#USPHLAlumni: More Than 200 Players Have Reached The World’s Top Eight Pro Leagues
Success In The NHL And Pro Hockey Around The World
The USPHL has seen 14 of its alumni play in the National Hockey League, as well as 36 NHL Entry Draft selections of USPHL regulars.
USPHL alumni skating regular shifts in the NHL include Buffalo star forward Tage Thompson (P.A.L. Jr. Islanders), Pittsburgh's John Marino and Seattle's Ryan Donato (both former South Shore Kings), as well as a fantastic group of USPHL 16U and 18U alumni such as Philadelphia's Joel Farabee, Columbus' Andrew Peeke and the New York Rangers' Zac Jones.
NHL Success Stories
Drew O’Connor, Pittsburgh Penguins
Boston Junior Bruins / NCDC / 2017-18
O’Connor became the first player in the brief five-year history of the National Collegiate Development Conference to reach the NHL. A star player for the Boston Junior Bruins in the inaugural NCDC season of 2017-18, he scored 39 points in 49 games before moving on to a two-year career with the Dartmouth College Big Green. In 2020-21, he signed pro with the Pittsburgh Penguins and played in his first 10 NHL games that season, registering one assist. In 2021-22, O’Connor played in 22 games for the Penguins and added five points, in addition to his first two NHL playoff games. He has also played in 53 games for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins through 2021-22
Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders / USPHL 16U / 2013-14
The Glendale, Ariz., native Thompson hit the ice in 2013-14 with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders' 16U squad, posting 17 goals and 31 points in just 16 USPHL 16U league games.
From there, Thompson's star continued to rise, as he joined the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 Team as a 16-year-old. The next spring, in 2015, Thompson helped Team USA to a Gold Medal in the World Under-18 Championships.
Thompson started his two-year NCAA career with the UConn Huskies as a 17-year-old, and was drafted in the first round, 26th overall, by the St. Louis Blues at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He also suited up again for Team USA at the 2017 World Junior (Under-20) Championships and helped the U.S. win Gold.
He made his pro debut with the San Antonio Rampage in 2016-17, and his NHL debut the next year with the Blues, tallying 41 games. He was traded to the Sabres in the blockbuster Ryan O'Reilly trades. He has become an NHL star, racking up 38 goals and 78 points in 2021-22, his best season to date. In 182 games with the Sabres, he has scored 94 points, with the vast majority coming this past season.
John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins
South Shore Kings / USPHL Premier / 2013-15
Marino was a big standout defenseman for the first Kings teams to play in the USPHL in 2013-14, and he returned for an even better second season in 2014-15, which stood actually as his fourth junior season with the Foxboro-based Kings junior organization. In addition to 56 games played in the USPHL Premier Conference - at the time the top level of the NCDC - he also played in 12 games at the USPHL 18U level.
In 2015, he became the third player to be drafted by the NHL out of the USPHL Premier but he has seen the most success of that first batch of USPHL draft-worthy talent. After a Tier I season and three strong years with Harvard University in NCAA Division I hockey, Marino signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins (who had acquired his rights from the Edmonton Oilers, who had drafted him). Now entering his fourth NHL season, Marino has become a staple of the Penguins blue line, playing in 189 regular season games, scoring 64 points, and adding two assists in 17 NHL playoff games.
Ryan Donato, Seattle Kraken
South Shore Kings / USPHL Premier / 2014-15
John Marino’s teammate in 2014-15 played 13 games in the USPHL Premier prior to a whirlwind career that saw stops at Harvard University (again, with Marino), the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and now most recently as part of the inaugural Seattle Kraken in 2021-22. He has skated in 259 NHL regular season and playoff games, scoring 108 points.
Andrew Peeke, Columbus Blue Jackets
South Kent Selects Academy / USPHL 16U-18U / 2013-15
Peeke was among the earliest stars of the USPHL Midget Divisions, playing two full seasons at the USPHL 16U and then USPHL 18U levels, prior to advancing to Tier I hockey in the USHL. Three seasons followed in the NCAA, which saw him attain the captaincy of the University of Notre Dame - as a junior! He split the next two seasons between the Blue Jackets and their AHL affiliates the Cleveland Monsters, before playing his first season exclusively in the NHL in 2021-22, racking up 15 points in 82 games from the Blue Jackets’ blue line.
Joel Farabee, Philadelphia Flyers
South Kent Selects Academy / USPHL 16U-18U / 2014-16
Farabee is another big success story from the USPHL Midget ranks, rising up from the 16U and 18U levels to two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He captained the 2017-18 U.S. NTDP Under-18 squad. It only took one season at Boston University to convince the scouts with the Philadelphia Flyers that he was NHL-ready. He made his NHL debut in 2019-20, skating in 182 NHL regular season and playoff games, registering 98 points over his first three productive seasons in the big show.