Friday, July 29, 2011

Sarnia signs Grand Ledge native Boucher

The Sarnia Sting announced today that the hockey club has signed forward Reid Boucher to an OHL contract and education package.

“This caps off a great week for our hockey club," said Sarnia coach-GM Jacques Beaulieu. "First to be able to sign Connor Murphy and now to add a player the caliber of Reid is very exciting for us. Reid is a pure goal scorer and a big game player who played some of his best hockey in leading his country to a gold medal at the Under-18 World Championships.”

Boucher was a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft this past June in Minneapolis.

Originally the Sting’s 14th round pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection, the Grand Ledge native played last season with the U.S. Under-18 Team in the USHL.

Boucher lead the U.S. team in scoring at the U-18 Worlds with eight goals and two assists in just six games.

“This was a very difficult decision for Reid and his family," said Beaulieu. "At the end of the day, the Boucher’s decided this was the best decision to further his development as a player but still have the security of a OHL education scholarship package.”

Miller chooses Whalers two years later

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the signing of 18-year-old forward J.T. Miller, who was originally selected by the Whalers in the fifth round (93th overall) of the 2009 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

After spending the last two seasons in Ann Arbor with the U.S. National Team Developmental Program, Miller was taken this summer in the first round (15th overall) by the New York Rangers in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

The Rangers signed Miller to an entry-level contract on Thursday.

“J.T. is a skilled power forward,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “He already plays what we call Whaler hockey. Given a little time, he should fit in well in Plymouth.”

“I’m very excited to finally get to Plymouth,” Miller said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I’ve had to make a couple of tough decisions over the last few weeks, but I’m happy to get up there and am ready to play. The two other first-rounders (Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell) on the team are great players. Plymouth looks like a strong team with one of the best coaches in the league – if not the best, in my opinion. I’ve seen Plymouth play a few times, especially when Tyler Seguin was there, and it was great to watch.”

“We love the way J.T. plays the game,” said Gordie Clark, the Rangers director of player personnel. ”Everyone who went out to see him came back with (the opinion that) every shift J.T. takes is identical – he expends himself in his skating game and his physical game, making plays and crashing the net. He has all of those qualities and he uses them on every shift.”

“I’m a big forward who likes to use my speed to my advantage,” Miller said. “I try to get pucks to the net and be in front of the net as much as possible.”

“He’s got good size,” said Bob McKenzie of when the Rangers selected Miller at the NHL Entry Draft. “He plays a real, hard physical game, gets in hard on the forecheck and makes things happen. From February on, his game really took off. He elevated his game and played his best hockey of the season at the Under-18 World Championships in April. He was a real force.”

Miller led Team USA in scoring with 13 points in six games en route to capturing the gold medal. Miller was selected by coaches as Team USA’s top player during the tournament.

The addition of Miller gives the Whalers three players who were selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft – Miller at 15th overall, Noesen, who was taken by Ottawa 21st overall and Rakell, who was taken by Anaheim 30th overall. Other Whalers taken in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft include Garrett Meurs by Colorado (5th round, 123rd overall) and Matt Mahalak by Carolina (6th round, 163rd overall).

Other current Whalers who are NHL draft picks include goaltender Scott Wedgewood by New Jersey (3rd round, 2010), defenseman Austin Levi by Carolina (3rd round, 2010) and center Jamie Devane (3rd round 2009) by Toronto, who may return to the Whalers this season as an overage player.

Miller is expected to report with the rest of the Whalers on Sept. 1 for the start of training camp.

Photo courtesy Tom Sorensen

Port Huron opens final tryout camp

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons opened their final tryout camp of the off-season today at Hazel Park Ice Arena. Roughly 100 players hit the ice, and the Fighting Falcons’ scouting team began the three-day process of finalizing the 2011-12 roster.

Each player will compete in five scrimmages over the course of the camp’s first two days, along with rigorous off-ice testing to gauge their strength, agility and athleticism. The best performers will earn a spot on one of two all-star teams, playing two more games Sunday.

While the majority of the competitors are from neighboring cities in Michigan, players from across the country and the globe have brought their talents to Hazel Park, including prospects from Russia and Sweden.

Roughly half of the 2010-11 Fighting Falcons skaters are taking part in the camp, hoping to return to Port Huron for another season in the NAHL. Joining them are other draft picks and tendered players that make up the team’s off-season protected list.

Most of the rest of the players earned their invitation to the tryout at one of two previous open tryouts in May and June. In addition to those trying out for a 2011-12 roster spot are a handful of younger prospects hoping to earn themselves a tender for the 2012-13 season.

After just three scrimmage games, it is clear that the Fighting Falcons’ coaching and scouting staff will be faced with increasingly tough decisions as the camp moves forward.

With a full off-season of scouting at their disposal for the first time, the Fighting Falcons have brought in dozens of high-level players to camp. The camp has also drawn coaches and scouts of several other junior and midget major teams, as well as college scouts.

Though most of the onlookers at the arena are parents and scouts, members of the Fighting Falcons Booster Club have made their way to Hazel Park as well, catching their first glimpse of players that may soon make Port Huron a temporary home.

Nearly a dozen Blue Water Area natives have taken the ice at camp, including draft picks Alex Archibald and Brett D’Andrea and tendered goalie Max Milosek.

The Fighting Falcons final tryout camp will continue throughout the weekend, with scrimmages taking place from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, and all star games at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the camp is free to the public.

North Stars ready to go camping

In an ever-changing junior hockey landscape, the Traverse City North Stars will have fewer intradivisional neighbors this season.

With the departure of Chicago, St. Louis, Springfield, and Janesville to the newly-congealed Midwest Division, the North is sporting a five-team alignment for 2011-12. Traverse City, Michigan, and Port Huron return from a year ago, along with first-year franchise Kalamazoo. The Motor City Metal Jackets moved to Jamestown, N.Y. in the off-season, but will remain in the North Division.

“That’s just how it is with a growing league,” said North Stars head coach Chad Fournier. “As the footprint continues to grow and evolve, it’s just a natural consequence. This alignment does cut down some on travel, but we still have trips to Janesville, Chicago and Jamestown.”

The five-team setup also increases the percentage of teams qualifying for the playoffs. While only half – four of eight – made the North Division playoffs in 2010-11, eighty percent of the North (Four of five) will make the postseason this time around.

“That takes a little bit of the pressure off, the way it has in other divisions with only five teams in years past,” Fournier continued. “The learning curve might not be as steep, but it should once again be a competitive division.”

The North Stars soared to their first-ever 40-win campaign in 2010-11, finished second to St. Louis in the divisional standings, but were ousted by Michigan in the first round of the playoffs, three games to one. Port Huron managed just six wins in 58 tries in their first season, but return a bevy of players with junior-A experience.

“Port Huron is gong to be so much better – in fact, they may be the early favorite,” Fournier explained. “They didn’t have tenders or draft choices last year with the late start they got. They’ve had a full off-season this year, have a new coach, and are bringing back a lot of talent. By the end of last year they had improved immensely.

“In Michigan, you have the national runners-up, and they have a strong program down there, so they’ll be right in it. Jamestown has a great owner and a lot of guys back, so they’ll be strong again as well.”

Fournier, GM Anthony Palumbo, and the coaching staff are busy with the final phase of re-stocking the North Stars’ coffers this weekend at Centre ICE Arena, as draft picks, tenders, returning vets, and the cream of the summer camp crop battle it out for spots during the club’s annual training camp. The weekend will culminate on Sunday with the selection of the 2011-12 roster. More than 50 players converged on Centre ICE on Friday morning for the event, with three teams facing off in scrimmages Friday and Saturday morning. That number will be trimmed to two teams for Saturday evening and Sunday morning all-star games before the team is picked.

“We basically have about 10 players coming back, so it’s pretty wide-open,” Fournier said. “We have a lot of good players here and they’ll get a good, long look.”

LOCALS STOCK CAMP: In addition to the three returning veterans from Traverse City – Eric Rivard, Mitchell Snider, and Jared Van Wormer – at least seven other northern Michigan products were on hand for the opening of training camp: Jacob Peacock (Bay Reps), Frank Gilbert and Carson Omilusik of Traverse City West HS, Cooper Macdonell and Kyle Froese of Traverse City Central, and Alex Grizzel (Belle Tire U16) and Eric Jones (Lansing Capitals U18) who both spent last year in midget programs. Will Badner of Cadillac is also in camp.

Seeler wants Clark Cup with Muskegon

If you mailed a script about Nick Seeler’s National Hockey League Draft experience to Hollywood, there’s a chance the story would be returned to sender.

The Eden Prairie, Minn., native became the first member of the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ organization to be drafted by an NHL club when the Minnesota Wild chose him with the 131st overall pick in the fifth round of the 2011 Entry Draft. The Wild just happens to be the club Seeler grew up watching and admiring with his father, Dan. Factor in the draft taking place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and the tale is almost too good to be true.

“I had to pinch myself, sit back and enjoy it,” Seeler said, laughing.

Seeler’s father wasn’t his only fan joining him at the draft. After “enduring” an interview and photo shoot following his selection, he was greeted by his parents, grandparents, sisters, several former coaches and friends in the arena’s family section. It was time to celebrate.

“It was an unbelievable feeling. I thought there was a good chance I’d get drafted, but you never truly know,” Seeler said. “Being selected was one of the best feelings ever, and I have to admit it was pretty surreal.”

“Nick being selected is great for the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the community as a whole,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “He is an excellent two-way defenseman who makes a real good outlet pass and does a good job getting pucks to the net. That's why his name shows up on the score sheet."

About a month has elapsed since the draft, and Seeler is working out like he never has before, especially since he knows Jacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier will take the regimen to whole new level come September.

Seller is ecstatic to have an opportunity to work with all the Jacks’ coaches, given the team’s success in its inaugural campaign and all the coaches’ pre-Muskegon achievements.

“What I’m looking forward to most is learning from their experience,” Seeler said. “They know how to win and that shows in the great year they had last season. Coach Patrick is someone I can’t speak highly enough about. He’s a great guy and a competitor, and I can’t wait to play for him.”

Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis credits the Jacks’ Minnesota scout, Chris LaCombe, for tabbing Seeler early on. Seeler’s had the United States Hockey League tabbed as his league of choice for several years.

“I’m looking to get stronger and faster,” Seeler said. “I know Muskegon is the perfect spot for me to get ready for the college level and eventually playing in the NHL. The USHL is a breeding ground for outstanding hockey players.”

