By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
May 2, 2016

Tonight marks the start of the 2016 United States Hockey League Draft as the Tier 1 league begins its reload process for the 2016-17 season. While the IceRays are not involved in the USHL Draft, the team will look to the draft to chart not only if players from the 2015-16 season are selected by one of the 16 participating teams but also to note if any of the future players tendered by the IceRays are selected in one of the next two days. The USHL Draft differs slightly from the NAHL Draft, so here's what to look for over the next two days as it pertains to the IceRays.

The USHL Draft is completed in two phases. Phase I, formerly known as the "USHL Futures Draft," is an eight-round process that presents players in the 2000 birth year that are traditionally not ready to play at the USHL level though show the potential to play in the league in the coming years. A number of those players will see time at the Tier 1 level, however most will either stay at their lower levels or develop in lower leagues in preparation for future play. It is highly unlikely that an IceRays tender for the 2016-17 season were to be selected in this portion of the draft due to the player ages and skill sets.

Phase II, formerly known as the "USHL Entry Draft," operates in the same way that the NAHL Draft does. Teams may select players from the 1996 to 2000 birth year range to participate on said squad for the upcoming season. Now, it's worth noting that even though a USHL team drafts a player, said skater might not be selected to the team's final roster after training camps are completed or choose to join the team. If this is the case, the player is allowed to look for options elsewhere if they were not already claimed through NAHL rights or by a tender contract–the player would return to his NAHL team, barring that the team accepts his return. If a player is selected and makes his USHL squad, then the player will most likely go with that team. In the chance that the player makes the USHL team but does not last the entire season, the NAHL team that holds his rights in this league either through previous contract or the NAHL Draft will be able to claim that player.

In all, 25 IceRays players both past and present have seen time in the USHL over the last six seasons with nine being drafted in the USHL Draft directly from the IceRays. In last year's draft, two players and two tenders were selected by USHL teams with two of the four seeing time in the league. Defenseman Logan Gestro (’14-’15) was selected 65th overall by the Sioux City Musketeers and played 49 games in his first Tier I season with one goal and six points. Goaltender Dryden McKay (’15-’16) was drafted 50th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers and saw one game this season just after the start of the New Year. Two other current IceRays were drafted but did not make rosters out of training camp: Brendan Miller (79th overall, Tri-City Storm) and Jimmy O’Brien (260th overall, Lincoln Stars).

Former IceRays to play at the USHL level last season include: Jake Durflinger (Sioux City Stampede), Logan Gestro (Sioux City Musketeers), Ronnie Hein (Waterloo Blackhawks), and Nico Sturm (Tri-City Storm).

Phase I of the USHL Draft begins tonight at 6:00 p.m. CDT while Phase II begins Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. CDT. The entire draft will be televised on www.USHL.com, and the events can be followed on the league's social media outlets.

Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at cschuck@goicerays.com or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.