Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Muskegon drafts size in USHL Entry Draft

The Muskegon Lumberjacks redefined their roster in dramatic fashion Tuesday night as they added 16 players via the USHL Entry Draft, which was open to any hockey player born from 1992 to 1997.

"We got the guys we identified,” said Lumberjacks owner/general manager Josh Mervis. “We will be bigger, faster, stronger and older. We got exactly what we hoped to get out of the draft.”

The Jacks acquired the rights to 11 players over six feet tall, and they started right away. With back-to-back picks at Nos. 2 and 3 overall, the Lumberjacks chose right winger Adam Gilmour and center Connor Hurley, the top two players available according to Muskegon's hockey operations department.

Gilmour, a 6-foot-2 right winger from Dedham, Mass., put up 56 points (26 goals) in 26 games for the Noble & Greenough prep school in the Boston area. He recently committed to perennial power Boston College.

"Adam is a highly skilled hockey player who makes teammates better," Mervis said. "He’s a big guy who can create offense and also score goals, plus he has an incredible drive to get better."

Hurley just completed his sophomore year at Edina (Minn.) High School, where he scored 58 points (26 goals) in 30 matches. The 6-foot pivot is teammates with Lumberjacks first round Futures Draft pick Dylan Malmquist.

"He's a playmaking centerman with a very high degree of skill," said Muskegon scout Chris LaCombe. "Connor is a real competitor with a scorer’s touch. He was the top available [1995-born player] in Minnesota."

Muskegon turned its eyes across the Atlantic with its second-round pick, Frederik Tiffels from Germany. A 5-foot-11 left winger has played in the DNL junior league over the last two seasons for Jungadler Mannheim, where he contributed 60 points – including 45 assists – in 72 games.

"Frederick is extremely fast, the fastest skater in his league, and he has a ton of skill," said Lumberjacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier. "He has a tremendous work ethic, too."

With the second pick of the third round, the Jacks were pleased to add their second centerman of the draft, Ben Foster. Listed at 6-foot-1, he scored over 100 points at Choate Rosemary Hall prep in Connecticut, setting the school's all-time record.

"He plays hard all over the ice and he can make plays," assistant coach Steve Palmer said about Foster, who was named to the All-New England team this spring. "He's a big strong young man who plays smart in every zone."

To start the fourth round, the Lumberjacks held back-to-back slots, their second such arrangement of the night. They nabbed defenseman Dan O'Keefe and left winger Tyler Hill with picks 46 and 47.

O'Keefe, a New Jersey native, stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds. He also brings offensive ability to accompany his power, as he chipped in 21 points in 53 games this season for Philadelphia-area Team Comcast.

"Dan is an ideal two-way defenseman," Noel-Bernier said. "He makes a good first pass and is very hard to play against."

Muskegon added even more size with Hill, a 6-foot-6 power forward who skated for the Hotchkiss School (Conn.) as a sophomore. The Ontario product chipped in 16 points in 22 games and brings an impressive physical brand of hockey.

"Tyler is a highly-regarded candidate for the 2013 NHL Draft with a ton of potential," Noel-Bernier said.

The massive trend continued into the fifth round, as the Lumberjacks looked to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for their seventh choice of the Entry Draft, 6-foot-6 blueliner Ben Storm of Calumet High School. Storm was a dynamo for the Calumet Copper Kings, burying 15 goals and 35 total points in 26 games while providing a consistent intimidating presence on the ice.

"When he hits, it hurts," Palmer said. "He's just an exceptional athlete. He has enormous potential because of his size."

Boston University recruit Doyle Somerby was Muskegon's sixth-round choice, another talent from the New England prep circuit. Somerby was another huge addition to the Lumberjacks, quite literally. At 6-foot-5, he was the sixth six-footer out of Muskegon's first seven selections. Somerby just completed his senior season for Kimball Union Academy in Massachusetts.

"He's very comparable to Jaycob Megna," Noel-Bernier said about the former Lumberjack and current Nebraska-Omaha Maverick. "Doyle is a very good skater, very mobile. He's a big two-way defenseman."

The Jacks had a great deal of success in 2011-12 with Eden Prairie, Minn., native Ryan Bullock, and they went back to that well with their final pick of the Entry Draft's first phase, calling Steven Spinner's name in the seventh round. The 5-foot-10 sophomore scored 20 goals (30 points) in 24 games in the challenging Minnesota high school realm.

"Steven is an energizing skill forward with a ton of speed," LaCombe said.

With the first pick of the second phase, the Lumberjacks added their first goalie of the evening in Michigander Tyler Ross. The 6-foot-3 19-year-old from Warren played for Estevan of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, posting a .908 save percentage.

“He has a big frame and he moves very well,” said Muskegon goalie coach Jukka Konstas. “He’s also very sharp with the glove hand.”

Luc Snuggerud, another Eden Prairie product, went to the Jacks in the 16th round. A left-handed 5-foot-10 defenseman, Snuggerud put up 33 points in 44 total games between his 2011-12 high school and all-star seasons. His uncle, Dave, played four seasons in the NHL.

“Luc’s playmaking skills are lights out especially on the power play, where he’s unbelievable,” said LaCombe. “He can see the ice extremely well and is very aware.”

Massachusetts-born Corey Ronan was the next player on Muskegon’s wish list. The point-per-game forward for St. Sebastian’s prep was joined in the 17th round by Floridian center William Messa, who was similarly offensive (34 points in 31 games) for Lawrence Academy near Lowell, Mass.

The pick Muskegon used to take Messa was acquired from Indiana in exchange for defenseman Alex Smith. Also in the transaction, the Lumberjacks scooped up a second-round pick in next year’s Entry Draft.

In the 18th round, the Jacks tacked on forward Luc Gerdes, one more prospect from Eden Prairie who played last year for Jamestown of the North American Hockey League.

Next time around, Cullen Hurley was the choice, the older brother of Muskegon’s second-round pick. Cullen last skated in the NAHL with Aberdeen.

Next, the Lumberjacks plucked their second European of the Entry Draft, defenseman Niklas Folin. Hailing from Sweden, the 6-foot Folin has skated for the Frolunda junior organization for the last three seasons.

Wrapping up the night, Harrison Luce from London, Ont., was Muskegon’s 16th and final selection. A 6-foot-1 right winger, Luce suited up for the St. Thomas Stars of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

“All the scouts and coaches did a very good job, but you don't get wins from draft day,” Mervis said. “We'll find out how good of a draft it was when the season starts. You've still got to play the games at the end of the day.”

No comments: