Thursday, May 22, 2008

North Stars get defensive in draft Wednesday

The Traverse City North Stars stockpiled defensemen during Wednesday’s North American Hockey League entry draft, tabbing five blueliners in an effort to re-tool a defensive unit that lost more than half its personnel to the NAHL’s age limit.

“Between the guys we have coming back, the tenders, the (draft) picks, and the guys we see at our camps, we’re going to have a pretty solid unit back there,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We looked at it as an area of need, given our returning numbers, and now we’ll have a lot of good players from which we can assemble our defense.”

Wednesday’s rearguard parade included a pair of Honeybaked midget major products in Mike Miller and Jared Beers, Cody Walsh – a teammate of current Stars tender Chris Salamone with the Chicago Young Americans midget program – as well as Madison (Wis.) Capitols d-man Tyler Krueger and Mitch Kriz, a Junior A-tested player from the Ontario-based Greater Metro Hockey League’s Elliot Lake Bobcats.

Kriz, the senior member of the draft class with one year of junior eligibility remaining, is coming off a productive campaign for Elliot Lake in which he registered 12 goals and 29 assists in the regular season, and three goals and 12 assists in 11 playoff games. He describes himself as an offensive defenseman with a defensive-minded orientation.

“I wasn’t sure I’d get drafted because of my age,” said Kriz, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder from Berwyn, Ill. “Playing in the North American League is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and found out about juniors. I’m extremely excited for the opportunity, and really want to make the most of it.”

Palumbo says the TC scouting staff has had Kriz on their radar for a while.

“We really like Tyler’s experience – he’s a very mature kid,” Palumbo explained. “He has the ability to control the play, to be a power play guy for us. The staff has known about him for a couple years now – since he was in midgets, anyway.”

Walsh and Salamone led the Young Americans to a 15-8-3 mark in the Midwest Elite league. The 6-foot, 185 -pound Walsh – a product of Rolling Meadows, Ill. - had a trio of goals to go with six assists in 22 league games.

“Cody is a property of the (USHL’s) Indiana Ice, so we’ll have to see how it plays out,” Palumbo said. “If he doesn’t end up with Indy, we’d hope he would consider coming to Traverse City.”

Miller, a Northville rearguard who was also drafted by the Ice, has already committed to play for Bowling Green State University in 2009. He tallied 21 points and 168 penalty minutes over the course of 75 career MWEHL contests.

“What a strong and aggressive player,” Palumbo remarked on the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder from Mishawaka, Wisc. “He’s just the type of kid that (Stars associate head coach) Mike (Matteucci) would love to coach. He can dictate the flow of a game with his physical play.”

Beers played in 25 MWEHL contests last year, amassing a pair of goals, six helpers and 31 penalty minutes for Honeybaked, the same program that produced current TC defenseman Chris Heineman. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder hails from Mishawaka, Ind., but was born in California.

“Jared has good size, and is one of those steady players that is smart with the puck,” Palumbo said.

Krueger is a 6-foot, 175-pounder from Stevens Point, Wisc., who studied under longtime NHL standout Gary Suter.

“You know Tyler was exposed to some pretty good coaching and experience in Madison,” Palumbo said. “He’s a skilled player with a lot of offensive capabilities as well.”

The first chance for Palumbo, his staff, and Stars fans to see the five draftees will be at the North Stars’ final open tryout camp of the off-season, June 13-15 at Centre ICE arena. Palumbo, for one, can’t wait.

“The kids who can come back, the tenders, the picks, and the campers – that’s going to be great to get as many of them together as we can and really get to see what we’re all working with,” he said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to get what we’ve gotten so far up front (at forward). Now we can kind of put it all together and find our team. It’s an exciting time.”

No comments: