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The Building of a USHL Expansion Team

04/22/2014, 12:00pm CDT
By bwerger

Newest USHL clubs starting from scratch to piece together roster for 2014-15

The Madison Capitols and Bloomington Thunder are the two newest additions to the USHL and will begin play during the 2014-15 season.  While current USHL teams use the offseason to rebuild and retool their rosters based on a majority of players departing for the NCAA, these two new expansion clubs are starting from scratch.

There is much excitement for these two new markets and for the League to grow its membership, but it is a daunting task to put together a USHL-caliber roster that can compete at such a high level.  It is important for the League to have every team on a level playing field and ability to be successful, therefore the USHL has created a set of rules for expansion clubs to help them assemble their rosters and give them an opportunity to be competitive from the beginning. 

The last time the USHL welcomed expansion clubs was prior to the 2010-11 season as the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Muskegon Lumberjacks joined the League.  Similar rules were in place for those teams and the hockey operations departments for both clubs worked diligently to put together rosters for their inaugural campaign.  What resulted was both teams having immediate impact in the USHL and earning a spot in the playoffs.  Dubuque made it a magical season by winning the Clark Cup title, proving that expansion clubs can achieve the highest level of success immediately.

USHL Draft

Both the Madison Capitals and Bloomington Thunder will participate in the upcoming 2014 USHL Draft – a two-part selection process that begins with Phase One on Monday, May 5th and concludes with Phase Two on Tuesday, May 6th.  Their place in the draft order will be after the non-playoff teams from the 2013-14 season.

The expansion clubs will have additional draft selections to compensate for not having any returning players heading into the 2014-15 season.  For Phase One, an eight-round draft of players in the 1998 birth year, both Madison and Bloomington will have two additional picks at the end of the eighth round.

During Phase Two, a draft of players ranging from the 1994 to 1998 birth years, both expansion teams will have an extra selection at the end of each of the first four rounds.  The number of rounds for Phase Two is dependent upon the number of rounds it takes for all teams to reach 45 players on their Initial Protected List, but at the end of Phase Two, both expansion clubs will have two additional draft selections that will be utilized on players in the 1997 birth year. 


Prior to the USHL Draft, these expansion clubs have the opportunity to offer players a “tender”, meaning they can add them to their protected list in advance of the draft.  Each expansion team has five tenders that they can use on players born between the years of 1994 and 1998.  Teams are allowed to trade these tenders to other USHL clubs prior to the draft.

Like the other USHL teams, both Bloomington and Madison also have the ability to offer tenders for two players in the 1998 birth year.  By electing to use one of these tenders, it would replace their selection in the first round of Phase One in the USHL Draft.  Using a second tender in the 1998 birth year would replace a second-round pick in Phase One.  These tenders are not allowed to be traded in lieu of being offered to players.

Affiliate List

Each USHL team has an “affiliate list” in addition to their active roster of 23 players each season.  The 18 players on the affiliate list remain property of that team and continue to develop at lower levels of hockey.  Those players can be added to a team’s active roster, play a limited number of games in a call-up situation, or will be looked upon to make the roster in future seasons.  The returning USHL Member Clubs in the 2014-15 season will have an 18-man affiliate list broken down into 10 players in the 1998 birth year, six (6) in the 1997 birth year, and two (2) in the 1996 birth year.  For the expansion clubs, their affiliate list will be expanded to 22 players for their inaugural season with a breakdown of 12 in the 1998 birth year, eight (8) in the 1997 birth year, and two (2) in the 1996 birth year.  This will allow those expansion clubs to have a better balance of protected players heading into their second USHL season.

Tryout Camps

Like all USHL teams, the expansion Madison Capitols and Bloomington Thunder will host tryout camps this summer.  Those will include players selected in the 2014 USHL Draft in addition to undrafted players invited to the camps.  USHL teams utilize tryouts to get a first-hand look at drafted players as well as “free agents” before making final roster decisions prior to the 2014-15 season.  Several undrafted players each season make USHL rosters by participating in tryout camps.


Both Madison and Bloomington have begun their roster-building process and will continue in the coming weeks and months as they get set to usher in a new era for the USHL during the 2014-15 season.

*Tenders signed by USHL expansion clubs

Madison Capitols

Sebastian Fuchs, forward, 9/15/1996

Ryan Lohin, forward, 6/26/1996

Jalen Chatfield, defenseman, 5/15/1996


Bloomington Thunder

Tyler Gernhofer, forward, 1/10/1996

Logan Halladay, goaltender, 8/17/1996


Note: Team USA does not participate in the USHL Draft as they conduct a separate player selection process that is completed in cooperation with the other USHL Member Clubs.


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 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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