2022 NHL Draft Profiles: The United States Hockey League
A glimpse at six players for the Senators to consider out of the USHL
The former home of Shane Pinto and Shane Bowers, the Senators possess an America-centric scouting staff that always seems to keep a close eye on the United States Hockey League.
Let’s take a look at six players who have caught my eye and are primarily projected to be taken in the third-round or later. Adam Ingram, a favourite of mine out of Youngstown, is projected to be a first-round pick so won’t be included in this article.
United States Hockey League
|Name||Position||Team||League||Height||Weight||Date of Birth|
|Nicholas Moldenhauer||C/RW||Chicago||USHL||5'11"||170 lbs||05/25/2004|
|Dylan James||LW||Sioux City||USHL||6'0"||181 lbs||10/12/2003|
|Cameron Lund||C/RW||Green Bay||USHL||6'2"||192 lbs||06/07/2004|
|Zam Plante||LW/RW||Chicago||USHL||5'9"||161 lbs||08/24/2004|
|Ryan Healey||RD||Sioux Falls||USHL||6'1"||179 lbs||05/19/2004|
|Michael Mastrodomenico||LD||Lincoln||USHL||6'2"||196 lbs||04/19/2004|
- I debated whether to include Nicholas Moldenhauer in this post because there’s a chance he gets drafted in the first two rounds — his skill certainly warrants it — but after a scary skate-blade injury forced him into a 4-hour surgery and eventually cost half of his draft year, there’s a chance he might be available in a third-round for a lucky team in the waiting. Drafted 20th overall in the 2020 OHL Draft by the Ottawa 67s thanks to his gaudy GTHL numbers, COVID-19 meant that Moldenhauer never suited up in the nation’s capital. Instead he played at a lower level before joining the Chicago Steel at the end of the season. After his return from injury, Moldenhauer put up the highest even-strength primary points-per-game totals for a USHL player outside of the NTDP, eventually earning him a spot on Team Canada top-six at the U18s in April. He possesses a balanced toolkit, with quick feet that allows him to hunt pucks in the offensive zone and to close gaps defensively. He blends that with consistent work-ethic that allows him to win 50/50 puck battles and earn the trust of his coaches to play in all-situations. Moldenhauer’s lost development time means that he’s been able to do all of this without refined puck skills to utilize in the neutral zone and a fluid shot to become more of a dual-threat offensively, so he’s got room to grow as he looks to be one of the USHL’s top scorers next season.
- Dylan James possesses many attributes of past Senators draft picks. He’s a riser in the draft class, bursting onto the scene this year as the USHL’s Rookie of the Year (61P, 62GP); he steps up in the playoffs, leading the Sioux City Musketeers to their first USHL Championship in 20 years with eight points in 10 games; and he’s committed to the University of North Dakota next season alongside linemate, and 2021 Philadelphia draft pick Owen McLaughlin. James possesses a mature, three-zone game. He crashes the crease at even-strength, occupies the front of the net on the powerplay, and displays consistent effort to be a pest on the penalty kill. He’s been ranked anywhere between the second and fourth rounds depending on who you talk to, with detractors noting his struggle to create his own offence off the rush with his feet or his hands as an issue even at the USHL level. For James to reach the pedigree of a second-round pick, he’ll have to add complexity to his game through improvements in his handling ability and/or shifting his skating stride so he can utilize a change of pace to cut to more dangerous areas when he has the puck. Ottawa has been happy to bet on players who play straight line hockey, don’t shy away from the physicality of the game, and show intelligence away from the puck, so there’s a chance Mann and co. have him higher than consensus.
- Possessing one of the best shots in the USHL, Cameron Lund is a dangerous offensive talent who can continue to bloom as he matures in all facets of his game. A June-born player, Lund is a raw prospect — starting the season as a centre for 12 games (3P) before being shifted to the wing. It was a fruitful move, as he recorded 47 points in the 50 games afterwards. He loves the off-wing one-timer, especially on the powerplay, and has strong shooting mechanics no matter how he’s ripping the puck. Lund is a crafty puck handler, displaying good habits with his scanning to find teammates on entries, exits, and in the offensive zone to take the puck into dangerous areas. He’s still growing into his 6-foot-2 frame, and if his physicality improves enough to be a positive tool, he could find top-six upside on the right wing. Developing power from his skating to help him accelerate off the puck will allow him to compete in all three zones. Ottawa possesses two picks in the third-round, and the Northeastern commit seems like a good fit for one of them.
