Long Distance Call…

Back for a second time today and that’s because USHL commissioner Skip Prince has got some people talking.

Prince wrote an open letter to “The Pipeline Show” addressing a number of items such as the differences between the USHL and the CHL along with the possibility of seeing a USHL-CHL game.

The letter was written to supplement an interview that was done on “The Pipeline Show” on Saturday with USHL spokesman Brian Werger. Prince said this afternoon that he didn’t expect the letter to take off like it did.

“What spawned the discussion is the continuing sense that the USHL is and will be recognized as Junior ‘A’ hockey,” Prince said. “The Junior ‘A’ leagues in Canada are handicapped by Major Junior but when the Canadian fan searches to find an easy analogy, it is that we are different.”

Prince added later, “I frankly thought it was good to get it from the horse’s mouth.”

Prince, who was at the league office in Chicago, talked for 20 minutes about a multitude of subjects such as the USHL’s image and the possibility of there being a USHL-CHL game of some type.

He admitted that there has been discussions within the USHL at various levels and discussions with CHL commissioner Dave Branch about a USHL team playing a CHL team.

“The Tier I standards articulate promoting in the future, participation in the Memorial Cup,” Prince said. “And that was 10 years ago. It’s not like we’ve been diligently trying to operate a league that will be competitive in the Memorial Cup. We have a system that’s about delivering kids to the 58 D-1 institutions that play college hockey.”

In regard to his talk with Branch, Prince recalled something he once discussed with his counterpart.

“I started with asking him directly,” said Prince, who has known Branch for many years, “What have you got to win and lose here?”

Prince didn’t give a timeline on when and if a game would occur but he did say there would be plenty challenges that would come with it.

He outlined how both CHL teams and USHL teams play different schedules. Though the CHL plays 12 more games than the USHL, it has a quicker season. The CHL also has games that are played in the middle of the week.

The USHL, on the other hand, plays 60 games a season with the majority coming on the weekend. Prince said to get a game going would mean having to alter schedules for both leagues and, in the case of the CHL, a TV date that’s already been agreed upon.

Prince then brought up the point that if a USHL team were to play a CHL team, they’d have to get clearance from the NCAA.

“If we were to play, who’s rules would we play under?” he said. “If we were playing against NHL signees, we’d have to get an NCAA dispensation because we’d be playing pros.”

Nonetheless, Prince said even with those obstacles he’d be for a game between the two leagues in the hopes of taking what he called “the vicious nationalism” out of the game.

Yet there was one theme that existed in the conversation with Prince and that was the USHL’s image.

Prince said that the CHL is a good league that has done a great job of marketing itself while the USHL is a great league that has done a good job of marketing itself.

“The message we have tended to send in the past really has seemed to sound as if the USHL and college is your choice because you don’t think you are going to make it into the pros and this is an insurance policy,” Prince said. “To a 14-or 15-year-old, we talk to them about their choices. Every one of them is elite and they should think they have a shot of making it to the NHL.”

Prince said the league has worked towards explaining to youth that the USHL provides more options because it gives a player a chance to attend college where as the Major Junior route forces a player to put, “all your eggs in one basket” because college eligibility would be surrendered.

The USHL’s top boss was very complimentary of the Major Junior system in regards to how it markets itself and the type of affect it does have.

Prince admitted that because Major Junior has been around and has become so entrenched in hockey culture, that many youth grow up hearing about the system in the United States and Canada.

He then added that the USHL/college model hasn’t had that long-standing history of being engrained in the hockey culture for some like Major Junior.

“There isn’t an NCAA hockey team to follow in Florida, Texas or California where you’re starting to see more hockey players,” Prince said. “We have to introduce college hockey. A lot of it is what people see and read. By the time a kid is 14 or 15 years old, he knows the last two or three Memorial Cup winners and he knows where Sidney Crosby came from. But he may not know the last three winners of the Clark Cup or where John Carlson came from.”

Sometimes In The Fall…

Considering the talk about Troy Hesketh a year ago, what happened to him on Wednesday clearly shows how much things have changed.

Hesketh, a third-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2009, verbally committed to playing college hockey today at Hamline. Hamline is a Division III school. Hesketh is a former Wisconsin commit.

To put it bluntly, third-round draft picks go play in college or Major Junior. They don’t play D-III hockey. In fact, it has been asked: Is this the first time a third-round draft pick will play at a D-III school?

