The United States Hockey League showcased an excellent amount of skill for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft this June in Vancouver, even without the USA Developmental Team in the equation. Scouts flocked to the USHL to evaluate the many prospects that rank as high-round draft picks. Here is a look at the top players and projections of players not on Team USA and playing a majority of their games in the USHL this season:
Ryan Johnson – 6 feet, 161 pounds – Defenseman (54 games, six goals, 19 assists)
Johnson is the top defensive prospect in the USHL and it is not close. Johnson spent much of the season guiding the Clark Cup champion Sioux Falls Stampede in all situations. Johnson quarterbacked the power play, led the penalty kill and was thrust into all big situations. The California native is a smooth skater with an extra gear that takes him into an elite puck-moving defenseman. Johnson is active with his stick, shows excellent positioning and can bury his chances when pinching at the right time. Projected as a late first- or early second-round pick, the 17-year-old could be a steal for a team looking to give him time to develop his top-pairing skills.
Robert Mastrosimone – 5 feet 10 inches, 178 pounds – Center/left wing (54 games, 31 goals, 29 assists)
The Chicago Steel forward had a successful season with in the USHL playing on a line with overaged center Nick Abruzzese. Mastrosimone brings an excellent shot that will get better with strength. Mastrosimone is an offensive wizard that finds open spaces in the defense and buries his chances. The New York native shows good effort in all three zones and brings a toughness to his game that is bigger than his size. Projected late first- or second-round pick that showcases top-six forward skills and work ethic.
Bobby Brink – 5 feet 10 inches, 163 pounds – Right wing (43 games, 35 goals, 33 assists)
Brink showed a high-level offensive game. His skating level needs to improve but his work ethic and agility set him apart from most. The word “sniper” would describe the Minnesota native. Brink has a quick, accurate shot that jumps off his stick. Brink works hard in all three zones and has a ton of untapped potential if his skating becomes above average. Projected late first-round or early second-round that projects as a top-six forward needing some strength.
Egor Afanasyev – 6 feet 4 inches, 201 pounds – Forward (58 games, 27 goals, 35 assists)
Afanasyev plays with a high IQ and with a reckless abandoned when on the ice. The Russia native uses his good size to make plays in tight spaces and is a bull to play against along the boards and in front of the net. A true power forward type, Afanasyev also has excellent skating ability. He is a true combination of size and speed that plays out in the NHL playoffs. Projected second-round pick and a middle-six forward that can be a wrecking ball for opponents.
Vladislav Firstov – 6 feet, 183 pounds – Left wing (62 games, 26 goals, 32 assists)
The Yaroslavl, Russia, native brings a nice combination of size and scoring ability to his game. Firstov’s shot is heavy. He can beat goalies with his silky hands or bury his shot with authority. His shot can be NHL-ready early in his pro career. Firtov shows an excellent motor and plays tough in all three zones. With added strength, the forward projects as a top-six forward that could really blossom into a steal in the draft. Projected second-round pick with a ton of upside as a scoring winger that will play responsibly in his own zone.
Matias Maccelli – 5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds – Forward (62 games, 31 goals, 41 assists)
The Finland native rose up draft boards with an excellent season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Maccelli is a smaller sized forward that displays good quickness as a 200-foot player. His willingness to use his linemates and set them up with his playmaking skills. Maccelli can be used on the power play, penalty kill and play an important role as he outworks his opponents. Projects as a second- or third-round middle-six forward that can be counted on in all situations and make plays with high skill teammates.
Isaiah Saville – 6 feet 1 inch, 194 pounds – Goaltender (34 games, 1.90 goals against average, .925 save percentage)
The right-handed goaltender had an excellent season for the Tri-City Storm. Saville combines excellent positioning and off-the-charts compete level to beat shooters. The Anchorage, Alaska, native shows excellent athleticism and can make saves with his reflexes that many his age dream about. Saville is quick on his pads and takes away angles very well. Projected second or third round pick that does not come with the size some teams covet but projects as an NHLer in his competitiveness and athleticism.
Ethan Phillips – 5 feet 9 inches, 146 pounds – Forward (50 games, 16 goals, 27 assists)
Phillips is an undersized forward that plays with speed. The forward from Nova Scotia, Canada, can make plays with the puck and stickhandle with anyone coming out of the USHL in the draft, even without losing speed. Shows an active skill set in the offensive zone, working hard to find teammates and open spots in the defense. Phillips uses his stick well on defense and plays a solid positional game in his own zone. Projected third-round pick that will need time to get stronger as a possible middle six forward.
Marcus Kallionkieli – 6 feet 1 inch, 176 pounds – Forward (58 games, 29 goals, 24 assists)
The Helsinki, Finland, native has an excellent offensive skillset. Kallionkieli works hard to find open spots in the defense and uses his smooth shot to his advantage. He displays good size and his shot should only improve with strength. For as much upside he has on the offensive side of the puck, his defensive skills are all average at best. His commitment in his own zone must increase in order to make an overall impact at the next level. Projected third- or fourth-round pick that can handle the third line for a team looking for someone that outscores his matchups.
Shane Pinto – 6 feet 2 inches, 188 pounds – Forward (56 games, 28 goals, 31 assists)
Pinto flew up draft boards with a solid season in the USHL this past season. The New York native uses his size to his advantage and will only increase with added size and strength. Pinto has good speed and can make plays at high speeds. Creative with the puck, Pinto shows a work ethic that makes him a tough player for opponents in all three zones. Projected third- or fourth-round pick that may have more upside than some of the players ranked ahead of him but needs to put it all together.