Top 10 NHL draft-eligible USHL prospects for 2011

By HF Staff

There can be no denying that the USHL is gaining tremendous momentum as a trusted source for budding NHL prospects. In the 2010 NHL draft alone, 20 players were selected, including four in the first round and 10 in the top three rounds. Much of the credit is due to the excellent United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), who joined the league in 2009, and fields an Under-18 and Under-17 squad that combine to make up Team USA. As a result, these relatively young select hockey players find themselves competing against 19 and 20-year-olds on a nightly basis. Many of these players from Team USA make up the Top 10 NHL draft-eligible USHL prospects for 2011.

Top 10 at a glance:

1. Tyler Biggs, RW, Team USA U-18
2. Robbie Russo, D, Team USA U-18
3. Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown
4. Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha
5. Rocco Grimaldi, RW, Team USA U-18
6. J.T. Miller, C, Team USA U-18
7. Reid Boucher, C, Team USA U-18
8. Sam Windle, D, Chicago
9. Garrett Haar, D, Fargo
10. William Kessel, F, Green Bay

1. Tyler Biggs, RW, Team USA U-18
April 30th, 1993. 6’2, 210 lbs

Tyler Biggs is a large power-forward who possesses excellent foot speed. Biggs has been known to leave a defenseman or two dumbfounded after beating them to the outside. He’s also got good hands, drives to the net hard, and is a strong finisher. In addition, he’s got an accurate shot, checks well, blocks shots, and his hockey sense is second to none.

In 2010-11, Biggs has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) for Team USA U-18 in 27 games against USHL, college, and international competition. In the USHL, he has 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) in 11 games.

In 2009-10, Biggs had 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) for Team USA against USHL competition.

Biggs is committed to the University of Miami.

2. Robbie Russo, D, Team USA U-18
February 15th, 1993. 5’11, 189 lbs

Regarded for his leadership qualities, Russo is considered small for a defensemen, but packs a potent offensive punch. The 17-year-old is the highest ranked USHL skater on the December 2010 ISS Top 30 at No.18.

In 2010-11, Russo leads all Team USA Under-18 defensemen with 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) in 29 games against USHL, international, and college competition. With only 3 assists in 13 USHL games, Russo may not be registering on the score sheet as consistently; however, he ranks tied for third among Team USA U-18 defensemen with a plus/minus rating of plus-three.

In 2009-10, Russo had 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 34 USHL games for Team USA. Russo also helped Team USA U-17 take first place at the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge. He led all defenders with 10 points in 14 games against international competition.

Russo is committed to playing at Notre Dame in 2011-12.

3. Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown

October 14th, 1992. 6’3, 197 lbs

Scott Mayfield is an extremely skilled big defenseman who likes to throw his body around. He’s got great defensive instincts, but also has a solid offensive game. He skates and passes well, has a strong wrist shot, and is a team leader. The ISS has consistently rated him as a Top 30 prospect for the 2011 NHL draft.

In 2010-11, Mayfield has 4 points (one goal, three assists) in 18 games with the Phantoms. He’s currently in a bit of an offensive slump, registering only one assist in his last 11 games. His team isn’t faring much better, as Youngstown is tied for last in the league with a 9-14-1 record.

In 2010, Mayfield was named the tournament MVP at the World Junior “A” Challenge Tournament, where Team USA earned their third straight gold medal. Mayfield was recognized for his strong defensive play.

Mayfield is committed to playing at the University of Denver for 2011-12.

4. Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha
April 1st, 1993. 6’2, 211 lbs

Seth Ambroz is a physical power-forward from New Prague, Minnesota. He has a good shot, excellent hands around the net, and always finishes his checks. Previously ranked No. 16 in the November ISS Top 30, Ambroz has since fallen off the list.

In 2010-11, Ambroz has helped lead the Lancers to second place in the Western Conference with a record of 13-7-3. He is among the top goal-scorers for the Lancers, registering 10 goals and 7 assists in 19 games.

In 2009-10, a then 16-year-old Ambroz caught the attention of scouts when he put up 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists) in 56 games. He had a plus/minus rating of plus-24 and ranked second on the team with 118 penalty minutes.

Throughout his three years in the USHL, Ambroz has proven he’s not afraid to drop the gloves and stick up for a teammate.

Ambroz, who grew up watching the Golden Gophers, is committed to playing at the University of Minnesota. He was supposed to attend Minnesota in 2010-11, but was told by head coach Don Lucia he couldn’t promise Ambroz enough ice time, and it would be best to play out his draft year with Omaha.

