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Get to Know the 2023 Phase 2 Draft Class

The 2023 USHL Phase 2 Draft took place Wednesday, May 3rd. Overall the Green Bay Gamblers selected nineteen players. These players have the potential to be future stars in Green Bay. We sat down with Gamblers Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personal Kirk Luedeke and got his thoughts on the Phase 2 Draft and the Gamblers selections.

“The Phase II draft is a balancing act between addressing immediate roster needs and bolstering our 2005, 2006 and 2007 affiliate lists for future seasons, and we as a staff feel like we were able to accomplish that. The most pressing challenges for Phase II are to fill the holes that occur every year with players aging out of junior hockey and those who both expectedly and unexpectedly go in to colleges and universities with junior-experienced players who can supplement some of the younger talent you previously drafted and are ready to come off the affiliate list and contribute.”

With the 9th pick overall in the 1st Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Jason Gallucci, Defenseman, Coquitlam Express.

“Jason is a superb skater and two-way defender who can close quickly on opponents and brings a physical style, using his body and stick effectively to negate opposition rushes. Polished and experienced after coming out of a strong New Jersey Rockets minor system and junior team in the USPHL NCDC. He’s effective in retrievals, using his speed to get back quickly and move pucks out of the defensive zone with his feet or stick. We really like his experience, hard skill (at both ends) and jam: he should step in and contribute to our defense corps right away.”

With the 16th pick overall in the 1st Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Rasmus Larsson, Defenseman, Vasteras Jr. 

“Tall, rangy and plays with length; a smooth skater who can break pucks out of his own zone effortlessly and has the ability to create offense by leading and supporting the rush. Has a big point shot and a threat to score goals from the back end, with 16 tucks in 50 games, good for a share of first in Sweden’s (top junior) league among defensemen. He may need time to adjust to the smaller ice and need to process faster and make quicker decisions, but he’s a pro prospect with a lot of upside to play big minutes in all situations.”

With the 25th pick overall in the 2nd Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Freddie Larsson, Forward, Malmo Redhawks 

“A total package of size, speed and natural offensive instincts and finish skills. He can score off the rush or use his size to get inside for quality scoring chances. He played and produced to lead his team in scoring, and also played some games against men, so he will be well-suited to the speed and pace of the USHL. As he adapts to the North American style of play, we think his offense will translate well in our league.”

With the 87th pick overall in the 6th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Christian Kirsch, Goalie, Zug U17 

“We see Christian as a future star in net for us with the potential to play games in the USHL this year depending on the situation. He’s mature beyond his years at 17, and had some stellar performances in net against terrific international competition; he beat the U.S. NTDP Under-18 team in a close game earlier this season. Christian wants to be a player, and is focused on developing his skills and technique through top competitive environments and coaching. We’re excited to have him in the system and want him to be wherever he will get quality reps and build his 6-foot-4 but lean frame to be able to handle the rigors of junior hockey.”

With the 132nd pick overall in the 9th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Gryphon Watson-Bucci, Forward, Boston Academy 

“Gryphon was one of the most consistent players our staff watched in the Northeast this season because he skates so well, but is intelligent and plays hard- you always know you’re going to get something from him beyond the impressive 130 points he generated. I think he was a sleeper that other teams were maybe on to draft a bit later, but we just felt that with some room to add to our 2006 affiliate list, he provided us with a top option for his all-around game and offensive acumen. He did extremely well in our interview process, and his playing style fits the mold of what we want on our Gamblers team on and off the ice. He looks like the kind of player who will keep developing and improving as he physically matures, so we’re looking forward to getting him out to Green Bay to see him compete with our group.

With the 143rd pick overall in the 10th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Caleb Elfering, Forward, NorthStar Knights 

“Led his 18U Knights team in scoring this season with his skating, high pace and experience. He followed that up with a positive impact at the junior level, playing games in the British Columbia league and using his speed and effort to jump off the page in our viewings. He brings a shooter’s mentality and has the natural hockey sense to create offense and make those around him better. He’s a player who we feel will help increase our team speed and be more of a threat to score as he gets comfortable with the USHL, but can at least bring energy right off the bat. We’re looking forward to seeing him take that next big step in his career with us.”

