Tuesday, May 19, 2009

North Stars set for NAHL Entry Draft

The off-season has officially begun, with the United States Hockey League’s draft last week, the North American Hockey League holding its own pick party on Wednesday and numerous tenders, trades and collegiate influences across the board.

“It’s a little bit like trying to hit a moving target,” Traverse City North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo explained. “You’ve got guys weighing their options, be they college or different leagues, and our job is to wade through some of that and put together the best roster to compete for a Robertson Cup.”

Palumbo got things started this week, acquiring Kenai River defenseman Rodney LaLonde for a second-round pick, sending a third-rounder to St. Louis to complete last summer’s deal that brought in all-star blue-liner Travis White, and handing out his final two tenders to Honeybaked midget major stars Will Kessel and Andrew Huff.

LaLonde, a Utica native and 1992 birth-year defender, played in 30 games for Kenai last season, recording an assist and 47 penalty minutes. Huff led Honeybaked with 23 goals over 45 games in 2008-09, while Kessel – who has compiled 113 points in 105 career midget contests over three years – had 11 goals and 17 assists last year, including a team-best five game-winners.

“Both the Honeybaked tenders were taken in the USHL Draft and they’re studs,” Palumbo said. “We’re hoping we can get them in here.”

Current North Stars C.J. Motte and Dean Pawlaczyk were also selected in the USHL entry draft, while college interests still mitigate the direction of several other players from TC’s 2008-09 roster.

“Some of that we really have no control over,” Palumbo explained. “We have three picks in the draft and we’ll be looking for high-end kids that can make an immediate impact with us. All those moving parts don’t necessarily change how we approach it. We have some real momentum here and we’re looking for players who can help us take that next step.”

Unlike most leagues, the NAHL will not release traditional round-by-round draft results on its site, but will post the names of the players who were selected in alphabetical order some time after the conclusion of the event.

The draft kicks off at 2 p.m. eastern.

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