Either way, I have a phone call out to Hamline to see if Hesketh will be playing there next season.

That in itself shows how rocky of a year it has been for Hesketh, who played high school hockey at Minnetonka (MN-HS) where he was considered to be one of the state’s best players.

What could be considered even more interesting is that no one knows where Hesketh will play this season. He was last with Sioux City and was later cut from the team. The league office said Wednesday morning that Hesketh wasn’t invited to tryout camp by any team in the league.

Usually, that means a league like the NAHL would most likely be his next option.

As was earlier stated, it has been a tough time for Hesketh and here’s why. He opened last pre-season with the Force before being traded to Chicago a few days before the regular season started.

He was part of a hapless Steel team that went on to win nine games. Hesketh wasn’t there for the whole season as he was traded to Sioux City. During that time he was fighting off the after affects of a concussion he suffered.

Then news broke that Wisconsin dropped Hesketh because he didn’t have the scores to gain acceptance into the school for the coming 2011-12 season. It resulted in Wisconsin getting Benilde-St. Margaret’s (MN-HS) Patrick Daly, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils.

And that pretty much sums up Troy Hesketh’s 2010-11 season.

Ice, Ice Baby…

Man, if it wasn’t for the fact Peyton Manning’s coming back, the good folks of Indianapolis would be marching towards London, Ont. right now.

This time it is because of Max Domi. Domi was selected by the Ice with the 20th overall in this past spring’s Futures Draft.  His mom said she wanted him to attend college (presumably at Michigan) but his father, Tie, said he wanted his son in Major Junior.

Well, the former NHL enforcer won (big shocker there) and his son is now a Knight ending a long, Canadian nightmare that’s made it easier to cope now that Timmy’s has made its cup sizes larger.

It isn’t a surprise but here’s the funny relationship (depending on how you view it) between the Ice and the Knights. A few years ago, the Ice had Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson who later left the team to go play for the Knights. Carlson played a full season in Indiana before jumping to London and eventually becoming one of America’s best up-and-coming defensemen.

A few years ago the Ice took a gamble with a late, late round pick in John Tavares, who just went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. Though he started his Major Junior career with the Oshawa Generals, he was later traded to the Knights. Tavares going Major Junior was no surprise but it is interesting to see how his path went.

Domi choosing The OHL also sums up what’s been a tough year for the Ice when it comes to battling Major Junior. Don’t forget Adam Erne, who spent last season with the Ice, said goodbye as he decided to go play in The QMJHL.

Don’t feel too bad for them though. After all, they had the league’s best offense last year and had two players – Blake Coleman (New Jersey Devils) and Brian Ferlin (Boston Bruins) – get drafted. Their linemate, Daniil Tarasov, wasn’t drafted but he’s in the Penguins system after going to the team’s development camp. Tarasov is coming back so there’s that. Plus, they are keeping goaltender Jon Gillies around this year after it was rumored that he’d be going north too. So see, it hasn’t been a horrible off season for the ice.

Coaches and scouts around the USHL have said the Ice have been known for drafting certain guys in an attempt to hit a home run. Just seems like this time, they got robbed at the warning track. Or in foul territory depending on the perspective.

The Right Profile…

Well, USHL, you finally got your chance to prove you do belong with the big boys in Major Junior and you’re not a “stepping stone.”

The numbers suggest it. After all, it was the USHL (37) that had more players on NHL Central Scouting’s Prelim Futures List than the The QMJHL (31), than The OHL (29) or The WHL (26).

People, both in and out of America, have ripped you and your league so badly that you’d think JWoww and Vinny put you on blast like that.

They say the USHL can’t produce first-round draft picks unless the NTDP comes in and does an Obama to help them save face. It appears the USHL might not need a bailout with three projected first rounders in Jordan Schmaltz (Sioux City/North Dakota) and Dubuque duo Zemgus Girgensons (Vermont) and Michael Matheson (Boston College).

Oh and you did manage to keep Schmaltz away from the OHL, Girgensons away from the WHL and Matheson away from The Q.

Problem is, nobody cares about that and given this summer, why should they?

American hockey has taken a public relations kick to the groin this off-season. So many top-flight Americans are going Major Junior and in some cases (see Jamie Oleksiak) they rather just not be American altogether.

