By WJBC Staff
CHICAGO – Three players who have suited up for the Bloomington Thunder were selected over the weekend at the second day of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center.
All three selections were defenseman, as Ben Mirageas (Providence College) became the highest drafted player in team history, going 77th overall to the New York Islanders. Affiliate defenseman Nicky Leivermann and Wyatt Kalynuk, who served as an alternate captain for the Thunder in the 2016-17 season, were selected in the seventh round with the 187th and 196th overall picks, respectively. Lievermann was selected by the Colorado Avalanche. Kalynuk was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Mirageas, who was drafted by the Thunder in the 2015 USHL Phase I Draft, played parts of two seasons with Bloomington. The Newburyport, Massachusetts, native made his USHL debut with the Thunder on March 10, 2016 and eventually played 49 career games with Bloomington. During the 2016-17 season, Mirageas posted 10 points in 45 games which included his first career USHL goal on Feb. 9 against Youngstown. Mirageas finished the season with the Chicago Steel and helped the Steel win the 2017 Clark Cup championship.
Kalynuk became the third player in Thunder history to finish the season on the team’s final roster and then be selected in that season’s NHL Draft. Although Kalynuk was not listed on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings for draft prospects, the Virden, Manitoba, native impressed with a stellar final season in the USHL. A University of Wisconsin commit, Kalynuk finished seventh in the league among all league defenseman in scoring with his 31 points. He played in all 60 games in the 2016-17 season and led all USHL defenseman in shots on goal with 159. After starting his USHL career with the Lincoln Stars in 2014-15, Kalynuk played two seasons with the Thunder and posted 55 points (9 G, 46 A) in 119 career games with Bloomington.
Nicky Leivermann became the second pick of the draft for the Thunder, as he was selected in the seventh round. Part of Bloomington’s affiliate list for the past two seasons, Leivermann played nine total games in his USHL career for the Thunder, including eight games during the 2016-17 campaign after finishing up his junior year at Eden Prairie High School (MN). The University of Notre Dame commit posted his first career goal on March 18, 2017 against the Lincoln Stars. At Eden Prairie, Leivermann posted 85 career points on 26 goals and 59 assists and was a finalist for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, which is given to the top high school player in the state.
Bloomington set a new high for one draft with the three selections after having the first two draft picks in team history at the 2016 NHL Draft. Mitchell Mattson (University of North Dakota) was the first draft pick in team history, going in the fifth round, 126th overall to the Calgary Flames in the 2016 NHL Draft, while Jeremy Davies went in the seventh round, 192nd overall to the New Jersey Devils last year.
With three more defensemen selected at this year’s draft, four of the five draft picks in the Thunder’s history are defensemen. Mattson is the only non-defenseman to be selected.
Including the Thunder’s three draft picks, there were 48 players with USHL ties selected in the 2017 NHL Draft. Among the 48 players selected, 40 played in the USHL this past season, setting a new record for the league. There were also eight USHL alumni chosen in the two-day event. With at least 30 USHL players selected at the 2017 NHL Draft, the league now boasts five consecutive seasons of at least 30 draft picks.