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USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game slated Jan. 23

by Mike G. Morreale

The United States Hockey League on Friday announced that the 2013 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game would be held Jan. 23 at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.

This is the second year the USHL will be staging a top prospects game, which features 40 of the top NHL Draft-eligible players from the league. The process of choosing players, who will be named sometime in early January, includes input from the 16 USHL general managers, NHL Central Scouting and NHL team scouts and decision makers.

"We're excited to have the prospects game return to Muskegon, one of the proudest and longest-standing hockey markets in the United States," USHL president and commissioner Skip Prince said. "These are America's best, gathered together for a special night with the Muskegon Lumberjacks as host and all of hockey as spectators."

The USHL Top Prospects Game will take place just after NHL Central Scouting releases its midterm rankings of players eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft. Prior to the season, 39 players in the USHL were designated players to watch by Central Scouting, including five A-rated skaters: defensemen Ian McCoshen (Waterloo Black Hawks) and Michael Downing (Dubuque Fighting Saints), and forwards Luke Johnson (Lincoln Stars), J.T. Compher (Under-18 U.S. National Team Development Program) and Hudson Fasching (Under-18 National Team Development Program).

During the 2012 NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh last June, 28 players who competed in the USHL in 2011-12 were chosen by NHL teams, including a record six in the first round.

Those first-round gems included defenseman Jacob Trouba (No. 9, Winnipeg Jets) of the USNTDP, center Zemgus Girgensons (No. 14, Buffalo Sabres) and defenseman Michael Matheson (No. 23, Florida Panthers) of the Dubuque Fighting Saints, defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (No. 25, St. Louis Blues) of the Green Bay Gamblers, and defenseman Brady Skjei (No. 28, New York Rangers) and center Stefan Matteau (No. 29, New Jersey Devils) of the USNTDP.

"The USHL is a great league," Dubuque head coach and former NHL player Jim Montgomery said. "It has great organizations, great coaches and great players, and I think the players are getting more recognized for the success the previous USHL alumni are having currently in the NHL."

The USHL has had at least one player selected in the first round of the NHL Draft eight consecutive years.

"The USHL is a terrific development league and it's a good stepping stone for a player prior to entering college," NHL Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, told

The inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January 2012, saw Team East earn a 5-3 win over Team West. Forward Robbie Baillargeon (Indiana Ice) scored a pair of goals for Team East to win MVP honors. Baillargeon would later be selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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