Photo by Hickling Images
Team: Green Bay Gamblers
Head Coach: Pat Mikesch, 4th season
2016-17 Record: 34-22-2-2 (72 PTS, 5th in Eastern Conference)
Top Returners: Trenton Bliss, Brock Caufield, Jackson Charlesworth, Josh Dunne, Nolan Moyle, Maksim Zhukov
Notable Additions: Noah Prokop, Michael Vukojevic
After a season in which the Gamblers finished just one point shy of qualifying for the Clark Cup Playoffs, Green Bay will look to get over the hump this year and get back to the postseason for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign. Pat Mikesch welcomes back several key forwards from last year’s team, including double digit scorers Josh Dunne (18 PTS), Brock Caufield (17 PTS) and Nolan Moyle (15 PTS). The Gamblers will look to replace 8th overall pick at the 2017 NHL Draft Casey Mittelstadt, who is set to begin his freshman season at the University of Minnesota, and Noah Prokop might just be the player to do so. The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit is coming off a 45-point season (15G, 30A) with the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s program and will look to provide the offensive firepower that Mittelstadt did last year during his time with Green Bay.
Jackson Charlesworth, who is coming off a 15-point season last season, will look to lead a group of defensemen that includes returners Michael Bevilacqua, John Pesek as well as a slew of young blueliners. Among that group, Michael Vukojevic might be the one that excites Green Bay Fans the most. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 USHL Phase II Draft and a University of Michigan commit who is also a top 2019 NHL Draft prospect. Joining Vukojevic as new defensemen on the roster include NAHL veterans Andy Carroll and Michael Underwood, former BCHL blueliners Brett Stapley and Carver Watson as well as New Hampshire commit Ryan Verrier, who spent last season with the Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers.
Goaltending will arguably be the strongest position on the team, especially because Green Bay returns Maksim Zhukov between the pipes. Last year, the Russian netminder, who participated in last season’s USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, posted a 2.25 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 appearances en route to being named to the USHL All-Rookie Second Team. Following his strong season, Zhukov was selected in the fourth round, 96th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 NHL Draft. He will look to lead the way in goal for Green Bay, while Jake Begley and Juraj Sklenar will be vying for a spot as his backup. Begley spent last year with Hill-Murray School (USHS), while Sklenar played in his native Slovakia during the 2016-17 season.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five 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.