MUSKEGON, MI- The USHL draft takes place in just a couple of days, with Phase I beginning at 7:00pm Monday night and Phase II beginning Tuesday morning at 9:00am.
The Phase I draft will be ten rounds, and only 2001-born players are eligible for selection. Muskegon has ten picks, beginning with the 12th overall selection. As of now, the Jacks still have their tender to use in place of that 12th pick, meaning they could sign any 2001-born player who hasn’t already signed a tender contract.
Thus far, only Chicago (Robert Mastrosimone) and Youngstown (Trevor Kuntar) have signed players to tender contracts.
If no other tenders are signed, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders will be on the clock with the first overall pick when 7:00pm rolls around on Monday.
The fact that none of the players eligible for the Phase I draft have played in the USHL or NAHL means that few of them will be factors during the 2017-18 USHL season. A vast majority of players taken in Phase I spend their first year on a USHL affiliate list, in hopes of cracking the lineup down the road.
However, there are a few exceptions to the rule, with Andrei Svechnikov being a huge one. In 2016-17, Svechnikov became the youngest first-team All-USHL selection at least since the league moved to tier one junior hockey back in 2002-03. This season, the next-highest scoring 2000 was Emilio Pettersen of Omaha, who scored 27 points. Svechnikov scored 58.
There will be a handful of 2001s that will make an impact right away, but don’t count on these players to produce this year. These are draft picks that GM John Vanbiesbrouck hopes will make contributions in the future.
The Phase II draft, however, is where the 2017-18 team will be bolstered. This section of the draft is open to all eligible players not on any team’s protected list, regardless of birthyear. The Jacks again have the 12th overall pick, and will make four selections in the first 37 picks.
Phase II picks often come from the North American Hockey League, a tier two junior league. Players like Forward of the Year Zach Solow, Lumberjack center Casey Gilling, and USHL Player of the Year Matiss Kivlenieks all played in the North American League.
Many USHL general managers will turn their eye toward the NAHL to fill their roster with players who can make an impact right away.
The Phase II draft will begin Tuesday morning at 9:00am and last until everyone’ roster has 45 players on it. On average, a team’s 45-man roster will be constructed something like this:
10 returning players
10 returning affiliate list players
10 Phase I picks
15 Phase II picks
Of course, each team has a different number of returning players, and the GMs have to decide if they want to forgo holding onto affiliate players and get more Phase II picks instead.
Main camp is still a long ways off (end of May), but by the time the draft has concluded, we’ll have a much better idea of which players will be getting an invite to the tryout camp.