On Tuesday, the Dubuque Fighting Saints completed Phase II of the USHL Draft. Phase II is much different than Phase I. In Phase II, players selected usually already have juniors experience or even college experience and are the players who are expected to fight for a spot on the team. Unlike Phase I, this draft doesn’t have a set number of rounds for each team. Dubuque took 19 players in 15 rounds and was finished, while some teams went through 20-plus rounds. Much like we did yesterday, we will take you through the picks, round by round, with a big assist from Kalle Larsson with player analysis.
Round 1- G Erik Portillo, 6’6’’ 207lbs, Goteborg, SWE
The Fighting Saints were looking for a goalie and they got their man early, with the 5th overall pick. Portillo is a big goalie, who has played hockey in Sweden his whole life. The Michigan commit was nearly impenetrable during his time last season with Frolunda HC J20 in the SuperElit league. In 26 games, Portillo produced 1.99 goals against and a .931 save percentage.
“Going in to the draft we felt that goalie was a big priority of ours. Portillo was number one on our list and we were happy to get him. He played for a very big club in Sweden and we love his drive to be successful.”
Round 2- No Picks
Round 3- F Mark Cheremeta, 5’10’’ 165lbs, Parkland, FL
After not having a second-round pick, the Fighting Saints grabbed a college returnee with their third-round selection. Cheremeta played last season with Boston University. Cheremeta has minimal USHL experience, playing three games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks during the end of the 2016-17 season. Last season he had three assists with BU.
“Cheremeta has been at BU for a season but we are happy he has a chance to play for us now. He is a super skilled player in a lot of areas, and he can make plays all over the ice. That’s what you will see from him a lot is his playmaking ability.”
Round 4- F Matthew Kopperud, 5’10’’ 170lbs, Denver, CO
Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The Fighting Saints have an Arizona State commit. With their fourth-round selection, the Saints grabbed Kopperud, a BCHL veteran with a commitment to Arizona State. Kopperud spent last season with the Merritt Centennials and notched 51 points in 49 games. 27 of the 51 points were goals.
“As you can tell by his years in the BCHL, he already has junior experience under his belt. He just loves to shoot the puck and that is a great quality. To us, he is a game ready forward because of the two things mentioned above.”
Round 5- D Jordan Halverson, 6’3’’ 192lbs, F Robert Cronin, 5’10’’ 181lbs, F Reggie Millette 5’11’’ 181lb
In round five, the Saints had three selections in the span of eight picks. They started off with a theme that was prominent in their Phase I draft, a big defenseman. Halverson comes in with a year of NAHL experience as he was with the Janesville Jets last season. In 51 games he had 19 points from the blue line. Cronin, a University of New Hampshire commit, was selected next. The prep school product played last season with the Gunnery Prep and was second on the team in scoring behind Saints affiliate Alex Jefferies. The final selection of the round was another NAHL talent, Reggie Millette of the Austin Bruins. Millette gives the Saints some experience grit, as he totaled 145 penalty minutes last season. He also pitched in nicely with 12 points.
“In round five we grabbed three players who we feel really bring depth to our lineup. Two of them have previous junior experience in the NAHL and the other (Cronin) has experience at a very high Prep School level with a good team in the Gunnery.”
Round 6- D Ben Schultheis, 6’3’’ 209lbs, F Gabe Temple, 6’0’’ 185lbs, F Antonio Venuto, 6’3’’ 201lbs
Another round, another three picks for the Fighting Saints. Once again, the team kicked it off with a defenseman followed by two forwards. The Saints first pick in Schultheis finished the season with the Minnesota Magicians in the NAHL but began it with the Green Bay Gamblers. He had three points in 22 games with Green Bay and 13 in 27 with Minnesota. Schulthies is a big right shot defenseman. Shortly after, the Saints acquired Temple, who has a year of NAHL experience under his belt. Last season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights, he had an even split with 18 goals and 18 assists. The final selection of the round was Jamestown Rebels forward, Antonio Venuto. He again had solid numbers in the NAHL with 28 points in 53 games.
“We knew we wanted more right shot D and Ben was a player we have seen at this level before and liked. The other two players really continued to add to our selections who have experience in the league and can provide the team with a great depth of skill.”
Round 7- G Aidan McCarthy, 6’0’’ 161lbs, Novi, MI
After a solid stockpile of defensemen and forwards, the Saints went back to between the pipes for their seventh-round selection. McCarthy has been a player at Saints Main Camp in years past and recently finished his first season with Victory Honday U18. In 12 games he had a miniscule 1.22 GAA and a .949 save percentage.
“We have seen Aidan before at our camps and we liked what we saw then. He is a very talented kid who works hard and we are excited to see what the future holds for him.”
Round 8- D Tyler Love, 5’10’’ 170lbs, D Adam Kolcon, 6’1’’ 185lbs
Another round with more than one selection, the Saints opted to go with two defensemen, both right shot D. Love played last year with the Corpus Christi IceRays in the NAHL. With Corpus Christi he had 17 points in 58 games. Kolcon, also a right shot defenseman, played for the Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL. In 34 games he racked up 17 points from the blue line.
“The goal was simple in this round. As I mentioned earlier, right shot D are tough to come by. We took two in this round who both have junior experience and we feel can add to our team.”
Round 9- F Thomas Middleton, 5’11’’ 176lbs, Midland, MI
With just a single selection in round nine, the Saints went back to adding to their forward corps. Middleton, another NAHL product of the Janesville Jets, had 24 points in 53 games with the team last season. He also finished the year with a solid plus-15.
“We like Thomas because he is a hard-working forward who can play both ways. He has a very strong two-way game which is beneficial at the higher levels. He also can play any scenario: power play, penalty kill, end of game etc.”
Round 10- F Shane Ott, 5’11’’ 161lbs, Centennial, CO
Ott was the second selection for Dubuque in the Phase II Draft with AJHL ties. The forward played last season for the Drumheller Dragons and was essentially a point per game player with them. In 56 games he had 58 points. Ott’s stats suggest more of a playmaking ability, with 16 goals and 40 assists.
“Shane clearly has a lot of skill, being able to produce the way he did in his first season at the AJHL level. We are really excited to see what he brings in camp.”
Round 11- F Kyle Bettens, 6’3’’ 190lbs, Winnipeg, MB, CAN
Bettens, a Bemidji State commit, played sparsely last season with the Fargo Force, but largely skated with the Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL. If that name sounds familiar, it is because both Riese Gaber and Matthew Thiessen played for Steinbach and won a championship last season. Bettens had 29 points in 40 games for Steinbach.
“We know more on Bettens because we had two players who played for the same team as he did. He is a skilled player with lots of raw ability so that is always exciting to see.”
Round 12- F Peter Kramer, 5’9’’ 154lbs, Bridgewater, MA
Kramer comes in to the fold with a Providence commitment already under his belt. Last season he played for both Boston College High and the Cape Cod Whalers U16 team. With Cape Cod, Kramer had 18 points in 20 games.
“He is a hardworking player and we really covet that. He is relentless on the puck and he is also really good on the forecheck. All of that builds to a very solid player who can be dependable.”
Round 13- F Zach Aughe, 6’3’’ 201lbs
Aughe is another forward who already has a college commitment under their belt. Aughe is committed to Maine, where both J.D. Greenway and Matthew Thiessen are committed. Last season Aughe was with Victory Honda U18 and had 24 points in 27 games for the squad.
“We liked Aughe because of his versatility. He is a right shot forward with good size, but more importantly he has the ability to play all forward positions on the ice.”
Round 14- F Jack Cronin, 5’10’’ 174lbs, Hamilton, MA
No relation to Robert, Jack was simply the second Cronin taken in the draft by Dubuque. Jack played for Noble and Greenough School for his third season at the Prep level. In his third year, he was able to notch 44 points in 29 games, nearly doubling his total from the past two seasons combined. Cronin is a Princeton commit for the 2020-21 season.
“He is a very skilled goal scorer. He will go on our affiliate list and then play for us in a bit, that’s the plan we had when we drafted him.”
Round 15- D John Fusco, 5’9’’ 154lbs, Westwood, MA
The Saints final selection, 19th of their draft, was defenseman John Fusco from Dexter School in the Prep circuit. Fusco finished his second season with Dexter with 16 points in 20 games. The year before he had 13 in 12 contests.
“John is a mobile defenseman who always works hard when he is on the ice. He also has a very good stick which is beneficial for defenseman, especially at the USHL level.”