The Lincoln Stars made 27 selections in the 2020 USHL Draft, adding 11 players in Phase I and 16 players in Phase II.
In Phase I, the Stars solidified their prospect pipeline from a pool of 2004-born players from high schools and youth hockey programs across North America. Their tender of defenseman Chase Pietila on April 5th took the place of their first pick in Phase I (8th overall).
"I think the biggest challenge was not being able to get to an ice rink and see them in person," Stars General Manager and Head Coach Chris Michael said. "However, we were able to utilize our extra time watching video and making calls to coaches across different levels to gather as much intel as possible about each player and their habits on and off the ice. We felt very organized and prepared as we headed into Phase I and that continued right into Phase II."
"Our staff did an outstanding job of identifying our priority guys, knowing everything about them on and off the ice, knowing what their plans are moving forward so there are no surprises as we move after this draft into our preparation for camp. I’m very proud of our scouting staff, [Director of Scouting] Billy Pugliese and [Associate Head Coach] Nick Peruzzi. I thought they did an outstanding job."
In Phase II, Lincoln addressed their needs for the 2020-21 season by adding eleven forwards, two defensemen and three goaltenders.
"In both phases, we did a really good job addressing our needs, not only for next year’s team but for the future as well," Michael continued. "The forwards we selected in Phase II are guys we're expecting to come into our lineup and push the returners we had from last year’s group along with a handful of affiliate players that are ready to step in and contribute to creating a well balanced forward group with good skill, speed, size and toughness. We have a lot of guys coming back from last year on the back-end, so we had to address our needs up front and in net."
"We identified our top four goalies and are extremely excited that we got all of them in Guy Blessing, William Rousseau, Carson Cherapak and Ben Behrens. All four of them are competitors and guys that our team will enjoy playing in front of. We are extremely confident with Guy going into the season as our number one goaltender but it's important to create competition at each position and we feel that William, Carson, and Ben are going to be competing and pushing Guy for the job."
"When you create competition within all three positions—that means everyone is forced to work and get better every day because nothing is guaranteed. But to us, that's true development and what our number one job as a staff is—to develop each player on and off the ice. I like the depth of our group and feel that we are built to play in the Ice Box again but also able to go on the road in this tough league and not be intimidated by anything. We look forward to getting to main camp and seeing our guys in person but we will be spending plenty of time as a group until then building the relationships amongst all of us so that we are a tight, cohesive family once we are allowed to get back to work so that we can hit the ground running."
The Stars will host their main camp at a later date that will be announced on our website and social media channels.
The Stars signed defenseman Chase Pietila to a tender on April 5th, taking the place of their first-round selection (8th overall pick) in the 2020 USHL Phase I Draft. Pietila is the second tender in Stars franchise history, joining Christian Krygier (2016).
“Chase has been on our scouting department’s radar for the last twelve months," Stars Interim GM and Head Coach Chris Michael said. “We’ve had plenty of conversations about Chase with our scouting staff and they’ve done a great job gathering enough information about him on and off the ice to give us the comfortability to go down the tender process with the Pietila family.”
“I’m very excited to play in Lincoln, it’s a great opportunity and I’m sure they’ll help me develop and get me to my goal to play at the next level,” Pietila said. "I’ve heard [Lincoln] is a great organization and I can’t wait to play with them."
The Howell, MI native registered 64 points (12 goals, 52 assists) in 61 games in the 2019-20 season for HoneyBaked. Pietila prides himself on using his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame to compete in all three zones.
Tendered players are required to play in 55 percent of a Member Club’s games during the regular season, notwithstanding injury, illness or suspension.
After tendering Pietila, the Stars dipped into the HoneyBaked 15U program once again, drafting forward Christian Kocsis with the 23rd overall pick in Phase I. The Lansing, MI native scored 49 goals and added 51 assists in 55 games with HoneyBaked during the 2019-20 season.