Last season, Seeler opted to wait one more year to play in the USHL, so that he could finish the story he started writing with his Eden Prairie High School teammates when they were mites. His decision to stay in Minnesota paid massive dividends, as they won the Minnesota High School state title. As a result, he knows a thing or two about the importance of team chemistry.

“That’s a huge part of being successful,” said Seeler, who posted 43 points (9 goals, 34 assists) in 31 games last season. “If you don’t get along with everyone, you’re not going to win games, let alone win championships. That’s been one of the most important things about our Eden Prairie squad.

“Winning the state championship in my senior year, with guys I’ve played with since I was a mite…you can’t have a much more storybook ending than that.”

There are many more chapters to be written in Seeler’s hockey story. After his time in Muskegon, he’ll attend Noel-Bernier’s alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Omaha with Lumberjack alum Jaycob Megna. Then it will be on to the show. For the moment, Seeler is focusing on the page at hand.

“All I can think about now is hoisting the Clark Cup with my teammates in Muskegon,” Seeler said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spirit sign Dallas first-rounder Oleksiak

The Saginaw Spirit have announced the signing of defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to an Ontario Hockey League contract.

Oleksiak was selected in the first round, 14th overall, by the Dallas Stars in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Spirit head coach and GM Todd Watson and his staff has been recruiting Oleksiak since the team selected him 138th overall in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection.

“We have been after him for a couple of years, similar to how we were after Brandon Saad leading up to last season," said Watson. “This is an important signing that helps to strengthen our defense and we look forward to him coming into camp, adjusting to the caliber of OHL hockey and contributing in the 2011-2012 season.”

The 6-foot-7, 240-pound native of Toronto played for the NCAA’s Northeastern University Huskies last season, where he enjoyed a solid season recording four goals and 13 points in 38 games as a freshman. Prior to that, he spent time in the USHL with both the Chicago Steel and Sioux Falls Stampede.

Oleksiak has dual citizenship with the United States and Canada and this season, he decided to pass on an invitation to the US World Junior team camp to try out for the Canadian World Junior squad. The Canadian National Junior Team’s Summer Development Camp is scheduled for Aug. 3-7 in Edmonton, Alberta. Oleksiak has previous international experience representing the United States in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

"Adding an elite defenseman as Jamie is another step to our goal to win an OHL championship," said Saginaw assistant GM Jim Paliafito. "Oleksiak reminds me of a young Derian Hatcher.”

“Jamie’s unique size makes him a difficult player to play against," said Tim Bernhardt, director of amateur scouting for the Stars. "He has made great strides in the past year showing potential on both side of the puck."

"With the addition of Jamie Oleksiak to the Spirit roster, Todd Watson and his staff have continued to build the foundation of a top contender,” stated Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin. “The sports fans of the Great Lakes Bay Region are in for a really fun season with this year's Spirit team poised to do great things as we celebrate ten years of Spirit hockey."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

OHL free agent Rowe signs with Sarnia

Sarnia Sting head coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu announced this week that the hockey club has signed forward Robert (Lou) Rowe to an OHL contract and education package.

Beaulieu is happy to have the native of East Lansing signed.

“Robert was brought into our mini-camp as a free agent invite and he really opened a lot of eyes," said Beaulieu. "He is a big forward who really asserted himself during that camp. We are pleased that Robert and his family chose to sign an OHL contract and education package to further continue his development both on the ice and in the classroom.”

Rowe played last season for the Lansing Capitals U18 of the North American Prospects Hockey League.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

North Stars' Opie chooses Lake Superior

Traverse City North Stars
forward Tim Opie is a study in determination.

For three seasons, Opie paid his dues and developed in the North American Hockey League. Now that determination has paid off for Opie as he has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Lake Superior State University.

“Obviously, it’s a very happy day for me and my family,” said Opie from his home in Troy. “It’s a great feeling to know I am going somewhere familiar and play with some guys that have been teammates and opponents before. It makes the transition to playing college hockey much easier.”

Opie is the 13th player from the Traverse City North Stars roster to have committed to an NCAA school. To date, the NAHL has over 100 NCAA college commitments from the 2010-11 season alone, almost all of them committing to college while they played in the NAHL.

Former North Stars head coach and general manager Anthony Palumbo says that Opie deserves a chance to prove himself at the NCAA Division I level.

“Tim was a big part of the success we have had here in Traverse City in the last three years,” remarked Palumbo. “He played in all game type situations and he will be a big part of the Lake Superior State program in the future.”

After originally breaking into the league with Wichita Falls in 2008-09, Opie was traded to the North Stars halfway through the season. However, Opie was no stranger to hockey in the state of Michigan. Prior to the NAHL, Opie played with the Little Caesars’ Midget Major program in 2007-08.

His father, Tim Opie, Sr., is a former head coach in the NAHL, having coached the likes of Doug Weight, Tim Thomas and current North Stars head coach Chad Fournier with the Lakeland Jets in the early 1990’s.

“I really think my dad was my biggest influence growing up,” said the younger Opie. “I got to see what the NAHL was like at an early age and always aspired to get to that level one day.”

The remainder of his junior career was spent with Traverse City of the NAHL becoming a better, more well-rounded hockey player.

“I just had to stick with the program and work hard," said Opie. "It wasn’t easy, but I invested myself into the team and the coaching and it ultimately paid off.”