Then there’s what happened with Penticton in the BCHL fleecing seven Americans – most notably Wayzata’s Mario Lucia (Minnesota Wild) and Edina’s Steven Fogarty (Notre Dame/New York Rangers) – from USHL teams.

Don’t forget even younger top-end Americans like Brandon Shea and Adam Erne. Shea was set to play with the NTDP and opted instead for the The Q. Same goes for Erne, who spent last season with the Indiana Ice before deciding to take his talents to Quebec.

And then there’s what happened with Anthony DeAngelo exchanging Cedar Rapids for Sarnia.

Having so many high-end kids leave is more than a slap in the face. And if you think I’m wrong Elin Nordegren is on Line 1 to say otherwise.

Point is American hockey needs a bounce-back year. They need it the way school needs teachers, the way that Kathie Lee needed Regis or the way Kanye needed Jesus. This summer’s NHL Draft was a start. The USHL (27) had more players drafted than The Q (22). But more needs to be done.

We know the USHL can’t exactly send a Zack Morris-like telegraph before every game saying they need to beat Valley or in this case Major Junior. But you know damn well that they want this to work.

This could be one of the most, if not the most important season in the USHL’s history. For all the talk they’ve done about being a viable option along with college hockey to reach the NHL, they better hope to God this is the year that can jump start it.

It is the kind of year where the USHL needs to sit down and ask the following question: Will 2011-12 be our Waterloo (not like Bliss Littler, though his team can help) or will this be our Normandy, where we really entrench ourselves in a long, long battle with Major Junior?

That’s only a question the league, its teams and to a degree, its players can answer.

Whatever the answer may be, there will be critics. There will be some Canadians touting that no matter what the USHL does, it can never compete with Major Junior. Those people probably feel the USHL needs to keep to itself and not mess with those three eighth-grade boys waiting to take their lunch money.

Yet if the USHL has a good year at the draft among other things, maybe people won’t have to wonder if they belong at all.

And maybe more will see it as a viable option – instead of stepping stone -after all.

Strict Machine…

Not sure if you got a chance to check it out but NHL Central Scouting released its’ preliminary Futures List of North American players.

Basically the list is comprised of what’s deemed to be the top skaters in 15 junior leagues and states with high school hockey. The list is broken down into three classes depending on the league. The “A” List are the top-tier players while the “B” List is the second tier and the “C” List is the lowest level.

MN-HS has 15 players with no “A” List players but 10 “B” list players including Moorhead’s Michael Bitzer, who is a potential favorite to win the Frank Brimsek Award for the state’s top senior goaltender.  Shattuck-St. Mary’s has the most representatives on the list with seven players headlined by Zach Stepan (Wisconsin).

Apple Valley’s AJ Michaelson (Minnesota) is on the MN-HS list but will spend this season with the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL. Lakeville North goaltender Charlie Lindgren will also spend this season in the USHL playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede.

As for the USHL, it has five “A” List players but it is technically six as Michael Matheson (Boston College) will spend this season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Joining Matheson on the list is Dubuque teammate Zemgus Girgensons (Vermont), Jordan Schmaltz (Sioux City/North Dakota) and NTDP trio Nick Kerdiles, Jacob Trouba and Cameron Darcy, who decommitted from Northeastern earlier this week.

UPDATED: Earlier I reported that the USHL is listed with 26 players but technically has at least 31 because of players from other leagues who plan on playing in the USHL this season such as Matheson.

But thanks to Vancouver Canucks scout and Indiana Ice chief scout Judd Brackett, he brought to my attention six players on the list that will be playing in the USHL this season bringing the total to 37 players.

In terms of USHL breakdown, the team with the most players on this list is the, surprise, surprise, NTDP program with nine players including Riley Barber, who is still listed with Dubuque. Next in line is the Fargo Force with five players. The Force are represented by Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), Nate Arentz, Alex Iafallo and Justin Wade. The Indiana Ice are third with three players on the list.

And for those wondering about Major Junior and how the USHL stacks up, here’s the comparisons. The infamous OHL has 29, The Q has 31 and the WHL has 26.

When it comes to “A” List players that’s where Major Junior has the expected edge. The OHL has nine players. The Q and The WHL each have eight “A” List players too.

