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The Rink Radar: 10 recruits with notable first-half performances in the USHL

While the Chicago Steel have dominated the headlines, others are having excellent seasons, too.

BenStrinden.jpg
Forward Ben Strinden, a UND commit, played with NorthStar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minn., before heading to the USHL. Photo by Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The defending Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel have been the top team in the United States Hockey League this season.

It's no surprise that their players are making the biggest waves in the league — UND forward commit Jackson Blake is an MVP candidate, Michigan forward commit Adam Fantilli looks like a top-five NHL Draft pick, UND forward commit Jayden Perron is the best 2005-born player in the league, while Quinnipiac forward commit Sam Lipkin, Harvard forward commit Joe Miller and UND defenseman commit Jake Livanavage are all rolling.

But it's not just the Chicago Steel show in the USHL this season.

Other players are generating buzz and could soon be impactful on the college scene. Here's a look at 10 USHL players outside of Chicago who have made waves with their first-half performance:

Stephen Halliday, forward, Dubuque, Ohio State commit: The former No. 1 overall pick in the United States Hockey League's Phase I Draft is emerging as a top prospect. Halliday returned to the Dubuque Fighting Saints this fall in outstanding shape. His skating, a previous concern, has improved. He's now the league's leading scorer with 42 points in 25 games.

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Kenny Connors, forward, Dubuque, UMass commit: One of the USHL's most improved players this season is Connors, who plays for Dubuque. The UMass commit has surpassed his point total from last season and is averaging a point per game.

Adam Ingram, forward, Youngstown, St. Cloud State commit: St. Cloud State will lose quite a bit of offense after this season, but Ingram should step in immediately and replace some of it. Ingram, who plays for the Youngstown Phantoms, has a great shot and a knack for finishing. He's draft eligible this summer and will get picked relatively high.

Damien Carfagna, defenseman, Green Bay, New Hampshire commit: Carfagna is the USHL's top-scoring defenseman with 29 points in 23 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. He's done that all while remaining a strong defender in his own end.

Simon Latkoczy, goalie, Madison, Omaha commit: The numbers don't seem impressive. Latkoczy has a .892 save percentage and a 3.21 goals-against average, but the Slovakian who won a Clark Cup with Chicago last season is a big reason why Madison is on track to finish above .500 for the first time since its founding in 2014.

Charlie Schoen, forward, Sioux City, Arizona State commit: Shoen won't end up on any NHL Draft boards because of his 5-foot-9 frame, but he's the type that could light up college hockey for a few years. Playing on Sioux City's top line, Schoen has averaged more than a point per game.

Dalton Norris, defenseman, Lincoln, Bowling Green commit: Yes, there's another Norris coming to college hockey. Dalton's father, Dwayne, played at Michigan State before moving on to the NHL. His brother, Josh, played at Michigan before moving on to the NHL. His brother, Coale, played four years at Ferris State and is using his extra COVID year at Bowling Green, where Dalton will soon play. Dalton, a defenseman, has a heavy shot and has already scored 10 goals this season.

Ben Strinden, forward, Muskegon Lumberjacks, North Dakota commit: The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Fargo product has size and now the offense is starting to come, too. Although he was undrafted last season, he's starting to appear on the radar of scouts as an overage pick. Strinden, who is just under a point per game, has been consistently good for Muskegon this season.

Jackson Hallum, forward, Green Bay Gamblers, Michigan commit: Michigan has been stocking up on top young prospects, so Hallum could fit nicely into the Wolverines' lineup as an older, productive player. Hallum is an explosive skater who can generate offense quickly. He had a three-game stretch against Madison in December where he racked up 11 points.

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Cal Thomas, defenseman, Sioux Falls Stampede, Minnesota commit: The one-time Vermont commit re-opened his recruitment this season and generated a lot of interest. The Arizona Coyotes draft pick might not run the power play for the Gophers, but he's a strong two-way defender.

On the market

There are some notable uncommitted players who have the ability to go to college hockey next season.

Potential top-10 NHL Draft pick Logan Cooley has been committed to Notre Dame, but multiple sources indicate that he's undecided on a route for next season. It could be Notre Dame, it could be another school, it could be major junior or pro hockey in Europe, too. If he ends up in college, Cooley will be one of the top incoming rookies.

Cooley is the only 2004-born skater to make the U.S. World Junior roster.

According to Chris Heisenberg's recruiting database, Ethan Bowen of the Chilliwack Chiefs is no longer committed to UND. Bowen, a seventh-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, will likely go to college in the fall. UND recently picked up a commitment from another forward, Owen McLaughlin of Sioux City, who will fill that spot.

Two of the USHL's most notable uncommitted players are Chicago Steel defenseman Nick Moldenhauer and Fargo Force forward Cole Knuble. Both are eligible for this summer's NHL Draft.

Big points for an MSU commit

In the Minnesota girls prep ranks, Luverne junior Kamryn Van Batavia is putting up astounding numbers.

Van Batavia leads the state in goals, assists and points.

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She's averaging more than three goals per game (34 goals in 11 games). She has 56 points in 11 games.

Her production has gradually increased each year of varsity hockey. Last season as a sophomore , Van Batavia had 87 points in 21 games. As a freshman, she had 67 points in 25 games.

Briefly

One of the top up-and-coming players in Minnesota, Makayla Moran, is off to an impressive start this season. Moran, who is uncommitted, is leading Apple Valley in scoring as a freshman with 29 points in 11 games. Moran was named to the Star Tribune's all-metro third team last season as an eighth-grader. . . Denver commit Rieger Lorenz is up to 54 points in 35 games for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Lorenz will get picked in the NHL Draft this summer. He's the only non-Brooks player in the top six of the AJHL's scoring race. . . UConn commit Matthew Wood is putting up huge numbers for a 2005-born player in the British Columbia Hockey League. Wood is in a three-way tie for second in the BCHL in points. The players he's tied with, and the player ahead of him, are all four years older.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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