The other day, I was quite surprised how many current NHL’ers have previously played in a junior league, known as the USHL (United States Hockey League).
The USHL is one of the leagues that many people don’t know much about. It’s the top junior hockey league in the United States located in the Midwest, which consists of 16 teams. Players in the USHL are 20 years old or younger. Following the USHL, many players head to college, and hope to eventually play in the NHL.
Currently there are a handful of former USHL’ers playing in the NHL. In fact, Tampa Bay Lightning’s very own Teddy Purcell (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Ryan Malone (Omaha Lancers), & Trevor Smith (Omaha Lancers) played in the USHL at one time.
Teddy Purcell played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa from 2004-2006, where he set a career scoring mark, by scoring 138 points (39 goals & 99 assists) in two seasons. In his first season as a RoughRider, he was the team leader in scoring. In Purcell’s first season as a Rough Rider (2004-2005), the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders won the Clark Cup Championship. After the USHL, Purcell played a season at the University of Maine. However, Purcell was never drafted in to the NHL and came to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 from a trade.
Ryan Malone played for the Omaha Lancers from Omaha, Nebraska during the 1998-1999 season. In his one season in the USHL he had a total of 36 points (14 goals & 22 assists). Malone was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins shortly after graduating high school. He played hockey for St. Cloud State for 4 seasons before playing in the AHL, and played 81 games of his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In June 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired negotiation rights with Malone from the Penguins, and a day later he was signed.
Trevor Smith played for the Omaha Lancers in 2004-2005. During his season with the Lancers, he had 68 total points (29 goals & 39 assists). In July 2011, Smith signed a 1 year, 2-way contract with the Lightning.
The USHL is a good place to start for guys wanting to make a career out of hockey. Not only does the USHL help them get their foot further in the door to becoming an AHL’er and/or NHL’er, it also helps them get scholarships to colleges around the United States so they can further their education also.