With their first pick in the third round of Phase I, the Stars looked to add to their goaltending pipeline. Behrens compiled a record of 4-6-1, a goals-against-average of 3.32 and a save percentage of .858 with the St. Louis AAA Blues 16U program in 2019-20. The 5-foot-11, 153-pound netminder calls St. Louis, MO home.
Like Pietila and Kocsis, Gordon had a solid year with HoneyBaked, registering 14 goals and 41 assists last season. The left-handed defenseman from Troy, MI spent time on a pairing with Pietila, establishing chemistry that could trickle over into Lincoln as Gordon's game evolves.
At pick No. 50, Lincoln selected another blue-liner that can provide offense down the line in Baugh. While playing for the Colorado Thunderbirds U16, the Castle Rock, CO native ranked fourth on the team in scoring and second amongst defensemen with 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) in 50 games. Baugh's discipline was showcased prominently in 2019-20 as he only took two minor penalties all season long.
Peters lit up the scoresheet with the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals 15U team last season, lighting the lamp 37 times and tallying 47 assists in 67 games.
Brinson was the first Canadian drafted by the Stars in 2020, hailing from Airdrie, AB. While playing in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) with Edge School Prep, Brinson put up 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 32 games in 2019-20.
Ludtke notched five goals and nine assists in 24 high school hockey games with the Lakeville South High Cougars in Minnesota. The Elko, MN native is committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and is projected to play for the Mavericks in 2023-24.
Wishart split time in the 2019-20 season with the John Jay-Cross River hockey program as well as Westchester Express's 16U team. He was second in scoring this past winter with John Jay-Cross River, scoring 24 goals and 17 assists in 19 games while earning second-team all-state honors in New York. With the Express, the Pound Ridge, NY-born forward's stat line included 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 35 games.
In the Ligue de hockey Midget AAA du Québec (QMAAA), Maltais was one of three players on Saint-Hyacinthe's roster to score double-digit goals (10). The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit also finished seventh in points (18) while compiling 37 penalty minutes in 39 games this past year.
Kahl led Little Caesars's 15U program with 53 points (30 goals, 23 assists) in 66 games last season. The Birmingham, MI native isn't afraid to back down from alterations, either, as he posted 62 penalty minutes.
The Stars finished off Phase I by selecting Centennial, CO's Patrick Raftery with the 143rd overall pick in the draft. In 20 games with the Colorado Thunderbirds U15 club, Raftery ranked sixth in points (12) and fourth in assists (9).
With only a handful of Stars forwards returning from the 2019-20 season, Lincoln kicked off Phase II by drafting Winter Wallace out of Boulder, CO with the 8th overall pick. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound forward finished fifth in points at Shattuck-St. Mary's, scoring 19 goals and 31 assists. Wallace is committed to Michigan State, where he is projected to join the Spartans in 2021-22. Winter's brother Dana was selected in the eighth round of the Phase I draft by the Youngstown Phantoms.
Ottawa, ON's Stanley Cooley was Lincoln's next selection as the Stars continued to bolster their forward regime for 2020-21. While playing with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), Cooley registered 15 goals and 29 assists while adding 79 penalty minutes in 56 games. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound center is committed to Northeastern University.
With no goaltenders returning from 2019-20, the Stars addressed their needs between the pipes by selecting Guy Blessing 26th overall. Blessing went 15-10-1 in 26 appearances with the Topeka Pilots of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), ending the 2019-20 season with a 2.57 goals-against-average and a .910 save percentage. The netminder from Chandler, AZ stands at 6-foot-3 and is committed to Air Force Academy.
The trend of sizable forwards continued for Lincoln with Cole Craft's selection in the third round. Playing for the Rockland Nationals of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), Craft was a dual-threat. The North Bay, ON native led the Nationals in points with 64 (28 goals, 36 assists) and served as an alternate captain. In 56 games, he compiled 74 penalty minutes. Craft is committed to Lake Superior State University.
