Thursday, May 31, 2012

NAHL announces 2012 draft results

The North American Hockey League has announced the results of its 2012 Entry Draft, which was conducted online today.

View the results of the draft here.

A total of 172 players were selected.

Ten North American Prospects Hockey League players were selected and in all, 62 PHL players were drafted or tendered by NAHL teams during the 2011-12 season.

Three North American 3 Hockey League players were selected. In all, 27 3HL players were drafted or tendered by NAHL teams during the 2011-12 season.

Players not drafted or tendered by NAHL teams are still able to participate in each team's respective open tryout camps. Click here for tryout information for all 24 NAHL teams.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Plymouth signs second-rounder Peters

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the signing 15-year-old defenseman Alex Peters, who was taken by the Whalers in the second round (31st overall) of the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Peters said. “It's a great privilege to be part of the Plymouth Whalers organization. It’s a happy day. I can’t wait to get started.”

Peters – 6-foot-4 and 188 pounds, from Blyth, Ont. – scored 11 goals with seven assists for 18 points and 20 penalty minutes in 45 games for the Huron Perth Lakers midgets last season.

Peters is a member of the Whalers' extended family as his older brother, Justin (now with the Carolina Hurricanes), played in the OHL from 2002-06 and finished his career with the Whalers in 2006. Another brother, Anthony, was a goaltender in the OHL from 2006-11.

“Justin spoke a lot about what a great place Plymouth is,” Peters said. “I’m a big body, have an active stick and make a good first pass. I consider myself a two-way defenseman. I’m good on the defensive end, but can also take the puck up ice and contribute some points.”

Peters seemed to improve as last season wore on – a fact that prompted the Whalers to select him in the second round.

“I got more confident throughout the year,” Peters said. “I felt more comfortable with my stick and started to jump up in the rush.”

The Plymouth coaching staff received their first look at Peters during the team’s rookie orientation May 19-20 and Peters – who played in the camp as one of the youngest players on the ice - didn’t look out of place. He scored a goal and skated well.

“We were really impressed with how he played,” said Plymouth associate coach Joe Stefan. “He’s a big kid who skates well for his size. He’s got a pretty good head for the game and makes good decisions. He seems like a good kid and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the family. We know Alex will come here with a great work ethic and hopefully he’ll be a good player for us for three or four years.”

Peters is expected to report to Plymouth’s training camp at the end of August.

Photo (Peters with Plymouth assistant GM Brian Sommariva)/Plymouth Whalers

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NAHL Draft scheduled for this Thursday

When is the NAHL Entry Draft?
The 2012 NAHL Entry Draft is scheduled for Thursday, May 31 at 1 p.m. CST.

Who is eligible for the NAHL Entry Draft?
Amateur players less than 21 years of age on or before December 31, 2012 who are not listed on an NAHL team roster or are listed on an NAHL team roster but played less than (10) NAHL regular season and/or playoff games during the 2011-12 season and did not accept a tender from an NAHL team prior to the 2012 NAHLEntry Draft are eligible for selection in the draft.

How many players can each team select in the NAHL Entry Draft?
The number of players each team is able to draft varies on that team's current roster (protected list) minus the number 30 as of midnight of May 30. Leading up to midnight of May 30, each team's roster is comprised of veteran players and signed tenders only. For example, if a team has 15 veterans rostered and 8 tenders signed as of midnight of May 30 (23 total), that team is allowed seven (7) draft picks.

What is the order of the NAHL Entry Draft?
Eligible teams shall make selections in each round in reverse order of their finish in the 2011-12 NAHL regular-season standings. New member clubs shall have their order of selection determined by lottery. If there is only one new member club, it shall have the first selection in each round.

Do prospective NAHL players have to register for the NAHL Entry Draft?
No, there is no registration process to be eligible for the NAHL Entry Draft.

Are drafted players eligible to try out for other NAHL teams?
Unless agreed upon in writing by the two NAHL teams, tendered or drafted players are not eligible to try out for other NAHL teams.

