BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The United States Hockey League announced on Thursday that Central Illinois Flying Aces head coach and general manager Mike Watt has been added to the coaching staff for next week’s USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Watt becomes the third representative for the Flying Aces at the prestigious NHL Draft event, joining Central Illinois defenseman Mike Callahan and goaltender Zach Stejskal.
In his first season as head coach and general manager, Watt is the first coach in team history to serve on the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game coaching staff, including the three seasons the team was known as the Bloomington Thunder. Watt will serve as an assistant coach for Team East and will coach both Callahan and Stejskal.
A native of Seaforth, Ontario, Watt is in his third season with the organization and spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the team when it was known as the Bloomington Thunder. In his first season with the team in 2015-16, Watt played a key role in guiding the Thunder to their first-ever USHL Clark Cup Playoffs appearance. That same season, Watt helped mentor the team’s first two NHL Draft picks, Mitchell Mattson and Jeremy Davies. Both Davies and Mattson were selected at the 2016 NHL Draft.
In addition to his coaching resume, Watt also has NCAA Division I and NHL playing experience. After a three-year career with Michigan State, Watt played 10 seasons professionally, including five seasons in the NHL.
2018 marks the sixth time, and fourth consecutive year, that the USHL will be hosting the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. The USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game features the top NHL Draft-eligible players throughout the league in preparations for the 2018 NHL Draft. The 2018 NHL Draft will be held June 22-23 in Dallas, TX at the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Stars.
Central Illinois heads on the road this weekend for a pair of games before next week’s USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which will take place on Jan. 9 in Kearney, Nebraska, at the Viaero Center, the home of the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. The Flying Aces face Green Bay on Friday night in Green Bay before traveling to Waterloo, Iowa, on Saturday for a matchup against the Waterloo Black Hawks.
Known as the Bloomington Thunder from 2014-17, the newly-rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the next stars of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2017-18 season, there were 128 active USHL alumni on NHL rosters, with at least one USHL alumnus playing for each of the 31 teams. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20 years old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit flyingaceshockey.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.