10 BCHL players selected in 2021 USHL Phase II Draft


The United States Hockey League held Phase II of its draft on Thursday and when the dust settled after 22 rounds, 10 players who skated in the BC Hockey League during the 2020-21 pod season were chosen.

According to the BCHL website, eight of the players selected are committed to NCAA schools for this coming September. The other two players chosen are uncommitted as of this writing.

All being drafted in the USHL means is that team holds the player’s rights for the upcoming season in the league. For those players earmarked for the NCAA this fall, they very well may head to college and never play in the USHL. For those players without a college commitment who are eligible to return to their BCHL club, they may decide to do just that and never play in the USHL.

Each of the 10 BCHLers selected on Thursday is a 2002-born player while four of them are defensemen and six are forwards.

Two players selected skated with the Surrey Eagles in 2020-21, ditto for the Chilliwack Chiefs and Vernon Vipers. Members of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Trail Smoke Eaters, Powell River Kings, and Victoria Grizzlies were also chosen.

Fitzgerald, Taylor, and Buhr among the first 50 picks

Surrey forward Christian Fitzgerald, who led the BCHL in scoring with 13 goals and 33 points in 19 games, went in the first round, 13th overall to the Tri-City Storm. The Minnesota State University commit was named BCHLNetwork most valuable player and a First Team All-Star after the pod season ended.

Vernon defenseman Trey Taylor was drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms in the third round, 31st overall. He is committed to Clarkson University for this September. The veteran had nine points in 20 games for the Vipers in 2020-21. It’s actually the second time he’s been selected in the USHL Draft after the Tri-City Storm took him in the 4th round, 52nd overall in 2019.

Alberni Valley forward Brandon Buhr, who’s committed to Clarkson for this fall, went to the Lincoln Stars in the 4th round, 49th overall on Thursday. He put up 15 goals and 28 points in 20 games as a rookie for the Bulldogs in 2020-21 and was named to the BCHLNetwork Second All-Star Team.

The fifth round and beyond

Chilliwack rookie forward Ray Fust was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede in the 5th round, 63rd overall on Thursday. The Swiss-born commit of the University of Nebraska-Omaha posted eight goals and 10 points in 20 games for the Chiefs this past season. He also represented Switzerland and the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship, finishing with an assist in four games.

Surrey forward Michael Abgrall, who was drafted by the Chicago Steel in the 6th round, 89th overall, is set to join Fust at UNO this September after notching eight goals and 16 points in 18 games for the Eagles in 2020-21. This is the second time the Steel have used a draft pick on Abgrall after taking him in the 6th round, 87th overall, in the 2019 USHL Futures Draft.

Victoria defenseman Nick O’Hanisain is one of the few US-born BCHL players selected in Thursday’s draft. He went in the 6th round, 90th overall to the Des Moines Buccaneers. The product of Detroit had two goals and three points in 10 games as a rookie with the Grizzlies this season. He was also chosen by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 4th round, 58th overall, in the 2018 USHL Futures Draft.

Chilliwack forward Ethan Bowen is a Western Hockey League Bantam Draft pick, a National Hockey League Draft pick, and now a USHL Draft pick. Bowen was selected by the Tri-City Storm in the 8th round, 108th overall after posting 11 goals and 21 points in 19 games with the Chiefs this season. He is committed to the University of North Dakota for this September and the Anaheim Ducks selected him in the 7th round of last year’s NHL Draft.

More BCHLers selected in rounds eight through 10

Powell River defenseman Ben Brunette was selected by the Waterloo Black Hawks in the 8th round, 120th overall. The UMass-Lowell commit for this fall had four goals and 10 points in 20 games for the Kings this season after coming over from the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League.

Forward Chase Dafoe of the Trail Smoke Eaters went to the Omaha Lancers in the 9th round, 131st overall on Thursday. Dafoe, who served as Smoke Eaters captain in 2020-21, finished with three goals and eight points in 20 games. As of this writing, the Beverly, MA product has yet to commit to an NCAA school.

The final BCHL selected in the USHL Draft was Vernon defenseman Sam Duerr, who was chosen by the Fargo Force in the 10th round, 152nd overall. Duerr is listed on the BCHL website as committed to the University of Maine this fall. He had a goal and four points in 16 games as a rookie with the Vipers this past season.

It’s the third time Duerr has been drafted by a USHL club after the Force took him in the 11th round, 164th overall in 2020, and the Waterloo Black Hawks selected him in the 9th round, 133rd overall in 2019.

Three alumni drafted

Phase II of the USHL Draft also saw three former BCHL players and three incoming players for 2021-22 selected.

2001-born forward Joey Larson (14 goals, 19 assists in 52 games with Chilliwack in 2019-20) went to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 2nd round, 27th overall. Larson finished the 2020-21 season with the New Mexico Ice Wolves of the North American Hockey League. He started the season with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars before being released in January after posting a pair of goals in 10 games. Larson is committed to Northern Michigan University for this September.

Tyler Kostelecky (four goals, three assists in 15 games with Alberni Valley in 2019-20) was selected in the 6th round, 86th overall, by Tri-City. The 2001-born forward posted 31 points in 36 games with Minot of the NAHL this past season. He is set to join Arizona State University this fall.

Defenseman Dylan Finlay (18 assists in 40 games with Powell River in 2019-20) had his USHL rights land with Sioux City after the Muskateers nabbed him in the 16th round, 235th overall. The 2001-born blueliner posted two goals and 11 points in 33 games with the NAHL’s Maryland Black Bears in 2020-21. He’s committed to the University of Vermont starting in 2021-22.

Three 2021-22 recruits drafted

Merritt Centennials recruit Joe Fleming was drafted by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the 6th round, 91st overall. The 2003-born defenseman from Wellesley, MA was announced as an incoming player for the Cents in 2021-22 in April. He had two goals and an assist in six games for the North Suburban Wings 18U AAA this past season. Fleming also got into nine games with the Northern Cyclones of the National Collegiate Development Conference but didn’t register any points.

Incoming Wenatchee Wild defenseman David Hejduk was selected by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 11th round, 163rd overall. The 2004-born blueliner is already committed to Harvard for the 2023-24 season. Wenatchee announced in December that Hejduk was joining the Wild for the 2021-22 BCHL season. He played eight games this season with the Colorado Thunderbirds 16U AAA and didn’t score any points.

Towering 2005-born Vernon Vipers recruit Luke Ashton was drafted by Muskegon in the 15th round, 224th overall. The 6-foot-5, 203 lbs. defenseman committed to the Vipers for 2021-22 back in February. Ashton, who’s from North Vancouver, BC, played four games this season with Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League and didn’t find the scoresheet.