USHL Power Rankings presented by USA Hockey Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016-17 USHL season is at the halfway point, and it is shaping up to be an exciting race toward the Clark Cup Playoffs in the second half of the year. In the Eastern Conference, second through fifth place is only separated by four points, while only two points separate second through fifth place in the Western Conference. Several teams have been playing well as of late as they try to improve their position in the standings. January also means it is time for the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., where 40 of the top NHL Draft-eligible players will be watched by scouts from all 30 NHL teams.

The Chicago Steel have regained the top spot in the USHL power rankings following a month in which they finished 6-1-0-2 to remain atop the league standings. They also had three players (Brannon McManus, Walker Duehr, Corson Green) named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, along with head coach Dan Muse, who will be leading Team East.

RANK

TEAM COMMENT

1.

Chicago Steel (19)

2016-17: 20-5-1-3

Last poll: 2

Chicago is back atop the USHL power rankings after a 6-1-0-2 record in December to remain atop the Western Conference by six points. Following four points in his last four games, including a pair of goals on New Year’s Eve against Bloomington, Reggie Lutz now leads the team with 23 points in 29 games. In goal, Ales Stezka ranks ninth in Goals Against Average (2.23) and Save Percentage (.920). The Steel have seen solid play both offensively and defensively throughout the first half of the season, as they continue to lead the league in goals (100) while fifth in goals against (67). Following a two-game road trip to Team USA and Muskegon to start January, the Steel will be on an eight-game homestand from Jan.  – Feb. 4. Chicago is 11-2-0-2 at Fox Valley Ice Arena this season.

2.

 

Sioux City Musketeers (2)

2016-17: 18-6-3-1

Last poll: 1

Sioux City has earned at least one point in seven of their last 10 games and are atop the Western Conference by five points over both Waterloo and Des Moines. The Musketeers will welcome Eeli Tolvanen and his team-leading 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists) back to the lineup after he concluded his time with Team Finland at the World Junior Championship. The team in unsure as to when he will play in his first game back for Sioux City. Matiss Kivlenieks continues to lead the way between the pipes with a 1.83 GAA (3rd in USHL), 16 wins (first in the USHL), 594 saves (second in the USHL) and a .932 SV% (second in USHL).  Sioux City will play seven straight games away from home before returning to Tyson Events Center for their final two games of January.

3.

Youngstown Phantoms

2016-17: 17-9-2-1

Last poll: 9

The Phantoms saw the biggest jump in the rankings, moving up six spots to No. 3. Youngstown is now 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games and alone in third place in the Eastern Conference. Nicolas Werbik (11G, 13A) and Alex Esposito (10G, 13A) remain in the top 15 in scoring. Ivan Kulbakov has been fantastic between the pipes as well. He is second in the USHL with a 1.80 GAA and fifth in the league with a .924 SV%. Curtis Hall has blossomed in his first year in the league. He is fifth among all rookies in scoring with 14 points (6G, 8A) and second among all 16-year-olds in the league. The Phantoms will have five games apiece at and away from the Covelli Centre in the month of January.

 

4.

Dubuque Fighting Saints

2016-17:
18-9-1-1

Last poll: 3

The big story for the Fighting Saints since the end of October has been Zach Solow. The Northeastern commit has extended his point streak to 16 games dating back to Oct. 28, with 26 points (6G, 20A) in that span. He was also named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Colin Theisen and Cole Guttman have also been on fire as of late. Both players scored in all but one of Dubuque’s nine games in December. Theisen finished the month with 10 goals, including a hat trick, and six assists. He has 28 points (14G, 14A) on the season. Guttman tallied seven goals and five assists in 2016’s final month and now has 20 points (10G, 10A). Goaltender and Arizona State commit Jaxon Castor was 6-2-0-0 in December and now sports a 2.01 GAA (fourth in the USHL) and .913 SV% (13th in USHL). Dubuque, who now sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, is 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 games and 18-9-1-1 overall (38 points).

5.

Waterloo Black Hawks

2016-17: 17-11-0-1

Last poll: 4

Waterloo sits in a tie for second place in the Western Conference as the USHL season heads to the second half. Nick Swaney leads the way offensively for the Black Hawks with 27 points in 24 games, tied for fifth among all USHL players. Swaney, along with teammates Shane Bowers and Mikey Anderson, will be going to Sioux Falls next week for the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Waterloo is 8-3-0-1 this season at home this season and will look to continue their success at home in 2017, as they will play six of their 10 games at home in January.

