So far the offseason has been busy and fruitful for the USHL. The league is entering its second year as a Tier 1 junior hockey league, and the stakes continue to get higher and the league continues to improve.
Danville comes to the USHL
Shortly after the 2002-2003 season concluded with the Lincoln Stars hoisting the Clark Cup, the Danville Wings joined the league. The Wings were a productive and strongly competitive team playing in the North American Hockey League. The Wings had played in past USHL pre-season tournaments and often fared well. As the franchise was looking to improve upon their success, they looked to the USHL to help them achieve that goal. The Wings will be added to the Eastern Division of the league, moving the historic Des Moines Buccaneers to the Western Division.
They’re not in Kansas anymore
The Topeka Scarecrows era came to an end after their abrupt exit in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of Cedar Rapids. The Scarecrows had a tough time selling USHL hockey in the Topeka area and they packed up their bags and will be playing in the St. Louis area under the new name of the St. Louis Heartland Eagles. In a brief two year stint in Topeka, the Scarecrows were successful on the ice but not in the box office. They hope the St. Louis area will be a better fit for the team and will expand the league at the same time. The Eagles will be in the Eastern Division of the league.
2003 NHL Entry Draft yields strong results:
Once again the USHL made itself known at the NHL draft held this season in Nashville. A number of current and former players were selected. Thomas Vanek was the most notable USHL alum having played for the Sioux Falls Stampede. Vanek was the fifth pick overall and was selected by the Buffalo Sabres. Danny Richmond, last season’s USHL Rookie of the Year, was selected as the first pick in the second round by Carolina. Below is a list of the rest of the alums or current players who were drafted last weekend in Nashville.
Matt Carle, D (River City Lancers) San Jose Sharks 47th overall
David Backes, F (Lincoln Stars) St. Louis Blues, 62nd overall
Danny Irmen, F (Lincoln Stars) Minnesota Wild, 78th overall
Ryan Potulny, F (Lincoln Stars) Philadelphia Flyers, 87th overall
Michael Vannelli, D (Sioux Falls Stampede) Atlanta Thrashers, 126th overall
Tim Cook, D (River City Lancers) Ottawa Senators, 142nd overall
Thomas Morrow, D (Des Moines Buccaneers) Buffalo Sabres, 150th overall
Gino Guyer, F (Alum Lincoln Stars) Dallas Stars, 165th overall
Drew Miller, F (River City Lancers) Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 186th overall
Joe Pavelski, F (Waterloo Black Hawks) San Jose Sharks, 205th overall
Dirk Southern, F (Alum Lincoln Stars) Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 218th overall
Jamie Hoffman, F (Des Moines Buccaneers) Carolina Hurricanes, 230th overall
Joe Jensen, F (Alum Sioux Falls Stampede) Pittsburgh Penguins, 232nd overall
Cody Blanshan, D (Alum Sioux Falls Stampede) New York Islanders , 238th overall
Brady Greco, D (Chicago Steel) Tampa Bay Lightning, 256th overall
Marty Guerin, F (Des Moines Buccaneers) Los Angeles Kings, 274th overall
Michael Grenzy, D (Chicago Steel) Chicago Blackhawks, 275th overall
Chris Porter, F (Lincoln Stars) Chicago Blackhawks, 282nd overall
The USHL is continuing to become a household name as the top junior league in the United States, giving an opportunity for American born players to showcase their talents without giving up their NCAA eligibility. Each team is only allowed two players imported from outside the United States. No doubt, there are more changes for the better on the horizon for the league. Many teams have already held their summer tryout camps and pre-season play is only two short months away.