Photo by Hickling Images
Team: Sioux Falls Stampede
Head Coach: Scott Owens, 3rd season
"We've been pleased with the competitiveness of our training camp so far. We will have roughly 12 players that played in the USHL last year on our club plus a group of players that have junior experience, when the dust settles on the final roster. Additionally, the expanded league playoff format should make for an exciting USHL year for all involved."
2016-17 Record: 21-30-3-6 (51 PTS, 7th in Western Conference)
Top Returners: Khristian Acosta, Mikhail Berdin, Paul DeNaples, Jaxon Nelson, Matt Quercia, Jack St. Ivany, Colin Swoyer
Notable Additions: Kevin Conley, Carson Dimoff, Corson Green, Mitchell Mattson, Reid Stefanson
After a down year in 2016-17, the Sioux Falls Stampede look to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference as they look to get back to the success of the 2014-15 campaign where they took home the Clark Cup.
The Stampede feature several young, exciting forwards who will aim to lead the way offensively for Scott Owens’ club. Leading that group is 2016 tender Jaxon Nelson, who had a strong first season in the USHL, with 18 points (7G, 11A) in 54 games as a 16-year-old. He will look to build on that success and be even better offensively in year two in the league. Khristian Acosta was also a force to be reckoned with in the second half of 2016-17 when he cracked the Sioux Falls lineup, putting up a stellar 13 points (1G, 12A) in 20 games. In addition to those young players, the Stampede traded for USHL veteran and Calgary Flames prospect Mitchell Mattson during the Phase II Draft. The North Dakota commit has put up 37 points (16G, 21A) in 89 career USHL games, and he will be looked at to provide veteran leadership and offense to the club. The team also acquired Kevin Conley, who has two full years of USHL experience with the Youngstown Phantoms (2014-16) and spent last season with the University of Denver.
The Sioux Falls blue line is also a reason for Stampede fans to be excited about the upcoming season. In addition to the returning defensemen, Scott Owens added USHL veteran Corson Green to the mix. The New Hampshire commit won a Clark Cup last season with the Chicago Steel and provided some offensive from the back end, with 15 points (5G, 10A) in 48 games. Green will bring skill, veteran leadership, and playoff experience to a team with championship aspirations. Paul DeNaples, also a solid offensive contributor (17 PTS) last season, returns to the veteran group of blueliners along with double-digit point scorers Colin Swoyer (13 PTS) and Yale commit Jack St. Ivany.
Arguably the biggest reason for excitement among Stampede fans this year is the return of Mikhail Berdin between the pipes. The Winnipeg Jets prospect, who attended the NHL club’s rookie game earlier this year, is one of the preseason favorites for top goaltender in the USHL. In 2016-17, the Russian netminder put up a strong 2.73 GAA and .925 SV% in 31 appearances in his first USHL season and stopped a team-record 59 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Oct. 28, 2016. He is poised to have another big season and will try to backstop the Stampede back into the Clark Cup Playoffs.
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.