Sunday, June 24, 2012

DeBlouw headlines Muskegon draft class

In the 1980s and early ‘90s, the Muskegon Lumberjacks provided a pipeline to the National Hockey League via their player development affiliation with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This past weekend, the Steel City was once again a gateway to hockey’s highest level for Muskegon’s best as five players with connections to the Lumberjacks were selected in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center.

Matt DeBlouw, Brendan Woods, Jaycob Megna, Adam Gilmour and Doyle Somerby all had their NHL rights claimed Saturday afternoon.

The proud group was headlined by DeBlouw (pictured), who just finished a two-year stint with the Lumberjacks and heard his name called by the Calgary Flames in Saturday’s seventh round. The Chesterfield native and Michigan State recruit played 97 USHL games (including playoffs) and accumulated 48 points while providing responsible defense from the center position.

 “It’s a great feeling,” the 18-year-old told assembled media members immediately following his selection at No. 186 overall. “All the hard work has paid off and I’m very thankful for everyone that’s been a part of this. It’s a great program in Muskegon and they really developed my game to what it is today.”

DeBlouw was one of three players who honed their skills in Muskegon who went to NHL teams, with 2010-11 Lumberjacks Woods and Megna also getting chosen in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively.

As the 129th overall choice by the Carolina Hurricanes, Woods was the first former USHL Lumberjack to ever be drafted by an NHL team. As a 6-foot-3 freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Woods dressed in 34 games and put up 10 points. He wrapped up his USHL career with a 26-point effort in Muskegon.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” the power forward prospect Woods said via phone. “I can’t wait to meet the players and everyone in the organization.”

With the second-to-last pick of the NHL Draft, the Anaheim Ducks snagged Megna, a 6-foot-6 defenseman who played 35 games in his first year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Illinois product played in 55 matches for Muskegon two winters ago.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind right now,” Megna said in a text message. “It’s an honor to be drafted and it lets me know that my hard work is paying off. I have a lot of work left to do though!”

Lumberjacks’ first-round USHL Entry Draft pick Gilmour was actually the first Muskegon-connected skater to be announced on the floor at CONSOL Energy Center. He was the 98th name called in the two-day draft, going to the Minnesota Wild early in the fourth round. Gilmour, a 6-foot-2 center who averaged two points per game for Nobles & Greenough school in Massachusetts, was joined by fellow Lumberjacks Entry Draft choice Somerby in the fifth round when the New York Islanders summoned him.

Somerby is a 6-foot-5 defenseman who attended Kimball Union prep in New Hamshire last year. Gilmour (Boston College) and Somerby (Boston University) are both committed to play NCAA Division I hockey, providing evidence that the USHL is a prime avenue for high-end prospects looking to play in the NHL and get a college education.

In all, 47 players with USHL connections were selected either Friday night or Saturday in Pittsburgh and 28 of those players suited up in the USHL during the 2011-12 campaign, while 10 are alumni from prior to last season and nine have been drafted by USHL teams.

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