On A Mission

May 27, 2021 | Craig Peterson

Players from the 2005 Chicago Mission hockey team rush to celebrate with their goalie after a win.

Youth organizations that dominated the day at the 2021 USHL Phase-I Draft.

The Chicago Steel won the Clark Cup championship on Sunday, closing the book on the 2020-21 season with an exclamation point as the best team in both the regular season and postseason. Turning the page to a new league year began almost immediately, with the 2021 Phase-I Draft taking place on Thursday with teams preparing for the offseason.

As part of the USHL’s process, the draft is completed in two phases, with the first being a 10-round “Futures” selection. This year, league members chose players from the 2005-birth year only. These players are fresh off the completion of their 15-only season in USA Hockey — or under-16 season in Hockey Canada — and the rights of any player selected will remain with the respective team for two seasons. 

The Youngstown Phantoms owned the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and with that, they selected Shattuck-St. Mary’s forward William Whitelaw from Rosemount, Minnesota. The ‘05 played up two age groups this past season to skate with Shattuck’s 18U prep team where he scored 17 goals and 34 points in 37 games. Neutral Zone ranked Whitelaw the No. 8 overall player at the 2005-birth year and Puck Preps has the crafty center 10th overall.

Sioux Falls selected Will McDonough with the second pick; he also played at the 18U age level this season with Boston Advantage

Chicago Mission was the No. 2 ranked team in our most recent world rankings — and top North American team — at the 2005 age group. Seven players from that Mission squad were selected during Thursday’s event, making them and HoneyBaked the two most represented youth teams at the Phase-I Draft. 

Two Mission forwards went in the first round, with Joseph Willis going third overall to Waterloo and A.J. Kuzma going sixth overall to Des Moines. Two more went in the second round, with defenseman Zack Sharp and forward Dashel Oliver. James Reeder, Nathan Williams and Jacob Jastrzebski then went in the third, fourth and fifth rounds respectively. 

Nathan Murray was the highest selected player from HoneyBaked, going 39th overall to Chicago. As the fifth-ranked team in the world, HB also produced seven Phase-I selections including Brandon Hilton in the third round, Kyle Kim and Jack Willson in the fourth round, Reid Daavettila in the fifth round, and Sean Smith and Luke Baker in the eighth round. 

HB and Mission led the way in terms of players off of a single team. No organization produced more total picks, however, than Shattuck with nine; six from its 15O team, two from the 16U team and two from the 18U team. Others of significant impact on the draft are ’05 Compuware (six players), ’05 Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers (five) and the North Jersey Avalanche with five between their 15O and 16U teams.

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