Are drafted players eligible to try out for teams in other junior leagues?
Yes, all tendered and drafted players are eligible to try out for any team in any league other than the NAHL in the U.S. and Canada.

Will the results of the NAHL Entry Draft be posted on
Yes, the results of the NAHL Entry Draft will be posted on in alphabetical order in its entirety upon completion.

Will the NAHL Entry Draft be broadcast?
Yes, the NAHL Entry Draft is scheduled to be broadcast with live round-by-round coverage on FASTHockey, official broadcast partner of the NAHL.

Will all NAHL tenders signings be posted on
No, all tender signing will not be posted on NAHL teams may make their tender signings public, but are not required to do so.

What if a prospective player is not drafted, but is still interested in playing the NAHL?
Players not drafted but who still want to play in the NAHL are encouraged to attend individual team's open tryout camps. NAHL tryout camp information.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Whalers ink 2012 top pick Bratina

The Plymouth Whalers announced the signing 16-year-old left wing Zach Bratina, who was taken by the Whalers in the first round (19th overall) of the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

“It’s definitely a relief in signing the contract,” Bratina said. “I’m excited to start the season and couldn’t be happier with any other team.”

Bratina – 6-foot-1 and 163 pounds, from Lindsay, Ont. - scored 22 goals with 21 assists for 43 points and 60 penalty minutes last season for the Central Ontario Wolves minor midget team.

“Zach has very good individual skill and an impressive scoring touch,” said Plymouth assistant general manager Brian Sommariva (pictured above with Bratina). “We are excited to have a player of his caliber choose the OHL and Plymouth.”

Bratina, with parents Dan and Karen, attended Plymouth’s rookie orientation last weekend at Compuware Arena. Bratina scored two goals in two scrimmages during the orientation, playing with a smooth skating stride and going to the high traffic areas of the offensive zone.

“Zach’s a very smart hockey player. The puck really follows him around the ice," said Darrell Woodley, director of central scouting for the OHL. "He has good vision and the ability to score, coming out of the corners or in tight around the net.”

After being selected by the Whalers in April, Bratina attended a couple of Plymouth playoff games – one in Kitchener and the other at Compuware Arena. He was introduced to the crowd at Compuware Arena before Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals against Kitchener.

“It was a good experience,” Bratina said about the pre-scouting of his new team and meeting the Plymouth fans. “Plymouth looked really good last year (47-18-2-1, West Division champions) and hopefully, we’ll be good again this year. The home crowd in Plymouth was really loud. I think I’m going to like that this year.”

Bratina is expected to report to Whalers training camp at the end of August.

Photo/Plymouth Whalers

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.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shannon tabbed head coach in Port Huron

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons have announced that Steve Shannon, who was recently named as the team’s general manager, has also been named the new head coach.

“After going through many resumes of qualified applicants, to whom I thank for their interest in the head coach position, I, along with Steve Shannon, have come to the agreement that he will also be the next head coach of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons for the 2012-13 season,” said owner/governor Maribeth Hayes in a statement.

Along with Shannon, the hockey staff will include Jeff Blum, who resides in the Port Huron area and who has previous head coaching experience in the NAHL. Blum will be the director of player development/college recruiting liaison.

Scott Nichols will be back as the team's goalie coach.

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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saginaw signs third 2012 draft pick

The Saginaw Spirit on Tuesday announced the signing of left wing Dylan Sadowy to an OHL contract, making the forward the third of the Spirit’s 2012 OHL Priority Selection picks to reach an agreement with the team.

The Spirit had previously signed their first two selections in the draft, first-round pick Jeremiah Addison and second-rounder Brandon Prophet.

Sadowy comes to the Spirit after being the team’s last of two second-round picks, going 37th overall.

