The United States Hockey League will hold their Phase I Futures Draft tonight. This year's Futures Draft will be for players born in 2000, marking the first time this age group is eligible to selected in a junior hockey Draft.
Draft coverage, including all the picks and a live web show, can be found here. Coverage begins at 7pm EST.
Any player born in the 2000 birth year is eligible to be picked in this Draft. A few of the top American-born players have already been accounted for as the NTDP has already announced their U17 roster for next season.
We already know 10 of the picks in this year's Draft as well, thanks to the USHL's tender process. A USHL tender allows a team to use up to two of their picks in the first two rounds prior to the Draft to sign a player prior to the Draft, provided they guarantee that player a spot on the roster as well as play them in a minimum number of games.
10 players signed tenders this season, up from eight last year. As a result, here is what the first two rounds of this year's Draft look like heading into tonight:
|1||9||Sioux Falls||Jaxon||Nelson||Luverne HS|
|1||16||Cedar Rapids||TJ||Walsh||Cushing Academy|
|2||21||Muskegon||Andrei||Svechnikov||Ak Bars Kazan|
All the signed players are terrific prospects. Take particular note of Muskegon's signing of Andrei Svechnikov, arguably one of the top players in the world in this age group, as well as Cedar Rapids' signing of TJ Walsh, another outstanding signing.
As for the picks we don't know yet, I have two lists to guide you. The first is the general list, keeping track of every player in this age group, including players going to the NTDP, signed to USHL tenders, or probably not playing in the US. The second list is largely the same, but with those players removed, leaving only the players that are likely draft prospects for tonight. As always, both lists are limited to players I've seen play this year, so while they are pretty extensive for a guy that didn't get on an airplane this year, it's also far from complete.
And finally, some notes on a few of the top prospects likely to be selected tonight.
Ben Brinkman-D-Edina HS-Brinkman turned down the NTDP to go back to Edina, where he is a three sport star. Brinkman missed much of the year with a knee injury suffered during the HS football season, but when he was healthy, his combination of size, strength and athleticism made him one of the top all-around defenders in this age group. He won't report immediately to the team that drafts him, but as a late birthdate that was a ninth grader this past year, it's likely he reports some day, and should be a huge addition if/when he does.
Jacob Semik-D-Detroit Honeybaked-Still growing into his body, but Semik has a lot of exceptional tools and a high ceiling. He is calm, poised, and handles the puck really well.
Brady Smith-D-Chicago Mission-Smith is a small puck-moving defenseman that skates really well with great lateral movement. His strong lower body and exceptional quickness should allow him to be successful at the USHL level despite his lack of size.
Colin Schmidt-F-Wayzata-Schmidt is a true power forward that isn't afraid to use his size to play in dirty areas. He's not necessarily the prettiest player, but his skating and puck-handling ability is good enough, and he can really be a force when working down low in the offensive zone.
Ryan O'Reilly-F-Dallas Stars-O'Reilly is a skilled offensive forward that already has good size and is expected to continue growing. He handles the puck well and has a great release on his shot which makes him a natural scoring threat.
Demetrios Koumantzis-F-Phoenix Coyotes-Koumantzis is a terrific skater, and he uses that speed to create opportunities for teammates on offense and be effective on the defensive end.
Valentino Passarelli-F-Detroit Honeybaked-A very agile, dangerous forward.Not a huge point scorer, but should be an effective two-way player at the junior level.
Ryan Savage-F-Red Bull Salzburg-Savage has elite puck-handling ability, which allows him to make skill plays in tight areas. As he matures physically, he has the opportunity to be a very high-end player.
Isaiah DiLaura-G-Lakeville South-A very smart, calm goalie that has decent size, and plays bigger than he is by effectively challenging shooters and cutting down angles.
Caleb Everett-D-Detroit Honeybaked-A bigger defensive defenseman that skates well enough and is smart enough that his game should transition well to the junior level.
Jackson Perbix-F-Elk River-A confident forward that always seems to have the puck on his stick. He's quick, smart, aggressive and really drives possession.
Gavin Hain-F-Grand Rapids-A hard-working two-way forward that is always in the middle of the play and wins a lot of battles.
Luke Loheit-F-Minnetonka Bantam-Loheit skates and handles the puck really well for a player of his size and is never afraid to shoot the puck. He was a dominant force at the Minnesota Bantam level this year.
Samuel Stephens-F-Shattuck-St. Mary's-Stephens isn't a player that really stands out in one particular area, but does a lot of things really well. He's a very solid, honest all-around hockey player.