2019 NHL Draft Profiles: Little Bruins' Cade Webber

By James Murphy / USPHL.com 06/18/2019, 9:45pm EDT

Little Bruins (EHF Selects) and Junior Bruins (NCDC) defenseman Cade Webber is ranked 87th by NHL Central Scouting for the 2019 NHL Entry Level Draft that takes place this Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, B.C.

The 6-foot-6-inches, 197-pound 18-year-old is already committed to Boston University for the 2020-21 season. By the end of the weekend, Webber will know who he could potentially play for in the NHL.

Webber is ranked 87th among North American Skaters by NHL’s Central Scouting Service

Little Bruins Head Coach Peter Masters believes that if he continues down the right development path and puts on some more muscle, Webber could become a “premier shutdown defenseman” at the NHL level.

“Cade is a big-time prospect because he has a great stride and light feet for someone his size,” Masters said. “He is smart with the puck and if he fills out over his time at BU like I think he will he will be a big time, shutdown defenseman in the NHL.”

Webber also played four seasons for the Rivers School, where he scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 12 games this past season.

Webber will be playing for Penticton in the BCHL next season.

Lake Erie Bighorns looking forward to big Year 1 in USPHL Premier Division

By Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com 06/18/2019, 12:00pm EDT

After a season to prepare, the Lake Erie Bighorns will add a little more depth to the USPHL’s Great Lakes Conference this season. 

The Pennsylvania-based squad is one of a handful of new clubs that will give the league a solid and consistent footprint from the Atlantic Ocean all the way west to Minnesota.

Shortly after the Great Lakes Division moved en masse from a different junior league into the USPHL last season, Owner/GM Brian Ramm took over the Southern Tier Express, moving the club out of Jamestown, N.Y.

“Last year, at the Southern Tier Express, the owners up there decided not to bring their team into the USPHL,” said Ramm in a telephone interview. “They were looking for someone to operate it. We took it over about two months before the season. We tried to make it go and it just wasn’t possible to find the players we needed.”

Ramm said his group took a one-season sabbatical and the move paid off as the team is more prepared and hit the halfway mark of the off-season with a good core group of signed players. 

“We’re still looking to sign our goalies, but we pick them last. A lot of them are still trying out for different teams and we want to be fair to all of them. We gave them a good chance to compete for that spot on the team.” 

The move to Erie brings the Bighorns to a vibrant hockey community that includes the Erie Otters, a major junior hockey team, as well as Mercyhurst University, home of the NCAA Division 1 Lakers and a pair of ACHA (Division 1 and Division 2) teams as well.

“You know, it’s a great hockey town,” said Ramm. “They have a great history here, supporting hockey. All the way back to the East Coast League with the Blades. The Otters came in and they’ve supported them year in and year out. They have a great youth hockey organization that has supported hockey with players like Mike Rupp and Rick Chartraw (who have played in the NHL). It’s a great location to get this thing going in.”

Part of the Great Lakes Division identity is community-based teams that are heavy on local talent. While it can take time to build a local presence, the Erie squad has a solid core of players from the area as well.

“We will have between nine and 11 local players on the team,” said Ramm, explaining the local area includes players who call home towns within 30 minutes of the rink.

But like all teams, the Bighorns are turning over rocks all over the world to find talented players and like most USPHL teams, they will have a European influence, with a pair of players from Finland already signed to the squad as well.

The population of the entire area is only about 100,000 compared to some of the other teams in the division out of the Detroit or Pittsburgh area. 

“We’ll reach a little bit into the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo areas, or over toward the Detroit area,” Ramm said.

He added that the local youth hockey organization has some great young talent and the future looks good for the team in terms of hometown players who will not only want to play at the varsity level but look to play junior and ultimately make the move to NCAA or ACHA levels.

One of the interesting draws for the Bighorns is the fact they will play home games at Mercyhurst University. 

“I am kind of excited about that, as I am a Mercyhurst alum myself. I played there when they were Division 2, so to go back there with the hockey team is kind of full circle for myself,” said Ramm.

