I made my annual trip to the Sioux Falls Stampede(USHL) tryout camp in Minneapolis last weekend. First off, Sioux Falls deserves a lot of credit for the absolutely first class job they do putting this camp on every year. It's always far and away the best tryout camp to attend from a spectator's perspective, and it would be great if more teams followed their lead.
Last year's camp was pretty scant from a talent perspective, and that ended up showing on the ice this season, as the Stampede finished with the worst record in the league. That led to a coaching change, and thanks to some fortuitous timing, the Stampede ended up hiring recently deposed North Dakota assistant coach Cary Eades.
My overall impression is that the Stampede will be much better next season. There wasn't much in the way of elite high-level talent(well, except for NHLers TJ Oshie and Brad Malone, who were coaching the teams on Saturday night), and scoring goals could be an issue, but they should be very strong defensively, starting with a great goalie in Charlie Lindgren, and what should be a pretty deep defense. I thought there were some very good defensemen that didn't make the camp all-star teams, but I also didn't disagree with any of the D that were selected.
Comparing the Stampede camp to the Fargo Force camp that was also held this weekend, Fargo had way more young talent at their camp, and a few more high-end NHL prospect types, but at the end of the weekend, when trying to compose a roster for next year, I had a tough time filling the last five spots on Fargo's roster, whereas with Sioux Falls, it was more difficult to pick the last five guys that wouldn't make it.
After the jump, notes on some individual players at the Sioux Falls camp.
Goalies- Charlie Lindgren, who recently announced a commitment to St. Cloud State, is returning and should be the starter. I'm by no means a goalie expert, but Lindgren is a pretty lanky kid, with crazy athleticism. He seems like he's got a tremendously high ceiling. Draft picks Jan Obernesser and David Jacobson were the two other goalies to make the all-star game. Obernesser was the far stronger goalie, but Sioux Falls would have to decide if they want to use an overage and import slot on a goalie that's likely to spend most of the season as a back-up to Lindgren. Andover goalie Chase Perry also participated in the camp and looked extremely good.
Defense- I really think any of the 12 defensemen to make the all-star game could play in the USHL, though I wouldn't consider any of them to be top pairing, heavy minutes type of guys. Minnesota State recruit Dan Carlson, formerly of the NTDP, was playing defense here. Hermantown senior-to-be Jake Zeleznikar played well enough to earn a roster spot, but I would suspect he's heading back to Hermantown.
Forward- Sioux Falls didn't score many goals last year, so there's not a lot of scoring returning. The Stampede did add some key veterans through trades at the draft that should immediately help their team. Ryan Siiro gives them a lot of size, Thomas Forgione gives them a lot of speed, and Dennis Kravchenko gives them some offensive skill. Kravchenko had a very good camp, and will likely be the team's top scorer this coming season.
Dylan McLaughlin was the team's top Future's pick last pick, and could have used another year of Midget hockey, but was forced into a regular role because the team was so bad. He's developed a lot since the camp last year though, and should have a much better year this year. This year's top Futures pick, Cody Milan is pretty big, but rail thin. He's a highly-skilled kid that should make the team and contribute a little offensively. Their second Futures pick this year was Mitchell Lundholm, who is huge, but still extremely raw and probably at least a year away from contributing.
Tony Calderone was the first overall pick in the USHL Entry Draft. He showed flashes of high-end skill and created some chances, but was never really able to finish anything. Outgoing Minnesota seniors CJ Franklin and Sam Rothstein both had pretty good camps, and should make the final roster. Duluth East senior-to-be Conner Valesano was extremely effective throughout the weekend. He might have to make a choice on where he plays next season. Traverse City North Stars forwards Kyle Schempp and Sean Murphy were both solid as well.