Livonia, MI's Jake Beaune was the first defenseman taken by the Stars in Phase II. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound right-handed shot wrapped up his second season in the NAHL this past year with the Aberdeen Wings. As captain, Beaune scored 12 goals and 19 assists in 51 games. The 19-year-old is projected to bolster a Stars defensive core that boasts a number of returners from last season, including Anthony Follmer and Jake Boltmann.
University of New Hampshire commit William Margel was selected by Lincoln with the 48th overall pick. The 19-year-old forward has USHL experience under his belt, suiting up for 12 games with the Madison Capitols in 2019-20. The majority of his past season was spent in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Coquitlam Express. The Potomac, MD native potted six goals and 17 assists in 30 games with the Express.
Like Wallace, Will Traeger was noticeably effective in 2019-20 with Shattuck-St Mary's. Traeger scored the third-most goals on the Sabres (23) and added 25 assists as a 17-year-old. Hailing from Mendota Heights, MN, Traeger spent a brief stint with the Minnesota Wilderness in the NAHL, appearing in two games.
University of Nebraska-Omaha commit William Rousseau was nabbed by the Stars in the middle of the fifth round. Rousseau went 9-10 with a 2.23 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage with the Trois-Rivières Estacades of the QMAAA in 2019-20. The Trois-Rivières, QC-born goaltender will battle for the No. 1 job in Lincoln with Blessing once training camp gets underway.
Like Rousseau, Alexi Van Houtte-Cachero is a University of Nebraska-Omaha commit. Van Houtte-Cachero wore an "A" on his sweater for the Lac St-Louis Lions of the QMAAA while registering 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games in 2019-20. The Pointe-Claire, QC native ended his season third on the Lions in penalty minutes (63).
Daniel V. Tkac is well-versed in the BCHL, spending the past two seasons with the Merritt Centennials. The 19-year-old forward improved off a 14-point campaign in 2018-19 with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 2019-20. Tkac, a dual citizen of both Slovakia and the United States, represented Slovakia at the World Junior Championships in 2017-18, scoring three points in five games.
Oliver Kjaer showed little rust when making the jump from Denmark to North America this past season in the NAHL with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Danish forward tied the team lead in assists (30) and finished in second in points (50) in 42 games. Before his tenure with Fairbanks, Kjaer played the previous four seasons in his hometown of Esbjerg, DEN.
Like Margel, Leo Bacallao got his feet wet in the USHL with the Madison Capitols, playing 12 games spread across the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Last year, the Madison, WI native played a combined 37 games in the NAHL, starting the season with the Janesville Jets and finishing it with the Springfield Jr. Blues. Bacallao notched 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) and 122 penalty minutes.
With Lincoln's first of two back-to-back picks in the eleventh round, the Stars selected Nick Sajevic. A native of Shoreview, Minnesota, Sajevic completed year two of his development with Gentry Academy's program. Playing 16U, Sajevic scored 18 goals and 19 assists in 2019-20.
Joaquim Lemay was the second and last defenseman drafted by the Stars in Phase II. A University of Nebraska-Omaha commit, Lemay scored two goals and 21 assists in 53 games with Mount St. Charles Academy 18U in Woonsocket, RI.
Carson Cherepak is coming off of a tremendous season in the Metro Minor Hockey League (MMHL) with the Winnipeg Wild AAA program. Cherepak went 24-3 with a 1.40 goals-against-average and a .941 save percentage. The 6-foot, 145-pound goaltender won eleven consecutive regular-season/playoff games before all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Lincoln's final pick in the 2020 USHL Draft was Luka Sukovic. While suiting up for Team Illinois 16U in 2019-20, the Lincolnshire, IL native led the team in points with 22 (nine goals, 13 assists) in 17 games. Sukovic spent the 2018-19 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U16 program, playing alongside Stars defenseman Carter Schade.