Recapping The USHL Draft

May 6, 2022 | John Klinck

Photo from Instagram | @m.frost14
Photo from Instagram | @m.frost14

Matthew Frost headlines the group of top 2006-born players chosen in Phase-I selection process

The Waterloo Black Hawks liked what they saw in Matthew Frost.

So much so that they made a trade to move up to get him.

The Black Hawks struck a deal with the Des Moines Buccaneers to claim the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 USHL Phase-I Draft, which they used on the 5-foot-10, 150-pound forward out of Selects Academy.

Frost, who hails from Arlington, Va., was the first player off the board in the first of a two-day selection process for the USHL. The Phase-I Draft was exclusively of the 2006 birth-year class, while the Phase-II Draft that followed was for all players eligible for junior hockey next season not yet claimed by a USHL franchise.

The USHL allows for teams to sign players to league tenders leading up to the draft, which makes the Phase-I Draft a unique process. If a USHL franchise signs a player to a tender, that functions as their first-round draft pick in the Phase-I Draft. It allows teams to bypass the draft order (which is why a few of the most sought-after players in the ’06 class appear farther down the draft board than one would expect). It comes with a catch — if a team tenders a player, he must participate in 55 percent of the team’s games in his rookie season. First-round draft picks, however, do not have to play for the team that season; they can stay with their youth/high school team, or only play in as many games as their USHL franchise would like or need.

Frost recorded 62 points in 58 games with the Selects 16U team this past season; he was one of nine first-round picks/tenders who played against competition older than his own birth year. Only six players played in the 15-Only classification for the majority of their 2021-22 season, which is notable as USA Hockey encourages more participation in the single birth-year division for the players’ crucial junior-draft season.

At No. 2, the Sioux Falls Stampede crossed the border for forward Reid Varkonyi, a native of Sherwood Park, Alberta and product of the Northern Alberta Xtreme U18 Prep team. Varkonyi, fresh off a 56 points in 34 games season against older competition, recently announced a verbal commitment to national champion Denver University, which surely motivated the Stampede to claim him despite him also being a WHL Draft selection of the Portland Winterhawks.

The Green Bay Gamblers used the No. 3 overall pick on Aidan Park, another elite forward, who comes from Playa Vista, Calif. He is currently a member of Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Park, who posted 118 points in 54 games with SSM 16U this past season, had posted on his social media accounts that he was going to stay at the prestigious academy for another season. The Gamblers now have his rights — both Park and the Gamblers’ leadership can now decide when the right time is for him to make the jump to juniors.

The same case can be said for Park’s teammate Drake Murray, who was selected at No. 13 overall by the Sioux City Musketeers after posting he would be back for more at SSM.

Another SSM product worth mentioning is Macklin Celebrini, who is the poster boy for the tender dynamic skewing the draft order. Celebrini, a native of Vancouver, accomplished the rare feat of making the Shattuck 18U team during his 15-Only season, and he dominated there, racking up 117 points in 52 games.

Celebrini signed a tender with the Chicago Steel prior to the draft, following in the footsteps of ’04 birth-year uber prospect Adam Fantilli, who signed a tender with the Steel a few years ago, as well. Had there not be a tender process and those players had both announced their intentions of playing USHL and college hockey, they would have had the best odds of going No. 1 overall in their respective drafts.

Another unique USHL Draft angle to consider is that while they compete in the USHL, USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) does not participate in the draft. The NTDP has its evaluation camp after scouting the birth year all season, and then finalizes its Under-17 Team roster before the USHL Draft takes place.

Of the 10 American-born first-round picks/tenders, eight of them were invited to the NTDP Evaluation Camp – Frost and Will Felicio were the two who did not receive invitations. Frost, of course, holds the distinction of being the No. 1 overall pick in the USHL Draft, while Felicio was the lone American to be signed to a first-round tender.

Here is a full breakdown of the first round from the 2022 USHL Phase 1 Draft:

No. 1 – Waterloo – Matthew Frost (Forward, South Kent Selects Academy 16U)

No. 2 – Sioux Falls – Reid Varkonyi (Forward, Northern Alberta Xtreme U18 Prep)

No. 3 – Green Bay – Aidan Park (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 16U)

No. 4 – Waterloo – Tender – Keith McInnis (Defense, Yale Hockey Academy U18 Prep)

No. 5 – Fargo – Mac Swanson (Forward, Team Alaska 15O)

No. 6 – Cedar Rapids – Lukas Fischer (Defense, Compuware 15O)

No. 7 – Madison – Tender – Will Felicio (Defense, Mount St. Charles 15O)

No. 8 – Des Moines – Geno Carcone (Forward, Bishop Kearney Selects 15O)

No. 9 – Youngstown – Tory Pitner (Defense, South Kent Selects Academy 15O)

No. 10 – Muskegon – Tender – Sacha Boisvert (Forward, Mount St. Charles 15O)

No. 11 – Lincoln – Adam Kleber (Defense, Chaska High School)

No. 12 – Dubuque – Gavin Cornforth (Forward, Thayer Academy Tigers)

No. 13 – Sioux City – Drake Murray (Defense, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 16U)

No. 14 – Chicago – Tender – Macklin Celebrini (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 18U)

No. 15 – Tri-City – Tender – Matthew Virgilio (Defense, St. Andrew’s College)

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