The Muskegon Lumberjacks enter the 2010-2011 season as one of two expansion teams. But unlike Dubuque, this is the first USHL team Muskegon has ever had. Only minor league hockey has been played in Muskegon, Michigan. Going from minor league hockey to Junior A hockey is a huge step up in overall quality and talent. Although, most Muskegon residents don't seem to like going from minor league to juniors, I'm sure the team will do just fine. So let's recap the Lumberjacks' draft, starting with Tuesday's Futures Draft and then on to the Entry Draft...
Round 1 Selection
Garret Cockerill 5'11"/170 (Compuware U16) was the Lumberjacks first selection in the Futures. He was the second overall pick in the Draft. He is a very gritty player who's not afraid to get dirty in the corners. He's a great skater that shows good mobility. Cockerill also has some good offensive skills and has a tendency to shoot first. Stats from last season: 19 points in 38 games, 5g, 14a, 66 PIM.
Round 2 Selection
Joe Cox 5'10"/158 (Compuware U16) was the second round selection of Muskegon, and was also the second Compuware midget minor player picked by the Lumberjacks. He is a consistent forward who doesn't dazzle you with speed and skill, but is good at everything all around. He is like Conor Brickley in the way he creates chances all by himself. He is ever improving and could make an impact in the USHL within the next few years. Stats from last season: 38 games, 39 points, 18g, 21a, 59 PIM.
Round 3 Selection
Joshua Henke 5'10"/180 (Belle Tire U16) was Muskegon's third pick and their third from the Tier 1 Elite League. Henke is an incredible talent, and a steal for Muskegon in the third round. He is a very creative player, having plenty of moves to get around defensemen. He is a very flashy player and is sure to be a fan favorite in Muskegon. He is a star type player and always has the threat to make something happen. He needs to be a bit more consistent, but that is something he can fix in another year or two of midgets. Stats from last season: 35 points in 38 games, 15 goals, 20 assists, with 38 PIM. Should be in the USHL soon.
Round 4 Selection
Grant Besse 5'10"/150 (Benilde-SM HS) was the fourth round selection of the Lumberjacks. He was the first Minnesota high school hockey player taken by Muskegon. Besse is a great skater and it always seems something good happens when the puck is on his stick. He needs to get a little dirtier in the corners and the front of the net, but otherwise, he is a very solid forward. He is a freshman in high school, so we probably won't be seeing him for a few years. Stats from this past season: 27 games played, 30 goals, 20 assists for a total of 50 points and 12 PIM.
Round 5 Selection
Michael McNicholas (LA Selects U16) was Muskegon's fifth round selection, and he continued the trend of Tier 1 Elite forwards being drafted by Muskegon. McNicholas was second in scoring for the LA Selects midget minor squad with 47 points in 38 games. Of those 47 points, 20 were goals and 27 were assists. He also added 16 penalty minutes on the season.
Round 6 Selection
Chris Leibinger (Heritage HS) was the final selection of the Lumberjacks in the Futures Draft. I have very little info readily available to me about Leibinger, so this is about it. Partial stats from last year: at least 5 GP, and at least 10 points.
Round 1 Selection
Casey Thrush (Team Maryland U18) was Muskegon's first round selection and he deserved the honor. Thrush was ranked 89th on the NHL CSS final rankings, so more than likely, we should see him drafted by an NHL team in this June's NHL Draft. Thrush is a 6'1", 175 forward from Easton, Maryland. Thrush had a great year statistically. This past regular season, Thrush gained a staggering 117 points in 72 games played. Of those 117 points, 50 were goals and 67 of them were helpers. Another number that stands out to me on the stat sheet as I'm looking here is the amount of penalty minutes Thrush racked up 102 PIMs on the season. Thrush has committed to play college hockey at the University of New Hampshire following his junior hockey career.
Round 2 Selection
Matthew DeBlouw (Little Caesars U18) was the Lumberjack's second selection and their second forward drafted. DeBlouw led the Little Caesars U18 squad in scoring with 44 points in 48 games. Of those 44 points, 23 were goals and 21 were assists, showing that DeBlouw has good scoring touch. The forward from Chesterfield, Michigan stands at an average 6'0"/165. He hasn't had any college interest yet, but if he plays well in Muskegon, I would expect that to change. It's obvious that Muskegon is trying to establish a skilled top six forward group and they picked two great forwards to build a core for that group.
Round 3 Selection
Charlie Taft (Edina HS) was Muskegon's third pick and third forward picked. Edina High's captain is a 19 year year old forward who isn't necessarily the flashiest player on the ice, but can get things done. Taft had 30 points, 19 goals, 11 assists in 31 games this past season. He obviously has a great work ethic if he was named the captain for Edina's hockey squad. I would expect to see Taft playing in Muskegon next year. Photo from mnhockeyhub.com.
