USHL Report: Rookie Class Outlook

Clare McManus

2020-09-11

 

 

The USHL season is still under two months away from it’s supposed Friday, November 6th start date, while preseason games are expected to start mid-October. The plan for the league is that each team will play 54 regular-season games between November 6, 2020 and April 24, 2021.

 

While we’re still undergoing the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the incoming group of rookies coming into the USHL. I also listed some of the notable USHL graduates/transfers at the end. 

 

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Head of the Class

 

Adam Fantilli: C, Chicago Steel

Fantilli is one of the most thrilling 2004 born prospects and is a projected top pick for the 2023 NHL Draft. Before coming to America, the Ontario born native played with the Toronto Red Wings of the GTHL. He put up a fantastic show of skill and numbers while playing with players two years older than him. In lieu of playing for the Jr. Canadiens, Fantilli made the decision to play this season alongside his brother, Luca, at Kimball Union Academy in the USHS-Prep League. He recorded 18 goals and 36 points in 26 games. At the end of this year, he was a definite lock for the first-overall pick in the 2020 OHL Draft. But with the rumors swirling that he may come to the USHL, he was drafted at 18th overall by the Saginaw Spirit. Later on, he would make the final decision that he would follow in his brother’s footsteps and sign a tender agreement with the Chicago Steel.

 

 

Even though he’s only 15 years old, Fantilli is already 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. As young as he is, Fantilli brings a mix of talented offensive skills as well as a physical presence to the ice. He seems to always be a difference-maker anytime he steps out for his shift. The biggest factor that translates into Fantilli’s game is his skating ability. He has sufficient agility and edgework that give him the ability to be a major threat with the puck. He’s a superb playmaker who moves the puck with speed and can utilize his teammates in many situations. 

 

Ivan Miroshnichenko: RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks

Miroshnichenko is one of the most well-known rookies coming into the USHL this year. The Russian forward recently played for Vityaz Podolsk in the Russian U16 and U18 league’s and put up solid numbers in each of those levels. At the international stage, he exploded with Russia’s U16 team, putting up 17 goals and 27 points in 15 games. Miroshnichenko also tore it up at the Youth Olympics, leading his team to a gold medal. On April 29, 2020, Miroshnichenko signed a tender agreement with the Lumberjacks for the upcoming 2020-21 season.

 

 

Miroshnichenko is noted for being a strong skater with a powerful shot. With his speed, he can create dangerous scoring opportunities. He is also well known for being strong on the defensive end, and isn’t afraid to use his body to make a play. With one Muskegon’s top wingers, Daniil Gushchin, heading to the OHL, Miroshnichenko will help fill in that missing star role for the team. Keep an eye on Ivan as he’s listed as a top prospect eligible for an exciting 2022 NHL Draft class. 

 

Ian Moore: D, Chicago Steel

In 2018, Moore was drafted by the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL Draft. Shortly after, the U.S.-born defenseman made the decision to stay in the US and play high school hockey until he was eligible to play with the Chicago Steel. He played this season, serving as an alternate captain in the USHS-Prep league with St. Mark’s School. In 28 games, he posted 12 goals and 46 points. The 2020 NHL Draft eligible prospect will bring his talents to Harvard University for the 2021-22 season. 

 

 

For a young defenseman coming out of high school, Moore is already an NHL size defenseman standing at 6’3”. He’s quick, smooth, and agile with high-end offensive abilities. He is a great puck-rusher and distributor. Moore has a fantastic shot and uses it to his advantage, a lot of the times off the pinch in the offensive zone, but his lateral movements on the blueline help him get into a perfect shooting lane. One thing the right-handed defenseman needs work on is his defensive play. 

 

Nick Pierre: F, Sioux City Musketeers

Nick Pierre, 5-foot-9 and 174-pounds, is currently one of the best 2004 American born players and a top prospect for the 2022 NHL Draft. This season, as a sophomore, he played with Hill-Murray School and scored 19 goals and 46 total points. He was a major threat in the six-state tournament playoff games, scoring six goals and adding seven assists for 13 points. Pierre was also a star at the Class “AA” Minnesota State Championship, in which he led his team to a victory. 

 

 

Pierre brings speed and high-end hockey IQ to his game. He plays with sparks of competitiveness and is a true leader when helping his team win. After a few seasons in the USHL, he will head to the University of Wisconsin for the 2022-23 season. 

