The USHL Draft has come and gone for another year. Those unfamiliar with the draft, it’s split up in two Phases. The first Phase is for U-17 players only– so in this instance, players with a 2005 birth year. Phase II is open to anyone who still has junior eligibility and is not protected by another USHL team. This is where you see a lot of the NAHL players being taken– including many Maryland Black Bears.
Of course, much like other drafts, this doesn’t automatically give you a spot in the USHL, but it’s a nice helper in order to get to that dream. Plenty of talent from Maryland and the mid-Atlantic have gone through this draft and this year added to that.
During Phase I on Wednesday, the first Marylander to go was Daniel Johnson to the Youngstown Phantoms in the fifth round. The Edgewood native has been all over the map, playing with Hershey Jr. Bears in pee-wee, up to the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Ontario, then over to the Chicago Young Americans this season, where he compiled 22 goals and 51 points in 60 games.
Next down the line was Maddox Tulacro, who went in the sixth round to the Des Moines Buccaneers. Tulacro played for the Mount St. Charles Academy 15U team, recording 11 assists and 12 points in 29 games. The defenseman from Bethesda joined Mount St. Charles after two years with Team Maryland in their AAA program from pee-wees through their 14U squad.
On Thursday, Phase II happened and a pair of Team Maryland 15U players went to the Youngstown Phantoms in the 18th and 19th round, with Luke Rubin going first and Jacques Oliver following that. Rubin, a Fulton native, racked up 10 goals in 14 games this season, while putting 43 goals over 59 games the last three season for Team Maryland across their programs. Oliver came to Team Maryland form the Washington Little Caps and was able to get 13 points in only 14 games in the AYHL this season. Youngstown owner Murry Gunty– who owns the Black Bears– has seen first-hand the skill of players from the DMV and believes in building a hockey culture in the mid-Atlantic. Selections like these help players along, while also showing other players in the area that by putting in the work, they could get a chance to reach their hockey goals.
Other Marylanders who were selected in Phase II include another one of the O’Neill boys, Cameron. The younger brother to Colin and Jason was picked by Tri-City in the eighth rough. O’Neill had his talent shine through while attending Mount St. Charles Academy and play for their 16U team. The Odenton native netted 24 goals and 57 points in only 23 games for the power house academy. O’Neill’s teammate and Rockville native Jack Spicer was picked in the 19th round by Des Moines after a 9-2-2 season with a 2.00 GAA and .926 save percentage.
On the Black Bears side of things, five total players were selected, an increase from last season’s three selections. It started when Bryan Huggins was picked by the Fargo Force in the seventh round, two rounds before Michael Morelli was picked up by the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The Omaha Lancers took Tanner Rowe in the 12th round, while Garrett Szydlowski got picked up by the Tri-City Storm. Last, but not least, Dylan Finlay went in the 13th round to the Sioux City Musketeers.
It was another small step into creating Maryland as a viable destination for teams to pick players, as well as showing how far the hockey programs in Maryland have come in the past decade to be able to churn out as much talent as they have in the last couple seasons. Add that to the rising stock of the NAHL team and players getting exposure in that side of things– the future is bright for the Old Line State.