The USHL has announced the formation of USHL Player Development, a division of the League exclusively devoted to enhancing the USHL's communication with, scouting, and recruitment of the very best hockey talent in the United States and internationally.
"This effort represents months of planning by our General Managers and Member Club owners, both via a blue-ribbon committee and at all levels of our organization," said Commissioner Skip Prince. "The USHL, as the top of the USA Hockey development ladder, offers more to elite young hockey players – both on the ice and off it – than any other junior league in the world, period. The formation of USHL Player Development represents our renewed and intensified commitment to delivering that message throughout the world junior hockey community."
USHL Player Development will, among other matters, assume the functions of the USHL's Central Scouting group, previously overseen via a consulting arrangement with Bob Turow, and will be managed directly out of the USHL Commissioner's Office. In addition to conducting the League's three USHL Showcases scheduled for the 1992-93, 1994, and 1995 ("Futures") birth years in the spring of 2010, USHL Player Development has commenced an ambitious national program of public appearances by the League's senior management, GM's and head coaches at USA Hockey events, major and minor midget and bantam tournaments and showcases, and state high school tournaments and meetings. Future special events are in the planning stage.
To administer the program's launch, Prince announced the engagement of Bob Thornton as Manager of USHL Player Development. Thornton, the Atlantic District scout for the USHL, is currently in his fifth season as director of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League's New Jersey Rockets and owner of the ELITE Hockey Group. He has helped develop, promote, and draft numerous players to the USHL, NCAA, and NHL through the Rockets organization. A USHL alumnus, Bob played for the Des Moines Buccaneers in 1994-95 as the Bucs won the USHL's "Triple Crown" – the Anderson Cup, Clark Cup, and Gold Cup (the Junior "A" national championship for which the USHL competed prior to acquiring Tier 1 status) under head coach Bob Ferguson. He also won an OHL Championship, and participated in the CHL's Memorial Cup with the North Bay Centennials in 1993-94. Thornton's professional career spanned seven seasons (1996-2003) in the ECHL; he also served as an assistant coach for the ECHL Roanoke Express in 2003-04.
Prince also announced that Rick Comley, Jr. will assume the role of USHL Player Development Coordinator. Rick is in his second season as an Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator for the Sioux City Musketeers, after spending two years (2006-2008) as assistant coach for the Des Moines Buccaneers. Comley, who will continue his duties for the Musketeers, has also has served in a scouting capacity for Des Moines and Waterloo in the USHL. He has helped draft, recruit, and develop eight NHL draft picks through the Musketeers and Buccaneers organizations, as well as send 42 players on to Division I NCAA Hockey careers. He remains an integral part of Sioux City's Entry Draft and Futures selection group.
Tony Gill, the USHL's Manager of Hockey Operations, will see an expansion of his duties as well, as he will oversee administration of USHL Player Development on behalf of the Commissioner.
Prince said, "This is a critical work in progress for the USHL, and fundamental to our success. As we continue to expand the League, grow our fan and sponsor base, and send virtually every one of our extraordinary USHL alumni to the NHL, or Division I NCAA hockey, or both, we need to step up our efforts to educate, inform, train, recruit, and protect our future players and their families. As we say every day, we're not just hockey - we're the USHL. USHL Player Development reflects that commitment."
USHL Player Development is in the process of naming regional scouts, and further announcements will be made shortly.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)