Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jets' Hellebuyck to join brother in Odessa

Chris Hellebuyck will at least know one person in Odessa, Tex.

The Metro Jets’ forward is moving up to the North American Hockey League with the Odessa Jackalopes, a team his younger brother, Connor, plays for as the squad’s No. 1 goaltender.

Hellebuyck leaves the Jets as the team’s third-leading scorer with 21 goals and 40 points, also tied for the team lead in goals with Steve Klisz. He tallied 11 multi-point games, including a four-point outing on Sept. 9 against Flint.

“Hellebuyck is the perfect example of what hard work can do for a player,” said Metro coach Jason Cirone. “He plays in every situation and the rest of the guys follow his lead. He’s a leader on the ice and in the locker room and that’s a credit to him.”

Playing alongside Connor is something Chris hasn’t done since both played at Walled Lake Northern when Connor was a junior and Chris a senior. The duo also played on the same Mite team years back.

“My brother had a big part in my opportunity with Odessa by letting them know about me, but I think they also had noticed that I was having a good season so it all fit together well,” said Hellebuyck, a 19-year-old Commerce Township native. “It was nice having options, but I the situation with Odessa made me pretty excited. Connor has told me a lot of great stuff about their program and the chance to play with him again will be awesome.”

Cirone said he was consistently fielding calls from NAHL teams about Hellebuyck over the course of the season.

“There were several other teams that wanted Chris, but they just weren’t the right situation,” Cirone said. “I know (Odessa coach) Paul Gillis is a heck of a coach and does things the right way and I know the fans in Odessa are crazy about their hockey. I saw that first-hand when I would go in there a few years back when I played (in the Central Hockey League) for Rio Grande Valley. I think it will be an excellent situation for Chris.”

Drafted twice by the Jets (in 2010 and again in 2011), Hellebuyck said he couldn’t have made the jump to the NAHL without his stint in Waterford.

”I learned a lot from Jason this season, including a lot of the little things that I'll be able to take with me to the next level,” explained Hellebuyck. “It was great to have a coach like him and I have added a lot of the small things to my game so far. There will be a lot that I will miss leaving Metro, but I think the hardest part of leaving will be parting with my current teammates and coaches.

“It's a great program and I owe a lot to everyone involved.”

Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jets send Mohr to NAHL's Wildcats

Zach Mohr is the latest Metro Jets player to earn a promotion to the North American Hockey League as he was traded to the Wichita Falls Wildcats late last week and played in both games for the Wildcats over the weekend.

Mohr actually started the year in the NAHL with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons before joining the Jets in early November. Mohr tallied eight goals and eights assists for 16 points in 14 games with Metro. He went without a point last weekend as the Wildcats swept Corpus Christi in a battle of Texas-based teams.

“It’s a great feeling to get another shot at the NAHL,” said Mohr, a 19-year-old forward from Novi. “I’m going to try and make the best of it. My expectations are to come down here and try to contribute to the team every shift I get.”

Jets coach Jason Cirone, who has seen several players over the past 10 days make commitments for next year, knows Mohr will have a good showing in Wichita Falls.

“Zach was a really good player for us and I think he really fit in did everything we asked of him,” said Cirone. “I thought from the beginning when he came here that he was an NAHL-caliber player and in a good way, I hope he doesn’t come back here. He worked hard and earned this opportunity.”

Mohr said in the two-plus months he was in Waterford, he learned what it will take to keep his hockey progression moving upward.

“Jason is a great coach and it's obvious to everyone that he knows his stuff and moves players to the next level,” said Mohr. “The thing I learned from Jason was to trust my shot and keep my feet going at all times.

“’I’ll miss the guys the most. Every day I was there, it was fun and to me, that's what it’s all about.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

No sophomore slump for Jets' Bazin

Cameron Bazin wasn’t quite ready to hang up the skates.

After playing last season with the Metro Jets, once the season ended and the summer arrived, Bazin had his mind set on giving up the game and going to school full-time starting in the fall.

But like most athletes will say, it’s not always easy to give up all you’ve ever known. That was certainly the case with Bazin.

