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USHL 2018 Phase One Draft: Minnesotan Preview

The United States Hockey League will conduct their “Phase One” Futures Draft Monday evening, where teams will select players from the 2002-birth year, most of which will be placed on that team’s affiliate list for future seasons.

The pool of top players has already been thinned a bit, with a few signings to the CHL, and most notably, the NTDP program taking many of the top American players for next year’s NTDP U17 team, which was announced last week. The NTDP U17 roster can be found here.

In addition, 10 players have already signed pre-draft tenders for next season, which guarantees those players a spot on that team’s roster, and the guarantee of dressing in at least 51% of game next year. Those tenders are:

Tri-City: Ruben Rafkin(Denver), Colby Ambrosio(Boston College)

Omaha: Chase Bradley(Northeastern), Cameron Berg(UNO)

Muskegon: Alex Gaffney(Harvard)

Youngstown: Ben Schoen(Miami)

Waterloo: Wyatt Schingoethe(Notre Dame)

Cedar Rapids: Andrei Bakanov(Michigan)

Sioux City: Anthony Kehrer(Wisconsin)

Des Moines: Isaac Novak(Wisconsin), Patrick Schmiedlin

As far as who is getting picked tonight, I didn’t see many players outside of Minnesota, especially later in the year, but here is a good list of potential candidates.

And since there isn’t a lot of (free) information about prospects for this draft out there, I’ll run down a couple of the Minnesota kids that have a good shot at getting picked.

Players I would expect to be picked fairly early in the draft:

Blake Biondi-F-Hermantown HS(Minnesota Duluth)-Biondi reportedly turned down an offer from the NTDP, and should be picked very high in this draft. Biondi is a smart, skilled player that has really improved his speed as he has grown into his body. He’ll be a versatile, all-around skilled player.

Jack Smith-F-St. Cloud Cathedral(Minnesota Duluth)-Another player that reportedly turned down the NTDP in order to return to HS hockey for at least another season. Smith is a strong forward that handles the puck really well, and shows nice potential as an effective scorer at the next level.

Kyle Kukkonen-F-Maple Grove Bantam(Michigan Tech)-Like his teammate and NTDP invitee Brock Faber, Kukkonen was a player that could have played HS hockey this year, but opted to stay in bantams and win a state title with an absolutely loaded Osseo-Maple Grove team. Like his older brother, who was drafted by Des Moines last year, Kukkonen is a smart offensive player with a strong stick, but what makes Kyle an elite player is the extra step of quickness he has added this past year, making him a more consistently dangerous offensive threat.

Noah Tussey-F-Stillwater(Minnesota)-Invited to the NTDP tryout camp, though not extended an offer, Tussey is a fast, bigger forward capable of playing a heavy-style of game, with some offensive skill mixed in.

Blake Perbix-F-St. Cloud Cathedral-Plays a very similar style to his cousin Jack Perbix, a Notre Dame commit that spent some time in the USHL late this year and is a fringe NHL Draft prospect. Blake is an incredibly strong puckhandler that can control the play and create opportunities for teammates.

Zach Michaelis-F-Elk River(Nebraska Omaha)-Michaelis is a true power forward that can use his combination of size and speed to work into tough areas of the ice and make plays. Another NTDP camp invitee.

Wyatt Kaiser-D-Andover-Kaiser is a bit of project pick as he is still growing into his body, but he has some incredible footwork and skating ability that gives him a really high potential ceiling as a puck-moving defenseman.

Jake Ratzlaff-D-Rosemount(Minnesota)-A really big, physically mature defenseman that is still a bit raw skill-wise, but has good athleticism which gives him a lot of upside.

Jonny Meiers-F-Eagan-I thought he was kind of a sleeper pick in this draft, and then he played really well at the High Performance top-54 camp in front of everybody in this sphere of the hockey world so, not much of a secret anymore. Blazing speed and pretty good with the puck on his stick. Could use his teammates better, but has some really high-end skills.

Other guys I like that have potential to be picked somewhere in the next two days of drafts:

Lleyton Roed-F-White Bear Bantam-Really smart, hard-nosed player. Not flashy, but does little things well.

Joe Miller-F-Minneapolis(Minnesota)-Very small forward, but quick and good with the puck.

Ryan Mulrenin-F-Wayzata-Speedy, skilled player. Had a quiet HS season against tough competition, but still talented with the puck.

Joe Pierce-D-Hermantown Bantam-Small, offensive-minded defenseman that put up a lot of points two years ago for Ely HS, and then was excellent at the bantam level this past season in Hermantown.

Reid Bogenholm-D-St. Cloud Cathedral-Big, strong defenseman with a high ceiling.

Matt Mesenburg-F-Shattuck-Strong skater that gets down the wing nicely and creates shots.

Luke Busby-D-Eden Prairie-A very quiet, responsible defenseman that fit in well against tough HS competition this year. Not flashy, but can play his role in any situation.

Luke Ahles-D-White Bear Lake-Skilled all-around defenseman.

Nick Mountain-F-Hill-Murray-Nice combination of speed and size makes him an effective winger.

Andrew Boemer-D-St. Thomas Academy-Excellent footwork and skating ability for a defenseman.

Jack Reimann-F-Blaine-Very responsible two-way forward. One of the rare players better on the defensive end than the offensive end.

Luke Gramer-D-Moorhead-Not huge, but plays a strong all-around game.

Mason Langenbrunner-D-Cloquet Bantam-Still a bit lanky, but has really good feet for a defenseman and could have a high ceiling once he fills out.

Mitchell Kohner-F-Lakeville North-Had a quiet year offensively, but he’s really strong and can play a tough, physical two-way game.

Evan Bushy-D-Thief River Falls-Plays similar to his older brother Brendan, who was a strong USHL defenseman. Good skater that can plays a responsible, heavy style of play.

Carter Clafton-G-Grand Rapids-Had a tough year at times playing for a down Grand Rapids team, but really good athleticism and a lot of upside.

Luke Kron-F-Andover-Good skater, and a good frame. He should be a very good player as he fills out and matures.

Jacob Hicks-D-Maple Grove Bantam-Solid responsible defender that does a little bit of everything well.