Sadowy spent last season with the Vaughan Kings Minor Midget program, where he recorded 33 goals and 45 assists for 78 points in 53 games. He also added four points in five games in the 2012 OHL Cup and was the second member of the Kings to be drafted into the OHL this year following Michael Dal Colle, who went in the first round to the Oshawa Generals.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Warriors' White picks UMass-Lowell

The Michigan Warriors have announced that forward A.J. White has committed to play for Massachusetts-Lowell for the 2012-13 season.

White, a 20-year-old from Dearborn, totaled 39 goals and 46 assists for 85 points in 115 regular season games over the past two seasons with the Warriors. He tallied seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 20 career NAHL playoff games, helping the Warriors advance to the Robertson Cup championship game in 2011.

White also competed in the 2012 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy earlier this year for Team North.

“Seeing players like A.J. develop and showcase their skills as they work toward that next level is what Michigan Warriors hockey is all about,” said Warriors head coach Moe Mantha. “He’s a talented player and a hard worker who gave it his all on the ice and in the classroom. The Warriors organization is proud of him and thrilled to see him rewarded for his effort.”

White is the fifth Warriors player to commit to a Division I college hockey program, joining forward Justin Hoomaian (Michigan State), defenseman Michael Szuma (Michigan), goaltender Robert Tadazak (Army) and defenseman Ryan Trenz (Northern Michigan).

"Getting to play for Moe Mantha was an incredible experience," White said. "From playing in the NHL and coaching in the pros and in juniors, he knew so much about the game, including what it took to get to the next level. I really enjoyed my time in Flint with the Michigan Warriors. They helped me accomplish my goal of playing D-I hockey."

Warren steps down from Port Huron post

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons have announced that head coach Bill Warren, this year's NAHL coach of the year, has resigned.

A search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

All inquiries and team business should be directed to Steve Shannon (email), the new vice-president and general manager of hockey operations for the Fighting Falcons.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

K-Zoo's Raffaele chooses D-III Bethel

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced that forward Brock Raffaele has committed to play college hockey at Division III Bethel University.

Raffaele, a Cadillac native, joined the Jr. K-Wings after playing 31 games with the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. In those 31 games, Raffaele tallied 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists). He joined Kalamazoo in January and proceeded to tally 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games. During the playoffs, Raffele appeared in eight games and notched three assists.

The NAHL recognized Raffale as Combat Hockey’s Second Star of the Week back in late January. He was also a member of Team North During the NAHL’s annual Top Prospects Tournament.

Raffaele joins a Bethel team that is a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. During the 2011-12 season, Bethel went 8-15-2 and 6-8-2 within the division.

Raffaele is now the fifth Jr. K-Wing who has committed to play hockey at the college level. He joins Chad McDonald (Ferris State), Austin Hervey (Western Michigan), Ken MacLean (Rochester Institute of Technology) and Drew Graves (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point).

Friday, May 11, 2012

McKenzie, 'Jacks agree to extension

The Muskegon Lumberjacks and head coach Jim McKenzie have agreed to a two-year contract extension, the United States Hockey League club announced today.

The freshly-signed deal will keep McKenzie, a 15-year NHL veteran and Stanley Cup winner, in charge through the 2013-14 season. The 42-year-old native of Gull Lake, Sask., was named the second head coach in franchise history Jan. 13. The Lumberjacks are set to enter their third season in the USHL, the nation’s premier league for developing NCAA and NHL talent.

“Jim did an excellent job in a difficult situation,” said Lumberjacks owner and general manager Josh Mervis. “I believe our best days as a franchise are ahead of us with Jim’s leadership. The players know they will have a disciplined and demanding coach, a coach who knows how to develop players, and understands the demands of learning to become a professional hockey player at the highest level.”

Under McKenzie, the Lumberjacks posted an 8-19-6 record to conclude their second USHL campaign, but his tenure was defined by improved team-oriented play and a renewed commitment to defense. Muskegon, the youngest team in the league, battled through growing pains to claim seven of McKenzie’s eight wins against playoff-bound squads.