 

Chase Pietila: D, Lincoln Stars

After being a big snub from the USNTDP U17 team for the upcoming 2020-21 season, on April 5th, 2020, the Stars signed Pietila to a USHL tender agreement. The 6-foot-2 and 174 pound defenseman recently played for the Honeybaked Hockey program, which is one of the top teams in the United States. Pietila played alongside top players Cole Spicer, Frank Nazar, and Owen Baker. In 61 games this season with Honeybaked 15U AAA team, he scored 12 goals and 64 points in 61 games. During the 2020 OHL Draft, Pietila was selected by the Saginaw Spirit at 238th overall. Chase is committed to Michigan Tech for the 2023-24 season. 

 

 

While Chase has mentioned he likes to play a more physical role, he is a two-way defenseman who dominates in both ends of the ice. He has a strong shot and can get pucks on the net quickly. One thing he is noted for is being able to quarterback the power-play at a high level. 

 

Other Notable Rookies

 

Vinny Borgesi: D, Tri-City Storm

Borgesi was selected 170th overall by the Guelph Storm in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection. But with hopes of playing college hockey, Borgesi signed a tender agreement with the Storm on March 31st, 2020. The Philadelphia native played this season with Selects Academy 15U AAA and notched 12 goals and 100 points in 61 games. He led all Selects defenders in points while also being fourth on the team in points scored. Keep in mind that Borgesi is prospect eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft and he is committed to Northeastern University for the 2022-23 season. 

 

Michael La Starza: LW, Waterloo Black Hawks

The 5-foot-10 and 165 pound winger from Montreal, Quebec, was chosen #125 overall by the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the 2020 QMJHL Draft. For the past two seasons, La Starza has played for Shattuck St. Mary’s AAA out of Faribault, Minnesota. During his time in prep-school, he put up 55 goals and 135 points in 97 games. Michael is committed to Boston University for the 2022-23 season and is also prospect eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft. 

 

Lucas Mercuri: C, Des Moines Buccaneers

Mercuri is a 2020 NHL Draft eligible coming right out of high school. The 18 year old was selected by the Val-d’Or Foreurs in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft, but decided not to report. This season he played for two different teams. In the USHS-Prep league, he played with Salisbury School and the other team he suited up for was the Rochester Coalition 18U AAA. Mercuri scored 19 goals and 38 points in 28 games with his prep school. On the other hand, he scored 15 goals and 35 assists for 50 points in 29 games played. Lucas is committed to UMass Amherst for the 2021-22 season. 

 

The Team To Keep An Eye On

 

While there are a lot of talented young rookies coming into the league this year, the Chicago Steel have the biggest influx of incoming elite talent. These are some players I did not mention above, but you should absolutely watch on the Steel. The players listed are: Luca Fantill, Luke Levandowski, Dylan Robbins, Sam Lipkin, Jack Harvey, Jackson Blake, David Ma, Jake Livanavage, Lukas Gustafsson, and Jack Stark. With the Steel losing some of their best players, I expect these young players to keep the heat rolling in Chicago and keep producing a winning culture. 

 

List of Notable USHL Graduates Moving On

Zachary Plucinski

Omaha Lancers to the University of Notre Dame

Alexander Campbell

Omaha Lancers to Clarkson University 

Rhett Pitlick

Omaha Lancers/Muskegon Lumberjacks to the University of Minnesota 

Daniil Gushchin

Muskegon Lumberjacks to  the Niagara Icedogs

Ty and Dylan Jackson

Dubuque Fighting Saints to Northeastern University

Jack O’Leary

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to Cornell University 

Brendan Brisson and Owen Power

Chicago Steel to the University of Michigan 

Sam Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine

Chicago Steel to Northeastern University 

Mathieu De St. Phalle

Chicago Steel to the University of Wisconsin 

Sean Farrell

Chicago Steel to Harvard University 

Colby Ambrosio

Tri-City Storm to Boston College

Carson Bantle

Madison Capitals to Michigan Tech

Sam Stange

Sioux Falls Stampede to the University of Wisconsin 

 

*Please note that some of these transfers may be subjected to changes with the uncertainty of the NCAA.*

 

 

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Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure to come back next month for more information on the USHL.  Make sure to check me out on Twitter @claremcmanuss for more prospect content! 

 

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