As we hit the final third of the 60-game USHL season and head toward the Clark Cup Playoffs, several notable prospects have made lasting impressions. Last year 45 USHL players and alumni were drafted by NHL teams, and quite a few will surely be selected in the 2017 draft as well. Let’s take a look at some of the USHL’s most promising.
Casey Mittelstadt C/LW (Green Bay) #5 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
Compared to John Tavares and Tyler Seguin by NHL Central Scouting, Mittelstadt has been frequently mocked in the top five of this June’s draft, going a few spots before Eeli Tolvanen. Determined to chase the Minnesota State Championship with his Eden Prairie High School classmates, Mittelstadt gained increased recognition when he chose to leave the Gamblers 16 games into the 2016-17 campaign while leading the USHL in scoring with eight goals and 13 assists. He will return to Green Bay after the March tournament. At 6'1" and 201 pounds, the soon-to-be University of Minnesota Golden Gopher is the real deal with size, elite-level skill, speed and hockey smarts revealed by his superior puck handling, positioning and ability to initiate complex and deceptive offensive plays. In addition to his prolific scoring, he has a great work ethic and doesn’t back down when challenged by larger, stronger opponents.
Video: Casey Mittelstadt two-goal Night 10/6/16:
Eeli Tolvanen – RW (Sioux City) #7 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
A lock for the early first round of this June’s NHL Draft, the 5'10", 170-pound Finnish forward has not disappointed in his second campaign with the Sioux City Musketeers. Following up his 2015-16 totals of 17 goals and 21 assists in 49 games, the Boston College commit is averaging slightly more (17 G, 15 A in 31 games) than the point-per-game pace the 17 year-old achieved on Finland’s 2017 WJC squad with four goals and two assists in six games. A deadly offensive threat with speed to spare and an extremely quick, forceful shot (leads the USHL with 157 SOG) that he needs little space to release.
Video: Eeli Tolvanen 2015-16 Highlights Sioux City Musketeers and Team Finland
Shane Bowers – C (Waterloo) #13 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
With 15 goals and 17 assists in 40 Black Hawk games, the 17 year-old Halifax native is just one point behind his 56-game USHL total of last season in 16 fewer contests. Projected as a mid-to-late first round draft pick this June, the 6'1", 170-pound Bowers has committed to Boston University. In his short time with Waterloo, he has proven to be a hardworking player who excels in all zones and uses explosive bursts of speed to create distance from opposing defenders. Willing to play tough in the corners and elsewhere, it takes a lot to knock him off the puck. He shows impressive hockey smarts and a gritty defensive game that accents his effective all-around play. Bowers was named USHL Forward of the Week at the end of January after scoring three goals and two assists in three games.
Video: Shane Bowers one goal, one assist vs Phantoms, Nov 4 2016
Keith Petruzzelli – G (Muskegon) #1 NA Goalie Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
Highly praised by Muskegon general manager and former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck for his reaction time, use of his size and mental approach to the game, Petruzzelli was recently named MVP for Team East of the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game stopping all 21 shots he faced. This marked the first time a goalie has been named MVP for the annual event. Plays in a very calm and relaxed manner. With recent improvements to his game, several comparisons have been made between the 6'5", 180-pound Quinnipiac commit and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, particularly in how he squares up to shots and exhibits solid rebound control. Petruzelli has a 13-8-0 record with a 2.67 GAA and .906 SV% with the Lumberjacks this campaign.
Video: Keith Petruzzelli Saves 11/3/16
Grant Mismash – LW (Team USA) #30 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
In his second campaign with the USNTDP Juniors, the 6'0", 185 pound University of North Dakota commit continues to flash his skill as a fast-skating, physical playmaker with excellent stick-handling ability and a wicked shot. A hard checker who wins most tough battles against the boards and fights well for position in front of the net. Bowers has the ability to really overpower opponents when charging toward the net on offensive chances. It's hard to envision him not being a welcome asset at the NHL-level once he develops further, perhaps as a tough second or third-line scoring wing. He has six goals and seven assists in 18 USHL games, and 18 goals, 14 assists in 41 contests with the US Under-18 squad, totaling 96 penalty minutes between both.