“I knew a lot of the guys on the team this year (new and old) and I kept in touch with some of them, so I felt that it wouldn't be that big of an adjustment to come back and join the team,” said Bazin, a 19-year-old from Troy. “We have a very solid group of guys on the team and so far, this year has been awesome, especially since we're winning games.”

Joining the team in early November, Bazin has since tallied 13 points in 18 games. He had just 10 points in 36 games during the 2010-11 season.

”The first couple games I played in, I had to get some rust out of my system,” Bazin said. “I knew that I could perform much better points-wise) than I was playing. I didn't let it frustrate me, though, and I just kept working hard. Lately, I have just been pretty much scoring everything and I have to give a lot of credit to the other guys that I'm on the ice with. We have been winning games and everyone is helping out, whether it's scoring goals, assisting them or just making good plays all around the ice.”

Bazin is also not one to toot his own horn as he definitely has a team-first attitude.

“One player can’t win you hockey games,” said Bazin. “It takes a whole team and we have a great team here this year. I'll do whatever I can to make sure everyone is rolling and that we never lay an egg out there. Whether it's by killing penalties, scoring goals, winning faceoffs or hitting, I'll hopefully find a way for us to win games and gain momentum.

”Being an older guy I think gives me more of an edge to know how we have to practice and then translate that hard work to our games. I try to always work hard and set an example for younger and older guys. I like to say I bring solid energy to the team and think that helps with everyone picking up their play and being on top of their game.”

One of Bazin’s teammates this season, fellow forward Mike MacKinnon, is also a Troy native and the two have been close friends for quite some time.

”I have known MacKinnon since middle school and have played on several teams with him, including at Troy Athens High School for two years,” explained Bazin. “He is a great player and great asset to our team. I talked with him at beginning of the year and he played a part in talking me into coming back and playing this year. I was not playing anywhere prior to signing with the Jets, although I constantly got on the ice every opportunity that I got.”

Sitting at 19 wins this season and starting to jockey for playoff positioning, Bazin has all the confidence in the world that the Jets will continue to see more notches in the win column.

“I feel we are going to finish with a real solid second half of the season and I think we can make a very strong push for the No. 1 seed in our division,” beamed Bazin. “With the squad we have this year, I think that we are one of the top teams in the whole league and that we can compete with any team in the league. I would be highly disappointed if all we did was make the playoffs and then lost. We should be pushing for that top spot in the division by time the season starts winding down and if I was 21 and in Vegas, I would be betting on the Jets to win the division.

“It's nice to be on the squad that is changing the Metro Jets name and making them contenders yet again.”


Defenseman Trevor Hillman (Beverly Hills) was released prior to last weekend. He was the Jets’ top pick from last summer’s NA3HL draft and is expected to return next year to Waterford.


Austin Brown, a defenseman who played for Metro during the 2005-06 season, is now a senior at Division III St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minn.

This year, the 24-year-old Lathrup Village native is the top-scoring blueliner for the Saints with 18 points through 19 games and also leads the NCHA in defensemen scoring and with 15 power-play points.

After leaving the Jets, Brown played for the Alaska Avalanche (NAHL), Hawkesbury Hawks (CJHL) and Woodstock Slammers (MJAHL).

Tomorrow in Muskegon - the USHL's best!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Davison native Kalisz chooses UConn

The St. Louis Bandits have announced that forward Joe Kalisz has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the University of Connecticut for the 2012-13 season.

Kalisz, 20, is a third-year forward from Davison who currently leads the Bandits is scoring this season with 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 36 games. In 102 career NAHL games, Kalisz has 97 career points and is just three points shy of reaching the 100-point barrier for his career. So far this season, he has twice been named as one of the NAHL’s 3 stars of the week and it the offensive catalyst that St. Louis looks to be successful.

The Bandits are currently in second place in the NAHL's Midwest Division.

“I am very excited about the commitment and the opportunity to play for UConn because I feel I can come in and have a chance to make an impact right away,” said Kalisz. “I think they are an up-and-coming program and have a great coaching staff led by Bruce Marshall, so I think it is a great fit for me.”

The UConn men’s hockey team had a resurgent season in 2010-11. The Huskies took a 7-27-3 record in 2010 and turned it into a 15-18-4 mark in 2011. Connecticut doubled its win total from the previous year and finished sixth in the Atlantic Hockey Association final standings with a 13-12-2 record in conference. This season, the Huskies are currently fourth in the AHA standings with a 9-6-1 record.

