis Blues – Sioux Falls Stampede (2004-05)
His time in the USHL was brief but impactful as he collected five points (2g, 3a) in 11 games for the Stampede. He scored his first USHL goal just 39 seconds into his debut in the League in September of 2004. Following that season, he was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the first round (24th overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft. He went on to play three seasons at the University of North Dakota before joining the Blues for the 2008-09 season. The 27-year-old has 46 points (14g, 32a) through 57 games this season.
Max Pacioretty (F), Montreal Canadiens – Sioux City Musketeers (2006-07)
He had stellar season with the Musketeers playing all 60 regular season games and racking up 63 points (21g, 42a) to earn USHL Rookie of the Year honors. He scored a goal in his first USHL game and started his career with the Musketeers on an eight-game point streak. Following that season, he was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft. He played at a season at the University of Michigan before signing a pro contract. The Connecticut native made his NHL debut only 20 months after completing his USHL career. The 25-year-old is having one of his best seasons in the NHL as he leads the Canadiens with 26 goals through 50 games.
Joe Pavelski (F), San Jose Sharks – Waterloo Black Hawks (2002-04)
He piled up 121 points (57g, 64a) in 114 regular season games for the Black Hawks. He was named the USHL Rookie of the Year following the 2002-03 season when he tied for third in League scoring with 69 points (36g, 33a) in 60 games. Pavelski then led the Black Hawks to the Clark Cup title in 2004 and earned recognition from USA Hockey as the Dave Tyler Junior Hockey Player of the Year. He was one of the steals of the 2004 NHL Draft when San Jose selected him in the seventh round (205th overall). The Wisconsin native played two seasons of college hockey in his home state at the University of Wisconsin where he helped the Badgers win a NCAA Championship. The 29-year-old played his 500th NHL game earlier this season and is currently one of the team’s top scorers with 54 points (29g, 25a) through 59 games. His 29 goals are tied for the fourth most in the NHL.
Paul Stastny (F), Colorado Avalanche – Omaha Lancers (2002-04)
He lit up the USHL with 107 points (40g, 67a) in 113 regular season games, which included finishing second in League scoring during the 2003-04 campaign with 77 points (30g, 47a). His 47 assists led the entire USHL and he earned a spot on the All-USHL First Team. Stastny was also seventh in the League with a plus-26 rating and closed out the regular season riding an 11-game point streak. He went on to play two seasons of college hockey at the University of Denver and helped the school win an NCAA Championship in 2005 and was later selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round (44th overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. Stastny recently played his 500 NHL game and is one of the team’s top scorers with 41 points (17g, 24a) through 52 games this season.
Blake Wheeler (F), Winnipeg Jets – Green Bay Gamblers (2004-05)
The fifth overall selection in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes became the first-ever player chosen in the first round to continue his development in the USHL. He led the Gamblers in scoring during the 2004-05 season with 47 points (19g, 28a) in 58 games to earn a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Team. He went on to play three seasons at the University of Minnesota before signing a NHL contract with the Boston Bruins and making his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season. The 27-year-old played his 400th NHL game earlier this season and also netted his 100th NHL goal. He is having one of his best seasons in the NHL, scoring 48 points (22g, 26a) through 60 games.
John Carlson (D), Washington Capitals – Indiana Ice (2006-08)
After playing a pair of games in the 2006-07 season, Carlson played full-time the following season and was the second highest scoring defenseman in the League with 43 points (12g, 31a) in 59 games. He earned a spot on the All-USHL Second Team and was then selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round (27th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut in November 2009, less than two years after wrapping up his USHL career. In 2010, he helped the U.S. National Junior Team capture gold at the World Junior Championship. Now in his fifth season with the Capitals, the 23-year-old Massachusetts native has 23 points (10g, 13a) through 59 games this season.
Justin Faulk (D), Carolina Hurricanes – Team USA (2009-10)
The youngest player on the U.S. Olympic Team, the defenseman has previous international experience playing for Team USA in the junior ranks. He was part of the Under-18 squad in the USHL during the 2009-10 season and recorded 12 points (9g, 3a) in 21 USHL contests. He helped Team USA win gold at the 2010 IIHF World U18 Championship and bronze at the 2011 World Junior Championship. Following his season in the USHL, he was selected by the Hurricanes in the second round (37th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. Faulk went to play a season of college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and helped the school win its first NCAA Championship. He made his NHL debut the following season. Now in his third season with Carolina, the 21-year-old has collected 22 points (3g, 19a) in 57 games.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 12th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14. A record 32 players were chosen in the 2013 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 www.USHL.com or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/ushlhockey), twitter (www.twitter.com/ushl), and YouTube (www.youtube.com/ushlinteractive). Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).
It’s not just hockey. It’s the USHL.
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