Even with the 2012 draft season in full swing, excitement surrounding what the United States Hockey League has to offer in 2013 is building.
Without doubt, the crown jewel of the USHL’s contribution to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is defenseman Seth Jones, who is currently playing for the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team.
Jones, who has already amassed an impressive resume in international play for the US, recently returned from an injury he suffered in one of the exhibition games leading up to the 2012 World Junior Championship. The consensus was that the disappointing US team suffered due to the absence of the six-foot-three, 200-pound Plano, TX. native.
Jones isn’t the only 2013 eligible turning heads for the Under-18 Team.
Illinois product Ryan Hartman plays with big game. While skilled, Hartman relishes and seeks out physical contact. His 88 penalty minutes in 41 games, along with eight goals and 22 points is a testament to his hard nosed style.
Not to be overshadowed by their peers, the Under-17 team has a very good collective of talent who will move up to the U-18 team or off to other USHL teams. Players like JT Compher, Hudson Fasching, and Will Butcher have all excelled this year, so there will be curiosity to see if they continue to develop and build on the strong seasons they are having.
There is a healthy amount of draft eligible talent elsewhere among the USHL. Defenseman Michael Downing, who did see some time with the Under-17 Team, is one of the key cogs on the Dubuque blueline, seeing ice time in all situations. Gabe Guertler, his teammate on the World Under-17 Select Team, is a speedy offensive threat for the Fargo Force. The five-foot-nine, 170-pound forward will be in his second year of USHL play, making him poised for a huge season.
Waterloo has the big and small of it when it comes to the 2013 draft.
Six-foot-three, 205-pound defenseman Ian McCoshen, already in his second USHL season, participated in the World Junior A Challenge this fall. While the mobile McCoshen plays a strong stay-at-home game, his diminutive teammate Taylor Cammarata, all five-foot-six and 150-pounds of him, is already at a point-per-game pace. Both McCoshen and Cammarata participated in the Inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, being two of only three 2013 eligibles (Lincoln’s Luke Johnson being the other) invited to participate.
While it may be a bit early to speculate, the 2013 draft class may get a boost from a handful of Minnesota high school players who may opt to spend their draft year playing in the USHL.
Following the lead of AJ Michaelson. Vinni Lettieri and Jordan Gross are both currently juniors on senior-laden High School teams, and both have played games with their respective USHL clubs back in November. Michael Brodzinski, whose rights were traded from Des Moines to Muskegon a few weeks ago, is in a similar situation.
But in the end, all eyes will be on Jones, who could be in the running to be the first overall selection in the 2013 draft. And with Jones getting the lion’s share of attention, he merely serves as the figurehead for a strong draft class coming from the USHL.