I had a chance to check out my first USHL action of the season last Saturday in a couple of games that featured a lot of high quality USHL talent on display. The first game was a highly anticipated matinee matchup between league powerhouses, the Indiana Ice and Omaha Lancers. After heading to the first intermission tied at two goals apiece, the rest of the game was a tight defensive affair until Indiana’s Antti Roppo broke the deadlock midway through the third period, with Max Cook icing the game with a late empty netter. In a game featuring arguably two of the most talented teams in the league, several players will be on the NHL’s radar moving forward. Here’s the boxscore from the game:
Brian Ferlin (Indiana) | 1992 | 6’1″ | 196lbs | 22GP 4G 3A 7P +3 4 PIM
It was an unspectacular game for the 2010 Draft Eligible. He moves well on the ice, but his skating needs a bit of refinement in regards to his technique. His offensive skills are raw, but there is room for growth, and he looked like a guy that could generate some later round consideration.
Nick Mattson (Indiana) | 1991L | 6’1″ | 190lbs | 17GP 2G 4A 6P -1 8PIM
Given the amount of hype Mattson received during his time with the NTDP, I was extremely underwhelmed with his game on Saturday. Despite showing some good puck handling skills, Mattson didn’t really present anything that indicates that he has the high end skill to make him a Top 50 pick. Unless his offensive game starts to come around, his lack of a true identity to his game could hurt his stock. I’ll likely check in on another Indiana game later in the season to see how hes’ progressing, as he’s definitely an intriguing prospect.
John Parker (Indiana) | 1992 | 5’11″ | 180lbs | 17GP 2G 5A 7P -4 12PIM
After being pretty highly regarded coming out of U16 AAA in Pittsburgh, it looks like Parker’s transition to Junior Hockey has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Despite having some good overall skills, it appears as though he’s struggled to adapt to the physicality of junior hockey and his offensive production has been hurt because of it. I’m not really sure what his draft stock is looking like, but if he could maintain a .50 PPG average, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if somebody took a shot on him in one of the late rounds.
Seth Ambroz (Omaha) | 1993 | 6’3″ | 205lbs | 19GP 8G 10A 18P +11 31PIM
Definitely the player that I was most excited to see in this game, Ambroz showed me a lot of good things, but he also looks very raw. He has great size and he has a very high compete level which are major positives. He has a hard shot and was determined to drive the net and work the corners which were also positives that indicate he has a lot of potential to be a high pick in 2011. However, I’m pretty concerned with his skating. His stride is long and choppy and from what I saw, is probably the one aspect that’s going to hold him back the most so far. Right now he seems very comparable to a player like Sean Couturier, another 2011 eligible, and it will be very interesting to see how the 2011 Draft shapes up over the next 18 months.
Erik Haula (Omaha) | 1991 | 6’0″ | 175lbs | 21GP 12G 23A 35P +19 16PIM
A seventh round pick of the Wild in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Haula has started his USHL career with a bang this season. Despite being held off the scoresheet, he was arguably the best player on the ice, and showed a lot of offensive creativity. He has good vision in the offensive zone, and is definitely a playmaker first type player. He got into trouble when he neglected his teammates and tried to do to much with the puck, however. He’ll need to work on his strength a lot in the NCAA, but he’s definitely progressed a lot thus far.
The second game I had a chance to check in on featured the Green Bay Gamblers taking to the road to face the hometown Waterloo Black Hawks. One of the main reasons I wanted to see this game was to get a look at Waterloo’s pair of 1994′s, Nick Ebert and Brady Vail, who will both be eligible for the 2010 OHL Priority Selection. The game itself was a very back and forth affair, with a lot more offensive chances than the Indiana/Omaha game. After Waterloo jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second, Green Bay responded with three straight goals to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Vail tied the game up for the Black Hawks early in the third on his first USHL goal, but Reed Seckel iced the game for the Gamblers late in the third as Green Bay hung on for a 4-3 win. Here’s the boxscore for the game:
Anders Lee (Green Bay) | 1990 | 6’2″ | 216lbs | 22GP 13G 11A 24P +13 24PIM
Lee was a sixth round draft pick by the Islanders last season after putting up strong numbers alongside Nashville second rounder, Zach Budish. Lee has good size which is something that he utilizes a lot in his game. He was pretty dangerous in the offensive zone and created a lot of strong chances for the Gamblers and could have had a lot more then just one assist. Like Haula, Lee is a player who looks to be a pretty good value selection for the sixth round and adds some quality depth to the Islanders prospect pool.
Nick Ebert (Waterloo) | 1994 | 6’1″ | 185lbs | 15GP 1G 5A 6P |
I was pretty impressed with the 15 year old defenseman in this game, and he did a lot to show me that he should be one of the first players taken in the OHL draft next year. Ebert has very good size and plays a real solid game on the backend. He competes hard and is effective positionally. Transitionally, he moves the puck well and has some untapped offensive potential. His skating needs some work moving forward and he could stand to utilize his teammates quicker when he headman’s the puck, but there’s a lot to like about Ebert’s game.
Brady Vail (Waterloo) | 1994 | 6’1″ | 190lbs | 10GP 1G 0A -6 6PIM
Unlike Ebert, Vail appears set on the NCAA route, so he’s likely not going to be selected very high in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection. In this game, the Michigan native notched his first USHL point, a goal, which tied the game up in the third period. Vail looked to have a lot of good physical skills, but I’m not sure how much offensive potential he has. Once he adds some more strength to his frame, he should be a solid USHL player, but I’m interested to see how his offensive production grows moving forward.
With that being said, it was nice to get an opportunity to check out a couple of USHL games on an off-day for the Wolves. I was impressed to see that the quality of play in the league is continuing to get better, and the speed is especially something that has improved a lot. I’ll be certain to make sure I have an opportunity to catch a few more games throughout the year as well.