With the 147th pick overall in the 10th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Joey Argentina, Forward, Long Island Gulls 

“With Lev Katzin a tendered player, we came out of the Phase I draft with only 8 of 10 spots filled on our 2007 affiliate list, so Joey was a priority target for us on day 2. He’s a highly effective centerman who wore the ‘C’ on one of the nation’s top Tier 1 midget teams, and brings a heart-and-soul character and presence to his club. He’s relentless on the forecheck, and provides a real boost to the transition game because of his quickness, smarts and tenacity. He doesn’t get enough credit for his offensive game, but he’s an outstanding passer/playmaker who can win key draws and then finds ways to get to the puck and make something happen with it. Whether at even strength, on the power play or killing penalties, he can do it all. He’s not the biggest player on the ice, but he refuses to let that get in the way, and you always notice him for his effort and determination.”

With the 162nd pick overall in the 11th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Gavin Moffatt, Goalie, Wisconsin Windigo 

“With effective, experienced goaltending being so important in our league, we were pleased to draft one of the NAHL’s top performers, with 21 wins in 30 appearances and stopping nearly 94 percent of the shots he faced in the regular season. Gavin is a winner, who plays big in his net and competes hard, not giving up on shots and using his quickness to get side-to-side to deny quality scoring chances. To get him in the 11th round represented superb value in the draft for us.”

With the 177th pick overall in the 12th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Luka Graziano, Defenseman, Toronto Jr. Canadians

“We got a top young ’07 two-way right defenseman in Luka who can skate, move pucks and brings an impressive ceiling for junior hockey and beyond. He’s what you call a “compass skater” in that he moves well in all directions, showing real jump, power and acceleration in his stride, but also has agile, nimble feet to crossover and move laterally. He’s a real shooter who can score goals from the back end, and he does a great job of getting his shot through traffic from the  point. He’s competitive and versatile; we just felt like he was a big swing to take there, and gives our 2007 affiliate list some legitimate juice, even if he will have a decision to make between the USHL and OHL, where he was a third-round selection.”

With the 192nd pick overall in the 13th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Ryland Randle, Defenseman, Dallas Stars Elite 

“In continuing our effort to build from the net out, we love Ryland’s all-around game. Although he’s a Canadian native, he’s grown up in Texas and was a top performer on that electric Stars 16 team. An effortless skater, he retrieves pucks with his speed and awareness, able to transition from defense to offense instantly and supporting the rush well. He has the vision and instincts to distribute pucks in the offensive zone, but also defends well by angling forward and using an active stick to disrupt opposition speed. He’s another impressive addition to our strong stable of ’06 prospects.”

With the 207th pick overall in the 14th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Parker Murray, Forward, Wenatchee Wild 

“We wanted to add some experience and scoring to our roster, and feel we did so with Parker. He has  tremendous size and is one of the best pure shooters in junior hockey anywhere: he scored 36 goals in 57 combined games in the BCHL regular season and playoffs. He’s always been a player with the physical tools to play in our league and be successful, so we’re excited to add his stick and pure power to our group up front- we think he brings an element to our forwards that we didn’t have last season with a shoot first mentality.”

With the 222nd pick overall in the 15th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Brady Zugec, Forward, Buffalo Jr. Sabres 

“A late ’06, we felt that Brady took major strides with the Jr. Sabres under Coach Cos Polino this season. His skating and footwork improved and he has a natural nose for the net. He’s a committed player who wants to get better and has been putting in the work, so we think his best hockey is ahead of him as a power center who has the offensive skills to produce in junior, but is versatile enough to play any role you need. He’s another one who did well in the interview process, and we were glad to draft him where we did.”

