Penn State recruit Evan Barratt (Team Comcast 16U, 2014-15) was taken 90th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 63 points in 21 games for Team Comcast, leading them to the USPHL 16U championship game.
Boston University recruit David Farrance was a two-time winner of the USPHL 16U Defenseman of the Year award from 2013-15. Like Barratt, Farrance advanced to the U.S. National Team Development Program the last two years. He was taken 92nd by Nashville in June.
Former Selects Academy player Skyler Brind’Amour (2016-17), was selected 177th overall by the Edmonton Oilers. He’s off to Michigan State this fall.
Northeastern University recruit Cayden Primeau was selected 199th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. He played for Team Comcast in 2013-14.
While the USPHL cheered on all of these players with their draft selections, they’re looking forward to seeing many more drafted directly from the NCDC in 2017-18.
“As an NHL scout, the USPHL every year has players that we definitely need to track and keep watch on,” said St. Louis Blues scout Vinnie Montalbano, who is also head coach of the NCDC’s Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
“It’s definitely a given that there are USPHL players on the Draft watch list that we’re following and tracking. With the new tuition-free level, some teams are going to have more higher-end prospects, and we’re definitely going to be watching them.
“From the people I’ve talked to, and hearing about the players they’re bringing in, we will be ramping up the scouting a little bit,” Montalbano added.
Add the Calgary Flames to the list of NHL teams excited to see what the NCDC will bring to the table, as represented by U.S. scout Eric Soltys.
“It brings a different level of evaluation, being a non-paying league. You have half of the USPHL Premier, all strong organizations, with other teams form the area and they’re able to put together a really strong league,” Soltys said.
Berglund, of the Canadiens, said the USPHL has been able to fill a bit of a void in New England where over the past couple decades, in his opinion, prep school and high school hockey has declined in overall skill level.
“I’ve been here for a long time now, 20 years scouting, and I have seen a decline in the play at the high school and prep programs. This program [the NCDC] gives the top kids a greater alternative,” Berglund added.
He said that the elite players in New England and the rest of the Northeastern U.S. won’t have to leave home to pursue their dreams, as the NCDC will compete with the leagues for which they had been leaving home.
“If they want to make that final push to be a NCAA Division 1 player and maybe go beyond, they had to leave their comfort zone they’re used to, in order to move up a level,” said Berglund.
In June, the USPHL unveiled its 2017-18 Showcase Series schedule (see Page 7), and it’s the showcases that the Blues’ Montalbano is excited about.
“For us, those are great. It’s kind of one-stop shopping at those showcases. You go to these showcases, and you have every team in the league, and you can figure out whom you might be tracking for the rest of the year,” Montalbano said. “The showcases are beneficial, as NHL scouts can watch players and be back at their own home that night.”