Photo By Dan Hickling/Hickling Images
In case you missed it, 43 USHL players and 12 USHL alumni were named to the 2016 NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings.
The USHL is the premier path to college hockey and the NHL. So how do you get to the USHL? Attending the USHL Combine is the only place to showcase your talents in front of every USHL organization, right before the USHL Draft.
Sioux City general manager Mark LeRose knows how important the USHL Combine is – for players, coaches and general managers. It plays an important role in the Sioux City Musketeers’ draft preparation.
Former USHL all-star, college hockey and pro player Alex Kim, currently the director of player personnel for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, knows how important this type of exposure is for his young players.
We sat down with LeRose and Kim to discuss how valuable the USHL Combine can be for young players aspiring to get a college scholarship and play in the NHL.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Beware of imitations. There are all kinds of "Pre-Draft Camps" from private entrepreneurs that use misleading language to create the impression that the USHL sanctions their events and that senior-level player personnel are attending. If the USHL logo is not a part of the promotion, we don't sponsor the event.
LeRose: “I think the best part of the combine is the timing of it. You spend all season watching players play for their teams – and it’s a bear. It’s a big task. Unlike other leagues, you have geographically defined areas in many leagues, but in the USHL, it’s all over the U.S., Canada, Europe – it’s all over the world. It’s a big beast.”
Kim: “It’s important for players to get as many looks as they can from different teams in the USHL. There’s so many players and so much ground to cover and so little time to do so. You might miss out on a player. You might need to circle back on a player. Maybe you watched a player in October and you want another look. The combine is a great venue for players to come to and for coaches and general managers to revisit a player they had interest in earlier on.”
Make an Impression
LeRose: “The Combine serves a really valid purpose. Every player that wants to play in the USHL has the opportunity to play in front of the GMs and the coaches in an event right before the draft. They get to make a big impression right before the draft. Even though some of these guys, you saw them in September or October, maybe they didn’t have a good game. When you get to the Combine, it’s a fresh impression right before the draft. I think that’s the biggest value for these young athletes.”
Kim: “We’re all human, especially hockey players. You have your ups and downs. You might play great one weekend, and the coaches and GMs might be there. You might play terribly and they leave with that impression or even a judgment that this is a player we have to pass on. The Combine provides a venue for these players throughout the nation to make a last impression.”
Show Your Character
LeRose: “There’s a lot you can see on the ice – physical attributes, hockey IQ and things of that nature – but there’s a lot of value that goes into the intangibles. Whether it’s the physical attributes, conditioning, strength and those things, it also has a lot to do with the character of the player. I think that part of it, we do spend a lot of time talking to the coaches and talking to other players to find out if he’s a good character guy or if they have any issues off the ice. You’re trying to bring good people into your organization – not just good hockey players.”
Committing to Your Future
LeRose: “These kids play a lot of hockey. Whether they’re playing prep school level or midget AAA, there’s a lot of hockey. Do I want guys to go to the Combine? Yeah, I do. It’s an opportunity to get one last viewing and it demonstrates to all of us in the USHL that this is the player’s goal. They want to be a USHL player and they want to be college hockey players and they’re seeing that the USHL is the best avenue to achieve their goals.
“Any player that shows up at the Combine, you know there’s a certain level of dedication to the sport and achieving their goals. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
The USHL Combines will be held at Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park, Illinois this spring and summer. During the months prior to the Combines, interested players are encouraged to fill out an online questionnaire to ensure USHL Player Development is aware of your interest in attending.
Players who are invited to participate in the Combines will have been pre-screened and scouted by USHL Player Development staff. Participating players will have the opportunity to showcase their skills while playing in a minimum of four (4) games in front of USHL coaches and scouts, as well as NCAA coaches.
The Combines are peer-appropriate with players competing in a pool of the same birth year. For the 2000s, this is a chance to be compared with those vying for a draft spot in the USHL Phase One Draft in early May.
Invitees will also be subjected to off-ice physical and cognitive testing. There will also be classroom presentations to help players better understand what it takes to play in the USHL. For those with ’98, ’99, and ‘00 birth years, this will be your last opportunity to be seen prior to the USHL Draft. For the ’01 - ’02 birth years, this is your first opportunity to make a statement in front of all the USHL teams.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 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.