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USHL Combines highlight top talent prior to Draft

06/06/2016, 4:45pm CDT
By Aaron Paitich, special to

Results from the 2016 USHL Draft point to players making the most of their opportunities at the USHL Combine.

Spotting a Stud Hockey Player


When Des Moines Buccaneers head coach Dave Allison was at the USHL Combine last year, he wrote four letters next to Braden Costello’s name in the program:




“That’s all I had beside his name,” said Allison, a longtime head coach with more than 20 years of experience from junior hockey to the NHL. “He checked all the boxes.”


One year later, Des Moines selected Costello with the No. 2 overall pick in Phase 1 of the USHL Draft.


But it wasn’t just Costello that caught Allison’s eye. Another player on the same roster – Team Oshie – that stood out was Cam Knuble. The Buccaneers selected Knuble in the sixth round.


“We took them both – and that was the first time I personally had seen either one of them play,” said Allison. “There’s definitely value to those Combines. But the players, they have to go and take advantage of it. That’s the biggest thing.”



Take Advantage


It’s up to the players to take advantage of the USHL Combines, which give you an opportunity to showcase your game in front of every USHL organization, and college coaches, right before the USHL Drafts.


“So you have to go to those places to show what you’re capable of doing,” said Allison, “and then you have to play your game, and you have to play a team game. You have to make sure you do something with or without the puck.


“Braden Costello played his game. Cam Knuble played his game.”



Stand Out


Allison has been scouting for a long time, including stints with the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins.


“You’re not looking for people when you scout. You have an idea, maybe. But great players are going to find you,” said Allison. “They’re going to find you by being competitive and showing you traits that are going to be able to help you win.


“That includes body language, that includes passing the puck, that includes encouraging other people and bringing other people into your world. This is a team game. Costello found us. Knuble found us.”



High Level Hockey


The USHL Combines feature some of the best talent from all over the world. All participating players are pre-screened and scouted by the USHL Player Development staff.


“I think the players have to understand that they’re invited to the Combines, and that’s a huge plus for them,” said Allison.


There is a very good chance for players to be drafted after participating in the USHL Combines. Some players get drafted right away, just a few weeks after their first Combine. But many players will be selected the following year after they have continued to develop and work on areas of their game.


No matter what, the USHL Combines will prove to be a very valuable experience for you.


“I think everything exposes you,” said Allison. “The USHL Combines really expose your buy-in if you want to be a team guy. The details that you might not have to do with your own group are really exposed if you don’t do those with the magnitude and the quality of players in the Combine setting.


“The experience can be very valuable, but it’s up to the players to take advantage of it.”


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.

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