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Meet the Dubuque Fighting Saints

As part of our continuing USHL Draft coverage, we'll continue looking at the USHL's newest franchises, this time focusing on the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Commissioner Skip Prince talked earlier today about how excited people around the hockey world were that the USHL is returning to Dubuque, a city with a lot of USHL history. Now that the USHL is back, the city will be treated to some great hockey, and what should be an incredibly exciting hockey team.

Pre-Draft Tenders: F Zemgus Girgensons, D Joakim Ryan, D Derek Docken, D Luke Curadi, D Nick Quinn, F John Gaudreau, F Shane Sooth

There's an interesting mix of really talented younger kids along with some guys that already have a good deal of junior hockey experience. The most exciting out of the group has to be Vermont recruit Zemgus Girgensons, the Latvian-born '94 forward. Like Omaha's Seth Ambroz, Girgensons is reportedly accelerating his schooling, so he'll likely only play one year with Dubuque before heading to Vermont, but he could be a special player on the level of former USHL great Thomas Vanek.

They added some nice experience on the blueline, taking NAHL veteran Derek Docken. Docken was a NAHL All-league player last year and earned a scholarship to Alaska-Anchorage. They also added huge defenseman Luke Curadi, who stands at roughly 6'5" 250 lbs. Curadi played junior hockey in the east, before traveling to Penticton in the BCHL last year to play. He committed to UMass-Amherst at a young age, but ended up decommitting and then committing to RPI earlier this year. He'll be joined in Dubuqe by future RPI teammate Nick Quinn, from Ontario. Quinn is a mature player, who was coached by his father growing up, and is a very smart, solid player.

The final defenseman they added is New Jersey defenseman Joakim Ryan. Ryan is a '93 birthdate and an exceptional athlete with dual citizenship between the US and Sweden. His mother was a professional tennis player in Sweden, and Ryan is reportedly an excellent tennis player as well. Because of his dual citizenship, Ryan represented Sweden at the World U17 Challenge this winter--which isn't an IIHF event, meaning he could still play for the US internationally if the opportunity arose--but will be sticking with the more traditional route for American hockey players by playing in the USHL, before heading off to play college hockey at Cornell.

John Gaudreau is a tiny forward that played for the Philly Little Flyers organization, before going to a New England Prep School this winter. He's small, but finds a way to make things happen offensively on the ice. Shane Sooth is a reclamation project for the Fighting Saints. Once one of the top '92s in the country, Sooth had a disastrous year that saw him leave the NTDP after a drinking-related suspension, and then playing a few games with the Sioux City Musketeers, where he didn't really fit in, before ending up with the Texas Tornado in the NAHL. After sort of hitting bottom this year, Sooth is looking for a second chance to rebuild his career and capitalize on the tremendous talent he possesses.

Expansion Draft: F Jordan DiGiando, G Matt Green, F TJ Schleuter, F Andrew Sinelli, F Scott Wamsganz

After not taking a goalie with their pre-draft tenders, Dubuque locked up what they hope will be one of their goalies next year in former Lincoln goalie Matt Green. Green's numbers weren't outstanding last year, but that is more a symptom of Lincoln really struggling as a team.

The group of forwards seems like a lot of guys with good talent, but haven't really put it all together to be successful at the USHL level yet. Sinelli is committed to play for Michigan State, while Wamsganz is a Colorado College recruit.

Futures Draft: F Riley Barber, D Mike Matheson, F Ryan Hartman, F John Stevens, F Jarrid Privitera, F Adam Wilcox

Some people might have wondered by Dubuque bothered signing Girgensons to a tender when they had the first overall pick in the Futures Draft, but it became clear when they were able to select Riley Barber as well. That's pretty impressive to come away with arguably two of the top players available in the '94 birth year, and they should be really fun to watch together in Dubuque.

Matheson is from Quebec, so there's a lot out there on him. Hartman committed to Miami earlier this year. He's a player that has the potential to grow into a dominating power forward. Privitera is the younger brother of NTDP defenseman Alexx Privitera.

Overall

If I had to compare the two, I'd say Muskegon probably comes out a little bit ahead, but this Dubuque team could be very fun to watch, especially if people get the opportunity to see Girgensons and Barber playing together. They are two kids that could be first round NHL draft picks some day, and it should be a treat to watch them learn the game.

There's certainly a strong base to start building a team here, and coupled with tomorrow's Entry Draft, and being a new team, they should draw a lot of hungry players to their tryout camp with pretty much every roster spot being up for grabs. It's great to see USHL hockey back in Dubuque and it shouldn't be long before it is successful once again.