The United States Premier Hockey League held its National Collegiate Development Conference Entry Draft, during which the Twin City Thunder selected six forwards, five defensemen and two goalies as they look towards the 2021-22 season and beyond.
“We did our due diligence and we were prepared for the draft and were able to get a good list of players, and players that are a direct reflection of the direction we are trying to move in, with some younger players,” Thunder NCDC assistant coach Cam Robichaud said. “If you look at the birth years of the (drafted players), (2002), (2003) and a couple of (2004), and the league as a whole is heading that direction, that young, speedy, skilled player.”
The six forwards selected by the Thunder in Wednesday’s draft are Hans Forselius (Rhode Island Hitmen 18U), Tyler Healey (St. Michael Buzzers of the OJHL), Trevor Kruczek (Mt. St. Charles 18U, Beast Series), Ryan Liverman (Westlake Bourget 18U, ECEL), Michael Marquez (Elite Hockey Academy 18U, AYHL) and Jack Rose (Walpole Express, EHL), who played for the Maine Nordiques Academy 18U team in 2019-20.
Kruczek stood out at the USPHL Spring Showcase, which took place May 7-9 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
“He played for us in a showcase last weekend and he really earned an (opportunity to be drafted) through that showcase,” Robichaud said. “He got better as the weekend went on and he was coming off a trip at (the USA Hockey Tier I 18U nationals) with Mt. St. Charles. (He had) a lot of travel and a lot of hockey in a short amount of time. He told me he wasn’t 100 percent because of the fatigue and he wasn’t sure if he was at his best. As a staff, we were really excited with his play.”
Robichaud said he was impressed with Kruczek’s puck retrieval and puck-possession skills at the showcase.
The five defensemen chosen by Twin City are Connor Loerzel (TRC Hockey, NAPHL), Chase McLellan (Carshield 18U, NAPHL), Ben Monson (Lakeville North High School, Minnesota), Owen Simmons (Estevan Bruins, SJHL) and Trenton Skaggs (Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, USPHL Premier).
Simmons is a highly coveted 2004-born player who also was drafted by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the eighth round of the 2020 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft. He might also be selected later this month in the Ter I United States Hockey League’s draft. NCAA Division I schools also are interested in the Kelowna, British Colombia native.
“I have known Owen Simmons and his family for a couple of years now, and I have been trying to get him for a couple of years,” Robichaud said. “This year he was thinking about meeting us out in Florida (for the USPHL Hub City event), but it was difficult, as a Canadian and (with the pandemic). … He’s an elite 2004 birth year.”
Carlson is a 2001 birth year, while Alfredson was born in 2004. The Thunder organization likes to create competition in the crease.
“We have the potential of (Devon) Bobak returning; he’s a (2001 birth year)” Robichaud said. “We want a great mix of goalies coming to camp and battling for the job. You look at the highest levels of hockey and you look at the NHL right now — with the Boston Bruins, you have an older goalie (Tuukka Rask) and a younger goalie (Jeremy Swayman). You never know how the young guy is going to perform. They are going to come in and either they aren’t ready, or they come in and say, ‘Hey, age doesn’t matter.’”
THUNDER TENDER FORWARDS
Prior to the draft, the Thunder signed seven forwards to a NCDC tender contracts.
On Monday, the organization signed Keaton Kranz, a 19-year-old from Lakeville, Minnesota, who had six goals and six assists in 12 games with the Sioux Falls Power 18U team (NAPHL).
The previous week, the Thunder signed 19-year-old Anchorage, Alaska native Jakub Hall of the Meijer 18U AAA in Lansing, Michigan.
Robichaud said Twin City also tendered Jack Kinsman (Buffalo Jr. Sabres 18U, Tier I Elite League), Ryan Peterson (St. Francis High School New York) and Sam Stitz (Team Maryland 18U, NAPHL) after the USPHL showcase.
Kinsman, who attended the Thunder’s main camp in August 2020, scored three times and had 11 assists in 32 games with the Jr. Sabres in 2020-21. Stitz scored twice and added an assist in four games this season. No stats were available for Peterson in 2020-21, but he had seven goals and five assists in 17 games in 2019-20.
Twin City signed two other forwards in April, Ethan Lim and Steven Armstrong.
Lim, an 18-year-old from Miami, Florida, scored 16 goals and dished out 18 assists in 17 games for the Connecticut Chiefs 18U team.
Armstrong, a 19-year-old from Rochester, New York, scored 14 goals and had three assists with Rhode Island 18U.
Signing these players to tenders means their USPHL NCDC rights belong to the Thunder, and signed players cannot be drafted or signed by other NCDC teams. The players, however, can sign with teams in other junior leagues.
Two more Twin City Thunder NCDC players committed to NCAA Division III schools recently.
Gabe Potyk, the team’s second-leading scorer (13 goals and 12 assists in 30 games), will be playing at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.
The Cardinals play in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They finished 5-6 this season.
Tyler Fox will be heading to Trine University in Angola, Indiana. The 20-year-old scored seven goals and nine assists in 29 games for Twin City.
Trine plays in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association and finished 5-10-1 in 2020-21.
“I am very excited for both of them. It was a very extensive process,” Robichaud said. “As a staff, you want players to make commitments, but you also don’t want to push them if they aren’t ready to commit. Fox and Potyk spoke to several schools and went on visits. They feel their schools that they will be attending next year will be the right fit for them athletically as well as academically, and (for a) healthy social life as well.”
Potyk’s and Fox’s decisions give the Twin City Thunder 14 players committed to Division III schools.
USM NABS DESMARAIS
Former Twin City Thunder forward Zach Desmarais is going to play for the University of Southern Maine.
Desmarais played in the Ontario Junior Hockey League this season and spent time with the Trenton Golden Hawks and Lindsay Muskies. He had three assists in 11 preseason games (the OJHL wasn’t able to have a regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic).
USM played four games this season and finished 2-2.
FOSS TO WISCONSIN-RIVER FALLS
Maine Nordiques defenseman Joey Foss also will be playing Division III next season, at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in River Falls, Wisconsin.
The Elk River, Minnesota native came to the Nordiques in February from the St. Cloud Norsemen of the NAHL Central Division. He played in 25 regular season games for the Nordiques and Norsemen and had one assist.
The Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons, who went 6-3-1 this past season, play in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
REPMAN DRAFTED BY JR. BRUINS
One Maine Nordiques Academy was drafted in the NCDC draft: Chris Repman, a forward on the 18U team, was chosen by the Junior Bruins.
The 19-year-old from Middletown, New Jersey, scored 11 goals and 27 assists in 40 games with the 18U team.
“This kid is going to wow people. I promise,” Maine Nordiques Academy 18U coach Nick Skerlick said on Twitter.