USHL eligibles gear up for push

Andrew Weiss2013 Draft Center0 Comments

With the USHL Playoffs looming, many top draft eligible players who will see their season end in two weeks have continued to trend upward in the eyes of scouts in preparation for June’s draft.

These players will not have the chance to differentiate themselves in playoff hockey but have made the most of their opportunities this season.

Sitting in last place of the USHL’s Western Conference, the Sioux City Musketeers have desperately underwhelmed as a team this season. The same cannot be said about draft eligible duo of Jake Guentzel and Blake Heinrich, who have steadily seen their draft stock improve this season.

No one in the league has been hotter than Nebraska-Omaha commit Guentzel the last two months. Guentzel has a 17-game point streak in which he has accumulated 35 points and been named USHL Forward of the Week three times along the way. The streak has shot the Woodbury, Minn. native up the USHL’s scoring leaders to eighth with 65 points in 56 games this season.

Guentzel is an undersized forward at just five-foot-nine and 155 points but makes up for a lack of size with other strong facets of his game. Guentzel is a very strong skater with a quick stride and the ability to be illusive in the offensive zone. Guentzel’s defensive play has come a long way as well though is still the center’s biggest weakness in his game.

Likewise, teammate Heinrich has also put in a strong draft year this season. The physical blue liner has been solid defensively against the bigger, stronger USHL competition and also still possesses an offensive upside that was prevalent last season in Minnesota High School hockey. Heinrich has 19 points in 40 games. Heinrich provides good value for any team that selects him in the middle rounds of this year’s draft.

Tri-City Storm’s Trevor Moore is another draft eligible whose season will end in the coming weeks but has pieced together an impressive body of work. Moore remains a point-per-game player for the Storm with 58 points in 58 games.

Moore is a fast skater who can get up the ice very quick with the puck in transition. This strength was on full display amongst the league’s best draft eligible players at the USHL Top Prospects Game. Despite not recording a point in the game, the Denver commit created numerous scoring opportunities for him and his linemates while entering the offensive zone. Like Guentzel, size and defense concerns hamper Moore. Many scouts see Moore has a later-middle rounds pick in New Jersey.

The Chicago Steel is the first team on the outside looking in on the USHL Eastern Conference Playoffs and will see big Tyler Hill put a close on his draft year in five games. Since joining the Steel full time in mid-January, Hill has displayed a skill set that makes him one of the top power forwards in the league.

Blessed with size at six-foot-six and 225 pounds, Hill uses a combination of great puckhandling ability, puck poise, and strength to be an impact player on the ice. Hill’s potential makes him an interesting prospect in the upcoming draft and remains a top 50 prospect in Future Considerations’ draft rankings.

The third period horn on April 13 will end these four and many other USHL players’ draft years. Until then, the USHL draft eligibles will continue to attempt to improve their stock in the final stretch of the season in hopes their hard work will pay off come June 30 in New Jersey.

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