Granted, this is what’s listed so there could be players from other junior leagues or high schools that are listed that could be playing Major Junior, but it just hasn’t been reflected yet.

Campus…

For many Fargo-area youth, today marked one of the worst days in their young lives: They had to go back to school.

It also meant the Force had some of their players start the school year at Fargo South High School. The Force have eight players attending South this year, and one player will be home-schooled/taking online courses, said Force billet coordinator Dorian Nelson.

One of the players who was at South today was forward Gabe Guertler. This is the third-straight year that Guertler opened the first day of school in another state. Last year, he attended school in Chicago where he played midget hockey, and prior that, he went to school in his native Florida.

“Going to school in Florida was fine because I had gone to that school for three years,” said Guertler, who is a junior. “And then in Chicago, it wasn’t that bad because I lived with another kid on the team who had friends at school and he already introduced me to them. This year, it might be a little harder.”

Players, such as Guertler, are often having to switch schools in order to play junior hockey. Unless a kid grows up in a hockey-crazed state like Minnesota, Michigan or Massachusetts, most will have to leave home to go play hockey. Part of that includes going to a different high school and adjusting to a brand-new everything in many respects.

This is where billet parents and families come in handy. They are designed to lessen the blow that players may have when it comes to adjusting to a new environment.

It is a role Nelson is familiar with, as she’s been a billet mother to four players in the team’s four-year history.

“You just treat them like they are one of your own,” Nelson said. “You look at making sure who is eating what, and you make sure everyone has what they need to get to school. The boys picked up their schedules earlier this week and knew where they had to be and where they had to go.”

Nelson was thrown a bit of a curveball this year since she is now the billet mother for Justin Wade, who is returning for his second season. Nelson was slated to have defenseman Garrett Haar as a billet for a consecutive season.

Then Haar, in case you didn’t hear, found this thing called Twitter and said he was going to be heading to Western Michigan this season. Nelson, when she learned of the news, teared up five minutes into our interview.

Don’t worry. She was cool this time, but her daughter Gabby said, “Let him know Garrett isn’t here.”

Gotta love that kid.

Anyway, Nelson has Wade this year, and sadly, they didn’t get to go school-supply shopping. Wade came with his own supplies, and one of them was not a “Dora The Explorer” backpack.

Nelson said before Wade left home, she made sure that he had food to eat and that he had all of his hockey equipment, because after class, the players go to Scheels Arena to practice for the upcoming season.

But when Wade gets home, she’ll be more than happy to ask him at dinner how his first day of school went.

“It is kind of fun to see the answers you get,” Nelson said. “Some say ‘Fine’ or ‘Wow, it was great.’ For our new students, their answers have much more depth.”

Guertler said his day was good. He said South isn’t an overly large school because there are around a 1,000 kids compared to schools back in Guertler’s native Florida, which have enrollments well over 3,000 in many schools.

It sounded like a typical first day: going over the syllabus, not too much work and lunch with his teammates.

“What we did is we have class from 7:45 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. and we were on the ice from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m,” Guertler said. “It will be like that for the next two weeks until rest of the team comes in.”

Guertler has been in Fargo for nearly two weeks. He came after representing the United States in the Five Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Considered to be one of the tournament’s top players, he helped the U.S. take first.

Since then, the No. 2 overall pick in the USHL Futures Draft has had people asking him where he’d go to college. Earlier in the week, he took a visit to North Dakota.

“It was more than what I thought it would be,” Guertler said of his visit. “That was my first time there, and it was an amazing campus and the rink was unbelievable. It was the best I’ve ever seen.”

Guertler said he is keeping his options open but his top three choices are: Denver, Minnesota and North Dakota.

He plans on taking his time to make a decision. Guertler said earlier in the summer he’d hope to have a decision by now, but it won’t come until later once he has a chance to visit Denver.

Guertler, whose dad grew up in St. Paul, has already visited Minnesota three times. The most recent came at the Force’s tryout camp in Prior Lake, Minn.

“I saw it two other times last season,” Guertler said of Minnesota. “We were there for hockey and we just went over to campus to check it out.”

What’s Going On….

Hope everyone is having a decent Wednesday. Just wanted to drop a line saying that this is normally the deadest stretch of the off-season where nothing major really happens.

There will be a few commitments here and there. Some players will be taking unofficial visits before the season starts. But for the most part, it is a really quiet time before pre-season camps start and then the Fall Classic.

