In April, the NAHL amended its 2020 Draft proceedings due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the ripple effect it’s had on organizations’ offseasons. Because of that, the league decided to add a supplemental draft with three rounds on May 11th, with the standard entry draft taking place on July 21st. The ‘draft before the draft’ affords teams the opportunity to begin filling out camp rosters and addressing needs as an alternative with the status of pre-draft camps and combines currently hanging in the balance.
With the use of NAHL tender agreements, several of MI-HS hockey’s top prospects are already spoken for and have signed with various league teams, slated to join them in the fall. Here’s a quick recap of whose already off the board and where they’re heading…
Tendered with the Austin Bruins on November 16, 2019
Tendered with the Aberdeen Wings on November 1, 2019
Tendered with the Aberdeen Wings on November 21, 2019
Tendered with the Fairbanks IceDogs on February 22, 2020
Tendered with the Jamestown Rebels on February 11, 2020
Tendered with the Fairbanks IceDogs on March 20, 2020
Tendered with the Shreveport Mudbugs on November 14, 2019
Tendered with the Maryland Black Bears on November 28, 2019
Tendered with the Corpus Christi IceRays on November 8, 2019
Tendered with the Amarillo Bulls on March 23, 2020
He’s certainly got the size and strength for the NAHL, and could see him plugging right into a third-line checking unit type of role. Dooley scored 20 goals and 43 points on the Shamrocks’ top line this season; he’s a force below the hash marks and around the net in close quarters. As the best unsigned player in MI-HS, he’ll be playing junior hockey next year, the only question is where he lands.
My personal favorite on this list, Lause brings just as much value to a locker room as he does to the ice. He’s a low-maintenance, ‘yes, coach’ type of guy who would run through a brick wall for his team. He's got an extremely high hockey IQ and understands the game, great puck skills and a quick release. Can be used in a variety of roles in the lineup.
High school’s reigning Mr. Hockey, Rappuhn has a finisher’s touch and a quick release. Around the net, he’s a slam dunk, producing 44 goals and 89 points in 28 games his senior season. Give him an open look and it’s over. His frame is good at 6-foot, and as he develops and fills out, he’ll round out into a strong forward at the next level.
Another kid with the size and speed to fit at the NAHL level. Babinski functions at a fast pace and makes plays on the move that few can in high school. His senior season was cut short due to injuries, which is why I think he’s flown under some people’s radar to this point. Babinski put up 30 points in just 11 games for the Chemics this season, 36 in 49 for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies’ 16U team last season, and 50+ as a sophomore for Midland. Kid produces everywhere he goes.
Unpopular opinion: CC goalies were some of the most overshadowed players in MI-HS this season. Blust had a 1.27 goals-against average and .933 save percentage — while counterpart Louis Finnegan had a 1.26 and .918 — which quickly gets dismissed by the stacked team they played behind. Blust is rock solid though, rarely in distress and has great potential. If he lands in a good situation, the ‘02 netminder’s value could totally take off.
A lot of U.P. kids tend to migrate towards the western Canadian leagues like the AJHL, MJHL and SJHL, and I could see Loukus follow that same arc. However, he’s still fully capable of landing with an NAHL team come Tuesday. He’s a little light, but all it takes is a good offseason to fill Loukus out into a heavier, stronger player. What I love is his ability to carve through opponents at top speed — ‘run through the smoke’ as they say in football — and maintain possession of the puck with his head up.
What’s different about Cormier than some of the other top goalie prospects to come out of MI-HS most recently? At 5-foot-10, he fits a similar mold to the Sam Evola’s and Will Tragge’s that have come before him. However, the three-year netminder plays with a tremendous aggressiveness towards shooters to compensate for any perceived size discrepancies. He’s got great body control and almost seems to be at his best when under siege.
'Cerebral' is the only word in the English language that does Petryla justice. He's very intelligent on the ice. Petryla is a big-time playmaker whose consistently a step ahead of the play. In two seasons with the Eaglets, he posted 29 goals and 74 points. As a native of Poland, a team may have to utilize one of its imports to bring in Petryla but as smart and fast as he can play, it’d be well worth the investment.
Much of the attention at Yellowjackets games was directed toward Thomas as a big-bodied D-man, but his counterpart in Sessa is just as capable of reaching the next level. He has decent size at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, and is an agile defender with a wiry shot. Sessa is a big point producer from the back end as well, racking up 14 goals and 35 points in 27 games as a senior.
He’s just a powerful player, strong on the puck and around the boards. Not only that, but Kelly can buzz around the ice, moving one direction, passing another and attacking the net before opponents know what hit them. He’s similar in size and style to that of Dooley and he’s a year younger, finishing his junior season with 35 goals and 54 points in 25 games. If there’s one underclassman other than Tanner Rowe that could be ready for Tier-II junior hockey, it’s Kelly.
There’s plenty of MI-HS prospects with NAHL potential. This year’s class already consists of 10 tender agreements and a handful of additional players that should be selected during the league’s draft proceedings, as well as a few main camp invitees with the possibility of playing their way into roster spots. The NAHL has continually been a popular landing spot for top MI-HS prospects and that pipeline grows stronger with each passing year. The 2019-20 season saw more than 40 alumni compete for 22 different organizations.
What are your thoughts on this spring’s North American junior drafts and where do you think some of Michigan’s top prospects could end up? Connect with me on Twitter and let’s talk.
Craig Peterson’s comments and opinions are that of his own, and are in no way directly tied to that of the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches’ Association (MHSHCA), its member coaches, or board members. Any questions, comments or concerns regarding his work can be addressed directly to the author of the article.
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