Draft Watch: USHL 2019 Draft Eligible Skaters You Should KnowDecember 31, 2018
As the second half of the season kicks off, all eyes will be focused on the upcoming draft. The NHL Entry Draft always brings to light skaters who would otherwise remain unnoticed by NHL fans. The USHL set a record in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in terms of skaters selected. NHL teams are utilizing developmental leagues such as the USHL and OHL more effectively. The growing USHL notoriety is driving skaters to play for North American elite leagues for their own personal growth.
Beyond the well-known draft eligibles like Jack Hughes or Trevor Zegras, both of Team USA u18, there are several others making their way up the list. Access Hockey MI has selected four eligible skaters from the USHL to shed some light on.
Egor Afanasyev (F) – Muskegon Lumberjacks
Afanasyev has been working hard this regular season to make a strong case for his place in the NHL. A native of Russia, his skating is distinct as is his puck control. At only 17 years old, he’s 6’3″ and 203lbs. He’s got plenty of room to grow but his size is a huge advantage. In his second season with Muskegon, Afanasyev has become a central figure in every situation. A major power forward on the top line, a penalty kill must have and power play tool, Egor has positioned himself perfectly.
He leads the USHL for goals (15) and points (35) and leads the Lumberjacks in scoring. He’s considered a “notable mention” but will likely move higher on the draft list as June approaches. He has strong skating ability and cannon of a shot. He’s gained quite a bit of attention in the last season as his rights in the OHL had been traded in a deal that resulted in DiPietro also getting shifted. He’s a Michigan State Commit but little development is needed to merit a full four years. According to teammate and 2018 Chicago Blackhawks NHL Draft selection, Mikael Hakkarainen, he won’t go to college – meaning, he’s too good to not go right to the pros.
John Beecher (C) – USA u18
Beecher shares rank with Afanasyev in terms of size. Also 6’3″ and 203lbs, he possesses a defined finesse for his size and dominate presence on the ice. Beyond a physical advantage, Beecher has become a well-rounded skater. As a centerman, his responsibility is great and he has molded to that position well. He has a high awareness on the ice and is able to control the puck, set up plays, and complete them. Along with several of his teammates who are also eligible, Beecher stands out by way of his calm control.
Beecher is a “top prospect,” ranked 27th average, among the three primary draft ranking faculties. Owning 17 points in 28 games, Beecher has plenty of offensive push. He’s a Michigan University commit and could very well spend a full four seasons there. However, if selected in the upcoming draft, the selecting team will gain a capable leader and a neutral-zone sniper.
Matt Boldy (LW) – USA u18
Averaging at 9th, surrounded by other Team USA skaters, Matt Boldy is setting himself apart. Beginning the season with the USA juniors, he made the jump to the u18’s and has made the most of it. He currently has 30 points in 29 games while with the u18s. Boldy is an offensive weapon and slick with the puck – as his numbers would suggest. He’s had a breakout year, which was much needed when skating along the other elites that comprise Team USA. Boldy is confident, smooth and underrated. His board play is next to superb and he’s a proven he can be a point producer.
Boldy has gained a bit more attention this season as he edges closer to the end of his final junior season. He’s been recently described as a “world-class talent” and he knows it. He sees plays and approaches scenarios confidently instead of dumping the puck in a panic. Though that seems like a given for a hockey player, it’s not always the case. Boldy has learned to keep his cool and it will move him further up the prospect ladder before the draft.
Trevor Janicke (RW) – Central Illinois Flying Aces
Janicke spent his first two seasons in juniors with the USA Development Program and Team USA u18. Now skating with the Flying Aces, Janicke is no longer in the shadow of Hughes and making a name. Janicke has 24 points in 25 games played and is a “notable mention” on the draft sheets. Janicke’s on-ice ability is a testament to his fighting spirit. Working his way into the u18 lineup from the u17’s was a huge confidence booster for him that has rolled over into his time with Central Illinois. Janicke is gritty. He’s physical, commanding, and driven. Aside from being able to shoot the puck, he skates with an unmistakable sense of purpose which is critical in offensive situations.
Janicke is a 2018 World Junior Championship silver medalist representing USA – which speaks to his stand out ability. He thrives on energy from his surroundings and knows how to take advantage of his opponents’ weaknesses. He’s committed to Notre Dame and will likely spend some time there for further development. His physical game is evident and will be the driving asset behind his selection (if selected).