Video: Grant Mismash Breakaway Goal 9/16/1g
Josh Norris – C (Team USA) #47 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
The 6'1", 192 pound Oxford, Michigan native has scored at a nearly point-per-game clip this campaign in his time between the USHL’s USNTDP Juniors (7G, 9A, 17 games) and the U.S. National U18 Team (14 G, 19 A, 38 games). A University of Michigan commit, Norris plays with boundless energy on both ends of the ice. A careful puck handler and shifty, fast skater, he is quite calculated with his passes and highly accurate shots. Solid in all phases of the game, he is an effective fore-checker and a very hard worker, particularly when driving to the net or fending off defenders. Norris protects the puck well and has a nose for rebounds and greasy goals. His father Dwayne Norris played professionally at right wing in the NHL, AHL, IHL, and German leagues with Cologne and Frankfurt. His brother Coale also plays in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms.
Video: Sept. 24, 2016 post-game interview with U18 forward Josh Norris. Video of Norris is scarce, but footage at the one minute mark shows a nice goal.
Scott Reedy – C (Team USA) #48 NA Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
At 6'1", 190 pounds, Reedy has true NHL upside as a sizable and strong power center with dangerous offensive talent and excellent skating skills. A cerebral player, Reedy positions himself well on the ice and seems to always think a few steps ahead of opponents, often waiting for just the right time to strike as a play develops. He uses his size and strength to protect the puck well and win most battles in the corners and along the boards. Reedy is a hard checker who can punish opponents and excel in all zones. Over the 2016-17 campaign he has totaled 20 goals, 18 assists, and 50 PIM in 55 games between Team USA’s USHL play and the U.S. National U18 Team. A Minnesota native, he has committed to the Golden Gophers.
Video: Scott Reedy – 2015-16 Highlights – USNTDP U-17
Cayden Primeau – G (Lincoln) #4 NA Goalie Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
Son of gritty, former power forward Keith Primeau who enjoyed a 15-year NHL career, Cayden is making his mark in net and currently developing his game with the Lincoln Stars. While his USHL statistics don’t impress (10-8-1, 3.29 GAA, .890 SV %), his tools do. At 6'3" and 180 pounds, Primeau covers the net effectively with a combination of size, agility, and positioning. He projects as a potential NHL starter. Primeau could improve his glove work and ability to block rebounds, but at 17 years of age he has ample time to refine his game. The New Jersey-born goaltender hangs tough tackling second and third-chance shots, as one can see some of his father’s resilience when facing barrages of shots while tending the Lincoln goal.
Video: Cayden Primeau stops Danny DiGrande on a shorthanded breakaway 10/15/16
Maksim Zhukov – G (Green Bay) #5 NA Goalie Central Scouting Midterm Rankings
Standing tall in goal at 6'3" and 181 pounds, the Russian-born Zhukov has impressed with the Gamblers (12-8-1, 2.45 GAA, .906 GAA) in his first USHL season. Working mostly as a stay-at-home netminder who doesn’t leave the crease often but moves quickly and skillfully about it, regularly stationing himself at the top to cut off shots, Zhukov profiles as a starter at the NHL level. He exhibits lightning-like reflexes with the glove and has been known to stand on his head, taking control of a game and willing his team to victory. Zhukov could develop further in terms of fending off rebounds, as well as maintaining his vision of pucks in heavy traffic, but there is a great deal to like here.
Video: Maksim Zhukov Highlights vs Lincoln Stars – Oct 28 2016
Follow me on Twitter @KWcrosscheck
- Prospect Deep Dive: Matthew Boldy
- Prospect Ramblings: Camp Rosters for U18 Worlds (April 8)
- Prospect Ramblings: First Update from the U18 Worlds (Apr 20)
- Prospects Ramblings: The Shane Wright Factor
- QMJHL Report: First Round of the 2019 Playoffs
- WHL Report: First Round of the playoffs... and beyond
- Prospect Ramblings: Time for AHL Playoffs
- Prospect Ramblings: Second Update from the U18 Worlds (Apr 22)