So for now, I just wanted to let everyone know that the blog could be quiet for a few days but there are some things planned for down the road. Can’t get into all of it but starting soon, I will start to run previews of all 16 USHL teams and what to expect from those people.

Included in that will be some lists of who to look for this season when it comes to keeping tabs on some players.

But if things do come up, this spot will be updated. Plus, you can always follow me on Twitter

That’s it for now. Until then, have a good one everybody.

Mr. Big Stuff…

It certainly wasn’t the plan Adam Micheletti had in mind, but he’s fine with the way things could play out.

When Micheletti and his Dubuque Fighting Saints got French-Canadian defenseman Michael Matheson, the plan was to get him to play in the USHL. Now, it appears Matheson could do more than just that.

“I think USA Hockey and the USHL is starting to go on the right path by increasing the imports to four players,” said Micheletti, who is the Saints’ director of player operations. “I think it is important to allow more and more competitive Canadian kids. You are allowing players who might be on the fence to go the USHL and the college route.”

Micheletti pointed out that having a player like Matheson come to the USHL could do more to raise the league’s profile.

Another thing that could help is if Matheson continues to perform in a way that has many thinking he could be a first-round draft pick.

Matheson, a Boston College commit, is one of two players the Fighting Saints have with a pretty legit chance of going in the first round. The other is Vermont commit Zemgus Girgensons.

The two comprise what could be a good year at the NHL Draft for the USHL, which is projected to have around five first-round picks.

“I think this might be the most important year for the league with Zemgus, Matheson, (Sioux City’s Jordan) Schmaltz and even (Fargo’s Brian) Cooper,” Micheletti said. “Cooper is going to be no later than a second rounder and I think that its important that the league takes advantage of that this year and let as many potential players know that you can be a first-rounder coming out of this league.”

Micheletti said when the team drafted Matheson they did their best to create a relationship with his family.

An example of that came when the Fighting Saints added Matheson’s older brother, Kenny, to its roster heading into the Fall Classic.

They stressed not only the USHL but what college hockey could do for him in the future. Micheletti conceded that he knew Matheson would be a one-year guy.

“It takes longer for defenseman to develop and he knows that,” Micheletti said.

So far, it sounds like Matheson is already pretty far along.

He was at the NHL’s Research and Development Camp last week where he was able to impress more than his fair share of people.

Micheletti said he heard a lot of good reviews about Matheson’s skating ability saying, “he might be the best pure skater of his age group right now.”

“He isn’t as refined because he played midget hockey last year compared to others guys who played in the CHL,” Micheletti said. “I think a lot of teams could see his skating ability is near the top and so was his ability ot think the game.”

Development aside, Matheson is expected to play a major role in Dubuque’s chase for a second straight Clark Cup this season.

Micheletti said Matheson’s job will be to stimulate the Fighting Saints’ power play, which last season ranked seventh in the league.

“We are going to have an extra tool in our power play,” Micheletti said. “He is going to help out there and he can be a one-man breakout by being able to skate past everybody and help the forwards create something.”

They Say…

People talk.

And they’ve said quite a bit this summer about Dubuque Fighting Saints duo Zemgus Girgensons and Michael Matheson. Scouts, media, etc. have said both will likely be first-round picks in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Plenty has been said about whether or not both would spend this season in the USHL and jump to Major Junior.

Dubuque president of operations Adam Micheletti said Friday he’s heard the talk and that the franchise felt comfortable that both players would honor their commitment.

“You know wish someone like (Girgensons) you are always concerned,” Micheletti said. “There was a ton of money thrown at him from different teams. The one thing with him and his dad is that when they make a commitment, they stick with it.”

Girgensons was drafted by the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and has been the subject of the typical “Will he go?” talk that often comes when any non-Canadian player has a chance at playing Major Junior

Micheletti said there was also interested from Dinamo Riga (KHL), which is Girgensons’ hometown team.

The interest from Dinamo Riga, Micheletti said, was more of a concern than the interest from Kelowna.

“But in the end,” Micheletti said. “It hasn’t given us any reason to think that he’d leave.”

Surely, it’ll be something that people will continue to talk about throughout the year.

But something no one has discussed is how Dubuque even learned about Girgensons. Micheletti said the team had a few scouts watch Girgensons when he was playing for the Green Mountain Glades (EJHL) and heard quite a few positive reviews.