- The star of this year’s Minnesota high school circuit, Zam Plante looks like a mid-round pick that could potentially pay dividends for the club that selects him. Plante does everything with pace — whether he’s pushing defenders back with a strong first step, spotting a teammate in an advanced position to shepherd his team up the ice, or relentlessly pressuring opposing teams on the forecheck. Plante produced four points in four games at the 2021-22 Ivan Hlinka — showcasing his creativity despite being undersized — and it’s ability to not shy away from hard areas that makes him intriguing to watch. The son of ex-Sabre, Derek, Plante is set to play big minutes at the USHL’s strongest program in Chicago next season — where he played for three months this year at the start and end of his high school season — and then move onto Minnesota-Duluth where his father is an associate coach. Ryan Kennedy had a nice profile piece on Zam last season, noting that his passport looks a lot like Josh Norris’ and Drake Batherson’s given their fathers’ careers, and I can see him fitting in with this group of Senators as a result. /
Honourable mentions: Jake Richard [one of the youngest players in his class, but rarely ranked by most outlets], Ryan Greene [strong work-ethic and eye-popping powerplay numbers, but needs improvement at even-strength], Michael La Starza [a microstats wizard but not one elite skill], Alex Bump [a strong shooter, but needs to add to his game], Quinn Finley [a strong skating winger]
- While playing on the first-pair of the worst team in the league has its downfalls — point production, tough minutes, no playoff hockey — it also has it’s opportunities. Ryan Healey got to play on the top-pair as a May-born 17-year-old, garnering plenty of opportunities to play in all-situations and add layers to his game. A dynamic in-zone contributor, Healey uses fluid edgework and deft hands to maneuver his way around with flair, creating time and space for himself and his teammates to punish the opposition. Defensively, he’s grown from his ice-time playing against top-level opponents on a nightly basis, and he was named to two of the marquee events for a draft-eligible American — the Biosteel All-American game and the Hlinka. He’s a read-and-react defender, using smart physicality to pin opponents or read shot and passing lanes. Other than working on his initial acceleration, I see Healey’s primary weakness — trying to do too much offensively or trying to just get the puck out defensively — as a trait that’ll be corrected when he’s playing with more talented teammates. He’s still got another year in Sioux Falls before moving onto Harvard in the ECAC, and while right shot defenders usually go off the board early, Healey could provide value in the fourth-round.
- “Chaos” and “Defender” aren’t terms that you usually want to hear in the same sentence, but stick with me for a paragraph. Michael Mastrodomenico has notable flaws in his skating, but if he can put it together, he could provide value with a later-round pick that not many others can. Selected as the second defenceman off the board, 8th overall, in the QMJHL Entry Draft, Mastrodomenico was a top Québecois bantam player before opting to go the collegiate route. He’s got the transition ability of a defender who is constantly activating — continuously playing with tempo either by jumping down the half-wall, passing into high-danger areas, or trying stretch passes on breakouts; anything to create an advantage for his team. Defensively, he doesn’t get rattled, and plays to contact — anticipating play and engaging with the body. The issue? His skating can’t keep up with his ideas, and it means that if he’s beat, he can’t recover. Mastrodomenico will likely need his skating rebuilt from the ground up, starting with his stride and moving over to his edges to give him the lateral mobility to use angles and quickly pivot to recover. Regardless, I’m a fan of going for home runs later in the draft than aiming for players who could play at the bottom of the lineup, hence his inclusion. Mastrodomenico has stayed on Team Canada’s radar enough that he played T4 minutes at the U18s this year, and while he looked out of place, it hints at his pedigree if he can get it together. /
Honourable mentions: Sam Rinzel [if he can put it together defensively], Jake Livanavage [needs to add rush defence and patience on zone exits], Tyler Dunbar [as a typical, low-ceiling defensive UND commit].