“I think UConn is a first-class program and I think it is a great fit for Joe,” said St. Louis head coach Jeff Brown. “Joe is a player with a lot of character and somebody who will be able to chip-in right away. I think they are getting a heck of a hockey player and one that is a leader in the locker room.”

The 6-foot, 200-pound Kalisz says he believes that he will be a more complete player in college thanks to his years spent in the NAHL.

“I think playing junior hockey in the NAHL teaches you work ethic," Kalisz said. "You learn right away that if you don’t work at getting better every day, then it isn’t going to pay off. I think that’s something that Coach Brown preaches to us as players. We want to be successful on the ice as a team, but we also know that we are here for a bigger reason and that is to develop, grow, improve and move onto the next level. You grow up fast in this league and understand the daily grind of playing junior hockey at a high level.”

Under Brown, the Bandits have moved dozens of players onto the next level in just a few seasons at the helm.

“It is the reason we are here, to move these players onto the next level," Brown said. "We all love to win, but the bigger picture for us and the Bandits program is to prepare and develop players for the next stage in their hockey careers.”

“I think having a coach like Coach Brown here in St. Louis was invaluable,” said Kalisz. “He has been in the NHL and knows what it takes. He teaches us the game, but more importantly, the little things that may set us apart from others."

Now that he has committed, Kalisz says that the No. 1 focus remains on getting St. Louis back to the Robertson Cup, a place that St. Louis made four straight appearances from 2007-10.

“I think we have the pieces in place and the talent, but it is going to take team unity for us to be successful," Kalisz said. "We have to do the little things that Coach Brown talks about every day - blocking shots, making good passes, being in the right place, get pucks to the net, playing good defensive hockey and most of all, paying the price.”


Friday, January 20, 2012

Jr. K-Wings add defenseman Brooks

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the addition of defenseman Alex Brooks.

Brooks, a Grandville native, comes to Kalamazoo having three years of NAHL experience under his belt. He has played for the Wichita Falls Wildcats, Janesville Jets (pictured) and most recently, the Aberdeen Wings.

This season with the Wings, Brooks played in 35 games and posted 17 points on three goals and 14 assists. Brooks’ 138 career games of NAHL experience tie Chris Leone and Drew Graves for longest tenured NAHL players on Kalamazoo.

Brooks was also named to the NAHL Top Prospects team last season.

“Alex possesses strong skating skills and shows a lot of poise handling the puck," said Kalamazoo coach Marc Fakler.

Brooks will likely makes his Kalamazoo debut this weekend as the Jr. K-Wings face off against the Michigan Warriors and Traverse City North Stars on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at the Borgess Health Rink at Wings West.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

McKenzie taking charge in Muskegon

New Muskegon Lumberjacks head coach Jim McKenzie played 15 seasons in the NHL, so a midseason coaching change is not a foreign concept to him.

Rather, the 42-year-old native of Saskatchewan knows that a switch like this is common in a results-oriented business like sports, and he’s ready for the challenge of taking over a team midstream.

“My focus is on getting these guys ready to play,” said McKenzie, who won a Stanley Cup in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils. “I’ve tried not to change too much right away, because a lot of what they were doing was working. They’ve had some success this season and I want to help them build on that.”

The past few days have been eventful for McKenzie, as he was officially named to the position Friday morning and arrived in Muskegon over the weekend. He observed practice Monday before getting into instruction Tuesday.

“The starting point for us has to be defending our own net,” he said. “We start from our end and if everybody supports each other, we will have success from that. It’s about working together and taking care of business in some of the tough areas on the ice.”

McKenzie has not been afraid to lean on a reliable support group in assistant coaches Dave Noel-Bernier and Steve Palmer, as well as newly-appointed senior advisor Ron Mason.

“It’s been great to have [Noel-Bernier and Palmer] to throw ideas around and help me get familiar with the players quickly,” McKenzie said. “And Ron is just awesome. He’s a phenomenal sounding board and can attack an issue from so many different ways. The amount of hockey he knows is incredible.”