The claim was that Girgensons was one of the top skaters in his age group and could potentially be a first-rounder in his draft year.

“We saved one of our tenders and we decided to go after him,” Micheletti said. “Everyone said he’s a gut tha twe had to get. We spoke with his adviser and go him two days before the deadline.”

It turned out to be a good move with Girgensons being a vital part of the Fighting Saints’ championship season.

Micheletti compared the Vermont commit to former NHL star Peter Forsberg in the sense that he didn’t care who got the credit as long as the team won.

His attitude towards winning is why he made the Latvian Junior Team at 16 and it’s another reason why Girgensons will be the team’s captain this season.

“There is not anyone who works hard as he does on and off the ice,” Micheletti said. “He was very emotional after we won.”

Girgensons has one more year with the Fighting Saints before going to Vermont.

Micheletti said that Girgensons’ time playing in the EJHL made him a fan of Vermont and it is a big reason why he decided to go there.

Now, of course, there’s that one question: Will Girgensons stay all four years?

“You never know what is going to happen in hockey and its important that he gets his education,” said Micheletti, a Boston College alum. “Is he a guy that will go all four years at Vermont? Probably not because he’s that good of a player. He’ll be ready for the NHL at some point.”

 

 

Check back tomorrow for what Micheletti had to say about the team getting Matheson and how this could be the biggest year in the USHL’s recent history.

Wide Open Spaces…

Hockey fans in North Dakota learned Tuesday they’ll get to see Grand Forks’ Luke Johnson return home in a few more years as he committed to North Dakota.

Johnson is the son of former Force coach and St. Cloud State assistant Steve Johnson. He’s also the nephew of Lincoln Stars coach Chad Johnson. With Johnson is slated to spend the upcoming year playing for his uncle in Lincoln.

But Johnson might not be alone when it comes to North Dakotans in the USHL. Here’s a look at the players that could help raise the state’s profile in the league this season.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Force assistant Byron Pool informed me that former Force defenseman Nick Romanick is in camp with Tri-City. Romanick, who is from Bismarck, spent last season with his hometown team in the NAHL last season.

 

1. Luke Johnson, Grand Forks, forward, Lincoln Stars: The aforementioned Johnson is a bit of a well-known player around the state because of his family and for what he did at Central and Red River where he was a part of two championship teams, according to the Grand Forks Herald. Johnson scored 46 points in 27 games last season as a sophomore. Johnson is considered to be one of the better players in his age group after recently completing a stint with Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

2. Paul Ladue, Grand Forks, defenseman, Lincoln Stars: He’s one of three North Dakotans that’s on Lincoln’s list. He spent last season in the NAHL with Alexandria where he played along side Williston’s Jordan Nelson, who will spend this season with the Fargo Force. Ladue scored 22 points in 56 games last season.

3. Jordan Nelson, Williston, forward, Fargo Force: Nelson is a former Mr. Hockey in North Dakota and comes to the Force after a season in Alexandria in the NAHL. Nelson scored 41 points last season while playing on Alexandria’s third line. He’ll come into this season as a player the Force will rely on to fill a playmaker’s role that was left open with Tanner Kero going to Michigan Tech this season. Nelson becomes the fourth North Dakotan to ever play for the Force and is the only North Dakota-born player on the team heading into the Fall Classic.

4. Alex Schoenborn, Minot, forward, Lincoln stars: Schoenborn is a player that’s been watched by quite a few people as he was one of two North Dakotans earning an invite to the NTDP’s tryout camp in March. He scored 45 points in 27 games last season at Minot helping him achieve notoriety with the people at USA Hockey. He was taken 12th overall by Lincoln in the Futures Draft and could make the team this season. If not, he’ll be on the team’s affiliate list and can return to Minot for another season.

5. Keaton Thompson, Devils Lake, defenseman, NTDP: Thompson became famous instate after leading the state’s high school defenseman in scoring as a freshman. Following the season he joined the Force where he played 13 games. During his time with the Force he was invited to the NTDP camp and accepted the chance to play for the program for the next two seasons. Thompson recently committed to North Dakota and will now spend the upcoming USHL season on his development playing with the NTDP’s U-17 team. Thompson is the second player in the state’s history to play for the NTDP.