With the 237th pick overall in the 16th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Oliver Auyeung-Ashton, Goalie, Victoria Grizzlies 

“The third goaltender we took in the draft, we just felt strongly about Oliver’s character, humility and drive to be a top player at his position. He’s extremely athletic and agile, but it’s his character and competitiveness that sets him apart from his peers, and helped him to earn the BCHL’s Bruce Allison Trophy as rookie of the year in that league. What he might not have in the typical size teams look for in goalies, he more than compensates for with his ability to play big in his net, focus/track pucks and compete hard to the tune of 21 wins. He’s a winner and we are so pleased to have him in our organization.”

With the 252nd pick overall in the 17th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Liam Gilmartin, Forward, Erie Otters 

“Liam is a player that we felt was worth taking a chance on here, as he has the right kind attributes of a power forward. He’s played some of the top competition of any in his age group, going back to his days at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the U.S. National Team Development Program, and would add a needed ingredient of poise and polish to our forwards with his size, skating, physicality and scoring upside as a 20-year-old.”

With the 267th pick overall in the 18th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Cullen Emery, Forward, Dexter Southfield 

“Cullen is a versatile, speedy forward who can score and impact the game in all three zones. When he’s at his best, he can fly through the neutral zone and gain the offensive blue line cleanly, and attack the net with some slippery agility and a natural knack for creating chances. He’s grown up around the game and has been an impact player in prep, giving us a prospect who could play up or down in our roster and has USHL attributes when he’s ready to make the jump.”

With the 282nd pick overall in the 19th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Evan Orloff, Defenseman, Maine Nordiques 

“Another seasoned junior hockey veteran, Evan has an impressive combination of size and skating to bolster the left side of our defense. He’s played in about 150 career junior games between the USPHL NCDC, NAHL and USHL, so he’s a player we felt can bring mobility, defensive polish and experience to help offset our blue line losses to the NCAA.” 

With the 297th pick overall in the 20th Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Gabriel Trozzo, Defenseman, Mississauga Senators 

“We took another ’07 right defenseman out of the GTHL to continue to strengthen our blue line options going forward. Gabe can do it all: skate, move pucks, defend, and brings a quality presence and selfless competitor to our organization. We have high hopes for him, and given the support he had in the room to be drafted, we’re willing to be patient and let him develop so that he can be an impact performer when his time comes.”

With the 312th pick overall in the 21st Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Lukas Peterson, Defenseman, North Jersey Avalanche 

“Lukas is a terrific skater and competitor, playing a scrappy style to go with his near-automatic ability to break pucks out of his own end. A superior transitional defenseman, he can produce points at the other end, but squares up and takes on bigger opponents on defense, using his active stick and refusing to shy away from contact. He was a player who, no matter who it was on our staff watching him, always came away with high marks.”

With the 327th pick overall in the 22nd Round of the 2023 Phase 2 USHL Draft the Green Bay Gamblers select Mitchell Kneidel, Defenseman, Bishop Kearney Selects 

“Don’t sleep on Mitch just because he was the final pick we made in the draft. He’s tall, physical, and plays a sound defensive game with a solid first pass ability. He can get up the ice and support the rush and he was someone we talked about a lot in the war room as the draft was ongoing. The Ohio native had a strong season between BK Selects and the Cleveland Barons, and helped himself with a dominant performance at the USHL Combine in April. In the end, he’s the kind of defenseman you win with because he’s big, strong and tough to play against.”

Looking back on the results of the draft, Luedeke said, “In the entry draft, or Phase II, we were happy to get most of the players we targeted, getting our highest-rated prospects in our first three selections and then finding value at/around 10 and beyond after having to sit out rounds 3-5 and then rounds 7-8.We will have a better idea of how we did after our June 3-8 main/tryout camp and then in September when we bring the players back for the preseason and take our biggest steps toward the 2023-24 USHL regular season.”

Phase 2 Draft Picks will be at our Main Tryout Camp that takes place tomorrow June 4th and goes through June 8th at the Resch Complex. Camp is free to watch and open to the general public. See you there!

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