The USHL had its strongest-ever showing at the NHL Draft, as 57 players with USHL ties were selected at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas, TX. The 57 players chosen set a new USHL record, shattering the previous mark of 51 set at the 2014 NHL Draft. 45 of those 57 players skated in the USHL during the 2017-18 season, also setting a league record, breaking the previous mark of 40 set last year at the 2017 NHL Draft. The USHL also led all junior leagues in the world with the 45 players who played in the league last season, at least 10 more than any other league in the world.
The 2018 NHL Draft marks the seventh consecutive year that 40 or more players that played in the USHL have been selected at the NHL Draft. In addition, 14 of the 17 USHL member clubs had at least one player selected who played in the nation's only Tier 1 junior hockey league, with 12 teams having multiple players chosen.Seven players with USHL ties were selected in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft on Friday, including Brady Tkachuk (Team USA), who was taken fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators. Other first round selections included Andrei Svechnikov (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Quinn Hughes (Team USA), Oliver Wahlstrom (Team USA), Joel Farabee (Team USA), Jay O'Brien (Youngstown Phantoms) and K'Andre Miller (Team USA).
The USHL had at least four players selected in every round of the 2018 NHL Draft, including 16 of the 31 picks in the fourth round and 37 total draftees through the first four rounds. 51 of the 57 USHL players chosen who were chosen are either committed to Division 1 college hockey or have already begun their college hockey careers.
The Youngstown Phantoms, co-owned by Black Bear Sports Group, had 5 players drafted, 3 of which played a full season last year and 2 that played partial.
In addition, 9 NAHL players were drafted over the weekend at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft including Washington Capitals 4th round selection, Mitchell Gibson. Gibson, a 6’1″ goalie from Phoenixville, PA, played for the Lone Star Brahmas during the 2017-18 season in the NAHL’s Southern Division and earned a commitment from Harvard University.
The NAHL offers elite junior hockey players (ages 17-20) the opportunity to develop, learn, train, grow and succeed, while playing for free. The North American Hockey League is unique in the fact that a vast majority of players begin their careers without an NCAA scholarship, but earn one through the course of their development in the league along with exposure to professional scouts.
During the 2016-17 season, the NAHL set a new single-season record with 305 NCAA commitments, with 70% of those being NCAA Division I commitments. In addition, 2 NAHL players that played in the league this past season were selected in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Over the course of the last five seasons, 1,200 NAHL players have made NCAA commitments and 17 have been drafted into the NHL.
The Maryland Black Bears will undergo their first season in the NAHL this September at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, MD. The Black Bears will host their main camp July 26-29 at Rockville Ice Arena. The tryout will be open to the public.
Maryland-based sports and entertainment group reach terms with Troy and Aafke Loney
Chevy Chase, MD – Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. (“Black Bear”) has acquired the co-ownership position in the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League owned by Troy and Aafke Loney. The Zoldan family retained their existing co-ownership of the team and the Phantoms will remain in Youngstown. Black Bear, led by CEO and Founder Murry Gunty, is a Maryland-based sports and entertainment company that owns and operates ice arenas, junior hockey franchises in the NAHL and EHL, and youth sports events. Mr. Gunty is also the majority owner of SuperSeries AAA, a leading organizer of AAA youth hockey tournaments and tournament travel teams in North America.
Black Bear worked closely with Phantoms Fireworks owner, Bruce Zoldan to complete the transaction. Mr. Gunty will serve as Chairman of the Phantoms and has named his SuperSeries partner, NHL veteran and longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain, Keith Primeau, as Vice Chairman. “We are thrilled to be part of the USHL family and to partner with Bruce Zoldan, his family, Bill Weimer and the rest of the Phantoms family” said Mr. Gunty. “The USHL is recognized across the globe as one of the world’s top junior hockey leagues. No league sends more players to college hockey than the USHL and that will continue to be our top priority in Youngstown.”
Co-owner Bruce Zoldan is excited for the newest chapter of the Phantoms. “We look forward to the new partnership with Murry, Keith and the Black Bear team,” said Mr. Zoldan. “Our new partners bring experience and expertise to this organization that we expect will have a positive impact on the team and the community. We have a wonderful partnership with Mayor Brown, City Council, Eric Ryan and the Covelli Center staff in place that we can continue to build upon. On behalf of this entire organization I’d like to thank Troy and Aafke for their leadership and friendship.”
Keith Primeau will oversee all hockey operations as Vice Chairman of the team. “I am excited to join the Phantoms and look forward to building on the team’s successes from last season,” said Mr. Primeau. “Having had two of my boys play in the USHL, I have a strong appreciation for just how competitive the league is and how it prepares players for NCAA and pro hockey. I know how passionate Murry is about the game of hockey and I am excited to be working with the Zoldans and the Phantoms team to improve upon their great season this past year.”
Black Bear Sports Group will work closely with the Zoldans to assume business and hockey operations, and fill key leadership and sales positions previously held by the Loneys. In addition to the Phantoms, Black Bear owns and operates two other junior hockey franchises: the Maryland Black Bears of the North American Hockey League and Team Maryland of the Eastern Hockey League—both based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Youngstown acquisition brings new leadership to the Phantoms’ organization as well as a pipeline of players from Black Bear’s NAHL and EHL junior teams and its ‘AAA’ youth programs at its network of ice rinks such as the Mercer Chiefs and Team Maryland AAA. Black Bear will prioritize advancing its youth and Tier-II/III junior players up to the USHL.
About Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. is a privately held company formed by Murry Gunty in 2015 that seeks investments in sports and entertainment facilities, teams and youth sports events. Our arenas are clean and professionally managed, and offer world-class recreational offerings. We focus on ice arenas in metropolitan areas with compelling demographics, markets with a National Hockey League club presence and arenas with existing youth hockey clubs. We have the ability to acquire healthy and stable arenas, but also to turn around under-managed or under-performing facilities. Black Bear currently owns and operates nine arenas across the United States with a total of 17 sheets of indoor ice, two indoor turf fields, two youth hockey clubs and three junior hockey franchises in the USHL, NAHL and EHL.
About the United States Hockey League
The USHL is the pinnacle of American junior hockey with 17 member teams. Thirty or more players from the USHL have been selected in each of the past five consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools. The USHL is one of the world’s top producers of junior hockey talent.
Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Murry Gunty, 240-223-1333