As a continuation of our USHL Phase 1 Draft Coverage. Neutral Zone scouts give an inside look at each teams selections, where they came from and what their game is. Star ratings and ranking information is for subscribers only, but we give commentary on each player and our scouts give their take on the teams draft as a whole. Today we look at the Sioux Falls Stampede of the Western Conference.
Sioux Falls Stampede (10 picks)
8 Americans, 2 Canadians – All Play in the US
- Ryan Johnson (#3 overall) Anaheim Jr. Ducks U16 – D
- Robert Griffin (#19 overall) Boston Jr. Bruins U16 – F – Northeastern
- Josh Langford (#35 overall) Dallas Stars Elite U16 – G
- Ethan Phillips (#39 overall) Selects Academy U15 – F – Quinnipiac
- Christian Miller (#51 overall) Greenway Bantam – D – St. Cloud State
- Simon Mack (#77 overall) Selects Academy U15 – D – Penn State
- Jeffrey Bertrand (#83 overall) Alaska Oilers U15 – F
- Kyle Schroeder (#99 overall) Chicago Mission U16 – F
- Austen Humphrey (#115 overall) Elk River Elks Bantam – F
- William Margel (#131 overall) Selects Academy U15 – F
The 2014-2015 Clark Cup Champions were able to make the playoffs last season but came up short this year. On draft day, they spent their first three picks on a defenseman, a forward and a goalie. Their first pick and third overall in the draft was NTDP Camp Invitee and U16 Tier 1 standout from Anaheim Jr Ducks Ryan Johnson. The third overall selection makes him the earliest pick of out of California in the history of the USHL Draft. Johnson is a talented, multi-dimensional defenseman with excellent footwork, puck handling and passing ability. He sees the ice, has the poise and awareness to let the play develop in front of him before making his move and runs Anaheim’s power play as an underager. He’s a bit undersized at this point but his father, long time NHLer Craig Johnson, is 6’3″, so a growth spurt may be in his future. In the second round, they pivoted to the opposite end of the country to Boston, MA where they selected Boston Jr. Bruins U16 leading scorer Robert Griffin. The Northeastern commit has a high-level hockey IQ, slick hands, a rapid release and strong, deliberate edges. He processes the game at a fast pace and can make plays in traffic which separates him from other top echelon forwards in the age group. In the third round the Stampede selected top goalie prospect Josh Langford out of Dallas Stars Elite U16. A 6’3”, high ceiling, technical netminder who is strong down low and holds the posts, makes smooth slides and tracks the puck very well. He had a great showing at NTDP Camp which elevated his draft stock. Four picks later the Stampede selected Quinnipiac commit Ethan Phillips out of Selects Academy U15. Phillips is quick, fast and has a great first step. He’s crafty and creative combined with quick, elusive stick skills. Christian Miller, a tall, slender defenseman who played Bantam in Minnesota on a team of only 10 players, was the Stampedes next pick. The St. Cloud commit is on the raw side, but has deceptive athleticism, covers a lot of ice, has room to grow and can contribute at both ends of the ice. He is the son of Kris Miller, a former Minnesota Duluth player who was awarded Mr. Minnesota in 1987. In the fifth round Sioux Falls went back to a Selects Academy player, this time Penn State commit Simon Mack. Mack is a well-rounded, two-way defenseman who, at times, controlled the game at the U15 level. He handles the puck well, makes smart outlet passes and is able to defend against the rush, in front of the net and in the corners. He carries some CHL risk due to being drafted by Kitchener (OHL) who has a history of flopping NCAA commits. However, he’s a good value at this point in the draft. In the sixth round they took NTDP Camp Invitee Jeffrey Bertrand from the Alaska Oilers U15. Bertrand is tall, athletic and skates well but is on the raw side. He is coming off good, not great, performances at NTDP Camp and U15 Nationals which may have hurt his draft stock. Overall, he’s a high potential prospect who could be a steal once he puts the tools together. With the 99th pick in the draft, Sioux Falls took Kyle Schroeder out of the Chicago Mission U16 organization. The 10th round pick by Erie Otters in the OHL Draft a month prior had a strong showing at the U16 Tier 1 Nationals which helped elevate his stock leading up to the draft. He’s short but stalky, has strong edges and an explosive first step. He can push and pull the puck through and around defenders with ease and is always the first guy in on the forecheck finishing his hit and pressuring opposing defenders. Their eighth round pick they returned to the Minnesota Bantam market by drafting Elk River Elks defenseman Austen Humphrey. Austen has a lot going for him; great size, strong edges, soft hands, and the willingness to support the puck, drive on defenders and finish around the net. With their last pick, they took their third Selects Academy U15 prospect; this time Maryland native William Margel. A small, fast, nifty, skill forward who plays with a lot of energy, pace and a healthy dose of grit.
There is an argument that Sioux Falls left the draft with three first line talents in Johnson, Griffin and Langford. Three of their final seven picks came from the same team (Selects Academy U15) but in those picks they acquired three D1 commits and 3 CHL Draft picks. After acquiring the best available player at each positional group in theIR top three picks, they took 5 forwards and 2 defenseman. The forward group has a nice combination of small, skilled players and big, strong, raw, high potential players. On defense, they selected multi-dimensional players who can skate, make plays with the puck and defend in all three zones.
While Sioux Falls took 8 Americans and 2 Canadians, all of their prospects were playing in the US this season. They only selected players out of Tier 1 midget hockey and Minnesota Bantam hockey. There could be some risk there as they selected 4 players from U15 hockey which is too early to tell how those kids will translate going forward as well as 2 players from Minnesota Bantam. The rest came from established U16 Tier 1 programs. Overall, Sioux Falls improved their team in the draft by adding blue chip prospects in the early rounds, proven D1 commits in the middle rounds and solid potential forwards in the later rounds.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images