10 USHL players to watch

With nearly every prospect aficionado’s eyes on the CHL Top Prospects game in Calgary last week, we wanted to quickly turn your eyes south to the USHL, where some very good NHL prospects are skating below the radar.

Fans of NHL prospects are almost certainly familiar with two of the probable first round 2014 draft picks, Sonny Milano and Dylan Larkin, both of whom play with United States Development Program Team, as well as with Jack Eichel, who may battle Connor McDavid for the first overall pick in 2015. But there are other excellent skaters in the league whose names you should know both prior to this draft and into the future.

Here are 10 players who are worth your attention:

1. Nick Schmaltz, F, Green Bay Gamblers

6’0″, 172 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of North Dakota

A potential first round selection who was recently listed among the top 20 skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm draft rankings, Schmaltz was very impressive this past summer in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and was the point leader in the 2013 World Junior A Challenge in November. Schmaltz is more of a playmaker than a scorer, but he knows how to finish. He has excellent vision and is very creative, and could easily sneak into the first round this June.

2. Kyle Connor, F, Youngstown Phantoms

6’1″, 170, 2015 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of Michigan

With 2015 prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel hogging all the attention for next year’s draft, we want to add a name to that discussion: Kyle Connor. Although he’s not in the same stratosphere as the other two top young stars, this Connor should be considered a potential first round selection in next year’s draft. A late 1996, Connor played well in both the Ivan Hlinka and the World Junior A Challenge tournaments in 2013. In addition, he is one of the leading scorers in the USHL in his sophomore season in the league (41 points in 29 games).

3. Alex Tuch, F, US Development Team

6’4″, 213 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: Boston College

Tuch has been rising in scouts’ eyes over the past year. A fine performance in the All-American Prospects Game in September and an excellent season since (18 points in 14 games) has propelled him into talks of a potential first round pick. An excellent puckhandler with creativity and vision as well as good wheels, Tuch has many of the raw materials scouts look for in first round picks.

4. Jack Dougherty, D, US Development Team

6’1″, 186 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of Wisconsin

People may be surprised that I have Dougherty ahead of the more highly-touted Jack Glover, but I really like Dougherty’s puck-moving abilities, positioning, and decision making. I also believe that he will become more of a two-way blueliner than Glover over the course of his career. Considered to have only average skating skills, Dougherty is expected to be a second round selection in Philadelphia, but he had no trouble keeping up in the All-American Prospects Game in September and continues to improve in all aspects of his game during the 2013-14 season.

5. Jack Glover, D, US Development Team

6’3″, 190 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of Minnesota

One of the top defensive prospects in the upcoming draft, Glover is expected to be more of a defensive blueliner than two-way in the pros. With good size and excellent vision on the ice, he is working on gap control and speed. Glover is expected to be a second round selection in the 2014 draft in Philadelphia.

6. Colin White, F, US Development Team

5’11”, 170 lbs, 2015 draft eligible

College Commitment: Boston College

The leading scorer in the 2014 U17 World Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia earlier this month, White posted 10 goals and eight assists in six games during the tournament. The Hanover, Massachusetts product is in his rookie USHL season where he has shown outstanding offensive abilities. White plays in all situations and is expected to be a first or second round selection in 2015.

7. Ryan Collins, D, US Development Team

6’5″, 202 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of Minnesota

The third of the big three eligible for this summer’s NHL draft, Collins is strictly a stay-at-home guy. Big, strong, and good at puck possession, Collins should be a mid-round selection in Philadelphia. He needs work on his skating and positioning, but scouts sure are drooling over his size and strength.

8. Auston Matthews, F, US Development Team

5’10”, 176 lbs, 2016 draft eligible

College Commitment: None yet

This may be the first time you heard Matthews’ name, but it won’t be the last. A late 1997, Matthews won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until 2016, so he has lots of time to develop, but he has already shown excellent puck-handling skills, vision, and playmaking abilities. This is the first season that the Scottsdale, Arizona native has played with the US development team. Playing on both the U17 and U18 teams, he also was one of the big contributors to the gold-medal winning US team at the 2014 U17 World Hockey Challenge.

9. Shane Eiserman, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints

6’2″, 200 lbs, 2014 draft eligible

College Commitment: University of New Hampshire

A late 1995 who is expected to be a mid-round pick this June, Eiserman is big and plays tough. After spending the last two seasons with Cushing Academy and then the US U18 team least year, the potential NHL power forward, with a very good two-way game, is skating for Dubuque in 2013-14.

10. Jeremy Bracco, F, US Development Team

5’7″, 130 lbs, 2015 draft eligible

College Commitment: Harvard University

Small, very small–but what a wizard with the puck. Creative, with excellent playmaking abilities, and good skating, Bracco has been very impressive this season. He too showed much of his talent at the 2014 U17 World Hockey Challenge earlier this month, and if Bracco can improve his strength and continue to impress he should be an “A” or “B” player to watch next year.

Honorable mentions

Christian Fischer, Shane Gersich, Ryan Hitchcock, Josh Jacobs

Leslie Treff covers professional and amateur scouting for Hockey Prospectus.


Follow Leslie on Twitter at @HFNYRangers.

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