Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Marquette Rangers slowly taking shape

By CRAIG REMSBURG, The Mining Journal

Steadily, the new Marquette Rangers Junior A hockey team under coach Leigh Mendelson is taking shape.

General manager David Saint-Onge said the club has signed six players to free agent commitments known as “tenders.” He declined to identify those players, however, until after the North American Hockey League entry draft on May 23.

“I’d rather the public evaluate a group of players ... rather than one or two at a time,” Saint-Onge said.

Including a trade he said gave the team two additional tenders, the Rangers have 12 overall to go with five NAHL draft picks.The Marquette club will have the overall No. 1 selection, as well as the top pick in four subsequent rounds to help fill out a 23-player roster.

“As an organization, we’ve scouted league games, talent showcases, and state and national championship tournaments in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania,” Saint-Onge said.“The entry draft is another way we’ll secure the services of players we feel can help us be successful.”

He said six or more roster spots could be up for grabs after the draft.

“There will still be plenty of opportunity for players to join the Rangers other than the tenders and draft picks,” Saint-Onge said.“Leigh has been out recruiting players for our team and regional tryout camps since his (coaching) season ended with the (Green Bay) Gamblers,” he added.

“He has been to Philadelphia, Chicago twice, Minneapolis, Madison (Wis.) and Toronto.

“Leigh has talked to hundreds of prospects ... We’ve been at it pretty diligently.”

Mendelson concurred.

“We’re making every effort to form a team that’s instantly competitive in the NAHL,” he said. “We think our fans will be pleasantly surprised.”

The Rangers plan to hold four open tryout camps: May 19-21 in Marquette; May 26-28 in Chicago; June 9-11 in Boston; and June 23-25 in Detroit. Registrations from 48 forwards, 24 defensemen and 12 goalies will be accepted for each tryout camp, according to Rich Tegge, the Rangers’ director of hockey operations. A final invitation-only camp is planned at a date to be determined in July in Marquette, from which the Rangers’ 2006-07 roster will be determined.

“We hope we can get a look at a wide variety of players at our Marquette tryout and sign some more players before the draft,” Saint-Onge said.“But a handful of tenders may not be committed until our follow-up camps in the other areas.”

The Rangers are currently seeking an assistant coach, and Saint-Onge said he hopes to unveil the team’s jersey at a press conference the morning after the NAHL draft.

“A lot is going on,” he said. “it’s all pretty exciting.”

Next for the Rangers
May 19-21: Tryout in Marquette
May 23: NAHL draft
May 24: Tenders announced
May 26-28: Tryout in Chicago
June 9-11: Tryout in Boston
June 23-25: Tryout in Detroit
July: Invite-only tryout in Marquette
September: Rangers begin play

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