Examining the ’06 USA Hockey national champion’s 2021-22 season
On the morning of April 4, Chicago Mission captured the 2022 USA Hockey National Championship at the Tier-I 15-Only age group, arguably the most prestigious title in American youth hockey today. With an emphasis on having players stay in their own birth-year for their junior draft season, the 15-Only classification has increasingly become the place to play for athletes looking to establish themselves in the eyes of junior scouts.
Mission finished the season with a 50-22-2 record, and finished as the top-ranked team in the country as well as the fourth overall team in the world rankings. The ’06 black and neon green squad out-scored its competition by 134 goals, with an average margin of victory of 1.81 goals.
Season stats don’t appear to be available anywhere online, but the national tournament totals give a good look at the leaders for the Mission squad. Charles Pardue, Jake Merens and Eero Butella all tied for the team scoring lead in the country-wide playoffs, posting 10 points apiece in six games. John Delaney had seven, Charles Arend had five, while Michael Phelan and Ryan Kroll tied for the lead among defensemen with four.
Nicholas Kempf was the dominating force between the pipes for Mission, recording a 1.41 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in his five starts out of the six games Mission needed to win the national title.
So what did the in-season success mean for the Mission roster’s off-season? Well, we start with a look at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP), which invited two of the Mission stars to its annual evaluation camp to finalize next year’s Under-17 Team. Pardue and Kempf were invited, and much like their other spring trip to Plymouth, they made that one count too, as both were named to the national team for the upcoming season.
Seven Mission players were selected in the USHL Phase-I Draft, which was the first part of a two-day draft process where the Tier-I junior league selected players exclusively from the 2006 birth-year class. Here were the Chicago players chosen:
Round 2, No. 23 overall – Waterloo – Eero Butella, forward
Round 3, No. 39 overall – Fargo – Jake Merens, forward
Round 6, No. 79 overall – Waterloo – Michael Phelan, defense
Round 6, No. 83 overall – Tri-City – Ryan Kroll, defense
Round 6, No. 87 overall – Dubuque – Charlie Arend, forward
Round 7, No. 95 – Fargo – Justin Bartley, defense
Round 9, No. 132 – Dubuque – Robert Bartell, forward
Only one team had more players selected in the USHL Phase-I Draft than Mission, and that was Detroit Compuware with eight. However, when you add the two players selected for the NTDP – which competes in the USHL – Mission would have the “top spot” in terms of players selected by the members of the top American junior league.
Two players were selected in the OHL Draft, and they were late-round picks. Butella was selected by Mississauga in the 10th round, 198 overall, while Pardue was chosen by Sudbury in the 14th round, 266 overall. Late-round American picks serve as a way for an OHL team to maintain a talented player’s rights, should the player ever consider a change of scenery as well.
Delaney and Frank DeRosa were also selected by the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights in the NCDC Entry Draft.
College programs are allowed to extend verbal offers to the 2006 birth year starting on Aug. 1, and many of these names could resurface as commitment candidates before the summer is over.
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