Opie was instrumental in the recent North Stars resurgence. In 2009-10, Opie had 31 points in 53 games in his second year in the league, but he saved his best hockey for the post season, where he led Traverse City all the way to the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament in Wenatchee, Wash., where the team finished third. Opie was second on the team in playoff scoring that season with 10 points in 10 games.

Opie picked up this past season right where he left off the previous year, scoring plenty of points. Come late November, Opie showed he was ready for a bigger stage as he went on a tear for the ages. From November 20-January 29, Opie would score at least a point in 17 of the 18 games he played in, scoring 31 points in that stretch.

Opie finished the season as Traverse City’s leading scorer with 60 points in just 58 games played and was named NAHL North Division Player of the Week on November 1. He also appeared in February’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, where he represented Team North, leading the team in scoring during the three games against all-star teams from the three other divisions in the NAHL.

“It makes the three years in the NAHL all worth it and I am convinced it was the right path,” said Opie. “I will be a better, more well-rounded player in college because of it and I am glad with the decisions that I made.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Milosek happy to land in Port Huron

Next weekend, goaltender Derek “Max” Milosek will compete with a group of other top prospects for a spot on the Port Huron Fighting Falcons’ 2011-12 roster, as the team holds their final tryout camp of the off-season at Hazel Park Ice Arena.

The 18-year-old was acquired by the Fighting Falcons when they traded the third overall pick in the 2011 NAHL draft for a tender, giving them his rights before he was eligible to be drafted. Port Huron’s front office was worried that the netminder may be taken by the expansion Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings with the first overall pick.

“When I was tendered I was really happy and excited to be picked up by Port Huron,” Milosek said. “It’s close to home and my family can come watch.”

Milosek began last season with the Motor City Metal Jackets, a North Division rival of the Fighting Falcons in the NAHL. In nine starts with the Metal Jackets, Milosek earned a 5-4 record, with a goals-against average of 3.09 and a .907 save percentage.

A Lapeer native, Milosek saw his rights traded to the Topeka Roadrunners, though he opted to instead play for the Detroit-based Honeybaked U-18 team. Milosek has said that the proudest moment of his hockey career was winning the state tournament as Honeybaked’s goalie last season.

In 20 games with the midget major powerhouse, Milosek earned a sterling 11-1-4 record, dropping his goals-against average to 2.41.

Playing for the Fighting Falcons would give Milosek the opportunity to return to the NAHL while staying close to home.

Milosek’s career goals mirror those of most NAHL players, as he hopes to play Division I college hockey.

Jimmy Davis, who the Fighting Falcons had also tendered, will see that goal come to fruition when he will play for the Michigan Tech Huskies this season. Rudi Pino, who was Port Huron’s assistant captain last season, will also head to Michigan Tech, where he has been given preferred walk-on status at their tryout camp.

The Fighting Falcons’ final tryout camp will take place July 29-31, at Hazel Park Ice Arena at 1555 East Woodward Heights Blvd., Hazel Park. Admission is free to the public. The camp will consist mainly of scrimmage games throughout the weekend, ending with an all-star game Sunday at which the 2011-12 roster will be selected.

All players who earn roster spots will report to Port Huron in August, with the team’s training camp taking place August 22-27. Following practice August 27, fans will have the opportunity to meet the players and conduct an informal Q&A session with the coaching staff.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Muskegon's Thrush off to UNH year early

Following an outstanding season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Casey Thrush has accepted a scholarship to attend the University of New Hampshire this fall and skate for the Wildcats during the 2011-12 season.

The Easton, Md., native posted 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) and finished second on the team with a +8 plus/minus rating in his rookie United States Hockey League season.

“We’re thrilled for Casey Thrush, and he’s headed to an outstanding program,” Lumberjacks owner and CEO Josh Mervis said. “Today is a great day, because this is what we’re about here – developing great athletes and preparing them for life both on and off the ice.”

Thrush planned to continue his development in Muskegon this fall and attend UNH in 2012. But an injury to another incoming freshman opened a spot, which was offered to Thrush Friday night. After consulting his vast support system, Thrush decided Monday morning to accept the scholarship.

“I feel very ready, thanks to my time playing for the Jacks. My development in Muskegon was two-fold,” Thrush said. “I got the chance to truly embed myself in the Muskegon community. That’s something I’ll never forget. As for on the ice, the competition in the USHL and all I’ve learned from (Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick and assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier) brought me to the point where I feel prepared to make the jump to college hockey.”

Thrush admits his decision was a difficult one.

“I met so many good people in Muskegon and so many of my friends were going back,” Thrush said. “But I had to do what was right for me, and that was playing college hockey.”

Thrush consulted his family, the Jacks’ coaching staff and many others for insight. He leaned heavily on Team Maryland head coach and general manager Jason Kersner. Thrush posted 117 points in 72 games for Kersner’s AAA Midget Major team during the 2009-10 season.

“Coach Kersner knows me as a person, and I’ve always looked at him as an advisor,” Thrush said. “I took his advice, and the advice I got from Coach Patrick and Coach Noel-Bernier to heart.”

Thrush, in anticipation of another season in the premier junior league in the nation, has strictly adhered to Noel-Bernier’s legendary workout regimen.

“I’ve been working out like crazy,” Thrush said. “This season at UNH, I need to find a way to make myself a valuable player in the lineup. Whether it be by killing penalties or just routinely finishing my checks, I just need to make myself valuable.”