McKenzie’s experience at the game’s highest level gives him instant credibility in the Lumberjacks dressing room, especially among players who seek to make a career of the sport they love to play.

“Nothing comes easy in this game,” said the Jacks’ new bench boss. “The guys like Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews put in the work year round to get where they are. You have to learn to overcome obstacles if you want to succeed.”

Morganroth the latest Jet to play at OU

And the upward player movements continue for the Metro Jets.

Forward Branden Morganroth is the latest to make plans for next year as the 20-year-old Highland native will play for the ACHA Division I team at Oakland University starting with the 2012-13 season.

Morganroth was actually supposed to play for the Grizzlies this season, but an academic snafu set him back a year. Even so, he’s overcome that obstacle, is having a solid year in Waterford and is looking forward to playing at OU this fall.

“They committed to me last June, but then in August, I got a letter that said I was not allowed to attend OU because in high school, I took online classes because of traveling for hockey and that those online classes didn't transfer over to OU,” said Morganroth. “I had no idea, so that's why I had to go back and play juniors again and make up those two classes at Oakland Community College.”

Morganroth has four goals and 10 points this season for the Jets, including a current four-game point streak heading into this weekend’s two-game series in Pittsburgh.

Jets coach Jason Cirone said that Morganroth came to camp with the team on a recommendation after he had only heard of Morganroth and had never seen him play.

“Branden has been a delight this season and he’s been through a lot,” said Cirone. “He’s gone from forward to defense and now back to forward, but not once has he complained. I’ve even had to sit him a couple games due to the fact we are so deep up front, but again, no complaints. He never asks why and has always put the team first. Those are the types of players you want to see succeed, not only in hockey, but in life.

“He’s played all five positions for us, and played them all extremely well, and would probably play goal if I asked him to.”

To be able to play at Oakland will be a homecoming of sorts as OU’s assistant coach, Nick Tomczyk, was an assistant coach when Morganroth played Midget hockey for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.

“Tomczyk contacted me asking if I would be interested in playing for their school and of course I couldn’t say no,” said Morganroth. “Oakland is the university I have wanted to go to since I was in high schoolI wanted to be able to go to school and play for an elite university close to home because in previous years, I lived out of state in Wyoming and also in Kalamazoo where not many friends or family could ever watch me play.

“Oakland is a first-class program. It’s run flawlessly by the coaches and their staff members and it definitely compares to any NCAA D-I program. As for the team, it’s an awesome squad; they’re very talented and know how to win. They have been a winning team and ranked at the top nationally every year with national titles (2004, 2006 at the D-II level and 2007 at D-I level) to their credit. I couldn’t be more excited to begin my season there next fall and help them to pursue another national title.”

Morganroth said he has narrowed his academic major down to architectural engineering or something in the medical field. OU just enrolled its inaugural class in its new medical school last August.

Looking at the present, Morganroth is aiming to help get the Jets into the NA3HL playoffs for the first time in five years and to improve on his game to get it ready for the college slate.

“Jason and the Jets organization has helped me to focus on my defensive play and helped me to develop more skill to my all around game,” said Morganroth. “I have also learned to never give up until it is over and to go as hard as I can throughout practice and games to become better and better each time I step onto the ice.”

Oakland currently has five former Jets on its D-I roster in defenseman Mike Corder (2009-11) and Jacob DeSano (2007-09) and forwards Art Dore (2007-08), David Merkle (2009-10) and Adam Novack (2007-09). Both Corder and Novack are former Metro captains.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kalamazoo tenders Jets' d-man Shier

The Metro Jets announced today that second-year defenseman Will Shier has signed a tender agreement with the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings of the North American Hockey League for the 2012-13 season.

Shier’s agreement follows Josh Beleski signing with the Jamestown Ironmen earlier this week and is the third Jets’ player to commit to an NAHL team this season after defenseman Adam Reid inked with the New Mexico Mustangs last month.

A tender is a contract of sorts a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted eight tenders - plus or minus any trades - which become active on Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft.

“The head coach of Kalamazoo, Marc Fakler, approached me after my second game of the NA3HL Showcase in Chicago (in December),” explained Shier, a 19-year-old from Sterling Heights. “He told me he had been watching me closely and he thought my game has improved greatly since the pre-draft camp last summer and that a step up to the NAHL next season would be good for me.”