Round 4 Selection
Ryan Bullock (Blake HS) was the first defenseman taken by the Lumberjacks in the Entry Draft and was their fourth overall pick. Muskegon was going for an offensive defenseman here and got it in Bullock. Bullock has the potential to be a powerplay quarterback for the Jacks as early as next year. Bullock established himself early and often as a legitimate offensive threat back on the blue line for Blake High. In 28 games this year, Bullock averaged almost an assist per game, gaining 27 helpers on the year. As an added bonus, Bullock netted 9 goals from the point this season. As a junior, I'm not sure if we will be seeing Bullock in the USHL next year, but I'm sure we will be seeing Bullock back on the blue line for the Lumberjacks sooner rather than later.
Round 5 Selection
Doug Lindensmith (La Ronge Ice Wolves) was the first and only overager drafted by Muskegon in this year's Entry Draft. They must have been looking for a veteran presence with this pick. With that said, Lindensmith isn't just some overager who finally got his break in the USHL. He posted great stats last year in the SJHL, ranked 7th in goals, 13th in assists, and 9th in points overall in the league. In 56 games played, Lindensmith ended up 28 goals and 34 assists, adding up to 62 points on the year. Lindensmith also dropped the gloves once this year, so maybe he could be a potential part-time enforcer for the Jacks. Photo from SJHL.com.
Round 6 Selection
Darcy Ashley (Summerside Capitals) was the Jacks sixth pick and their fifth forward selected, indicating that the Muskegon staff is looking for a more offensively tailored team instead of a physical, defensive team. Ashley is a junior in high school so basically it is up to him whether he wants to stay in high school for another year or tryout for the Lumberjacks this summer. Either way, Ashely is a very talented player on paper, posting 67 points in 46 games this past season. Of those 67 points, 26 were goals and 41 were assists, showing that Ashley is a skilled playmaking type forward. He doesn't have any college interest yet, but he should gain some after playing with Muskegon for a few years.
Round 7 Selection
Kyle Huson (Colorado Thunderbirds U18) was the second defenseman drafted by Muskegon. He was drafted in the 7th round of the Entry Draft. Huson is a big d-man standing at 6'4", 175. I would assume Huson will be joining the Jacks next season and should be an integral part of Muskegon's defensive core next season. Huson can also bring a little offensive production to the table. In 48 games played this past year, Huson put up 6 goals and 14 assists, adding up to 20 total points. Don't expect that offensive production to continue at the USHL level, but I think he can still put up a point or two every now and again. Huson should be a solid defenseman with Muskegon and produce. I think this pick is a steal in the seventh round.
Round 8 Selection
Josh Archibald (Brainerd HS) continued the trend of drafting high scoring forwards, being Muskegon's eighth pick in the Entry Draft. Archibald is a little undersized, listed at 5'9", 160 pounds. Archibald put up some great numbers in Minnesota High School hockey this year. In 27 games played, he had 57 points, a huge total. Archibald really turned it on in the section playoffs, posting 7 points (2g, 5a), in 2 playoff games. Although Brainerd didn't make state, Archibald played very well. As a junior in high school, it's plausible that he could be playing in Muskegon next season. Besides wanting to finish out school at Brainerd, the only reason I could think of for Archibald to stay in Minnesota is that Brainerd's coach is his dad, so he might want to play another year under his dad before playing juniors. Photo from mnhockeyhub.com.
Round 9 Selection
Tom Conlin (Boston Advantage U18) is the first and only goalie taken by Muskegon in any of the drafts. Before the drafts, however, Muskegon signed Joel Vinneau. On to Conlin, he posted 10-12-4 record in 26 games played this past season. Conlin also had a 2.73 GAA on the year, and a GAA under 3 for a midget major goalie is usually acceptable. Conlin also had a .890 SV% on the year, saving 550 of 618 shots faced. At the moment, Conlin is the back up goalie up in Muskegon, and I think the Jacks got a good deal drafting him in the 9th Round. Photo from boston.com.
Round 10 Selection
Garret Clemment (Wausau West HS) is a guy that I don't have much info on. He was Muskegon's 10th pick and their 7th forward taken in the Entry Draft. Clemment is a 5'9", 155 pound forward out of Wausau West High School. I'm sure that Clemment will attend the Lumberjacks tryout camp this summer, and may be in the USHL next year, we will just have to wait and see I suppose. Photo from berecruited.com.
Round 11 Selection
Jon Farkas (Compuware U16) was Muskegon's 11th pick, their 8th forward, and their 1st 1994 born player taken by Muskegon in the Entry Draft. Farkas is a two-way player, being solid offensively as well as defensively. Farkas skates well and has great hockey IQ. Farkas is what you would call a "grinder" type forward, that won't be in Muskegon's top 6 forwards. His role on the Jacks will more than likely be a third line center that kills off penalties. Farkas had solid stats for a third line grinder, getting 19 points in 37 games this past season. Of those 19 points, 8 were goals and 11 were assists. I'm not sure if we will be seeing Farkas in the USHL next year as a '94, but he should be with Muskegon in the next few years, if not next season.
