The United States Hockey League is in the midst of the playoffs to determine a champion, but teams are already preparing for the future, and the next step to build rosters for next season and beyond is the USHL Draft on May 4th and 5th.
The USHL Draft takes place in two stages, beginning with Phase One on Monday, May 4th at 6:00 PM (CDT). Phase One will consist of ten (10) rounds as USHL teams select players from the 1999 birth year.
Phase One selections traditionally are not ready to play in the USHL the following season and will continue to develop in lower levels of hockey in preparation to join the League in future seasons. A number of those players however, may see game action in the coming season. Multiple players selected in Phase One last year suited up during the 2014-15 season, including Kieffer Bellows, a first-round pick by the Sioux Falls Stampede, who went on to score 33 goals in the regular season. Defenseman Jake Ryczek played 55 games after the Sioux City Musketeers chose him in the first round, and forward Dante Palecco appeared in 32 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks after they made him a first-round selection.
Now in its fourth year, the USHL tender process allows teams to sign up to two 1999 birth year players prior to the 2015 USHL Draft. The first “tender” for a team would take the place of a first-round pick in Phase One, and if a team tenders a second player, that would take the place of a second-round selection in Phase One. Each tendered player will be on their respective team’s roster for the 2015-16 season and play at least 55% of the team’s regular season games.
Six different teams thus far have elected to use tenders prior to the 2015 USHL Draft, including the Dubuque Fighting Saints who utilized both of their available tenders – forward Baron Thompson and defenseman Joey Keane. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (Liam Walsh), Muskegon Lumberjacks (Graham Lillibridge), Omaha Lancers (Brannon McManus), Sioux City Musketeers (Eeli Tolvanen), and Waterloo Black Hawks (Mikey Anderson) have each tendered one player.
Phase Two of the USHL Draft begins on Tuesday, May 5th at 8:00 AM (CDT). All picks in Phase Two will be announced in real-time via a draft board on www.USHL.com. This phase is a multi-age group draft as teams can select players anywhere between the 1995 and 1999 birth years and look to fill their protected lists with players who will compete for roster spots for the 2015-16 season. The number of rounds in Phase Two is not pre-determined. It continues until all drafting USHL teams have secured 45 players on their Initial Protected List. That list includes affiliate players from the 2014-15 season, players selected in Phase One, and players signed to a tender.
Green Bay Gamblers Defenseman Vili Saarijarvi captured the silver medal with Team Finland this past weekend at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Men’s World Championship.
Saarijarvi led all defenseman in scoring for the tournament en route to winning the silver medal. In seven games, Saarijarvi registered nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) and a plus two plus/minus rating.
This past season, Saarijarvi saw action in 57 games for the Gamblers tallying 23 points (6 goals, 17 assists).
Former Gamblers coach Don Granato led Team USA to the gold medal over Finland, 2-1, this weekend at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Men’s World Championship. Granato served as head coach at his second IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship this year.
Granato is currently in his fourth season as one of two head coaches at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He spent 1994-1997 with the Gamblers leading the team to a Clark Cup Championship in 1996 and Anderson Cup Championships in 1996 and 1997.
The victory marks the ninth all-time gold medal for the United States at the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship and sixth in the last seven years.
Former Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde was named ECHL Coach of the year earlier today.
Under his guidance, the Walleye finished the year with a record of 50-15-7 and a total of 107 points, the eighth most in ECHL history. The team captured the Brabham Cup, given to the team that finishes the year with the most points. The 50 wins and 107 points are both new Toledo ECHL records. The Walleye also set new Toledo ECHL records for most road wins (24), fewest road losses (9), fewest goals allowed (182) and best single season penalty kill percentage (87.7%). The team finished the year with the second fewest losses in Toledo ECHL history (14 by 1995-96 team) and third most home wins (26). Lalonde’s group set new ECHL records for least penalty minutes (785) and lowest average penalty minutes per game (10.9). The 2014-15 Toledo team finished with over 40 new Walleye records.
Proir to Toledo, Lalonde spent three seasons with the Gamblers compiling a record of 111-54-14. Lalonde led the Gamblers to a historic regular season in route to the team’s fifth Anderson Cup title with a league-best 47-9-4 during the 2011-12 regular season setting USHL records in points (98) and road wins (25) along with Tier 1 records in wins (47), fewest losses (9), goals scored (250) and goal differential (+112). Lalonde also set a league record for most wins (47) in a season by a first year head coach. The record was previously held by former Gamblers head coach Eric Rud (2010-11/41 wins). He also became just the fifth coach in USHL history to lead a team to the Anderson Cup in the first season behind the bench in the league. The last coach to accomplish that feat was Jon Cooper with the Green Bay Gamblers during the 2008-09 season.
Lalonde was only the second coach in USHL history to reach the 40-win mark in his first season, following Eric Rud who won 41 games during the 2010-11 season with the Gamblers.
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