Saturday, May 19, 2012

Muskegon readies for USHL Entry Draft

Three weeks after augmenting their talent base in the USHL Futures Draft, the Muskegon Lumberjacks will supplement it further next week in the league’s Entry Draft.

Unlike the May 1 Futures Draft, in which only players born in 1996 were eligible, in the Entry Draft, USHL teams can claim the rights to any player born from 1992 to 1997.

The Entry Draft is set for 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, May 22.

“With the Entry Draft, you are looking at those players and seeing if they can step in and contribute right away,” said Lumberjacks owner/GM Josh Mervis. “In the Futures Draft, you are looking at younger players and making a projection of what they will become in a year or two.”

Also in contrast to the Futures Draft, which consists of only six rounds, the Entry Draft will continue until each team has accumulated 30 players on their active roster, not counting affiliate list players. Prior to the Entry Draft, each USHL team must submit an initial protected list of veterans which will make up the backbone of the club for next season.

Since the Entry Draft order is determined by reversing the 2011-12 USHL overall standings, the Lumberjacks will chose second in every round, including the pivotal position of No. 2 overall.

“The first thing is to get out and scout,” Lumberjacks' assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier said about the team’s preparation for Tuesday. “But once we built our list, we’ve been on the phone to recruit. You’ve got to make sure the players are interested in coming to Muskegon, because if you draft a guy and he doesn’t show up, it’s a bad pick.”

Fellow Muskegon assistant coach Steve Palmer teamed up with Noel-Bernier to spend a significant amount of time on scouting missions, since one assistant could always stay behind with the team. The Jacks hope the additional travel and diligence during the season will lead to a promising crop of players.

“This year, we used the two-assistant system and relied on me and Steve to get out and see the guys,” said Noel-Bernier, who was the team’s lone assistant in 2010-11. “We also depended on our scouts quite a bit. I think we’ve done our work. We’re looking forward to it.”

Last spring, the Lumberjacks selected sixth in the first round of the Entry Draft and tapped center Ryan Lomberg (pictured) from Ontario. The pick proved quite fruitful as the University of Maine recruit led the team with 40 points (22g, 18a) in 52 games.

Other notable 2011 Entry Draft picks that contributed to the 2011-12 Jacks were Dakota Klecha (second round), Mason Jobst (seventh) and Tyler Heinonen (17th).

All told, last May’s Entry Draft yielded 211 man-games played and 118 points (64g, 54a), including three of the team’s top six scorers.

The first stage of the Entry Draft will end when each team has accumulated 23 players on its roster; a team that reaches 23 will automatically pass on its picks until each club reaches that threshold. The second phase of the draft will then begin, lasting until each team has secured the USHL rights to 30 players.

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