“We’re really excited to be doing that and providing that opportunity for our players. Our athletic trainer is actually the men’s and women’s Division 1 trainer at Mercyhurst, Tyler Travis,” Ramm added. “He’s worked with the national women’s team and pro basketball teams, I could go on for an hour, he’s phenomenal, so that’s just another thing for our players.”

The team’s camp will take place at the Erie Park Sports Arena and they will practice there as well, but home games will be played at Mercyhurst.

The Bighorns have a website www.lakeeriebighorns.comwhich is currently under construction and there is also information on the team’s Facebook page. 

Checkwww.usphl.comas well for more on the Bighorns and all of the USPHL teams as they prepare to begin the 2019-20 season in September.

NCDC, USPHL Giving Back With Free Combine Set For July 26-28 in Chicago

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 06/17/2019, 12:00pm EDT

The USPHL and NCDC are giving back to the players and parents who give so much to the game.

With the conclusion of the inaugural NCDC Combine in Michigan - held June 7-9 - the United States Premier Hockey League is pleased to announce the addition of a second USPHL-NCDC Combine, to take place in Chicago, Ill., July 26-28.

Coaches from NCDC and other USPHL teams set to play in the 2019-20 season will be on hand at the event in Chicago, which will take place at Fifth Third Arena, practice facility of the Chicago Blackhawks, located at 1801 W. Jackson Boulevard in downtown Chicago.

 

Registration is FREE, but limited to the first 150 to sign up. Registration link will be available on June 21. This event is open to players born between the years 1999 and 2004.

 

NOTE: Players born in 2004 will be working towards opportunities in 2020-21 and beyond in the USPHL Junior Divisions, though many USPHL teams also field full-and split-season Midget teams for which the 2004 players will be eligible in 2019-20. Spots for 2004-born players are limited. 

“This is a unique opportunity to be coached and evaluated by USPHL and NCDC coaches,” said USPHL Deputy Commissioner Dave Peters. “Seminars with question and answer sessions will provide information about the USPHL and the Junior Hockey Experience.”

USPHL coaches will be behind the benches for select games to evaluate players as they continue to build their teams for the 2019-20 season and beyond. Each player will leave the combine with a full evaluation and be able to talk to all USPHL teams that attend.

Invitations to final, invite-only NCDC and other USPHL team training camps for the 2019-20 season will be offered to select players from the USPHL Combine.

The USPHL produced 281 NCAA commitments by 2018-19 players across all of its divisions through early June. The League is America’s Largest Amateur Hockey Organization, and players and their parents will learn about league opportunities throughout the Midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard from New England to Florida.

Chicago is a major air travel hub serviced by two international airports for players traveling from afar or overseas.

Fifth Third Arena was built in 2017 and is a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art ice facility. The League will offer players the chance to tour the locker room and facilities used by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have allowed the league to do off-ice testing in their training facility in the Fifth Third Arena.

There will be three games per player and a Friday night practice session. There will also be a USPHL informational symposium/Q&A session with NCDC and USPHL coaches. A full daily schedule for the Combine will be published at a later date.

Hospitality at the rink will be available to visiting College and USPHL scouts, as well as Social Hours for networking.

The USPHL and its tuition-free division, the NCDC, is providing an unparalleled, comprehensive on-and off-ice recruiting opportunity for players in Chicagoland and from throughout the Midwest.

Sign up for your chance to benefit from the Best Coaching, Best Competition, and Best League.

Rochester Vipers excited about new home, new opportunities

By Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com 06/15/2019, 7:00pm EDT

 

The sophomore Vipers will return to the United States Premier Hockey League’s Midwest West Division, looking to build on its first season with a change of venue.

Formerly the Kasson Vipers, the squad is heading into the city, moving 20 miles down Highway 14 to Rochester where the team will play at the Graham Arena Complex at the fairgrounds.

Team owner/general manager Todd McIlrath said the team was more than happy with its opening season in Kasson, a small town between Rochester and Owatonna, and the sole reason for the move is to play in an arena with more seating and additional space for the team.

