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NHL Prospect Report

USHL Stock Watch: Brodie Ziemer's making strides in critical part of his draft year

We're about two-thirds of the way through the USHL regular season, and the cream is starting to rise to the top.

For first-time draft-eligible skaters, that means distinguishing yourself as someone worth calling on at the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas, Nevada, this June. And, of course, helping your team qualify for the playoffs.

This year's group isn't quite as strong as the one that preceded it, but there are still plenty of players who have demonstrated the skill and smarts to, at the very least, walk the draft's stage.

Let's take a look at a handful who have done wonders for their stock, a few others who are treading water, and then one who's seen his star fall of late.

Stock Rising 📈

Brodie Ziemer, F, USNTDP U18 (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA Commitment: Minnesota

Brodie Ziemer is a purebred scorer with a high-end shot. He’s scored at a point-per-game pace in his last 10 contests, with four goals in his last five games. The highlight of Ziemer’s offensive game is his ability to shoot through screens and change the angle of his shot. Two-touches, one-timers, curl-and-drags – Ziemer’s got the full arsenal.

He works hard defensively and plays bigger than his frame would suggest, never afraid to lay the body or finish a check. The playmaking is average. Ziemer typically makes the right pass in transition or off the rush, but not a ton of manipulation in his game that leads to scoring opportunities for his linemates. That said, with smart players like Teddy Stiga and Kamil Bednarik on his line, Ziemer can afford to be deferential with the puck early, opting instead to relocate off-puck when he doesn’t have a clean initial look. Probably more of a mid-round pick, but very much an exciting player.

Teddy Stiga, F, USNTDP U18 (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA Commitment: Boston College

There are a lot of exciting names on the USNTDP U18 squad, and I think Teddy Stiga sometimes gets overlooked as a result. With 14 points in his last 10 games and eight in his last five, Stiga has really heated up of late, clicking nicely with Bednarik and Ziemer.

Stiga’s best asset is his motor; his feet are constantly in motion which serves him well with and without the puck. On the forecheck, he’s a nuisance to opposing defensemen, churning his feet to take smart angles as F1 and using his stick to be disruptive. Stiga’s got serious skill with the puck too; he’s a deceptive handler who separates his upper body from his feet to freeze opponents or shift them one way before exploding in the opposite direction. He’s not the biggest body on the ice, which hurts him in small areas but Stiga is so deft at finding and attacking space that it usually doesn’t limit him.

An exciting player to watch who should be able to cement himself in the second round of the draft.

John Mustard, F, Waterloo Blackhawks (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA Commitment: Providence

When it comes to John Mustard's game, so much of the evaluation is about his projection. He's a real speedster, with nice lateral mobility that permits him to work the puck through the dotted lanes off the rush. He's also fairly deceptive with the puck, blending his hands and feet to bait defenders and create lanes for himself.

He’s at his best when he involves his teammates, making early passes in transition, relocating to space, delaying where necessary and operating in freshly created ice. The problem is that Mustard doesn’t always show these habits consistently; if he ironed it out, he’d be a surefire top-64 selection. But the skill is undeniable and six points and five goals in his last five games is tough to argue with. The bottom line? Mustard’s an exciting player to watch with a very high ceiling.

Stock Steady ↔️

Trevor Connelly, C, Tri-City Storm (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA Commitment: Providence College

There was some cause for concern a week ago when Trevor Connelly took an ugly-looking spill into the post and needed help off the ice. Rest assured, Connelly is back and has not missed a beat. He’s added four points in two games since returning, including his 16th and 17th goals of the year.

The story for Connelly has been the same as ever. He’s a streaky player with above-average skating and puck-handling ability, which becomes a nightmare for opposing defenders when he chooses to attack off the rush. Connelly has started to leverage his skill better too, working through triangles and using cuts to create high-quality scoring chances for himself rather than running himself out of room along the perimeter and settling for a low-quality chance.

He’s got some grit defensively too, weaponizing his speed on the backcheck, anticipating passes in zone, and throwing his weight around every now and then. Great to see his injury hasn’t set him back at all. Connelly still looks to be a consensus mid-first-rounder.

Stock Falling 📉

Matvei Gridin, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA Commitment: Michigan

There’s certainly a lot to like about Matvei Gridin’s game but there are some limitations that are concerning to me as well. He’s a smart playmaker and makes skilled passes, finding seams through sticks, hooking it to teammates on the flank with speed, etc. There are some smart rush habits too, particularly in using delays to create pockets of space inside the blue line.

The feet are a bit of a project, however, and inhibit him from being able to attack immediately after crossing the blue line. The defensive play has been inconsistent in my viewings of him as well, plenty of occasions where he’s flown the zone early, only coming alive when his team has possession. The physicality and wall play is such an asset to his game, you’d love to see more engagement in the breakout. The shooting is NHL-caliber, he can shoot off both feet, get pucks through screens, and pick corners from tough positions. This is not a write-off, Gridin has a lot to work with, I just wish he showed it more consistently.

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This article is about:
NHL Prospect Report 2024 NHL Draft Muskegon Lumberjacks Providence College Tri-City Storm U.S. National U17 Team U.S. National U18 Team Univ. of Michigan Univ. of Minnesota USNTDP Juniors Waterloo Black Hawks USHL NTDP NCAA Trevor Connelly Matvei Gridin John Mustard Teddy Stiga Brodie Ziemer
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