Fakler then invited Shier to Kalamazoo the following week to show him the rink and the city and to meet the team staff.

“I thought the facility (Wings Stadium) was amazing and the staff was great, so when I was offered the tender, I gladly accepted,” said Shier, the Jets' top-scoring defenseman with 14 points in 30 games. “I have been watching the team and I think their record speaks for itself. Being a first-year team and doing as well as they are shows that Kalamazoo is a top-notch organization with excellent coaching. I definitely want to be a part of that next season.”

Metro coach Jason Cirone said when the Jets acquired Shier last season from the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League, he saw potential for Shier to be a big-time player with the Jets.

“When we got Will, I noticed a few things he needed to work on and to his credit, he’s done everything I’ve asked and has evolved into a dominant defenseman in this league,” said Cirone. “I just tweaked a few things, but Will is the one who went out and did all the work. He gets all the credit for what he’s accomplished. He plays more than 30 minutes a game for us and I see him making a major impact next season with Kalamazoo.”

Earlier this season, Shier earned a call-up to the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons and took notice of what goes into being an NAHL-caliber player.

”After playing a few NAHL games, I now know what the league is all about and what is expected of its players,” Shier said. “I have been working hard to improve every aspect of my game and will continue to push myself to get ready for next season. With the help of Coach Cirone, I am confident I can step in and make Kalamazoo's lineup next season.

”It was an easy decision to come back this year and play for the Jets again. I knew this would be the best place for me to work on my game and also be seen by scouts. Jason is constantly helping me fine-tune my game and I credit him with getting my game to where it needed to be to receive this opportunity. The NAHL produces some of the top junior players and through hard work, I believe I can join that group of players.”

Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jets' Beleski signs tender with Jamestown

The Metro Jets announced today that forward Josh Beleski has signed a tender agreement with the Jamestown Ironmen of the North American Hockey League.

A tender is a contract of sorts a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted eight tenders - plus or minus any trades - which become active on Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft.

Beleski signed his tender immediately after the Jets’ 8-2 win over the Michigan Mountain Cats on Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

“Jamestown’s chief scout, Dwayne Smith, who I’ve known a long time, had been in touch with me asking how Josh had been playing,” explained Metro coach Jason Cirone. “I told him he’d been improving and that he was a player I could see playing at the North American Hockey League level next season. Josh picked a heck of a game to score a hat trick on Sunday with Dwayne in the stands and he approached Josh after the game with the tender and he signed it on the spot.”

“Being offered a tender after the game was a little unexpected,” said Beleski, an 18-year-old from Southgate. “I saw Dwayne Smith in the stands watching what turned out for me to be a highlight game. To be honest, there was a lot of information to absorb in a short period of time and it is still sinking in, but making the decision to sign did not take long. It is a great opportunity for me and I was not going to pass it up.”

This season, Beleski is seventh in Jets scoring with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points.

Beleski was actually drafted by the Jets in 2010 and made the team, but chose to go back and play his senior year of high school for Southgate Anderson High School. This season, he looked at what the Jets could offer and decided to take the opportunity.

“I thought Josh could have played in this league last year,” said Cirone. “He made the decision to go play high school and we didn’t push him. We respected his decision, but we stayed in touch and showed patience. This year, I think he’s dedicated himself to being a junior hockey player and I don’t expect him back with us next year. He’s worked extremely hard and I’m extremely proud.”

And while a tender doesn’t guarantee Beleski a spot on the Western New York-based Ironmen next season, he’s planning to fine-tune some aspects of his game the rest of this season and into the spring and summer months.

“There are definitely things I need to improve on to become a better, well-rounded hockey player, but if I had to choose one, it would be my game away from the puck,” said Beleski. “Jamestown is definitely a stepping stone and one I look forward to taking. It has been a goal of mine to play college hockey and I know with hard work and determination good things will happen.”

Beleski also said playing this season in Waterford has been rewarding and he credits Cirone for helping to boost his game to the point where the NAHL has taken notice.

