BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 USHL Phase I Draft, Stephen Halliday, will play for the Central Illinois Flying Aces in the 2018-19 season, Flying Aces head coach and general manager Mike Watt announced on Wednesday.
“We are very excited to have Stephen on board for this year,” Watt said. “Adding him to our roster for the upcoming season was one of the main priorities we had as a staff this offseason. He will strengthen our left side and bring an added scoring threat to our forward group.”
The return of Calen Kiefiuk and Jeremy Davidson, who finished first and third in scoring for the Flying Aces in 2017-18, and the acquisitions of offensive playmakers Trevor Janicke and Max Ellis will give the Flying Aces a dangerous supporting cast around Halliday, according to Watt.
“With Janicke and Ellis at center for us this year, Stephen will have some very skilled players down the middle to compliment his game,” Watt said. “Having an elite playmaker like Stephen that has proven goal scorers around him like Janicke, Ellis, Kiefiuk and Davidson will make this a really fun group to watch this year."
Already being regarded as a potential first-round pick for the 2020 NHL Draft, Halliday will become the first Phase I pick to play for the Flying Aces in the season immediately following his USHL Draft selection. The USHL Phase I Draft is reserved for the youngest birth year eligible to play in the USHL the following season. USHL teams selected only 2002-born players in the 2018 USHL Phase I Draft, including Central Illinois’ selection of Halliday.
Forward Stephen Halliday (above) will become the Flying Aces' first USHL Phase I Draft pick to play for the team in the season immediately following his selection in the USHL Draft.
A 6-foot-3, 203-pound winger, Halliday brings a diverse skill set to the table and will give the Flying Aces another big body in their group of forwards.
“Halliday just has the look of a pro hockey player,” Watt said. “He’s a powerful, smooth skater with a very high hockey IQ and exceptional control of the puck. He was very impressive at our Main Camp here in Bloomington in June and showed an ability to create and finish plays. His offensive creativity and size are going to be huge assets for our group this year.”
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Halliday is coming off a big 2017-18 season for the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA. He finished fourth in the GTMMHL in scoring with 83 points on 36 goals and 47 assists in 59 games. He also had his first taste of junior hockey, playing two games in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) with the Markham Royals.
“With the player acquisitions we’ve made through this year’s draft and trades last year, we feel that this is going to be the most talented offensive team we’ve ever had, and Halliday is going to be a big part of that,” Watt said.
Halliday and the Flying Aces start the 2018-19 regular season with the 2018 Fall Classic in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, from Sept. 27-30, while the home opener is slated for Saturday, Oct. 6 at Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington.
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 www.flyingaceshockey.com.
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.