Seasoned scout Charly Murray had plenty good to say about the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League when guesting on the Hockey North Show, which airs on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on Sault Ste. Marie radio station ESPN 1400.
Murray, who has been a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-based scout for parts of five decades and who has put in years of voluntary service with a number of NOJHL teams, likes what he has seen from the Eagles thus far this 2017-2018 season.
Besides scouting for the Eagles, Murray serves in an advisory capacity to general manager/associate coach Bruno Bragagnolo, head coach Jim Capy and the rest of the hockey staff.
Save for returning forwards Jake Palmerio and Jake Saxton, the Eagles have turned over their entire roster from a 2016-2017 season that saw them finish in fourth place in the West Division standings only to stun the first-place Soo Thunderbirds with a four-game sweep in last spring’s playoffs.
Now, after starting the 2017-2018 season with two straight losses, the Eagles have since won two games in a row as they head into a home-and-home weekend series with the cross-border Thunderbirds beginning on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Pullar Stadium in the Michigan Soo.
Murray, while appearing on the Hockey North Show earlier this week, began by lauding the number of “quality, high-end, players that Bruno has brought in this season.
“I look at our team and I see a lot of skill and a lot of speed,” Murray pointed out. “We are going to be a tough team to play against over the course of the season.”
Among the list of newcomers that Murray has been particularly impressed with are forwards Nick Techel, Christian Bardarson and Kobe Keller and defenseman Kellen Tharaldson.
Interestingly, all four hail from the state of Wisconsin.
But Wisconsin is just one state that the Eagles have drawn from to stock this season’s team, relying heavily on David Maciuk of JDM Sports Management to bring in players from Illinois, Montana and Pennsylvania as well as — naturally — Michigan.
Then there is defenseman Tom Dyball, who arrived in the Michigan Soo and signed with the Eagles all the way from Nebraska, aka the Cornhusker State.
Dyball was recommended to the aforementioned Murray by none other than David Legree, who tended goal for the Soo Greyhounds more than 40 years ago and backstopped them to their first-ever Ontario Hockey League playoff appearance during the 1975-1976 season.
Legree, who now lives and works in Sioux City, Iowa also coaches in the Midwest High School Hockey League. And after coaching against Dyball and his Omaha, Nebraska team last season, Legree gave Murray a heads-up on the 6-foot-1, 190-pound defender.
Not only did Dyball catch Murray’s eyes at an Eagles summer tryout camp, he also impressed the aforementioned duo of Bragagnolo and Capy.
“He’s a really good character kid,” Bragagnolo said of Dyball. “He has a lot of potential to become a really good player for us and a college player after that.”
Capy, meanwhile, referred to Dyball as “one our pleasant surprises.
“Considering that he is from Nebraska — and high school hockey in Nebraska at that — he has adjusted to our league rather well,” Capy told HockeyNewsNorth.com. “The learning curve is kind of steep but Tom has grasped it well.”
And out in Iowa, Legree chimed in on what he knows about Dyball from coaching against him and why he recommended him to Murray.
“When we were playing his team I would tell my players that when Tom got the puck to get on him right away as he was the kid who could make things happen for his team,” Legree relayed.
Legree added that he is keeping tabs on Dyball from afar.
“He is a good kid and I think he will adjust well to that level,” Legree told HockeyNewsNorth.com.
As for Dyball, he told HockeyNewsNorth.com that after Legree mentioned the NOJHL to him as a place to potentially advance his career, he and his dad, Jeff, immediately did some research on the Eagles and the league.
“We read up on the NOJHL and saw how many players from the Eagles and the league had moved on to play college hockey,” Dyball relayed. “So we got back to Dave (Legree) and he put us in touch with Charly and the Eagles.”
Dyball also did his homework on the Twin Sault area.
“I kept reading about what great hockey towns they are,” Dyball added. “The more I read about the NOJHL and Sault Ste. Marie the more I wanted to play up here.”
Now, a 13-hour drive away from his Nebraska home, Dyball is liking it with the Eagles and the NOJHL.
“It’s a great league and this is a great opportunity for me,” Dyball continued. “I want to play college hockey and this is the best option for me.”
Dyball said the jump in level of play from high school hockey in the Midwest of the United States to the NOJHL is “really noticeable. It is more fast-paced by a long shot. The players are faster and stronger but I like what I have been able to do so far with good coaching and playing for such a good organization like the Eagles.”
Dyball has even adapted quickly to moving so far away from home.
“I like it a lot up here,” he said. “I have a great billet family and where I live there is a great view of the river. I like small towns and I really like it here so far.”