”Playing juniors has been a great experience and Jason is a great coach,” beamed Beleski. “With his knowledge and commitment, he has taught me a lot this year. My confidence is the highest it has been in a long time and I feel with hard work that I can achieve greater things.”

Beleski is the second Metro player to sign an NAHL tender after defenseman Adam Reid tendered with the New Mexico Mustangs in late December.

Saad to wear the 'C' for Saginaw

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that forward Brandon Saad has been named team captain and defenseman Brandon Archibald an assistant captain for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

This move was necessitated by the Spirit’s recent transactions with Barrie and Ottawa with former captain Ryan O’Connor going to the Colts and one-time assistant John McFarland going to Ottawa.

Saad, a signed prospect of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, has recorded 12 goals and has added 18 assists in 19 games so far this season. The Gibsonia, Pa., native also suited up with Team USA at the recently-completed World Junior Hockey Championship, posting 1-5-6 numbers in the tournament for the American squad.

Archibald came to the Spirit in a midseason deal in the 2010-11 season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and has a goal and 10 assists on the season. The Port Huron native is a fourth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets from the 2010 NHL Draft.

The two will join fellow assistant captains Josh Shalla and Brad Walch as letter-wearing members of the Spirit for the balance of the season.

“We as a coaching staff feel that having Saad as captain and Archibald as an alternate captain will bring an element of character and strength to our leadership group," said Saginaw coach Greg Gilbert. "Both players are solid individuals both on and off the ice and epitomize how we want our team to play and represent our organization.”

Saad photo/CHL Images

Friday, January 13, 2012

Patrick relieved of duties in Muskegon

The Muskegon Lumberjacks today announced changes to their hockey operations staff, which includes naming NHL veteran Jim McKenzie (pictured) as the head coach of the team for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

Kevin Patrick was relieved of his duties this morning.

“It was a difficult decision to make as Kevin helped build our organization when the Lumberjacks first became a part of the USHL,” said Lumberjacks owner/CEO Josh Mervis, who will assume the club’s general manager responsibilities. “The team was not having the results we needed and it was time to move in a new direction.”

The Lumberjacks have also added legendary coach Ron Mason as a senior advisor.

Mason is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history with 924 career victories he earned at three different schools – Lake Superior State University, Bowling Green State University and a 23-year stint at Michigan State University. At MSU Mason’s teams made 21 appearances in the NCAA tournament and won a national title in 1986.

“We owe it to our fans and players to have the best product possible both on and off the ice, and the addition of Jim and Ron will give us the leadership we need to help the Lumberjacks achieve our ultimate goals,” Mervis said.

Lumberjacks assistant coaches Dave Noel-Bernier and Steve Palmer will remain on the staff. McKenzie will join the team Sunday, while Noel-Bernier will serve as head coach this weekend, as the Lumberjacks (9-14-2, 20 points) host Des Moines and Green Bay tonight and tomorrow at L.C. Walker Arena.

McKenzie played over 900 games at the NHL level over a 15-year career, collecting 100 points (48 G, 52 A) and 1,739 penalty minutes in 880 regular season games. The rugged left winger also appeared in 51 playoff games and was a member of the 2003 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.

McKenzie was selected by the Hartford Whalers in the fourth round (73rd overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Whalers during the 1989-90 season and went on to play for eight other organizations during his NHL career. He retired after spending the 2003-04 season with the Nashville Predators.

Following his playing career, McKenzie has stayed close to the game of hockey, most recently holding a position with the National Hockey League Players Association.

McKenzie photo courtesy Nashville Predators

Thursday, January 12, 2012

North Stars add Fredrickson from USHL

The Traverse City North Stars added a combustible element to the lineup on Wednesday, acquiring forward Lance Fredrickson from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League for future considerations.

Fredrickson is set to join the club at practice on Thursday as the Stars prep for a Sunday visit to Kalamazoo.

Fredrickson, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, played in 16 games this season for the Lumberjacks, with a goal and 43 penalty minutes. The Spring Lake product had four points and 31 minutes in the box over 16 games last season for Muskegon.

He amassed 19 goals and 26 assists in 76 league games over a three-year midget career with Victory Honda and Compuware.

Fredrickson has already committed to play his college hockey for Miami of the CCHA.

