December 9, 2021

Broad Strokes: Don’t sleep on these second-chance USHLers

Throughout the hockey season, most of the focus falls on the first time NHL Draft eligible players –and rightfully so — but there are always a few overagers in certain leagues that make waves and garner some serious attention.

The USHL is one of those leagues.

While the draft eligible crop is full of some higher profile names, there were a handful of players who were skipped over in the 2021 NHL Draft. And some of those players are off to great starts, pushing the pace and raising their stock as the 2022 NHL Draft inches closer and closer.

Here are four of my favorite overagers the USHL has to offer, in no particular order:

Connor Kurth, F, Dubuque (2021 Final Ranking: 219)

Born in July 2003, it was a bit surprising for Connor Kurth to be passed over in his first year as a draft eligible. But that hasn’t hindered him in his DY+1 season. Kurth has been awesome for the Dubuque Fighting Saints to start the 2021-22 campaign. His production is through the roof and finds himself tied for second in goals (13) and in fifth for total points (25) in his first 18 games for Dubuque.

Kurth has a nice set of tools that should appeal to NHL teams. He has NHL size, standing at 5-foot-11 and owning a 214-pound frame that will allow him to play against stronger opponents at the next level. He has good offensive instincts and can create chances in a multitude of ways. Kurth can score himself with his shot, or create for others with his vision and passing ability,

He won’t turn 19 until after the 2022 NHL Draft, and with a future commitment to the University of Minnesota he will continue his playing career — and development — in the NCAA, allowing his game to mature before jumping to the professional level. I think he would be a prime candidate to be selected as an overager at the upcoming NHL Draft.

Jeremy Wilmer, C, Tri-City (2021 Final Ranking: 300)

The undersized Jeremy Wilmer was passed over in 2021, but he has been one of the most consistent players on the Tri-City Storm to start the 2021-22 season. Through his first 17 games, Wilmer has 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) — good for second on the team.

“Wilmer is an undersized, offensive-minded forward with elite hands and playmaking instincts,” FCHockey regional scout Douglas Larson wrote in a recent scouting report. “He has the ability to be really shifty with head and stick fakes, and can turn on a dime making it tough to get a body on him.”

His size and work off the puck will obviously be a concern — and there’s a reason he went undrafted in his first year of eligibility — but given his production this year and his great offensive upside I strongly feel Wilmer will hear his name called in the back half of the 2022 draft. 

Luke Mittelstadt, D, Madison (2021 Final Ranking: 231)

Like his brother Casey Mittelstadt, Luke Mittelstadt spent his draft year split between Eden Prairie High School and the USHL. Unlike his brother, who went in the top-10 to the Buffalo Sabres in 2017, the younger sibling struggled once he got to the USHL and was passed over in his first year of eligibility.

Before his draft, FCHockey scout Josh Bell wrote, “as a player jumping between high school and the USHL, there’s some potential here, but there’s a great deal of development needed.”

Fast forward to this year, and Mittelstadt has been awesome for the Madison Capitols. In 12 games last year, he only tallied three points (two goals, one assist). This season he’s producing at close to a point-per-game with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 19 games. He’s a highly-skilled offensive defender who can help in the transition game with his skating ability, and with the strides he’s shown between his draft year and this season I think he’s primed to hear his name called this time around in 2022. 

Jacob Guevin, D, Muskegon (2021 Final Rank: 294)

Jacob Guevin has done nothing but produce points since he joined the USHL for the 2020-21 season. In his draft year he recorded 45 points (seven goals, 38 assists) in 53 games for Muskegon, and still found himself unselected by the time the 2021 Draft ended. Through 18 games in the 2021-22 season, Guevin is producing at an even higher rate with 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 18 games — tied for the USHL lead for points by a defenseman. 

He is a pure offensive defender and possesses high-level playmaking ability from the back end. Guevin can play at 5-on-5 and excels on the power play because of his skillset.

The definition of a boom or bust player, Guevin has a high ceiling and if he hits it, he could turn into one heck of a player in the future. I would be very surprised if he passed over his second time through the draft. With an NCAA commitment for the 2022-23 season, if someone does take a swing on Guevin they would have the luxury of being patient and seeing how his play develops in college. 

Final buzzer

These are just four overagers that I am intrigued by in the United States Hockey League, but the reality is there’s a longer list full of players who were passed over in 2021 that could be drafted in 2022. Other names to watch include defenseman Lukas Gustafsson, and forwards Jack Harvey, Andre Gasseau, Scout Truman and many more.

The USHL is a league on the rise, and has been churning out NHL prospects like crazy over the last few years.

Despite being passed over once, the players above deserve serious consideration for the 2022 NHL Draft.

And I fully expect to hear some of their names come July. 

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