Wednesday, May 21, 2008

North Stars ready for today's NAHL draft

Junior coaches spend countless hours preparing for draft day – weekends lodged in various rinks around the state and beyond, and hundreds of plan-busting minutes spent on the phone with a network of scouts, coaches, acquaintances, and former teammates.

Traverse City North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is no different, but don’t ask him to tip his hand on the eve of the 2008 North American Hockey League entry draft, set for Wednesday afternoon via teleconference.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea where we want to go with our picks,” a demure Palumbo stated. “Between seeing a lot of hockey, our scouting staff of Steve Witt, Bob Spence and Jim Capy, and the various contacts we all have in different parts of the country, we think we have a pretty solid group (of players) to choose from.”

The Stars pick eighth in Wednesday’s draft, in which the club has five selections. A trio of new NAHL franchises – Albert Lea (Minn.), Wenatchee (Wash.), and Owatonna (Minn.) – will kick off the draft in a randomly-assigned order. The NAHL will have 19 teams this year, as Fargo-Moorhead ceased operations, and Texas will take a one-year hiatus as their home rink in Frisco, Tex., undergoes renovation.

Each NAHL team is allotted eight tenders which secure players’ NAHL rights and renders them undraftable by other teams in the league. The Monday tender deadline set the protected lists, and now Palumbo & Co. can go to work.

“The draft is used to fill any holes you might have in your roster,” Palumbo explained. “You have the USHL draft this week and the Canadian major junior draft last week and now you get some idea of who is out there, who is the property of which teams, and where you need to beef up.”

None of the current Stars returnees or tenders were selected in the USHL draft, although goaltender Chris Paliafito did show up on the Indiana Ice protected list.

The North Stars have taken defensemen in two of the three of the club’s previous drafts: Iowa prep star Lucas DuBay in 2005 and Blind River’s Tyler Stephens last May. Center Mike Dahlinger from Chatham (Ont.) was TC’s top pick in 2006.

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