Thrush is the 12th member of last year’s squad who will play college hockey this fall.

“I feel very blessed to leave such a great situation like I had in Muskegon and step right into another one,” Thrush said.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

North Stars trade for Cadillac's Badner

With a bevy of departures to the NCAA ranks and United States Hockey League, the Traverse City North Stars made a move to help bolster their forward corps, trading for Motor City Metal Jackets winger Will Badner.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Cadillac native scored 12 goals and assisted on 10 others over 50 games in 2010-11, and will be counted on to help restock the Stars’ goal pantry.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to get a player like Will,” said Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier. “We get some experience and some scoring punch, plus he’s a local kid. We saw him at the beginning of the year last season, then again at the end of the year and there was a lot of progress, a lot of improvement. It’s a good pickup.”

Badner was All-Big North Conference first team and Division III All-State first team as a senior at Cadillac High in 2010 before joining the Metal Jackets for that team’s final season in metropolitan Detroit. The Jackets are now the Jamestown (N.Y.) Ironmen after relocating this summer, but will remain in the North American Hockey League’s North Division.

Badner will join a group of veteran returning forwards that includes Alec Shields (51 points over 50 games in 2010-11), Alexander Taulien, Michal Toman, Chris Waterstreet and fellow local products Eric Rivard, Jared Van Wormer and Mitchell Snider.

“We have a good group returning up front, with the returning guys and our picks and tenders,” Fournier continued. “But this final open camp will be an important one in terms of finding some pieces to the puzzle. We’re hoping for a good turnout and getting to find the last few touches to the roster.”

The North Stars will put a cap on camping season with the final open tryout camp, set for July 26-28 at Centre ICE Arena. The club’s annual training camp will follow July 29-31 at Centre ICE, and will feature the top players from the summer as well as returning vets, tenders and draft picks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Canton's Tate chooses Bowling Green

Lincoln Stars forward Brent Tate has committed to play college hockey at Bowling Green following his USHL career and will enroll at the school in the fall of 2012.

Tate played 42 games for the Stars during the 2010-11 season, scoring 26 points (10g, 16a) while posting a plus-eight rating. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound forward also led the team with 144 penalty minutes. Tate finished the season strong by scoring nine points (4g, 5a) over his final nine games and earning a plus-seven rating.

It was the second USHL season for the Canton native after playing 23 games for the Stars in 2009-10.

Photo courtesy Jeff White

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

North Stars' Heinz chooses Wentworth

For the past two seasons, Curtis Heinz has helped engineer one of the stingiest and most productive defensive units in the North American Hockey League.

Come fall, the former Traverse City North Stars blueliner will do the same – on and off the ice – at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

Heinz, a native of Grand Rapids, came to the North Stars in an off-season trade from Wichita Falls ahead of the 2009-10 season. He immediately assumed a full workload, anchoring the TC defensive corps along with Travis White. In his two seasons with the Stars, Heinz compiled three goals and 34 assists in 102 regular season games, including a stellar +33 plus-minus rating over that span.

“Talk about a stead, steady, all-around performer,” said Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier. “First of all, he’s a great kid and a tremendous student, and he always did whatever was asked of him, played whatever role we need him to play. He really developed into a great leader for us, too. He deserves to play at the next level, and he has all to tools to succeed there on the ice and in the classroom.”

Wentworth is a private engineering and technical arts college with around 3,800 students and a sterling academic reputation. Heinz, who boasts an impressive 3.9 GPA and scored a 26 on his ACT, says his decision to go with Wentworth was based on scholastics and familiarity.

“First of all, the strong engineering program attracted me,” said Heinz, who plans to study electro-mechanical engineering. “And I know a few of the guys on the team, so there was a certain comfort level in that as well. My approach is always school first, hockey second, but they’re both big commitments and I look forward to the challenge.”

The Jaguars, who play in the NCAA Division III East Coast Athletic Conference, finished 14-9-4 overall last season, including a 10-3-1 mark in ECAC action. Wentworth made it to the ECAC Northeast finals last March before bowing out to Curry College in overtime in the championship game.

With four years of junior hockey seasoning, Heinz says he is well-prepared for the rigors of collegiate hockey.

“Juniors helps you develop the necessary work ethic, learn good practice habits, and manage your time,” he explained. “And Traverse City was a great place to play. Everything was first-class, from the coaching staff and (majority owner) Raj (Wiener), to my awesome billet family (Adam and Amanda Hilt).

“I also owe a lot of thanks to my family. My mom and dad and (brother) Grady have always supported me and played a big part in helping me try to reach my goals.”

With Heinz and White (Ferris State) headed to school in the fall, and another TC tandem of defenders (Connor Schmidt, Chris Dienes) likely headed to the USHL, Fournier, GM Anthony Palumbo and the North Stars coaching staff have been hard at work looking to re-tool the Stars’ defense this off-season. Those efforts will continue at the club’s final open tryout camp of the summer, set for July 26-28 at Centre ICE Arena. The top players from that camp – as well as returning vets, tenders, and draft picks – will convene at Centre ICE on July 29-31 for the annual invite-only training camp. The Stars’ 2011-12 roster will be picked following the three-day event.

“We have a lot of good players, but it’s still an ongoing annual process and there are still spots to be won,” Fournier added. “That final open camp will be an important step in assembling what we feel will be another strong team. We’re all pretty excited about it.”

