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A Look At: The USHL

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames


The United States Hockey League (USHL) is the top junior hockey league in the United States.

With Tier 1 distinction, the USHL has 16 charter clubs spanning the Midwestern United States. Much like the Canadian Hockey Laegue, the USHL features players who are 20 years of age and younger and carry the distinction of being an amateur league, allowing skaters to compete in NCAA college hockey.

The USHL began as the American Amateur Hockey League (AAHL), playing its first season in 1947-48 with five teams. The league consisted of three teams from St. Paul, two in Minneapolis and another in Rochester. The AAHL became the Central Hockey League in 1952-53 before becoming the Minnesota Hockey League from 1953-1955 and eventually evolved into the United States Central Hockey League.

After operating as a senior ice hockey league from 1961 to 1979, the USHL returned to an all-junior league with seven teams split between two divisions. By the 1996-97 season, the league had expanded to 13 teams and in 2009-10, welcomed USA Hockey's National Team Development Program on a full-time basis.

By 2010-11, the league expanded to include the Muskegon Lumberjacks and re-added the Dubuque Fighting Saints, giving the USHL 16 teams.


The league has excelled in developing talent for the National Hockey League.

Among the USHL's alumni are current NHLers Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings, Matt Carle of the Tampa Bay Lightning, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings, T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks, Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks and Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres.

Chris Butler and Tim Jackman of the Flames also graduated from the United States Hockey League.

Retired alumni of the USHL include Gary Suter, Brian Rafalski, Jason Blake and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.


Since 2005, the USHL has seen 140 players drafted from its member clubs, including a best 26 at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In 2012, a record six players were selected in the first round from the USHL.

2012 - 24 (6 in first round)

2011 - 26 (3 in first round)

2010 - 20 (3 in first round)

2009 - 16 (2 in first round)

2008 - 10 (1 in first round)

2007 - 21 (3 in first round)

2006 - 9 (2 in first round)

2005 - 14 (2 in first round)


The Calgary Flames haven't been shy to pick talent from the USHL. Since 2008, the Flames have plucked six players from the league, including three from the 2012 NHL Draft in Patrick Sieloff, Jon Gillies and Matthew DeBlouw.


Patrick Sieloff (2nd round, 42nd overall)

Jon Gillies (3rd round, 75th overall)

Matthew DeBlouw (7th round, 186th overall)


John Gaudreau (4th round, 104th overall)


Bill Arnold (2010 4th round, 108th overall)




Nick Larson (4th round, 108th overall)



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