“He brings a ton of fire and toughness to our group of forwards,” Stars GM Anthony Palumbo said. “He’s got good touch, but he also wins battles, and he’s hard to play against. We need to be a team that’s harder to play against. He’s excited to be here and we’re excited to have him. Hopefully, this is another important piece of the puzzle.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kalamazoo acquires Raffaele from NOJHL

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the addition of Brock Raffaele from the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Raffaele, a Cadillac native and a draft pick of Kalamazoo in last summer's NAHL Draft, was the leading scorer on the Eagles and eighth in the entire NOJHL. In 31 games, Raffaele registered 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists). He has scored four or more points in four games, while leading the Eagles to a 23-5-3 record.

Raffaele is not completely unfamiliar with the Jr. K-Wings organization, as he is not only a draft pick of Kalamazoo, but also a former linemate of Robbie Payne.

Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler is looking forward to Raffaele making his debut this weekend, thinking his addition will help the team immediately.

“He’s a skilled center with good playmaking abilities” Fakler said. “He’s got a great hockey sense.”

Saginaw picks up Webermin from Windsor

The Saginaw Spirit have announced that the team has acquired 17-year-old defenseman Grant Webermin from Windsor in the team’s final transaction prior to the closing of the OHL’s trade deadline earlier today.

In return, the Spirit send Windsor two draft picks - London’s third-round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection and Ottawa’s fourth-round selection in 2014.

Webermin was the Spitfires' first-round choice in the 2010 OHL draft, taken 20th overall from the Detroit Honeybaked system, and is eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft.

The Novi native appeared in 32 games for the Spitifires this season, posting three goals and three assists. Overall in 87 games, Webermin has three goals and has added ten assists.

Photo/OHL Images

Monday, January 09, 2012

Oleksiak dealt from Saginaw to Niagara

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Niagara IceDogs, sending defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Eastern Conference club.

Also included in the package is the Spirit’s sixth-round pick in 2014 (conditional).

In return, the Spirit receive defenseman Frank Schumacher, who returns to his original OHL team, and the rights to 17-year-old goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos and 17-year-old center Cristoval Nieves.

Both Sakellaropoulos and Nieves are eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, with Nieves highly-ranked in many mock rankings.

The Spirit also add to the team’s draft grid with this transaction, obtaining Niagara’s third-round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, along with Oshawa’s third-round selection in 2012, Barrie’s second-round pick in 2013, Windsor’s eighth-round pick in 2013 and another second-round pick, Sarnia’s in 2015.

Schumacher has split his 2011-12 season with both Sudbury and Niagara, recording two assists in 22 games. Sakellaropoulos has appeared in seven games this season for the USHL’s Chicago Steel and is winless in three decisions with a goals-against average of 3.75. Nieves is currently playing at the Kent School in Connecticut and participated for Team USA at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament this past August.

Oleksiak becomes the fourth member of the Spirit to move on to a team in the Eastern Conference with tomorrow’s OHL trade deadline approaching. The Toronto native will be joining four Canadian teammates from the recently completed World Junior Hockey Championship in fellow bronze medalists Ryan Strome and Mark Visentin and brothers Freddie and Dougie Hamilton.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Hamre named Warriors associate coach

The Michigan Warriors announced today that John Hamre has been named associate head coach.

Hamre, a Roseville, Minn., native who joined the Warriors staff prior to the start of the season, has previously coached at the NCAA Division I, international and professional levels and worked with Warriors coach-GM Moe Mantha with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Hamre also holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education.

“John Hamre has shown complete dedication to the Warriors organization and has worked diligently to help our players develop," said Mantha. "We are proud to have him associated with our organization."

Friday, January 06, 2012

Spirit completes trade with Ottawa

The Saginaw Spirit announced today they have made a trade with the Ottawa 67’s, sending forward John McFarland to Ottawa for forward David Perklin and Ottawa’s fourth round-pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection.

Perklin was the 67’s first-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, taken 17th overall. So far this season in 31 games the Mississauga, Ont., native has yet to record a point. Last season with the Toronto Marlboros, Perklin recorded 19 goals and added 26 assists.