Whalers sign first-round pick Dempsey

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 16-year-old left wing Mitchell Dempsey, who was selected by the Whalers in the first round (11th overall) of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League draft.

Dempsey, from Cambridge, Ont., scored 38 goals with 34 assists for 72 points and 76 penalty minutes in 55 games for the Cambridge Hawks last season.

He participated in the Whalers rookie orientation in May, scoring twice over two scrimmages.

“We’ve had success in developing power forwards – guys who play with skill and strength,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “It may take a little time, but Dempsey has the chance to be a player in the mold of James Neal (now with the Pittsburgh Penguins) or Jared Boll (Columbus Blue Jackets).”

After seeing Plymouth during rookie orientation, Dempsey is ready to get going during Whalers training camp, which begins with players reporting back to the area in late August.

“It was great coming in and meeting everyone at rookie camp,” Dempsey said. “It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but we were able to see everything and get settled. I can’t wait to get started.”

Photo courtesy of the Dempsey family

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saginaw's top 2011 pick Moutrey signs

The Saginaw Spirit have announced the signing of Nick Moutrey, their first round pick (15th overall) in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

Moutrey, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward, netted 43 goals and 46 assists for 89 points last season with the York Simcoe Express.

Moutrey was recently invited to the Team Ontario Under-17 camp. He will be wearing No. 91 for the Spirit.

According to the OHL scouting report, Moutrey is a very intelligent hockey player who makes a lot of smart touches with the puck and makes solid decisions on the ice. He is a great offensive player who has size, a very good stick, and can get up and down the ice effectively. He plays in all the tough areas and uses his size to his advantage protecting the puck.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Povorozniuk signs with Saginaw

The Saginaw Spirit have announced the signing of Sam Povorozniuk, their second round pick (36th overall) in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

Povorozniuk, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound winger from Northbrook, Ill., scored 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points with the Chicago Steel last season. Povorozniuk was recently selected to play for the US Under-17 Select Team that will compete internationally this August.

He will wear No. 95 next season for the Spirit.

According to the OHL scouting report, Povorozniuk is a highly skilled and smart offensive minded forward who possesses a ton of natural ability. He has high end stickhandling skills, great footwork, speed with and without the puck, and excellent acceleration with a special ability to find that extra gear to create separation from defenders.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Burns the latest Jet to commit to college

This time a year ago, Tommy Burns thought his hockey career was over after a bout with mononucleosis shelved him for the entire 2009-2010 season.

After a summer filled with workouts and skating, Burns earned a spot up front with the Metro Jets and after a solid season in 2010-2011, will skate for Lindenwood University in suburban St. Louis this fall.

Burns becomes the second Jets player this offseason to commit to play college hockey after Justin Bennett, who will play for Concordia University this fall.

“A little over halfway through the season, Lindenwood contacted (Metro head coach) Jason (Cirone) telling him that they were interested in me,” said Burns, a 20-year-old native of Pinckney. “From that point on, I was in contact with them and after the season, I went to meet the coaches and check out the school.”

Lindenwood is coached by former NHL defenseman Rick Zombo and the Lions play in Division I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

“From visiting the school, I found out quite a bit of information,” explained Burns. “They offer a lot of different majors, which is good because I still have not decided what I want to major in. The campus was also very nice out there and all my classes are a close distance from each other. As for the hockey program, it looks like they have a great coaching staff and a very skilled and disciplined team as they have won two national championships in the last three years.”

Last season with the Jets, Burns finished fourth in team scoring with 16 goals and 33 points in 42 games and led the team with nine power-play goals and four game-winning goals. He started the year with the Flint Jr. Generals, playing one game before being acquired by Metro.

“Playing for the Jets helped me more then anything,” said Burns. “If I would not have played for the Jets, I would not be answering these questions right now.”

He also said the level of play in the North American 3 Hockey League was better than expected.

“Being that last year was my first and only year in the league, I felt it was very competitive,” Burns said. “I feel like the league will continue to keep moving more players on to where they want to go as long as they are dedicated.”

Looking ahead to Lindenwood, Burns is anxious to get his college career underway.

“My goal for hockey this year is to come onto the team and become an impact player fast,” Burns said. “I know that there is going to be a jump in the level of play from last year, but with hard work I know I will be able to make that adjustment quickly. I hope that I will have a role that can help them to another national championship. As for school, I would like to maintain a high GPA and figure out what I would like to major in.”

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Saginaw signs 2011 draft pick Lodge

The Saginaw Spirit have signed center Jimmy Lodge, the 62nd overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

Lodge, a native of Downington, Penn., posted 18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points last season with the Toronto Titans.

Lodge comes in at 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds and will wear No. 8 for the Spirit.

Recently, Lodge was selected to play for the United States Under-17 Select Team that will compete at the 2011 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament Aug. 9-13, in Ann Arbor.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Metro draft pick Theut NAHL-bound?

Jacob Theut
was drafted in the fifth round of last month’s North American 3 Hockey League draft by the Metro Jets, but the team brass isn’t counting on Theut tending goal at Lakeland Arena.

Simply put, Theut (pronounced ‘TOYT’) was the best goaltender available when the Jets selected 68th overall, but should most likely play next season in the North American Hockey League with the Kenai River Brown Bears after the Alaskan squad tabbed him in the seventh round of its draft a week prior to the 3HL draft.

That’s not to say plans may get tweaked between now and the start of the 2011-2012 season and Theut knows that. He also knows what his options are going forward.

“It’s an honor to be drafted by any team in any league, especially by a local team like the Jets,” said Theut, who played last year for Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School and was named to the “Dream Team” and earned First Team All-State honors. “The Jets told me that they were going to draft me, but were uncertain on what round. The coaching staff has been really patient with me and has been encouraging me to play at higher levels. Any player should consider themselves lucky to able to play with the Jets, a team with a very experienced coaching staff.”

A hybrid goalie with a very athletic style, Theut models his game after three NHL legends and hopes to keep improving on a daily basis.

“I’m an athletic goalie like Dominik Hasek and I admire Patrick Roy for his focus and positioning,” explained Theut. “I model my off-ice characteristics after Steve Yzerman with his great leadership and his strong work ethic. My game hasn't plateaued yet, but I know I am getting better, stronger and smarter each year. With the help of (personal goalie coach and Jets’ goalie coach) Randy Wilson, he is helping prepare me for the next levels.”

“My short-term goal right now is to sign with a junior team. My goal for after juniors is to be playing Division I college hockey.”

Whether or not Theut’s path to college runs through Waterford remains to be seen, however.

Photo courtesy BC Photography

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Saginaw's Prout inks with Blue Jackets

Columbus Press Release

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Dalton Prout to a standard three-year entry level contract, the team announced July 1.

As is club policy, terms were not disclosed.

Prout, 21, combined to register nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points and 99 penalty minutes in 52 games with Barrie and Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League. He set career highs in goals, assists and points. He added 2-0-2 and 27 penalty minutes in 12 playoff games for the Spirit to lead the club in penalty minutes and goals among defensemen (tied).

The Blue Jackets' seventh pick, 154th overall, in the 2010 Entry Draft, Prout has collected 17-49-66, 436 penalty minutes and a cumulative plus/minus rating of +16 in 286 career OHL games with Sarnia, Barrie and Saginaw. He has added 3-9-12 and 73 penalty minutes in 46 career playoff games.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Friday, July 01, 2011

Muskegon announces '11-12 roster

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced their roster for the 2011-12 United States Hockey League season.

Today marks the deadline for USHL clubs to submit their 25-man active roster and their 14-man affiliate list. The affiliate list was to be comprised of six players with a 1995 birthdate, six with a 1994 birthdate and two with a 1993 birthdate.

Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick is excited to have 12 players returning with USHL experience. Eleven of said players had significant experience last season, logging at least 10 games with the Jacks. Add in a much larger talent pool taking part in the team’s recent tryout camp, and Patrick is quite satisfied with the team’s lists.

“The depth in our camp was better than it was a year ago,” Patrick said. “It made for some tough decisions.

“Who will be the next Ryan Misiak or Matt Berry remains to be seen, but there are a lot of players in our organization who are ready to step to the forefront.”

Here is the Jacks’ 25-man active roster:


* Travis Belohrad (5-foot-10, 180 pounds; 1/13/91; hometown: Brighton, Colo.): Belohrad amassed 34 points on 18 goals (tied for second on the team) and 16 assists for the Jacks during the 2010-11 regular season, and piled on with a goal and four assists during the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Joseph Cox (6-0, 170; 1/7/94; Chelsea, Mich.): Cox amassed 40 points (16g-24a) with Compuware’s AAA Midget Major team last season. He served as captain of the Team USA U-17 squad that took gold in the Five-Nations Tournament in Huttwil, Switzerland, last summer. Cox is committed to Michigan State University.
* Matt DeBlouw (6-0, 165; 9/17/93; Chesterfield, Mich.): After posting six points (2g-4a) during the 2010-11 regular season, DeBlouw broke out with eight points (3g-5a) and a team-best +6 plus/minus rating in the Jacks’ six playoff games. DeBlouw is committed to Michigan State University for 2012.
* Lance Fredrickson (6-0, 175; 1/1/92; Spring Lake, Mich.): Fredrickson logged 16 games with the Lumberjacks last season, during which he posted four assists. The gritty forward posted 11 points (4g-7a) in 17 games with Compuware’s AAA Midget Major squad. Fredrickson is committed to Miami University.
Tyler Heinonen (6-0, 190; 5/8/93; Delano, Minn.): Heinonen set the goal-scoring record (109) at Delano-Rock High School as a junior before stockpiling 46 goals in his senior season.
Josh Henke (5-10, 192; 5/17/94; Trenton, Mich.): Henke amassed 48 points (24g-24a) and 94 PIM in 37 games with Victory Honda’s AAA Midget Major squad
Dakota Klecha (5-10, 157): Klecha tied for the team lead in points with 50 for Wichita Falls of the North American Hockey League last season. He also led the team and finished second in the league with 248 PIM. The Jacks selected Klecha with the 21st overall pick of the 2011 USHL Entry Draft
Ryan Lomberg (5-10, 178; 12/9/94; Richmond Hill, Ontario): The Jacks first selection and the fifth overall in the 2011 USHL Entry Draft
* Jordan Masters (5-11, 150; 4/30/94; Rochester, NY): Masters racked up 11 points (4g-7a) in 49 games in the 2010-11 regular season and scored a goal during the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Myles McCauley (6-2, 180; 4/8/91; Sterling Heights, Mich.): McCauley has played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and skated with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Peterborough Petes last season.
* Mike McNicholas (5-10, 175; 3/23/94; El Segundo, Calif.): McNicholas got a cup of coffee with the Jacks, skating one game in Ann Arbor last season. He amassed 46 points (12g-34a) in 40 games with Victory Honda’s AAA Midget Major team last season.
* Mike Moran (6-6, 203; 9/16/93; Ann Arbor, Mich.): Best known for his bone-rattling body checks, Moran posted 11 points (6g-5a) during the 2010-11 regular season.
Tayler Munson (6-1, 185; 3/2/93; Fairbanks, Alaska): Munson racked up 48 points (18g-30a) in 53 regular-season games with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League last season and thrived during the team’s run at the Robertson Cup.
Max Shuart (6-1, 185; 6/27/94; Northville, Mich.): After logging 10 games with the Jacks in the regular season of the 2010-11 campaign, Shuart recently turned heads during the Jacks’ tryout camp, posting a five-point game (3g-2a) during the first of the two all-star games.
* Casey Thrush (6-1, 175; 5/5/92; Easton, Md.): Thrush racked up 28 points (10g-18a) and finished second on the team with a +8 plus/minus rating during the 2010-11 regular season and scored two goals during the Clark Cup Playoffs. Thrush is committed to the University of New Hampshire for 2012.