“Actually, the hockey market in Kasson was awesome,” said McIlrath in a telephone interview. “[Rochester is] just a bigger arena that will allow us to attract more fans, which will help us recruit more players. We weren’t necessarily looking for something better, just space really.”

McIlrath is hopeful the Kasson faithful will continue to support the team and make the short trip into Rochester.

“I sure hope so,” said McIlrath. “The good thing was, we built some really strong relationships with youth hockey, players, parents and coaches. [We have a] good relationship with the high school coaches now. We expect to maintain a decent amount of our fanbase.”

The location will be the only change for the team.

“We have the same staff, a very similar logo, the same color scheme. We’re just getting some new digs,” added McIlrath.

Other than the move down the street, the Vipers will continue to build off the grown pains it went through in the opening season and look to climb higher in the Midwest-West standings – last season the Vipers finished at 10-31-0-2, wrapping up the eighth and final playoff spot in the nine-team division.

“Last year we were sort of recruiting from a blank slate and that was fine, as a staff, we were able to mold this into whatever we wanted to,” said McIlrath adding it was difficult being a team with no record or history to stand by.

The benefits of having a returning core of players as well as players and parents who can relay their own experiences to others should help the team attract players as well.

“In today’s day and age in junior hockey when there’s 150 teams in America, it’s important that people are able to reach out and kind of talk to each other, discuss one product against another,” said McIlrath.

One benefit to a year of experience, and a turnaround season for the Steele County Blades out of Owatonna, should be a strengthening of a great geographical rivalry that existed instantly.

The two teams played their best games against each other.

“I think that kind of rivalry will kind of always exist. I know Nik (Adamek – Blades’ Coach/GM) well. We’re excited to see where it goes over the next couple years. It’s always exciting games for us and I think it was great for our guys to establish a rivalry with a team so close to them.”

 

The United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) congratulates former Islanders Hockey Club standout Zach Sanford for winning his – and the St. Louis Blues' – first-ever Stanley Cup Championship on Wednesday, June 12. 

The Blues dominated the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final for their first title in the franchise's 52-year history.

For the fourth time this series, Sanford found himself on the stat sheet with one point, this time finding the back of the net late in the third period extend St. Louis' lead, 4-0, and seal their storybook ending.

Positive feedback all around as players depart NCDC Combine

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 06/09/2019, 11:00pm EDT

The inaugural NCDC Combine, hosted by the Lansing Wolves, finished on its third day. The day’s agenda was light, with a pair of morning games followed by exit interviews with every single player present. 

Much of the line of questioning had to do with getting feedback on the first-time event. Every single player asked praised the organization of the event, the competitive level, the off-ice training sessions and the opportunity to be seen by, and to talk privately with, NCDC coaches.

The NCDC Combine also featured a college hockey seminar featuring Michigan State University assistant coach Jason Muzzatti, former Michigan State player, Hobey Baker Winner and Muzzatti’s fellow NHL veteran Kip Miller, and former Ferris State player and WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete Of The Year Chad McDonald. One day later, there was an information seminar about the NCDC and the USPHL overall, with a Q&A session featuring five NCDC coaches. 

The feature the players brought up the most were the off-ice workouts run by U.S. Army National Guard First Sergeant Jeremy Wahlberg, also the Wolves’ Strength and Conditioning Coach. The Combine started on Friday with one of these workout sessions - before the players even touched the ice. 

Players who had been to similar events run by other leagues or organizations had never seen off-ice workout sessions like this, especially before their first game, and they liked that feature. 

The fact that players were brought to private conference areas to talk with NCDC coaches immediately after games was also a feature they hadn’t seen much in other similar events. 

Wolves assistant coach Allan Avery ran a special goaltending session on Saturday afternoon, with all 16 goalies present, helping to supplement the 15 minutes per game that the goalies were playing. Goalies in the interviews received position-specific critiques and praise, and the Wolves and the NCDC were praised in turn for including this session as part of the inaugural Combine.  

“The drills in the goalie session were applicable to game play,” one goalie said. 

As for the seminars, players praised how the topics and subject matter were geared more to them than their parents, and one said, “They taught you how to handle your career; how you get what you give.” 