“I love coaching and this is a great opportunity,” McKenzie said. “The USHL is an outstanding league and it’s exciting working with talented players and getting them ready for the next level, wherever it may be.”

Along with senior adviser Ron Mason, who was also added to Muskegon’s hockey operations staff in mid-January, McKenzie enthusiastically tackled the difficult task of taking over a team in midstream. Mason is the winningest coach in men’s college hockey history and won an NCAA title with Michigan State University.

“Along with Ron’s formidable coaching talent, which we are fortunate to have at our disposal, we are extremely confident in our leadership structure going forward,” Mervis said. “Jim has lived it, and done it, and now he is eminently capable of teaching, developing, and leading our players to their fullest potential.”

Although the Lumberjacks missed the USHL postseason for the first time, going 17-35-8 in their second go-around on the Tier I circuit, McKenzie is optimistic about the 2012-13 team returning Muskegon to Clark Cup contention.

“The groundwork has been laid to get our program back on track,” he said. “Our coaches and scouts have done great work scouting new talent, and we have a good group of players coming back who will only get better.”

McKenzie played more than 900 NHL games, collecting 100 points (48g, 52a) and 1,739 penalty minutes in 880 regular season games. The 6-foot-4 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 stayed close to the game, holding a coaching position with the TPH Thunder hockey club. He also has experience working with the National Hockey League Players Association.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Spirit signs top 2012 draft pick Addison

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that forward Jeremiah Addison has signed an Ontario Hockey League contract after being the team’s first-round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection.

The Brampton, Ont., native was selected 12th overall and was one of five first-round picks taken from the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget program. Addison recorded 28 goals among his 46 points this past season for the OHL Cup finalists.

Addison’s teammates with the Marlboros included three of the top five players selected in the draft in Connor McDavid (first to Erie), Roland McKeown (second to Kingston) and Joshua Ho Sang (fifth to Windsor).

Addison was in attendance at this past weekend’s rookie camp where he recorded two goals in three scrimmages and was impressive with his combination of speed and high-end goal-scoring capabilities.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Saginaw inks second-rounder Prophet

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that the first of the team's two second-round picks in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection has signed with the club as the Spirit have reached an agreement with defenseman Brandon Prophet, who spent this past season with the Upper Canada Cyclones Minor Midget program.

The native of Brockville, Ont., appeared in 30 games for the Cyclones, recording eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points, and was a teammate of Eric Cornel, who was selected third overall in the draft by the Peterborough Petes.

Prophet has also been selected to advance to the Ontario Under-17 team camp that is scheduled for early July.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound rearguard was in attendance at the Spirit's mini camp last month and was one of the most impressive performers among the rookie hopefuls during the three scrimmage sessions, where he posted a two-assist effort in the first of those games.

Monday, May 07, 2012

K-Zoo's Graves picks UW-Stevens Point

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings announced Monday that forward Drew Graves has committed to play college hockey at Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Graves, an Allen Park native, appeared in 56 games during the regular season, led a very potent Kalamazoo offense. He led the Jr. K-Wings in goals (27), assists (32) and points (59). Graves also finished the playoffs by posting six points (four goals, two assists) in eight games, which was good for second on the club.

The league recognized Graves, who played three years in the NAHL, on multiple occasions during this season. His accolades include being named Combat Hockey’s First Star of the Week back in January, as well as making the North’s All-Division First Team. Graves also represented the North Division during the NAHL’s Top Prospects Tournament.

Graves joins a UW-Stevens Point team that is a member of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. During the 2011-12 season, the Pointers went 14-11-4 (8-6-4 in NCHA play) while finishing fourth in the conference. The Pointers made it all the way to the NCHA Peters Cup finals, in which they lost to St. Norbert in a 4-0 contest.

“Drew is a talented offensive player and a great leader for our team,” said Kalamazoo coach Marc Fakler. “We are pleased that he will be moving to the collegiate level next season.”

