MUSKEGON, MI- It’s been a busy 48 hours in the USHL, and now the Clark Cup playoff picture has been outlined.
It just needs to be painted.
Yesterday was the final day that the USHL allowed the trading of draft picks, and questions were answered. Green Bay bought, Bloomington sold, and two clear frontrunners emerged in the West.
Player-for-player trades are still allowed until February 27th, but since teams willing to sell are interested in building for the future, the “draft pick” deadline is a big date.
A lot went down, but here are the highlights:
Green Bay acquires Easton Brodzinski from Madison
Many assumed Madison would be sellers, and Garrett Suter confirmed that by trading Brodzinski to Green Bay for affiliate Christian Berger and a phase-two 6th round pick. Brodzinski led Madison with 25 points and 14 goals, and gives the Gamblers a needed scoring boost.
Green Bay sits seven points out of a playoff spot, but with the addition of Brodzinski, hope to remain in the hunt until mid-March when Casey Mittelstadt returns to the lineup. Green Bay plays a very tough schedule, but will host 13 of their final 20.
Muskegon acquires Austin Alger from Omaha
With Andrei Svechnikov and Collin Adams leading the way for the Jacks, they already had a contending squad. Now, with Alger added to the lineup, Muskegon fans will argue their team is the USHL’s best.
GM John Vanbiesbrouck had to sacrifice affiliate Andy Nedeljkovic, a third-round phase two pick in 2017, and a 6th-round phase two 2018 pick, but the addition of Alger cements their place among the favorites.
Chicago acquires Dayton Rasmussen and Jason O’Neill
Dan Muse’s Steel were overtaken in the standings this weekend, dropping to second place for the first time all season. Muse, along with GM Ryan Bennett, responded in a huge way Tuesday, acquiring Tri-City goaltender Dayton Rasmussen and Sioux Falls forward Jason O’Neill.
Rasmussen posted a 2.50 GAA and .911 save percentage for the struggling Storm, and could come in to challenge Ales Stezka for the starting gig.
O’Neill has scored 16 goals and 11 assists this season, and projects to jump right into an already potent Chicago lineup that has scored more goals per game than any other team.
Waterloo acquires Alex Limoges and Peter Thome
Already one of the league’s most dangerous teams, Waterloo added Tri-City’s do-everything forward, Alex Limoges. Limoges has scored 31 points this season, and if he does play on the top line in Waterloo, the Nick Swaney- Shane Bowers- Alex Limoges combo may be the league’s most lethal trio.
Thome, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, will make the move to his third team this season. After struggling in Omaha to begin the year, he steadied himself to post a 2.37 GAA/ .911 SV% line in five games with Chicago.
Sioux City acquires Tarek Baker, Charlie Kelleher and Peter Tufto
The Musketeers still hold onto first place, but their lead has shrunk to just two points over the red-hot Black Hawks. Needing to keep pace with Waterloo, GM Mark LeRose made two deals with two different teams to bring in a trio of playmakers.
Kelleher will jump right to the top of the team in scoring: his 34 points this season are one more than Eeli Tolvanen’s previous team lead. Tufto’s 29 points aren’t far off the pace, and Baker has 18 points, 11 of them goals. Additionally, Baker was the Bloomington captain, meaning he’s very likely going to be a strong positive influence in the locker room.
LeRose was forced to give up prospect Ryan Sandelin and a host of picks: a 2nd-rounder, a 4th-rounder, a 5th-rounder, a 6th-rounder and a conditional 2nd-rounder. It’s Clark Cup or bust for the Muskies.