5. Rocco Grimaldi, RW, Team USA U-18
February 8th, 1993. 5’6 163 lbs

Rocco Grimaldi is a small, but tremendously skilled and dynamic goal-scoring right winger from Auburn Hills, Michigan. He’s known for his explosive speed, high work rate, and ability to make things happen. One minute he’s helping out in his own zone, the next minute he’s headed down on a breakaway at the opposite end.

It will be interesting to see exactly where Grimaldi goes in the draft. No matter how good, there is always doubt when dealing with a player of small physical stature. However, with the faster pace of today’s NHL game and various rule changes, Grimaldi has a realistic chance of finding a place. According to his coaches and the experts, he’s simply that good.

Both CSS and ISS agree, with the latter predicting that Grimaldi will go in the Top 30, according to their latest December 2010 report.

In 2010-11, Grimaldi leads all Team USA U-18 skaters with 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games played against USHL, college, and international competition. In the USHL, he leads all Team USA skaters with 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games played.

In 2010, Grimaldi registered 10 points, tying for the team lead, and led Team USA to a gold medal in the World Under-18 Championship.

In 2009-10, he played 36 games with the Team USA U-17 team. He had 14 goals and 40 points. When called up to play for the U-18 squad, he made a smooth transition and had 7 goals and 23 points in 26 games.

Grimaldi is committed to the University of North Dakota.

6. J.T. Miller, C, Team USA U-18

March 14th, 1993. 6’1, 198 lbs

J.T. Miller is quick playmaking center from East Palestine, Ohio. Miller was expected to put up big numbers for Team USA in the 2010-11 season, and so far he hasn’t disappointed.

In 2010-11, Miller leads Team USA U-18 with 16 assists in 27 games played against USHL, college, and international competition. He’s also netted 5 goals for a total of 21 points. In the USHL, Miller has 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) in 12 games played.

In 2009-10, Miller finished second on the U-17 squad with 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 46 games against all competition.

Miller is committed to the University of North Dakota.

7. Reid Boucher, C, Team USA U-18
September 8th, 1993. 5’9, 192 lbs

Despite his small stature for a center, Boucher plays bigger than his size would seem to permit. He’s been described by many as a complete hockey player. Boucher shoots and checks well, and has a high work rate.

In 2010-11, Boucher ranks second on Team USA U-18 in goals with 10 against USHL, college, and international competition in 28 games. He’s also second on the team in points with 23. In 13 USHL games, he’s averaging just over a point a game with 14, including 8 goals.

Boucher is committed to Michigan State University.

8. Sam Windle, D, Chicago
March 10th 1992. 6’3, 200 lbs

Sam Windle is a tall NHL sized defenseman with the ability to play both ways. He’s not afraid to join the rush or shoot from the point. He plays physical, skates well backwards, and displays excellent positioning and a good poke check. However, his greatest asset may be his passing ability, as he always skates with his head up and finds the open man in stride.

In 2010-11, his first season in the USHL with Chicago, Windle has eight points (four goals, four assists) in 21 games. While Chicago may sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-14-5, Windle has a plus/minus rating of plus-four, which again leads the defensive corps and ties for second on the team.

In 2010, Windle was also selected to participate in the 2010 World Junior “A” Challenge in Princeton, British Columbia, where he helped the United States Junior Select team to a perfect 5-0-0 record en route to capturing the gold medal.

Windle is committed to Bemidji State University.

9. Garrett Haar, D, Fargo
August 16th, 1993. 5’11, 190 lbs

After being a healthy scratch at the beginning of the season, Garrett Haar has a total of 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and has a plus/minus rating of plus-eight in 23 games for the Force.

In December 2010, ISS recognized Haar as one of its greatest risers. Haar has been on the radar of prospect watchers for some time now, so his recent streak of solid play should help his draft projections.

Haar is committed to Northeastern University.

10. William Kessel, F, Green Bay
January 6th, 1992. 6’3, 196 lbs

William Kessel is a hard working power-forward with good hockey sense from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He’s got great patience in front of the net and is a strong finisher.

In 2010-11, Kessel has really come into his own, leading the Gamblers with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 24 games. His 26 points ranks tied for fifth amongst the USHL’s scoring leaders.

In 2009-10, Kessel was a member Gamblers squad that won the Clark Cup, the USHL’s top prize.

Kessel is committed to Western Michigan University.

Article was written by Chris Paxhia.

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