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USHL: Five steals from the Phase I Draft

By Peter Odney , 05/10/24, 2:15PM CDT


Five players picked in the fifth round or later that could pay off for their respective USHL franchises.

There are no guarantees in life, and there are fewer guarantees in hockey.

The USHL held its two drafts, Phase I and Phase II, earlier this week. Phase I included only 2008-born players, while Phase I featured players born from 2004 to 2008. 68 Minnesotans were selected between the two drafts - 29 in Phase I and 39 in Phase II. 

After checking in with a few sources (THAT'S JOURNALISM BUDDY), including an NHL scout and multiple people involved in USHL and NAHL management, here are five steals from this week's Phase I Draft, picked in the fifth round or later.

Player: Zac Zimmerman
Round: 5
Pick: 75 
Team: Fargo Force 

Zimmerman jumped from the Moorhead Bantam AA team to the high school ranks last season and ended up leading the Spuds in both assists (29) and total points (44). His 15 goals also tied for second on a young Moorhead squad that should take a sizable step forward next year.

Zimmerman's play improved with each game last season, and he concluded the 2023-2024 campaign with six goals and eight assists in the Spuds' last six games before falling in the Class AA, Section 8 semifinals against eventual section champ Elk River. 

Zac Zimmerman, Moorhead

Player: Jackson Strukel 
Round: 6 
Pick: 82 
Team: Tri-City Storm  

One of two freshmen on a young Hibbing/Chisholm roster oozing with talent, Strukel recorded 11 goals and 35 points in 28 games for the Bluejackets last season. Within those offensive numbers are team-highs of four goals and nine assists in the Hibbing/Chisholm power play, which Strukel quarterbacked.

Strukel has a rare mix of raw talent and production for a 2008-born player, and his mobility will always give him a chance to carve out a significant role on most teams.

Jackson Strukel, Hibbing/Chisholm (shown here playing for the North Stars in the Bantam Elite League)

Player: Luca Jarvis
Round: 7
Pick: 99 
Team: Youngstown Phantoms 

Jarvis is one of the most offensively gifted players in his age group in Minnesota, armed with speed, explosiveness, and a shot that rivals collegiate players in terms of velocity and accuracy. 

Jarvis led Stillwater's Bantam AA team to the Battle for the Blue Ox finals in November 2023 with three goals and seven points in four games before jumping to the Ponies' high school program. In his freshman season, Jarvis tallied nine goals and 19 points, ranking sixth on the team in total scoring.

The right-handed shooter is listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, according to Elite Prospects, and has the ability to play all three forward positions. 

Luca Jarvis, Stillwater

Player: Nicklas Nelson
Round: 9 
Pick: 126 
Team: Sioux Falls Stampede

The son of longtime Monticello Head Coach Eric Nelson, Nelson plays the type of game you would expect from the child of a coach who played at a high level - innate understanding of the ice, limited mistakes, and relentless motor. 

As a freshman defenseman for the Moose, Nelson scored five goals and finished with 23 points last season, helping Monticello to a record of 21-6-1. His 23 points were tops among defenders, and his eight assists on the power play were a team-high. 

The 6-foot-1 Nelson has also proved his mettle on the national stage after being selected to represent Minnesota at last summer's USA Hockey National 15 Camp. He was one of two Minnesotans selected by the Stampede, who picked Duluth Marshall goaltender Kaenen Smith in the fourth round. 

Player: Brock Cheslock 
Round: 9 
Pick: 131 
Team: Omaha Lancers

Brock is the younger brother of current Omaha defenseman and fifth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils Chase Cheslock. The only tangible difference between the two is that Brock plays forward. 

A hard-working skater who never takes a shift off, Cheslock had a solid debut high school season for the Royals. He scored six goals and added nine assists while paying his dues behind several talented upperclassmen forwards.

Cheslock should take another step as a leader for the Royals next season, and the point totals should continue to climb with more opportunities. Don't forget, Cheslock racked up 50 goals and 113 points in his second season of Bantam hockey in 2022-2023. He led the team in assists and finished second in points behind Jayden Kurtz (114 points). 

Brock Cheslock, Rogers

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