The Green Bay Gamblers capped off their storybook season with a happy ending Saturday as they defeated the Waterloo Black Hawks five to two to win the USHL’s 2012 Clark Cup.
While many prior USHL champion’s success came majorly in part to experience and undrafted/never to be drafted players, the same cannot be said about this year’s Green Bay squad.
The Gamblers, who rewrote the USHL record book by setting the new mark for points in a season with 98 (47-9-4), rode the success of this year’s first year draft eligible players in addition to 2011 NHL Entry Draft picks. 2012 first year eligible picks Jordan Schmaltz and Dakota Mermis joined 2011 3rd round Anaheim pick Andy Welinksi to create one of the best defensive corps the league has even seen. Alex Broadhurst, who was selected by Chicago last June in the 7th round, lead the Gamblers’ offense, more than doubling his point total from last season to finish third in the league in point in the regular season. In the playoffs, Broadhurst continued to step up his game in the playoffs as he led all players in points with nine goals and nine assists in 12 games.
In addition to Schmaltz and Mermis, Forward Alex Kile may be another Gambler selected in the later rounds of next month’s draft. Kile was impressive in his first USHL season with 17 goals and 17 assists in 58 games.
This season is not an abnormal year for the Gamblers in terms of having high impact draft eligible players in their locker room. Last June, four Gamblers were taken with Adam Wilcox and Aaron Harstad being taken in the 6th and 7th round, respectively, in addition to Broadhurst and Welinski. 2012 will mark the fourth consecutive season the Gamblers will have players taken in the annual June draft.
Looking into the crystal ball, Green Bay could have as many as six consecutive NHL Drafts where a player is selected while playing their draft year in a Gambler uniform. Current Maple Grove (Minn.) High School defenseman Jordan Gross is expected by many to spend his draft year and senior year of high school with the Gambler club next season. Gross was selected in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft with Green Bay’s first round pick. Gross is ranked in the top 40 in the 2013 draft class by Future Considerations in this year’s draft guide.
Jordan Schmaltz’s brother, Nick, has committed to play for Green Bay next season and could be selected very high in the 2014 NHL Draft. Schmaltz committed to play his first full season with the Gamblers next year despite being drafted by the Windsor Spitfires in this year’s OHL Priority Selection and an offer to try out for the National Team Development Program. Whether or not he comes back to Green Bay for his draft eligible year is obviously uncertain.
While the Gamblers continue to celebrate their accomplishments this week, another celebration will take place next month in Pittsburgh for Gambler players and staff.