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USHL Draft Preview: What to know, how to follow and a look at the 2023 draft order

Phase I of the 2023 USHL Draft gets underway Tuesday at 4 p.m. followed by Phase II on Wednesday

Jak Vaarwerk.JPG
Des Moines forward Jak Vaarwerk pictured during game one of the Clark Cup Playoffs last week in Lincoln. Vaarwerk was the No. 1 overall pick last May in Phase II of the 2022 USHL Draft.
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

The 2023 USHL Draft gets underway Tuesday afternoon and concludes on Wednesday. The Rink Live’s Jordan McAlpine will have coverage throughout both days, including a live blog on The Rink Live as the picks come in.

Before the draft gets started, here’s what you need to know.

What is the USHL Draft?

Like any other draft in professional or amateur sports, the USHL Draft allows teams to stockpile young talent and shape their rosters for next season and beyond.

When is the draft?

Phase I – Tues. May 2 at 4 p.m.
Phase II – Wed. May 3 at 11 a.m.

Why are there two phases?

It’s one of the most common questions asked about the event… Why are there two phases?


Phase I: Phase I is aimed towards the future. The first day consists of 10 rounds (150 total picks) and players selected must be from the 2007 birth year, making them under 17 next season.

Phase II: On the other hand, Phase II is open season as teams can select any player that is eligible to play junior hockey, as long as they’re currently not on a USHL roster or affiliate list.

Phase II will go until each team can fill its 45-man roster and will include a variety of players from different leagues such as the AJHL, NAHL, USPHL, along with the high school and international ranks. Not all teams will have the same number of selections because of this.

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What is the draft order?

The USHL Draft order goes in the order that teams finished in the standings, from worst to first.

This year’s order goes as follows: Madison, Omaha, Sioux Falls, Muskegon, Des Moines, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Green Bay, Tri-City, Lincoln, Youngstown, Waterloo, Chicago, Fargo.

Granted that can change with trades. Click here to view the full Phase I and Phase II draft orders. The first round will have a different look due to a trade and some tenders.

1. Madison
2. Chicago (acquired in a trade from Omaha
3. Sioux Falls (will not pick, tendered Matthew Grimes)
4. Muskegon (will not pick, tendered Cameron Aucoin)
5. Des Moines
6. Sioux City
7. Cedar Rapids
8. Dubuque (will not pick, Liam Kilfoil)
9. Green Bay (will not pick, tendered Lev Katzin)
10. Tri-City (will not pick, tendered Cooper Simpson)


16-year-old forward Cooper Simpson becomes the 11th tender in franchise history after a breakout season at Shakopee High School

11. Lincoln
12. Youngstown (will not pick, tendered Sascha Boumedienne)
13. Waterloo
14. Chicago (will not pick, tendered Lukas Sawchyn)
15. Fargo (will not pick, tendered Masun Fleece)

***Youngstown will also surrender its second-round pick (27th overall) as the Phantoms also tendered Zachary Morin in January.

What is a tender?

An organization can tender up to two players each season and forfeit their Phase I first and second-round picks in exchange for the rights to that player. Tendering a player essentially provides certainty as it takes the player off the draft board and puts them on that team’s respective roster.

Take a year-by-year and team-by-team look at the USHL's tender history and what goes into the tendering process

Nine players are currently tendered for next season and the eight teams (Youngstown has tendered two players) that signed those tenders have forfeited their picks Tuesday morning as a result. To view the list and learn more about the USHL tender process and history, click here.

Phase I storylines

  • The Omaha Lancers finished with the league’s second-worst record and were set to have the second overall pick. However, Omaha doesn’t have a Phase I pick until the fifth round (69th overall) due to several trades. 
  • The Lancers have three fifth-round picks (69, 70 and 73), one seventh (92nd) and three eighth-round (107, 117 and 118) in Phase I. Omaha will also pick four times in the first three rounds of Phase II.
  • Chicago — who has the second overall pick that initially belonged to Omaha — will pick eight times in the first four rounds of Phase I.
  • Tri-City won’t have its first-round pick but the Storm still have three picks in the first three rounds. Tri-City has the 37th overall pick which initially belonged to Cedar Rapids.
  • Although it's hard to predict exactly where the top prospects will fall — especially with the risk of players opting to stick with the high school route instead of the USHL — fans in The Rink Live region will certainly see a steady dose of Minnesota flavor over the next two days.
  • Max Anderson, Mason Kraft, Malachi McKinnon and Mason West are a couple of the top prospects to keep an eye on from the state. West was invited to the NTDP tryout camp in March.

Jordan McAlpine is a junior and prospects reporter for The Rink Live.
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