Ryan Bullock (6-0, 180; 2/5/93; Eden Prairie, Minn.): Bullock is a graduate of Minneapolis' prestigious Blake School and is committed to play Division-I college hockey for the Dartmouth Big Green. He is a physical, offensive defenseman.
* Carter Foguth (6-3, 215; 2/13/92; Fenton, Mich.): A rock-steady shutdown defenseman, Foguth notched nine points (1g-8a) and led the club with a +9 plus/minus rating during the 2010-11 regular season. He notched an assist during the playoffs, during which he boasted a +3 plus/minus rating.
Christian Pomarico (6-1, 190; 11/11/92; Simsbury, Conn.): Pomarico is a left-handed defenseman who cut his teeth with the Wellington Dukes of the OJHL before making the Jacks’ 25-man roster via the recent tryout camp.
Kevin Schulze (5-9, 155; 4/29/93; White Bear Lake, Minn.): A left-handed, playmaking defenseman, Schulze played for Hill-Murray High School last season and was selected by the Jacks in the fourth round (51st overall) during the 2011 USHL Entry Draft.
Nick Seeler (6-2, 185; 6/3/93; Eden Prairie, Minn.): An imposing two-way defenseman, Seeler was recently selected by the Minnesota Wild in the fifth round of the 2011 National Hockey League Draft. He opted to forego a chance to play for the Jacks in the 2010-11 season and helped his Eden Prairie High School team win a Minnesota state hockey title.
Alex Smith (5-11, 173; 1/31/95; Brownstown, Mich.): Smith was the Jacks’ first selection and the fifth pick overall in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft. Smith is a gritty two-way defenseman who notched 12 points (4g-8a) in 38 games with Honeybaked’s AAA Midget Major team last season.
* Travis Walsh (5-11, 184; 6/4/93; Dimondale, Mich.): Walsh compiled 17 points (1g-16a) during the regular season, and scored a shootout goal that made waves in the global media, including being featured on several ESPN programs.
* Mark Yanis (6-2, 195; 5/26/94; Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.): Yanis had five points (1g-4a) during the 2010-11 regular season and added an assist during the postseason. The massive defenseman recently committed to Penn State University of 2012.


* Paul Berrafato (5-11, 178; 6/9/93; Williamsville, NY): Berrafato went 9-10-4 in his rookie USHL season in 2010-11 and posted three shutouts within a single calendar month. He finished with a 3.61 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage.
* Joel Vienneau (6-4, 185; 1/18/92; Hearst, Ontario): Vienneau appeared in 39 games in his rookie USHL season and posted a 15-18-4 record to go along with a 3.70 GAA and a .889 save percentage. Vienneau shined in the postseason, going 3-3 with a shutout, a 3.10 GAA and a .910 save percentage during the Clark Cup Playoffs.

* - denotes a player who played for the Jacks last season.

Here is the Jacks’ 14-man affiliate list:

Riley Alferd (5-10, 155; 3/26/95; Vancouver, Wash.)
Noah Batis (5-10, 170; 1/29/95; Lakewood, NY)
Cole Cassels (5-11, 165; 5/4/95; Hartford, Conn.)
Matej Paulovic (6-2, 172; 1/13/95; Topolcany, Slovakia)
Corey Schueneman (6-0, 168; 9/2/95; Milford, Mich.)
Alex Talcott (6-1, 195; 2/26/95; Kentwood, Mich.)

Grant Besse (5-11, 160; 7/14/94; Plymouth, Mich.)
Garret Cockerill (6-0, 190; 2/19/94; Brighton, Mich.)
Brett D’Andrea (6-0, 185; 1/2/94; Columbus, Mich.)
James Howe (5-8, 158; 4/4/94; Dearborn Heights, Mich.)
Mason Jobst (5-8, 145; 2/17/94; Speedway, Ind.)
Chris Leibinger (5-9, 170; 6/16/94; Saginaw, Mich.)

Tyler Murray (5-6, 140; 2/11/93; Bingham Farms, Mich.)
Ben Walker (5-10, 165; 6/21/93; Edina, Minn.)