One player summed it up perfectly: 

“It was the best combine I’ve ever attended.” 

******

Acknowledgements

The United States Premier Hockey League and its tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference would like to thank the Lansing Wolves staff of Doug Bailey, Dennis Canfield and Allan Avery for their organization prior to, and hard work during, the inaugural NCDC Combine. They planned and executed an incredibly well-run inaugural event on behalf of the NCDC and hockey players in Michigan (and beyond). 

The USPHL and NCDC thank Wolves staff photographer Art Frith for his hard work and great photos throughout the event. 

The USPHL and NCDC thank U.S. National Guard First Sergeant Jeremy Wahlberg for planning and running all of the off-ice training sessions. 

The USPHL and NCDC also thank the staff of The Summit Sports and Ice Complex in Dimondale, Mich., for hosting, for their hospitality, and their assistance, during the event.

The USPHL and NCDC thank Michigan State coach Jason Muzzatti, Kip Miller and Chad McDonald for taking part as guest speakers in the Friday night College Hockey Seminar.  

The USPHL thanks NCDC coaches Bill Weiand, Paul Kelly, Tony Dalessio, Nate Bostic and Jim Hunt, as well as Deputy Commissioner Dave Peters, for taking part in Saturday’s USPHL Informational Seminar. 

The USPHL thanks all of its coaches in attendance and wishes all of the teams and players the best of luck in the coming 2019-20 season (and beyond).  

Former Jr. Eagle, Whaler Struble dominates at NHL Combine

By James Murphy/USPHL.com 06/09/2019, 9:00am EDT

Former Cape Cod Whaler and St. Sebastian’s star defenseman Jayden Struble absolutely dominated the recent NHL Combine and has NHL teams drafting late in the first round and early in the second round taking notice. 

Struble, currently ranked 48th amongst North American skaters NHL Central Scouting rankings, finished first in five of the 18 events while placing in the top five of four others. In total, he finished in the top 25 in 13 events.

“He had some teams re-evaluating their own rankings and plans for sure,” one NHL scout told USPHL.com. “They knew he had skill but not sure they knew how fit he was and how strong he is.”

Struble is committed to Northeastern University for the 2020-21 season. The Cumberland, R.I., native had a goal and six assists in 11 EHF Selects games with the Jr. Eagles in this past season and he also had 10 goals and 30 assists with St. Sebastian’s (ISL) in 28 games.

NCDC Combine brings in players from wide array of backgrounds

By Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com 06/08/2019, 11:15pm EDT

 

The first two days of the NCDC Combinem, hosted by the Lansing Wolves, passed with two good, close games played by more than 80 prospective players. 

It started with a hard workout before each game, run by Jeremy Wahlberg, a First Sergeant in the Army National Guard and the Strength and Conditioning coach for the host Lansing Wolves. Day 1 ended with a seminar featuring three former NCAA Division 1 players, including two who are NHL alumni and one who was a Hobey Baker Award Winner. 

Saturday featured a second workout with First Sergeant Wahlberg, further games, and a goaltender-specific ice session (with Combine skaters as the shooters). Saturday afternoon also featured a symposium about the USPHL, and specifically the NCDC. Five NCDC coaches took questions and spoke about the different opportunities for development in the NCDC and what they look for in players. 

 

Paths converging in Lansing

The Combine has attracted players from a wide array of backgrounds. There were certainly several (17 to be exact) players looking to move up from the USPHL Premier to the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference. 

Due to the location of Lansing, being in Central Michigan, there were also more than a dozen players out of Michigan high school hockey. Six players from the NA3HL and five players out of the NAPHL came out to the NCDC Combine. Six other athletes played the majority of their time in the 2018-19 in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. 

The Central States Developmental Hockey League and National Junior Hockey Prospects League were well-represented with six coming each of those leagues. 

Other sources of the talent were the High Prospects Hockey League, EHL Premier, American College Hockey Association, Superior International Junior Hockey League, Western States Hockey League, as well as players from junior leagues in the United Kingdom and Australia.