Round 14 Selection
Isaac Kohls (Streetsville) was the the 12th selection by Muskegon, after passing on their 12th and 13th round picks. Kohls had a great year statisically in the CCHL, scoring 72 points in 49 games. Of those 72 points, 35 were goals and the 37 left over were assists. Kohls should be with the Lumberjacks next year as a 1991 birth year and could play two years or more with the Jacks, making a valuable scoring forward in the Jacks lineup. Kohls is a little undersized, which is probably why he hasn't made juniors yet. He stands at 5'9", 180 pounds, and Muskegon will give him a chance to make the roster. I do believe we will be seeing Kohls in Muskegon next year and he could very well be a top scorer for the Lumberjacks next year.
Round 15 Selection
Mike Moran (Victory Honda U16) was Muskegon's 13th selection. I believe at this point, Muskegon is trying to fill out their bottom six forwards by drafting this 6'6", 200 pound monster. I wrote an article on Moran before, comparing him to Youngstown forward Nick Czinder. Well, those two are now on the same team and I would be very afraid if Muskegon put Czinder and Moran on the same line while playing against them. Moran isn't just a big body, however. He put up 27 points in 37 games with Victory Honda's U16 squad as a '93 born forward. Moran also appeared in 9 midget major games for Victory Honda, posting 2 points in those 9 games. I would expect to see Moran at the Jacks' tryout camp this summer and would not be surprised one bit if he makes the team and plays USHL next year.
Round 16 Selection
Nick Seeler (Eden Prairie HS) was the Lumberjacks 14th selection, and this is the pick where they start to try and add some depth to their blue line. Seeler is an offensive defenseman who could be a powerplay quarterback for Muskegon. For Eden Prairie High last season, Seeler gathered up 21 points in 28 games played. Of those 21 points, 4 were goals and 17 were helpers. Muskegon got a pretty good defenseman in Seeler, especially this late in the draft. If Seeler comes to Muskegon tryout camp, and plays well, I can see him playing for the Jacks next year as a powerplay specialist and an offensive defenseman.
Round 17 Selection
Tayler Munson (Fairbanks Ice Dogs) was the 15th selection of Muskegon, and this pick is the Lumberjacks trying to fill out their bottom six forwards. The forward played for his hometown team, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL last season. The NAHL is the league that is one step below the USHL and is where USHL teams send players that need more seasoning. While Munson hasn't played a USHL game, his NAHL experience will make him a valuable assest to the Jacks as a grinder type forward. His stats weren't great in the NAHL, but for his playstyle, they were acceptable. In 14 games played, Munson only had 2 assists this past season for Fairbanks. I could see Munson playing for Muskegon next season.
Round 18 Selection
Johnathan Miller (Compuware U18) was Muskegon's 16th selection. Miller will more than likely be Muskegon's enforcer. Every team needs a guy that will step up and drop the gloves to fire up the team and stand up for his teammates. Miller is that guy. He was fifth in the Tier 1 Elite League in penalty minutes this past season, with 117 PIMs in 45 games played. Miller can also produce offensively, which is why he was playing midget major hockey. In those 45 games played, Miller had 10 goals and 13 assists adding up to a total of 23 points on the year. I would expect to see Miller in Muskegon next season to be a fourth liner.
Round 19 Selection
Daniel Mele (Buffalo Regals U18) is the first flier selection by the Lumberjacks. It should probably be assumed that Mele won't be joining the Jacks next year, but I could be proved wrong by a solid tryout performance. Mele was second on the Regals in scoring last season, gathering up 25 total points in 48 games, 11 goals and 14 assists. Mele has average size, the size that will lump you into the pack of just average wingers. Mele needs another year in Buffalo to develop and then you will possibly see him in Muskegon a season from now. I believe this pick was based on potential for a future forward for Muskegon.
Round 20 Selection
Alexx Privitera (USNTDP U17) was Muskegon's last pick in the Entry Draft. I've searched all over the internet and I cannot find anything indicating that he left the USA Hockey Program, so this pick is a little surprising to me. If any readers have some inside info, I'd love to get this situation cleared up. On to Privitera, he is a 5'10", 175 pound defenseman out of Old Tappan, New Jersey. In 34 games played in the USHL last year, Privitera had 6 points, 3 goals and 3 assists. He was a very poor
-22 on the year, but that is expected when playing for a less than adequate team, and that's what the U17 squad was. Overall, I don't understand this pick, and again, if we could get some clarification from an in-the-know reader, that would be great.