 

6.

Des Moines Buccaneers

2016-17: 16-8-1-2

Last poll: 7

Heading into the second half of the season, the Buccaneers are 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games and are tied for second place in the Western Conference standings. The Buccaneers have the second best team defense in the USHL, having allowed the second fewest goals in the league (63). Des Moines also has two players in Isaac Johnson and Mario Ferraro who are in the top-five of the rookie scoring race. Like several other teams in the USHL, goaltending has also been a big reason why Des Moines sits where they do. The duo of Jan Ruzicka and Nick MacNab have buoyed the Buccaneers in the first half of the season. Ruzicka is tied for fifth in the USHL in GAA (2.07), while MacNab is eighth (2.19). Des Moines has also been successful both at and away from Buccaneer Arena. The Buccaneers are 8-4-1-1 at home and 8-4-0-1 on the road. They will play six of their 10 games in January away from home.

 

7.

Fargo Force

2016-17: 16-10-2-0

Last poll: 8


Fargo has earned at least one point and each of their last six games to move into fourth place in the Western Conference. They have been boosted by the fact that they have three of the top nine scorers in the USHL. Jack Adams leads all USHL players with 33 points (18G, 15A) in 24 games, while Hank Crone (10G, 16A) and Blake Lizotte (4G, 22A) are tied for eighth in the USHL in scoring. Adams’ 18 goals leads the league, while Lizotte’s 22 helpers are the most in the USHL. Special teams will also be key for the Force in the second half of the season. Both the power play (15.3 percent, seventh in the USHL) and penalty kill (90.4 percent, third in the USHL) will look to stay successful as the calendar turns to 2017.

 

 

8.

Muskegon Lumberjacks

2016-17: 16-11-2-0

Last Poll: 5

Muskegon recently welcomed back Andrei Svechnikov and Collin Adams from the World Junior A Challenge. It will be a boost for the Lumberjacks offense, as Adams (30 PTS) and Svechnikov (27 PTS) are the team’s two leading scorers and are third and fifth, respectively, in overall USHL scoring. Three other Lumberjacks – forward Keeghan Howdeshell, defenseman Scooter Brickey, and goaltender Keith Petruzzelli – will play in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game next week in Sioux Falls. Muskegon is tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 34 points and will have a good chance to move up the standings in January, as they play six of their nine games at home, where they are 7-4-1-0 on the season.

 

9.

Green Bay Gamblers

2016-17:
17-12-1-1


Last poll
: 6

The Gamblers go into the second half of the 2016-17 season with two of the top 12 scorers in the USHL. Captain Jared Spooner (10G, 13A) and defenseman Connor Mackey (3G, 20A) both sit with 23 points on the season. Mackey is also fourth in the league and first among all defensemen in both points and assists. Continued success on special teams will be a continued point of emphasis for Pat Mikesch’s club in 2017, as Green Bay remains atop the USHL in power play percentage (26.1 percent). The Gamblers also had four players named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game – forwards Josh Dunne, Nolan Moyle and John Leonard, defenseman Connor Mackey, and goaltender Maksim Zhukov. The Gamblers will go on a five-game road trip to Madison, Team USA and Muskegon from Jan. 6-14, which could be a key stretch for the team at the beginning of the second half.

10.

Lincoln Stars

2016-17:
15-11-2-1


Last poll:
11

Despite moving up only one spot in the rankings, the Stars are 7-2-0-1 in their last ten games and sit just a single point out of the top half of the Western Conference standings. Goaltending has been the big reason why Lincoln sits where they do in the West. Josef Korenar has been the best goalie in the USHL as of late. He has won three of his last four starts and is first among all USHL goaltenders in both GAA (1.77) and SV% (.942). The Stars recently welcomed back Cayden Primeau, where he led Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge. In his place, Derek Schaedig was called up from the Janesville Jets (NAHL) and was outstanding. In his four starts in Lincoln, Schaedig finished with a 4-0-0-0 record, a 1.74 GAA and a .942 SV%. After one of those 2-0-0-0 weekends, he was named CCM/USHL Goaltender of the Week. The Stars will take on the Fargo Force for four consecutive at the end of January, and it will be a good opportunity for Lincoln to gain ground in the West, as the Force sit just one point ahead in the Western Conference standings.

