Four USHL players and three alumni were selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, IL, tying the most opening round draft picks from any other junior league in the world and giving the USHL 25 first-round selections dating back to the 2015 NHL Draft.
Casey Mittelstadt (Green Bay Gamblers) was the first player with USHL ties selected, as the Buffalo Sabres chose the University of Minnesota commit with the eighth overall pick. Mittelstadt recorded 30 points (13G, 17A) in 24 games this season with the Gamblers, good for fourth among all USHL rookies. He was also named the Mr. Hockey award winner in Minnesota after a strong season with Eden Prairie High School. Mittelstadt joins a Sabres organization that recently named Phil Housley (St. Paul Vulcans) their head coach. Housley, who was drafted sixth overall by the Sabres in the 1982 NHL Draft, is the highest drafted player from the USHL in league history, not including alumni selections.
The San Jose Sharks held the 19th overall pick in the draft and selected Team USA forward Josh Norris (Team USA). In 49 career USHL games, the University of Michigan commit recorded 33 points (14G, 19A), including 26 points (12G, 14A) in 25 games during his 2016-17 campaign. His 12 goals and 26 points tied for the Team USA U18 scoring lead in USHL play. Norris joins a Sharks organization captained by former Waterloo Black Hawks forward Joe Pavelski.
The next player with USHL ties to be taken was Ryan Poehling (Lincoln Stars), who was selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the 25th overall selection. Poehling was the first overall pick by Lincoln in the 2015 USHL Draft, recorded 13 points (7G, 6A) in 35 games with St. Cloud State University last season and also won a gold medal with Team USA at the U18 World Junior Championship. Poehling joins an organization led by captain Max Pacioretty (Sioux City Musketeers) who was a first round selection in the 2007 NHL Draft.
Poehling was the first of four USHL players to be chosen with the next six picks, as Jake Oettinger (Team USA) was selected 26th overall by the Dallas Stars, Shane Bowers (Waterloo Black Hawks) 28th overall to the Ottawa Senators, and the Nashville Predators picked up Eeli Tolvanen (Sioux City Musketeers) with the 30th overall pick.
In his 2015-16 season with Team USA, Oettinger recorded a 2.24 GAA and .919 SV%. This past season, he suited up for Boston University and finished with a 2.11 GAA and .927 SV%, the ninth-highest save percentage in all of college hockey. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and All-Hockey East Second Team, and also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championship.
Bowers completed his second season with Waterloo in 2016-17, recording 51 points (22G, 29A) in 60 games en route to being named to the All-USHL Third Team. He was also named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game earlier this season. In two seasons with the Black Hawks, the Boston University commit finished with 84 points (37G, 47A) in 116 games.
Tolvanen finished tied for eighth among all USHL players with 54 points (30G, 24A) in 52 games during 2016-17. He also scored the third most goals in the USHL last season and was named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game as well as the All-USHL First Team. The Finnish forward also excelled in the Clark Cup Playoffs, scoring 10 points (5G, 5A) in 10 games, leading the Sioux City Musketeers to the 2017 Clark Cup Final.
In addition, Cal Foote, who had a brief stint with the Omaha Lancers in the 2014-15 season, was selected 14th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. More USHL players and alumni will look to hear their names called tomorrow during Rounds 2-7 of the 2017 NHL Draft, which will begin at 9 AM Central Time. Follow USHL.com's 2017 NHL Draft Hub as well as the USHL on Twitter for live updates, videos, and more from the 2017 NHL Draft.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 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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