Defenseman Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks heads an impressive list of United States Hockey League prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft set to take the ice Wednesday at 7:15 ET in the second annual USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game presented by CCM, at the L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.
All 16 teams will have at least one player participating in the event, topped by the Black Hawks with five -- McCoshen, forwards Justin Kloos and Taylor Cammarata, and goalies Eamon McAdam and Calvin Petersen.
"I think it's fair to say [the USHL] is getting stronger each draft year," USHL president and commissioner Skip Prince said. "We're continuing to suggest that the USHL is not only a direct delivery vehicle to the NCAA, but that the USHL and NCAA are direct delivery vehicles to the NHL."
Scouts will have the opportunity to see 27 players in their first year of NHL draft eligibility.
"Last year the game was played at a good pace and accomplished what we had hoped it would," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "You sometimes worry that you might have too much of an all-star game feeling, but there was good competition and guys like [Lincoln Stars] forward Kevin Roy and others really stood out and I think it helped their cause."
A total of 28 players who spent the 2011-12 season in the USHL were selected in the 2012 NHL Draft, including a record six chosen in the first round. Roy, who was Central Scouting's No. 78-ranked North American skater for last year's Draft, was chosen in the fourth round (No. 97) by the Anaheim Ducks.
Those first-round gems included United States National Team Development Program defensemen Jacob Trouba (No. 9, Winnipeg) and Brady Skjei (No. 28, N.Y. Rangers) and center Stefan Matteau (No. 29, New Jersey); center Zemgus Girgensons (No. 14, Buffalo) and defenseman Michael Matheson (No. 23, Florida) of the Dubuque Fighting Saints; and Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (No. 25, St. Louis).
McCoshen, who is No. 21 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, is the highest-ranked player participating in the contest. The 6-foot-2.5, 207-pound two-way defenseman, who is committed to Boston College, is the complete package. He can skate, is strong in his own end and offers a mean streak to boot.
"He's definitely an attractive pro prospect and you can see his game will translate well to being a pro …he has ice in his veins," Gregory said. "The USHL is not an easy league to step in and produce and, outside of playing goalie, defense is the toughest position to make an adjustment. So right from the beginning, you could see his ability to contain and defend.
"He handles all situations well and uses his strength. Once he starts to understand how much more he can dominate with his size and strength, he'll improve even more."
Defenseman Michael Downing of Dubuque is the next highest-ranked performer, at No. 49 on the North American list.
Downing, committed to the University of Michigan, is considered a solid shutdown-type blueliner.
"I can see him controlling the play in his own end and then triggering the transition," Gregory said. "He has so much ability with how he handles the puck and skates … he adds a big reach and has the size (6-2.75, 190). I believe he thinks he's going to be the offensive-defenseman, but at [the USHL] level, he could probably do that and get into the play and get back without a problem. But his real strength will be when he understands what type of defenseman he'll be, and teams will go nuts over him."
Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Gustav Olofsson, who is in his first full season in the USHL, is No. 57 on Central Scouting's midterm list. The 6-2, 185-pound Colorado College recruit is a native of Boras, Sweden, who moved to Colorado three years ago with his family and adapted to North American style of game in relatively short order. He was selected by the Gamblers in the second round (No. 29) of the 2011 USHL Entry Draft.
Waterloo goalies Petersen (No. 4 on Central Scouting's North American goalie list) and McAdam (No. 7) will play for Team West at the Prospects Game. According to Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who specializes in goalies, McAdam offers more of a positioning, blocking style, while Petersen is more quick and athletic in the crease.
There also are a few players in the game with solid hockey pedigree. Dubuque forward John Stevens, who is No. 162 on Central's North American list, is the son of Los Angeles Kings assistant coach John Stevens.
"John is big and strong and can play physical … he's smart," Gregory said. "I think there's pro potential there with him, but this is his second year of [draft] eligibility so he's got to really dominate and improve to be considered a late-round pick by Central Scouting."
Forward Vinni Lettieri of the Lincoln Stars is the grandson of former NHL defenseman and general manager Lou Nanne, and forward Peter Quenneville of Dubuque is the cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
The USHL named collegiate legends Ron Mason and Doug Woog as honorary coaches at the event. In a 36-year college coaching career at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green State and Michigan State, he retired in 2002 with 924 wins, the most in NCAA and a record that stood until this season. He will be assisted by Dubuque coach Jim Montgomery.
Woog, who will coach Team West, spent 14 seasons (1985-99) as coach at the University of Minnesota, where he became the school's all-time leader in wins with a 389-187-40 record. He led the Gophers to seven conference titles and 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including six trips to the NCAA Frozen Four. He will be assisted by Sioux Falls Stampede coach Cary Eades,
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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