LIVONIA, Mich. — Over the weekend, three MI-HS graduates signed their rights to play for GOJHL Waterloo. Commitments from Alex Lycett (Cranbrook), Brett Miller (Northville) and Sam Spaedt (Saginaw Heritage) continue a long-standing run of MI-HS alumni pursuing junior hockey at Waterloo.
The 2017-18 season will mark the seventh consecutive season in which Curtis Clairmont polishes off another hidden gem that he’s plucked from Michigan high school hockey. As president and director of hockey operations for the Waterloo Siskins, Clairmont has repeatedly tapped into the high school pipeline, actively scouting such events as the annual MIHL Showcase and surveying a wealth of hockey in the metro-Detroit area.
“Once I got down here and started watching how good the hockey was, I was floored,” Clairmont said. “I’ve got a good background in hockey myself so I know players when I see it and I know good coaching when I see it… You can tell when teams are well coached. Dave Mitchell is a great coach, obviously Andy [Weidenbach] is probably one of the better coaches you’ll find at any level anywhere at Cranbrook. Those things are all appealing, the kind of character people you get out of those programs.”
Clairmont brings in his largest haul of MI-HS prospects yet, with two All-State forwards in Lycett and Spaedt as well as an All-State goalie in Miller.
“I think it’s just a really good opportunity,” Miller said. “They have a really good reputation of bringing on Michigan high school players and moving them on. Being able to go there and play with a couple other players that I know, I think it’ll help me adjust better. Great organization. I like all the staff, coaches, great area too. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Miller played two seasons with Northville, posting a career record of 31-14-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in his senior year. He joins Waterloo — a team that lost both of its goalies from a season ago — with an opportunity to earn a starting role.
“I think the high school coaches, they do a really good job,” said Miller. “Not just the coaches from Northville but coaches from all the teams that I know from the MDHL. They all helped push me forward and get me seen. A lot of opportunities to go to Minnesota with Team Michigan and the MDHL.”
When the trio arrives at Waterloo, it won’t be the first time all three share the ice. In fact, Miller and Spaedt competed for the Team Michigan HP-18s in Minnesota in 2016 and all three of them competed in the Michigan Developmental Hockey League (MDHL) last Fall.
Lycett — who unfortunately was absent from the day’s signings — played four seasons for Cranbrook, appearing in 90 games while scoring 45 goals and 108 points in that span and winning a D-III state championship in 2015.
Spaedt led Saginaw Heritage in scoring as a senior while totaling 45 goals and 138 points during his high-school career, winning a D-III regional championship in 2016.
“My junior year was the real kicker,” said Spaedt. “Like, I could do this and I’m good at what I do. When I heard about Team Michigan, my dad said I should go try out. Tryouts came and they liked me and chose me to play. Then, I played in the MDHL and that really helped me develop and just made me think I could definitely do this if I put the effort in.”
The most important piece of the puzzle for all three is the opportunity to play and contribute immediately.
“We are getting guys that are going to play a big role on our team,” Clairmont said. “Each one of them have slightly different characteristics as far as their size and ability…so in the case of Sam and Alex, definitely top six, top nine roles up front and in the case of Brett, the opportunity to be the number one goalie this year, so big expectations.”
The GOJHL is recognized as one of the top development leagues in North America. Many of its players move on to play higher levels of hockey including the NHL, OHL, NCAA and many others. Its website bolsters a list of more than 1,300 players who have successfully moved on to higher levels.
Waterloo enters its 84th season, making it the oldest active junior hockey program in North America.
“We try to be selective about the people we bring into our program because we’re making a commitment to families that their son — its the first time he’s moving away from home — that they’re going to be well taken care of,” Clairmont said.