These players are listed in no particular order, but they all are players that are slated to have a big year in the USHL this coming season.
T.J. Tynan (Des Moines) is an obvious pick for this list after the 5'9", 170 pound forward out of Orland Park, Illinois tied for 5th in the USHL in scoring last year with 72 points. The playmaking winger finished the season with 60 games played, 17 goals, and 55 assists. I wrote an article on Tynan awhile ago, and not much has changed since that article. Tynan sees the ice extremely well and has some of the best hands in the USHL. He's a very smooth skater that seems to float rather than skate. Tynan makes very crisp cross-ice passes that seem to freeze opposing defensemen. It's really just Tynan's size that's bringing his value down and that's why he wasn't drafted on Saturday after being ranked as the 210th North American skater. It will be interesting to see how Tynan's play is changed by the departure of Connor Brickley.
Seth Ambroz (Omaha) is all but guaranteed a first round selection in next summer's NHL Draft. The 6'3", 205 pound forward out of New Prauge, Minnesota has it all: size, scoring ability, and loads of potential. Ambroz is one of the best players in the league in my opinion, and the way he plays is why I say that. Ambroz, as I wrote in March, never seemed lost for a 16 year old, which is younger than the average age of USHL players. Ambroz has a rocket shot and he can take that shot from basically anywhere in the zone and it has a chance of overpowering the goaltender. Ambroz is slated to be Omaha's leading scorer next season, following up his sophomore USHL campaign where Ambroz scored 22 goals and picked up 27 assists for 49 points in 56 games played.
Ryan Dzingel (Lincoln) only played 36 games last season, but he made full use of them, netting 11 goals and picking up 15 assists for a total of 26 points in 36 games; not too shabby for a USHL rookie. I wrote about Dzingel in Februrary, before he had lit the world on fire, and in that article, I mentioned Dzingel's ability to score and the tremendous amount of responsibility that was placed on him by the Stars coaching staff last season. Coming in as a rookie, Dzingel logged time on the Lincoln powerplay and penalty kill, which is not easy task for a USHL rookie to accomplish. Dzingel is one of the underrated forwards on this list, and he should put up some good numbers to follow his 36 games played, 11 goal and 15 assist rookie season. Photo from Brandon Anderson.
Andrei Kuchin (Chicago) will be returning for his second season in the USHL this coming season, and the Russian-born forward will aim his sights on repeating his role as the Chicago Steel's leading scorer. Last season, Kuchin, a 5'10", 184 pound winger averaged a point per game, playing 56 games and getting 56 points. In those 56 games, Kuchin scored 20 goals and picked up 36 assists for 56 points total. Many people thought that Kuchin would be picked in the NHL Entry Draft, which took place on June 25th and 26th, but Kuchin never heard his name called. Kuchin should be an interesting player to watch next season, as the 19 year old Kuchin will probably be put in a leadership role with the Steel, a position he hasn't really experienced in his USHL career.
Kevin Lind (Tri-City) was considered the best defenseman coming out of the USHL at the beginning of the season will re-take that position as Sioux City defenseman Kevin Gravel heads to St. Cloud State for the 2010-11 season. Lind, as I wrote in February, doesn't produce the best offensive stats, but Lind plays a very solid defensive game, crushing opposing forwards as they come in the zone and very rarely getting beat to the outside, which is very rare to find in a 6'3", 200 pound defenseman. Lind only scored 6 goals and picked up 10 assists last season, but he brings much more to the table than defensive and some offensive ability. The 2010-11 season will be Lind's third USHL season, which means that he has very valuable USHL experience and will likely be a captain on the Storm this season.
Brandon Carlson (Fargo) will be returning to the Fargo Force this coming season after being traded to the Force before the roster freeze from the Des Moines Buccaneers. Carlson is in a prime position to succeed with the Force as they are coming off of a USHL Clark Cup Finals appearance. Just like Lind, Carlson plays more of a physical, defensive game than an offensive production game. Carlson has decent size, standing at 6'2", 200 pounds, and he can sure use that size in clearing out the front of the net for whatever goalie he is playing for. Although it's not the main focus of his game, Carlson can help out his team in the offensive zone. Just last season, between his time with the Bucs and Force, Carlson scored 5 goals and picked up 6 assists. Photo from barronhockey.com.
Peter Hand (Chicago) is a young enforcer in the USHL. You won't notice the 16 year old while watching a game as he doesn't really make the flashy plays, but you will notice him when he drops the gloves to defend his teammates, which he did 6 times last year, and you view his hockeyfights.com fight card here. It's pretty ridiculous for a 16 year old player to come into the USHL, a league suited for 18+ year olds, and fight and hit and just intimidate as much as Hand did this past season. I can remember a particular instance in a game where Chicago was beating the Lincoln Stars pretty handily (excuse the pun), and Hand was still in the face of every Stars player asking the Stars to fight and it was just crazy how he is so aggressive throughout the game and he really gives his team a boost. Photo from RJ Meyer.
Austin Coldwell (Des Moines) is the only offensively focused defenseman I wrote about in this article, and he should be in line to lead the USHL in scoring for defensemen next season. He hopes to improve on his rookie campaign where he spent a lot of ice time on Des Moines' potent powerplay, where gained 23 of his 36 total points. Of those 36 points, 12 were goals and 24 were assists. Coldwell is arguably one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the USHL and that is where he gets noticed quite a bit by scouts. Now Coldwell is one of the few players on this list that doesn't have a college commitment yet. If Coldwell continues tearing it up offensively in the USHL and can improve on his defensive skills, that will change and he will be headed to college.
Kevin Murdock (Lincoln) has a very good chance of leading the USHL in all the goaltender categories. Murdock played two seasons in the USHL, in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and then moved up to Minnesota State University last season, where he posted a 1-3-1 record with 3.46 GAA and .895 save percentage, not too shabby for a freshman goaltender. But he brings that collegiate experience to the USHL, where he posted a lifetime 25-16-6 record along with a 2.45 GAA and .913 save percentage in the regular season with the Lincoln Stars. Murdock is a very technically sound goaltender and he will be ready to frustrate opposing forwards with his reflexes and frame he uses very well. Don't be surprised to see Murdock with a GAA under 2.30 at least. Photo from AP.
Connor Wilson (Chicago) will be the last player I write about in this article. Wilson showed flashes of brilliance last season, and I believe he will be one of the best goaltenders in the USHL this coming season. Wilson took over the Steel's starting goaltender spot from three year veteran Nick Pisellini, which is no easy task. I wrote an article on Wilson in March and I explained that Wilson's glove is really his strong point and he was one of the most technically sound goaltenders all season last year, but he did struggle with rebound control last season. He has had a full offseason to address that rebound control concern and I believe he will be even better for the Steel coming up this season. Watch out for Wilson as one of the most underrated goalies in the league.
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