Graves now joins Austin Hervey (Western Michigan) and Ken MacLean (Rochester Institute of Technology) as the only other college commitments that finished the season with Kalamazoo.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Michigan players taken in Futures Draft

Aside from the six players the Muskegon Lumberjacks selected during Tuesday’s United States Hockey League Futures Draft, the state of Michigan was well-represented as several Michigan-based players were drafted by other USHL teams.

 In the first round, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s forward Cody Milan went ninth overall to the Sioux Falls Stampede and then six picks later, the Tri-City Storm tabbed Belle Tire midget minor forward Dylan Pavelek.

Honeybaked forward Dakota Joshua saw his name come across the computer screen in the third round as he became the property of the Stampede.

The Lincoln Stars grabbed Little Caesars forward Gordon Helmuth in round four, a round that also saw Compuware forward Roman Gaudet go to the Chicago Steel and Belle Tire forward Anthony Petrella get picked by the defending USHL champion Dubuque Fighting Saints.

Belle Tire forward Austin Kamer was taken in the fifth round by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and River Rymsha from St. Mary’s went to the Fargo Force.

'Jacks nab 'players from great programs'

The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ 2012-13 season has officially begun, as they added six talented 1996-born hockey players to their affiliate list in the USHL Futures Draft Tuesday night.

“We love great players from great programs and that’s what we have in this draft,” said Lumberjacks owner/GM Josh Mervis. “In addition to that excitement, we have an outstanding hockey operations staff and it’s phenomenal to see all their work pay off. These guys did a lot to get ready.”

With the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Lumberjacks selected Dylan Malmquist (pictured), a right winger from Edina (Minn.) High School. As a freshman for the Hornets, the 5-foot-10 Malmquist put up 49 points (23g, 26a) in 30 games.

According to Jacks scout Chris "Frenchy" LaCombe, Malmquist is "a highly-skilled forward, the best forward in Minnesota in our opinion. His best attribute is his playmaking. He makes other players better."

The Jacks took Shattuck-St. Mary's freshman center (and fellow Edina native) Chase Phelps with their second round selection, No. 21 overall. Phelps stands at 5-foot-11 and brings a strong skating stride to the rink, plus a defensive conscience in addition to his skill.

"Chase brings a good edge to his game," LaCombe said. "He gets up and down the rink, plays hard and is a great two-way player."

Boston Jr. Bruins forward Conor Garland was the choice in the third round. The prolific Scituate, Mass., product netted a stunning 42 goals in 40 games against Tier III competition in the Empire Junior Hockey League.

"Conor is a shifty, smart, heady player who can score in bunches," said Lumberjacks assistant coach Steve Palmer. "When he gets the puck around the net, it's going in."

Muskegon went north of the border in the fourth round, nabbing Team Ulysse defenseman Raphael Maheux from Quebec. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Maheux is versatile and already very well-developed and strong.

"He is a talented defenseman with great size," said LaCombe. "He can play in all situations and we're thrilled he was still on the board."

The Jacks stayed on the blueline in the fifth round, when they called Tristan Rostagno’s name at No. 70 overall. Already 6-foot-1, Rostagno laced them up for Arrowhead (Wisc.) High School, bringing his physical brand of hockey to the Warhawks.

Muskegon assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier called Tristan "big, tough and mean. He can intimidate with his style of play."

And finally, in the sixth round, Muskegon selected John Peterson of Holy Family Catholic in the Minneapolis area. The 5-foot-9 forward racked up a remarkable 63 points (22g, 41a) in just 26 games.

 "John is a quick, high producing offensive forward," LaCombe said. "He also brings a good amount of 'jam' to the table."

Every one of the 78 players selected in the Futures Draft is automatically placed on the affiliate list of the USHL team that selected him. The club retains the draftee’s rights for three years and can add the player to its active roster at any point during the season. In general, players selected in the USHL Futures Draft have not reached the level to play in the USHL for the next season.

This season, 42 players selected in 2011 USHL Futures Draft took the ice for at least one USHL game.