There is a wave of talent on the horizon for USA Hockey. You need no further proof than the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
In the United States Hockey League that fields rosters largely consisting of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, Team USA went 41-18-1 and won the Eastern Conference. With 83 points using a mix of its 17U and 18U teams, the squad made up of NHL prospects born in this millennium finished second only to the Waterloo (Iowa) Black Hawks.
The best potential “next great American hockey star” from these teams would be Jack Hughes, who will be eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. The early favorite to be the No. 1 pick next year, the Florida-born Hughes doesn’t turn 17 until May 14.
“By next year, there is no telling where he could be,” former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button, now a draft expert for TSN-Canada, told USA TODAY’s Kevin Allen in March. “I only know this – I can’t wait until he gets on the ice. I think he’s one of the most exciting players I’ve seen in a long time.”
Hughes is far from the only American-born player who could be an NHL star for years to come, however. While we patiently bide our time until Hughes is draft eligible, here is a look at the top American prep prospects who should hear their names called early in June’s NHL Draft.
Not so coincidentally, all play for the USA Hockey National Development Program and are currently taking part in the 2018 IIHF U-18 World Hockey Championships in Russia.
1. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, U.S. National Development Program
First off, when he was 9 years old in 2009, Wahlstrom did this.
Looks like such innate scoring ability was no fluke. This 6-foot-1, 205-pound Harvard commit doesn’t turn 18 until June, but he has been playing like a grown man for some time. Ranked No. 7 in NHL Central Scouting’s ranking of North American skaters, this Portland, Maine, native scored 40 goals and dished out 43 assists in 54 games for the USA U-18 team. Additionally, he had 22 goals and 23 assists in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL.
Back in 2013-14, as a seventh grader, he played for the North Yarmouth (Maine) Academy varsity team, scoring 11 goals with 18 assists in 22 games. In 2014, he headed to Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.), where he had 68 goals and 46 assists in 65 games as a Bantam and 26 goals and 26 assists in 43 games as a Midget.
“He has world-class scoring ability,” Under-18 coach Seth Appert told Kevin Allen in March. “He has the shot, an absolutely special shot, both from the one-timer spot. He plays the Ovechkin spot on the power play and also shooting it in stride with a snap shot.”
2. Joel Farabee, LW, U.S. National Development Program
This 6-foot, 164-pounder from Cicero, N.Y., scored 27 goals with 37 assists in 54 games for the USA U-18 team while adding 15 goals and 25 assists in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL.
A Boston University commit, Farabee is No. 12 in the NHL Central Scouting ranking of North American skaters.
Farabee had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games to help the United States win gold at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship last year.
“Joel is a very good puck mover with outstanding vision,” NHL Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen told NHL.com in November. “He shows creative puck plays consistently. He has a quick release and can snap the puck with pace. He’s hard on pucks in all areas of the rink. He has a high hockey IQ with good offensive instincts. Joel is a leader on his team setting an example with hard work and team play in the games that I have seen.”
3. Bode Wilde, D, U.S. National Development Program
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Michigan commit is a force on the blue line. From Plymouth, Mich., and born in Montreal, Wilde scored 11 goals with 23 assists and 59 penalty minutes in 53 games for the U-18 team. He also scored three goals with 13 assists and 16 penalty minutes in USHL action.
Wilde is ranked No. 17 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters.
“Wilde has a nice combination of skill and size and has an ease to his game where he can make things look easy,” Button wrote on TSN.ca.
4. Mattias Samuelsson, D, U.S. National Development Program
A Western Michigan commit, this 6-foot-4, 217-pounder is a bruising presence. The son of longtime NHL veteran Kjell Samuelsson, Mattias was born in Philadelphia and raised in Voorhees, N.J. This year, he had nine goals and 19 assists with 107 penalty minutes for the U-18 team while also logging four goals and 10 assists with 64 penalty minutes for the USHL’s Team USA.
Samuelsson is ranked the No. 21 North American Skater by NHL Central Scouting.
“He utilizes his size as a strength,” director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com in February. “Defensively he stands out. He understands the role. He plays within his means. He moves well for his size, he doesn’t over-handle the puck. He does know how to utilize his size asset and he does know how to utilize it within the rules. He doesn’t go out of his way to run guys, hit guys. His 1-on-1 game, he makes sure he handles his checks. On the defensive side of the puck he’s responsible with it.”
5. K’Andre Miller, D, U.S. National Development Program
This 6-3, 206-pound Wisconsin commit from St. Paul, Minn., is another strong blue liner on a USNDP team chock full of them. In 50 games for the U-18 Team this winter, the two-way defenseman scored seven goals with 17 assists and 22 penalty minutes. For the USHL Team USA, he notched four goals and 12 assists.
A former Minnetonka (Minn.) standout, Miller is ranked No. 23 among North American Skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.