McFarland was obtained by the Spirit in a trade with the Sudbury Wolves in December 2010 and in 73 games with Saginaw, the Florida Panthers prospect recorded 39 goals and 30 assists. This season, McFarland had 20 goals and 21 assists in 36 games.

Photo/CHL Images

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Four 'Jacks named to prospects game

The Muskegon Lumberjacks are proud to host the inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game presented by CCM, and four of their own players will take the ice along with the rest of the league’s best.

Jordan Masters, Mark Yanis, Matt DeBlouw and Adam Chlapik will all represent the Lumberjacks franchise Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7:15 p.m., as the USHL’s top NHL draft-eligible players will share the L.C. Walker Arena ice sheet in the league’s premier showcase.

“Ultimately we’re about developing high end players and getting them to the NHL, with college as a stepping stone,” Lumberjacks coach-GM Kevin Patrick said. “We’re very excited to have four young men that wear our jersey recognized in this way.”

Fourteen USHL teams will send at least one player to Muskegon, but only the Waterloo Black Hawks, with five representatives, will have more prospects than the Jacks at this influential event. The selection process for the players was completed in cooperation with USHL general managers, NHL scouts and decision makers, and NHL Central Scouting.

“Seeing this many of our players chosen tells me that we as an organization are doing a great job developing players toward their NHL careers,” said Lumberjacks owner/CEO Josh Mervis. The four Lumberjacks chosen to participate were all ranked on NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch List” last fall.

Masters, a native of Rochester, N.Y., is in his second year with the Lumberjacks. A hard-charging winger, the 5-foot-10 Masters had 11 points (four goals) last season and has nearly matched that total this winter already; he has accumulated 10 points in just over a third of the season. He has committed to play for the University of New Hampshire in the competitive Hockey East conference.

Yanis, a 6-foot-3 defenseman from Grosse Pointe Woods, is also one point shy of surpassing last season’s offensive production, but much of his value lies in his physical play. The Penn State recruit has accumulated 200 penalty minutes in 75 USHL games, and he is durable despite his rugged nature; like Masters, Yanis has only missed one contest this season.

Michigan native DeBlouw has quickly risen up draft lists in recent months, largely on the strength of his skating ability. The fleet-footed forward from Chesterfield bounced back from serious injury last year to lead Muskegon in playoff scoring and has emerged as a top-line stalwart for coach Patrick this season, contributing 10 points thus far in 20 games played. He will attend Michigan State University.

Chlapik, a 6-foot forward whom the Lumberjacks plucked from the Tri-City Storm in a November trade, has been highly regarded by NHL scouts since coming over from his native Czech Republic three years ago. Now in his second USHL season, the gifted Chlapik was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the league by the Red Line Report this summer.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Saginaw adds Locke, Windsor from Colts

The Saginaw Spirit announced today they have finalized a trade with the Barrie Colts involving four players and three draft picks.

The Spirit have acquired center Eric Locke and goaltender Clint Windsor, both 1993 birth years, in the exchange along with three second-round draft picks. The Colts receive defenseman Ryan O’Connor and left wing Anthony Camara in the transaction.

O’Connor returns to the franchise that originally drafted him sixth overall in the 2008 Priority Selection.

Locke has spent time with both the Colts and the Windsor Spitfires, where he began his OHL career and carries career numbers of 33 goals and 34 assists for 67 points in 86 games. The Toronto native has seven goals and six assists so far this season and has been limited to 21 games due to a knee injury earlier this year. Locke was the eighth top point-producing rookie in the OHL last season.

Windsor has spent his entire OHL career with the Colts and this season the Hamilton, Ont., native has recorded a record of 6-4-1-0 with a goals-against average of 3.79.

O’Connor appeared in 136 games as a member of the Spirit, recording 24 goals and adding 64 assists for 88 points, and was named the successor to Jordan Szwarz as team captain earlier this season. The Hamilton native was obtained by the Spirit along with Michael Sgarbossa in November 2009 in a transaction that saw Barrie acquire defensemen T.J. Brodie and Nick Crawford.

Camara was chosen by the Spirit as the team’s first-round pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection and was the Boston Bruins' third-round pick in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft. In 164 games, the Toronto native posted 21 goals and 27 assists and accumulated 304 penalty minutes as a member of the Spirit.