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Tom Mix, Published July 01 2013

USHL shines on NHL Draft night

FARGO – The Clark Cup Finals wrapped up nearly two months ago, but the United States Hockey League is coming off an eventful, historic weekend.

The USHL – entering its 12th season as the nation’s only Tier I junior hockey league – had a total of 32 players, who played during the 2012-13 season, selected in Sunday’s National Hockey League draft in New Jersey. It’s the largest amount of USHL players selected in one draft, the previous record being 28 selections, which the league had in both 2011 and 2012.

Another nine players who were USHL alumni were chosen, bringing the total of players drafted with USHL ties to 41.

USHL director of communications and public relations Brian Werger was in New Jersey for the draft and called the league’s showing a pleasant surprise considering the unpredictability of professional drafts.

“With drafts, you never know how they are going to go,” Werger said. “You get an idea with the rankings and mock drafts, but you never really know what teams are thinking.

“Obviously it is great for the league,” Werger added. “It says a lot about our league, the quality of players we have and the amount of work our teams are doing to develop these players for the NHL Draft and next levels of their careers.”

The first USHL player selected was Team USA forward Michael McCarron, who was drafted in the first round, 25th overall by the Montreal Canadiens.

“I thought it was a great showing,” Fargo Force head coach John Marks said. “It certainly proves the ability of the players that are competing in the USHL. It definitely demonstrates the quality of play from all the organizations in the league.”

Fargo, who lost to Dubuque in the Clark Cup Finals in May, had one player – defenseman Teemu Kivihalme taken 140th overall in the 5th round by the Nashville Predators – selected from its 2012-13 roster. Kivihalme, 18, appeared in four games last season for the Force and recorded one assist. He came to the Force after collecting nine goals and 22 assists during his junior season at Burnsville (Minn.) High School. Team officials said Monday that Kivihalme will return to play for Fargo this fall.

Other players with Force ties that heard their names called on Sunday were Jonny Brodzinski (148th overall by the Los Angeles Kings) and Keaton Thompson (87th overall by the Anaheim Ducks).

Brodzinski played 58 games with the Force in 2011-12 scoring 22 points and is coming off a stellar freshman season at St. Cloud State University, where he posted 22 goals and 11 assists in 42 games for the Huskies.

Thompson, a native of Devils Lake, N.D., suited up for 13 games with Fargo during the 2010-11 season before deciding to play for the USA development team.

Marks, who is entering his third year coaching in Fargo, said Sunday’s draft is just further proof that the USHL is thriving.

“Right from the beginning I was impressed with this league,” Marks said. “Now the NHL is certainly seeing that as well. You are also seeing a lot of players looking at the USHL as a stepping stone not only to college, but the NHL Draft as well.”

Slapshots

The Minnesota Wild selected two players – Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Gustav Olofsson (46th overall) and Sioux City Musketeers forward Avery Peterson (167th overall) – from the USHL. … The USHL set an attendance record during the 2012-13 season with 1,356,560 fans watching its games. … A record 92 USHL alumni played at least one game in the NHL during the 2012-13 season.


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Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562