USHL Top Prospects Shining

Zemgus Girgensons Dubuque Fighting Saints
Jim Naprstek / Dubuque Fighting Saints forward Zemgus Girgensons was drafted as the highest USHL product at 14th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Every year, all anyone hears about are the top prospects eligible for the next NHL Entry Draft playing in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) or in Europe. The United States Hockey League (USHL) seems to be the middle child that often gets ignored by both the NHL and its fans. This past season, however, the USHL saw a lot of time in the NHL’s headlines. Whether it was Cedar Rapids RoughRider and former Sioux Falls Stampede player Dylan McLaughlin’s between-the-legs goal that made ESPN’s Sports Center “Best of the Best”, or the highlights of top prospects like Waterloo’s Ian McCoshen, the USHL was getting a lot of the NHL’s spotlight that is typically reserved for Canadian Juniors.

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Last night was a big moment for the USHL as Muskegon hosted the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game presented by CCM. It was a goaltender’s duel as Team West won 2-1 after being backstopped by the exceptional play of Waterloo Black Hawks goaltenders Eamon McAdam and Cal Petersen. Petersen stopped 20 of 21 shots in a very solid performance as Central Scouting’s #4 ranked North American goaltender. McAdam, the #7 ranked goalie, played an outstanding 30-plus minutes and stopped 11 of 11 shots—including a beautiful glove save on the back door to deny Muskegon’s own Michael Brodzinski with less than five minutes to go in the opening period. Combined, the two goalies stopped 31 of 32 shots and Team West’s goals were scored by Conor McGlynn and Jason Cotton.

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Starting in net for Team East was Sioux Falls Stampede #1 netminder Charlie Lindgren, who stopped 13 of 15 shots in 30:40 of play. Lindgren is the 23rd ranked goaltender in North America and 3rd in the USHL. He leads all USHL goalies with 19 wins. Chicago Steel netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos stopped all nine shots he faced in relief of Lindgren. John Hayden scored for Team East at the 15:08 mark of the final frame, but that was the closest East would get.

Top-ranked NHL prospect McCoshen looked quite solid in the game, forming a formidable top pairing for Team West with Omaha Lancers defenseman Tucker Poolman. McCoshen is a big blue-liner that can be relied upon to quarterback a top power play unit and has a quite heavy shot from the point. An all-around defenseman, he plays a great, physical shutdown role and isn’t afraid to drop down to block a shot. The Boston College commit is ranked #21 on Central Scouting’s midterm list of North American skaters and provided some big hits in the game.

Yes, there will be plenty of young players drafted from Europe and Canadian Juniors in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but there is some great talent on display at the local USHL city near many American hockey fans. In fact, the first overall pick during the June draft could very well be defenseman Seth Jones, a product of the USHL before he joined Portland of the WHL. The days of the USHL being ignored are nearly over and its success is finally being recognized. Of course, this comes as no surprise to USHL fans—we’ve known for a long time, and now you do, too.