Want to make it to the NHL? Every player’s journey is different and every athlete develops at his own pace. With more options now available to players around the world, it is becoming more evident that the USHL develops future NHL talent at an elite level.
Here are the facts:
Why has the USHL been a hotbed for NHL prospects? We sit down with USHL coaches and general managers to find out more.
Commitment to the Development Model
Green Bay Gamblers head coach and general Pat Mikesch has coached six NHL Draft picks in the last two years, including 2016 USHL Goaltender of the Year Adam Huska:
“The USHL continues to develop elite players year after year. The 10 first-round picks at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is validation on the quality of players participating throughout the league. Every organization is committed to the Tier 1 model. It is this commitment both from a coaching and financial standpoint that attracts the best players from around the world to form this ultra-competitive league.”
No Nights Off
Fargo Force head coach and general manager Cary Eades spent time coaching 2016 1st round picks Riley Tufte and Kieffer Bellows:
“I believe one of the biggest factors in the increase of USHL players being selected in the NHL Entry Draft is because of the extremely high competition level in our league. The USHL is attracting the best of the best players from other leagues not only in the U.S., but in Canada and Europe as well. In addition to that, there is tremendous parity in our league due to the USHL drafts, so there are no ‘have and have-not’ organizations in the USHL. Every team is competitive and that creates an environment where players have to push themselves each and every day to get better.”
“Our scheduling aids in developing players,” Eades added. “We play almost exclusively on weekends, which allows time for on-ice practice, and two solid off-ice workouts from Monday through Thursday each week. Game competition is one factor in development, but you also need time for proper training to hone your skills, and with the highly qualified coaches that are in the USHL, the players reap the benefits and show tremendous growth and improvement during the season.”
Play Like a Professional
Youngstown Phantoms general manager Jason Koehler scouted and signed 2015 1st round pick Kyle Connor to a tender contract. In the past three years, the Phantoms have had eight NHL Draft picks:
“NHL clubs know that they are drafting not only a great hockey talent, but an athlete that has had to practice, train and play like a professional already. They know they’re getting a player that has also had to balance his hockey with school, academics and daily life. That is something that is extremely difficult for most young athletes, but something that the USHL players go through each and every day and season before moving on to elite college programs and pro hockey organizations.
“Our players are ready for the upcoming challenges they will face in hockey and in their daily life.”
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.