Tyler Wishart wasn’t sure if his name would be called as the United States Hockey League began its draft on May 4.
The top junior hockey league in the country, the USHL is the USA’s equivalent of the three Junior A leagues in Canada — the Quebec Major Junior League, the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League — and allows amateurs age 16 through 21 to skate, most with hopes of landing college scholarships. It also can lead to playing in the more competitive Canadian junior leagues or selection in the National Hockey League draft.
Wishart, a sophomore at John Jay, was coming off a season where he scored 24 goals and assisted on 17 more in the 19 games he skated for the Indians, who, after back-to-back Section I/Division 2 championships, were dethroned in the sectional final by Rye.
This past winter, Wishart also played for the Westchester Express elite travel team, combining to score 18 goals and post 30 assists in 57 games, 45 games with the U16 team and a dozen with the program’s 18U squad.
“My coach (Eric Conway from the Express) was contacting me before the draft and wasn’t 100% sure that I would be drafted, and it was up in the air for who might draft me if I was to be selected,” Wishart said. “I was watching the draft in and out as I saw my name selected by Lincoln in the seventh round.”
He added, “I was very excited for the opportunity and was grateful to be selected by that program.”
The Lincoln (Nebraska) Stars play in the USHL’s eight-team Western Conference. Teams play a 62-game regular season schedule. Unlike the Canadian junior leagues, players in the USHL do not receive a stipend.
Listed at 5’10” and weighing in at 152 pounds, Wishart has time to fill out his frame. He already possesses good on-ice vision, is an excellent skater and has a knack to be in the right place at the right time to finish at the net, an attribute that is not easily taught.
“From what I hear, the USHL is a great junior league, which is very helpful for improving your game and very competitive while also having lots of fun with your teammates,” Wishart said.
Rounding out the USHL are eight teams that form the Eastern Conference. The league covers eight states in the Midwest.
The United States Development Program also has a pair of teams, the National 18U and National 17U teams, which plays an interlocking schedule with the USHL.
Wishart began playing hockey when he was 7 years old with the Ridgefield (Connecticut) Lions.
“(I) played there (Lions) for quite a time, say around five years,” Wishart said. “Then I played at Express for two years then went over to the Junior Whalers in Connecticut for two years and ended up playing with Express last year and will play for their U18 team next year.”
He added, “I really think every program has helped me grow as a teammate and a player.”
Also a standout lacrosse attackman for John Jay, Wishart may face a decision down the road on whether to pursue that sport or hockey on the next level.
“I think that may be a possibility, but hockey has been my favorite sport for a while now and have loved the game for a long time, so I think if it comes down to that, I will choose hockey,” he said.
Either way, he is not leaving for the Midwest just yet.
“I have made the decision to stay at John Jay for my junior year and then evaluate my options for my senior year,” Wishart said.