11.

Bloomington Thunder

2016-17: 13-11-3-0

Last poll: 10

Bloomington finished December with a 4-2-0-0 record and are seven points out of the top half of the Eastern Conference standings. They enter January with a three-game winning streak after knocking off Waterloo and defeating Chicago twice. The Thunder also knocked off Western Conference-leading Sioux City in early December. Gabriel Mollot-Hill has emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the USHL. The Providence commit is third among all goaltenders in SV% (.927) and tied for fifth in the USHL in GAA (2.07). Both of those marks lead all USHL rookie netminders. Bloomington will look to continue to receive that solid goaltending in the second half of the season and see continued solid play from their veterans, including leading scorer Vladislav Dzhioshvili (10G, 8A).

 

12.

Omaha Lancers

2016-17: 12-13-3-0

Last poll: 14

Pierce Crawford (10G, 11A), Austin Alger (9G, 11A) and Filip Rydstrom (6G, 14A) continue to lead the way offensively for the Lancers. Crawford put up two goals and four assists in December, Rydstrom tallied five goals and two assists, and Alger led the way with four goals and five assists in final month of 2016. Additionally, Greg Printz was named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game next week. January will be a key time for the Lancers to move up in the Western Conference, as seven of Omaha’s 10 games are against teams no more than eight points ahead of them in the standings. Six of those contests will be played at Ralston Arena.

13.


Sioux Falls Stampede

2016-17: 12-13-1-1

Last poll: 15

The Stampede come into 2017 having won three of their last four contests. Austin Albrecht continues to pace the team with 25 points (5G, 20A) in 25 games. Those 20 assists rank third among all USHL players. Sioux Falls also boasts the top two players in the USHL in shooting percentage in Jason O’Neill (33.3 percent) and Paul DeNaples (26.7 percent). O’Neill is second on the team in points (14G, 6A), while DeNaples is second among rookies in team scoring (4G, 5A). They also have scored the fourth most goals in the league (88) and will look to continue that offensive production into the second half of the season. Matthew Quercia, Kasper Kotkansalo and John St. Ivany will be playing in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in their home rink next week.

 

14.

Tri-City Storm

2016-17: 11-13-2-2

Last poll: 12

The Storm earned big wins against top USHL teams Waterloo, Dubuque, Lincoln and Sioux City in the month of December. Adam Goodsir, who was named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game along with teammates Paul Washe, Alex Limoges, Wyatt Bongiovanni and Dayton Rasmussen, has been one of the best rookies in the USHL all season long. Goodsir is tied for fourth among rookies in goals (7) and is tied for eighth among all first-year players with 12 points (7G, 5A). Tri-City also remains one of the best teams in the league on the power play, as they are third in the USHL with a 20.2 percent conversion rate on the man advantage.  

15.

Madison Capitols

2016-17: 10-17-1-1

Last poll: 13

 

Dryden McKay has been busy between the pipes for the Capitols. The Holy Cross commit is fifth among all USHL goaltenders with 520 saves. He is also fourth in the league in SV% (.925). Easton Brodzinski remains tied for the team scoring lead with 19 points (12G, 7A) in 25 games, including seven points (2G, 5A) in the month of December.  He is joined by fellow forwards Eugene Fadyeyev (6G, 13A) and Kevin O’Neil (6G, 13A). In his nine games in December, O’Neil tallied four goals and six assists. Mick Messner will be representing the Capitols at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. 

16.

Team USA

2016-17: 9-13-1-1

Last poll: 16

Team USA closed the month of December with a 3-2 record. Quinn Hughes and Dylan St. Cyr were named USHL Defenseman of the Week and USHL Goaltender of the Week, respectively, during 2016’s final month. Hughes is 12th among all USHL defensemen in scoring with 14 points (1G, 13A) in 12 games. Between the U17 and the U18 team, Team USA will be busy in January, as the teams will play a combined 13 games in USHL competition.

17.

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

2016-17: 3-24-1-1

Last poll: 17

 

 

Cedar Rapids opened the month of December with a three-game winning streak.  They also had four players named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Forwards Marc McLaughlin, Robert Arrak, and Jordan Timmons, who was recently acquired from the Muskegon Lumberjacks, will be playing in Sioux Falls next week along with defenseman Jakub Sirota. Cedar Rapids will play five of their eight games in the month of January at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

     

 

 

 

 

 

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