William Knierim, a B-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's September players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Draft, is in his second season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League this season. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound right wing has one goal and 12 shots on goal in five games this season. The Skokie, Ill., native is committed to Miami University for the 2016-17 season. Knierim has offered to maintain a blog for NHL.com leading to the 2016 NHL Draft, June 24-25 in Buffalo.
The USHL season finally is under way.
Five games into the season and there has been no shortage of excitement. The league has gotten faster, stronger and so much more talented in just one season. Some may think going into their second year that the games will come easy, but that's not the case with the USHL. This league has helped improve my game a ton. You have to improve in order to survive.
Playing with older, faster, stronger and more mature men really tests your ability and makes you work every shift to prove yourself. Nothing comes easy and I believe that's what really makes the USHL so special.
Personally, I know without a year in the USHL I wouldn't be where I am today. I got a chance to play in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo on Sept. 24 with some of the best players in the country within my age group. The Buffalo Sabres and Pegula family really made the experience top-notch.
Getting to watch an NHL preseason game at First Niagara Center was amazing, but getting to play in the arena the next night was truly one of the greatest moments of my life so far.
During the game I was pretty lucky to play with two outstanding players: Logan Brown was between me and Max Jones. It was a pretty big line, literally. All three of us stand 6-foot-2 or taller, so that was pretty unusual.
We worked really well with each other too. We just kept it simple, got in the zone and passed, shot and scored. Our line combined for three of our team's the five goals in the game, with the sixth being an empty-net goal. Hopefully I'll see those two guys down the road in the future. Maybe even have the opportunity to play against them, or play with them again.
The USHL helped me gain another honor in September when I was rated as a B-ranked prospect on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list. This is a very high honor, but it's not set in stone because it's a list that was drawn up in September. The only list that means something is the one in June when the NHL draft takes place in Buffalo.
With the help of my coaches and the competition in the USHL, I believe I will improve enough in order to get my named called in June.
Follow William Knierim on Twitter at: @27WillieKnierim