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Flying Aces poised for success at 2018 NHL Draft

By Flying Aces Staff, 06/22/18, 1:15PM CDT


Several players with Central Illinois ties on radar for this weekend's event

DALLAS — The future stars of the NHL converge on Dallas, Texas, this weekend with the 2018 NHL Draft set to take place this Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, at the American Airlines Center, the home of the Dallas Stars.

With five draft picks in team history, all of which have come in the last two seasons, the Flying Aces look to add to that list over the next two days. 

Below is more information regarding the Flying Aces' draft prospects, the draft itself, and the United States Hockey League’s history at the event.


Mike Callahan, D (Franklin, Mass.)
2017-18: 59 GP - 3 G, 15 A

Bio: The Providence College commit played nearly two-thirds of the season with the Flying Aces before he was traded to the Youngstown Phantoms late in the season to help Central Illinois build for the 2018-19 campaign. The 145th-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings, Callahan played in 59 total games in the 2017-18 USHL season, his first full season in the USHL. A 6-foot-2, 197-pound, left-handed shot, Callahan made his USHL debut with the then-Bloomington Thunder in the 2016-17 season and tabbed his first USHL goal with the Flying Aces against the Sioux City Musketeers on Dec. 15, 2017. 

Mitchell Chaffee, F (Rockford. Mich.)
2017-18: 39 GP - 13 G, 11 A (UMass Amherst)

Bio: After playing two seasons with the then-Bloomington Thunder, Chaffee stormed onto the NCAA Division I scene, excelling in his freshman season with UMass Amherst in the 2017-18 season. Chaffee tied for the team lead with his 13 goals and finished second in scoring for the Minutemen with 24 points. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound, right-handed shot, Chaffee played in 89 career games for the Thunder, posting 14 goals and 10 assists in that span. If selected, Chaffee would become the first alumni to be picked at an NHL Draft. He is the 203rd-ranked North American skater on the NHL CSS Final Rankings. 

Peter Diliberatore, D (Bedford, Nova Scotia)
2017-18: Flying Aces affiliate - 28 GP - 4 G, 13 A (Salisbury School)

Bio: The 144th-ranked North American skater on the NHL CSS Final Rankings, Diliberatore was on the Flying Aces' affiliate list during the 2017-18 season. The then-Bloomington Thunder selected Diliberatore in the ninth round, 137th overall in the 2017 USHL Phase II Draft. He posted 17 points in 28 games for Salisbury School this past season. 

Mitchell Gibson, G (Phoenixville, Penn.)
2017-18: Flying Aces affiliate - 43 GP, 26-7-5-4. 1.59 GAA, .935 save % (Lone Star Brahmas - NAHL)

Bio: The NAHL's Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year, Gibson is the 16th-ranked North American goaltender on the NHL CSS Final Rankings. A Flying Aces affiliate during the 2017-18 campaign, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound netminder is expected to be a key piece for the Flying Aces in the 2018-19 season. Gibson would be the first NHL goaltender prospect to play in Bloomington if he's selected this weekend. Forward Mitchell Mattson and defenseman Nikolas Koberstein are the only other players in team history to be drafted and then play in Bloomington the next season. 

Tyler Madden, F (Deerfield Beach, Florida)
2017-18: 50 GP - 15 G, 19 A

Bio: A Northeastern University commit, Madden played 18 games with the Flying Aces to start the season, recording 14 points in that stretch. The 5-foot-11, 152-pound forward, Madden was ranked 39th on NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings and could become the highest draft pick with Flying Aces ties in team history. Ben Mirageas, who was selected in the third round, 77th overall by the New York Islanders at the 2017 NHL Draft, is the highest draft pick in team history. 


When: Friday, June 22 (Round 1) & Saturday, June 23 (Rounds 2-7)
Where: Dallas - American Airlines Center
Round 1: Begins at 6:30 p.m. (CT) on Friday, June 22
Round 2: Begins at 10 a.m. (CT) on Saturday, June 23
TV: NBC Sports Network (Friday)/NHL Network (Saturday)
Flying Aces Draft history: The Flying Aces, then known as the Bloomington Thunder, had their first-ever NHL Draft picks at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, New York. Mitchell Mattson became the first NHL Draft pick in team history when the Calgary Flames selected him in the fifth round. Current Northeastern University defenseman Jeremy Davies then became the second-ever selection when the New Jersey Devils chose the defenseman in the seventh round. Three more players were selected at the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, as Ben Mirageas (RD 3, 77th), Nick Leivermann (RD 7, 187th), and Wyatt Kalynuk (RD 7, 196th) went on day two of the draft. 


  • The USHL had 62 current players and 14 alumni on NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft. 
  • Since the USHL's Tier 1 Era began in the 2001-02 season, more than 250 USHL alumni have been selected at the NHL Draft. 
  • There were 40 current USHL players chosen at the 2018 NHL Draft. That total is the most in the USHL's Tier 1 history, which dates back to the 2001-02 season. 
  • The 2018 NHL Draft saw 48 players with USHL ties get drafted. Included among those 48 players were eight USHL alumni. USHL alumni are defined as players who have played in the USHL but not during the most recent season preceding the NHL Draft. To be considered a current USHL player for the 2018 NHL Draft, that player must have played in the USHL during the 2017-18 season. 
  • During the 2016 NHL Draft, a league record of 10 players with USHL ties were selected in the first round, including Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. 
  • The most USHL players taken in one draft, including USHL alumni, was 51 during the 2014 NHL Draft. 
  • There have been at least 40 current USHL players and alumni selected in each of the last six drafts.
  • At least five current USHL players or alumni have been drafted in the first round in each of the last four NHL Drafts, including 25 first-round picks over the last three drafts. 
  • The Chicago Blackhawks have selected 38 USHL players all-time at the NHL Drafft. The Blackhawks lead all NHL teams in terms of players drafted with USHL experience. 


Season tickets and Mini Plans for the 2018-19 season are on sale now. For tickets or more information, call the Flying Aces at 309-434-2980 or visit

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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 or or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.