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Why the Blackhawks like to draft players from USHL, US National Team Development Program

General manager Stan Bowman and vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley have used at least one pick on such a player every year since 2010.

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks have seven picks for the upcoming NHL Draft (Oct. 6-7), and history shows they will use one of those picks on a player from the USHL or United States National Team Development Program.

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman and vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley have used at least one pick on such a player every year since 2010, with 23.5 percent (20 of 85) of their picks on players who played in the USHL during their draft year. To narrow it down even more 45 percent (nine of 20) of those USHL players were from USNTDP. Just last year, the Blackhawks selected USNTDP defenseman Alex Vlasic in the second round to give them a third straight year selecting a player from the program.

(We detailed Bowman’s draft history last year, and added the six picks from the 2019 class to reach our findings.)

“The national development team is a priority only because these are the ‘elite of the elite of the U.S. kids,’” Kelley said Wednesday during a pre-draft video conference call. “Now there are some kids that chose not to go to the program, but the USHL, I think the attraction there is we like the development pattern of the USHL. These kids are going to be there for one or two years and then move on to college. We’re really looking at them in a four-year development cycle.”

Below is a list of all 20 players the Blackhawks drafted who played in the USHL during their draft year. There are some players not listed that played in the USHL prior to their draft year or only a handful of games during their draft year.

2010 — Stephen Johns (USNTDP/2nd), Nick Mattson (Indiana/6th)

2011 — Michael Paliotta (USNTDP/3rd), Alex Broadhurst (Green Bay/7th)

2012 — Vinnie Hinostroza (Waterloo/6th)

2013 — John Hayden (USNTDP/3rd), Tyler Motte (USNTDP/4th), Luke Johnson (Lincoln/5th), Anthony Louis (USNTDP/6th)

2014 — Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay/1st), Matheson Iacopelli (Muskegon/3rd), Fredrik Olofsson (Chicago/4th)

2015 — Dennis Gilbert (Chicago/3rd), Ryan Shea (Youngstown/4th)

2016 — Blake Hillman (Dubuque/6th), Jake Ryczek (Sioux City & Waterloo/7th)

2017 — Evan Barratt (USNTDP/3rd)

2018 — Jake Wise (USNTDP/3rd), Mikael Hakkarainen (Chicago/5th)

2019 — Alex Vlasic (USNTDP/2nd)

Eight of the players listed above that played in the USHL during their draft year have played NHL games for the Blackhawks: Clendening (four), Paliotta (one), Hinostroza (106), Hayden (113), Johnson (15), Schmaltz (162), Gilbert (22) and Hillman (four).

The Blackhawks’ first pick in this year’s draft is at No. 17 overall, and most prospect rankings see left-handed center Brendan Brisson from the Chicago Steel as the USHL player potentially available at that spot. Brisson, who is rated as high as No. 14 by Elite Prospects, scored 24 goals and 59 points in 45 games this past season to help the Steel win the Anderson Cup as regular season champions during the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season. The Michigan freshman is the son of NHL agent Pat Brission, who represents Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Steel right wing Sam Colangelo (Northeastern), USNTDP center Thomas Bordeleau (Michigan) and Muskegon left wing Daniil Gushchin (OHL Niagara) might also be options if they fall in the second round to the Blackhawks at No. 46 or the Blackhawks trade up. Steel center Sean Farrell, who will play in the USHL this season while taking online classes for Harvard, and USNTDP center Ty Smilanic (Quinnipiac) are ranked more in the Blackhawks’ range.