A few weeks ago, the coach of the Lake Superior State University Lakers told me that he was looking to finalize his roster for the 2014-2015 Western Collegiate Hockey Association season with another three to five players.
“A forward or two, a defenceman or two and a goalie,” is what new Lakers headmaster Damon Whitten replied when I asked him how many more newcomers he wanted to add for the 2014-2015 campaign.
Since then, Whitten — who was introduced as the new head coach at LSSU on April 26 — has added a pair of 1993 birth-year players from the British Columbia Hockey League, defenceman Aidan Wright and American-born goalie Gordy Defiel.
Wright is an area kid who played for the erstwhile Soo North Stars of the Great North Midget Hockey League before going on to skate in the Ontario Jr. Hockey League and then the BCHL.
Assuming that Whitten is going to add “a forward or two” to go with the incoming freshman class that also includes recruits of former coach Jim Roque, here’s hoping the new Laker boss seriously considers a few players from the North American Hockey League.
Not only does the NAHL house a team — the Soo Eagles — in the same town as LSSU, it is a high-end league that in the past year alone has produced a whopping 128 player commitments to Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association schools.
Here’s hoping that Whitten rounds out his 2014-2015 LSSU roster with a player or two or three from the NAHL.
Not only are there good NAHL graduates out there without a Division 1 commit for next season but it would be good public relations for Whitten and LSSU to add players from a league that has a team in Sault Ste. Marie.
To me, an obvious choice is 1993 birth-year centre Scott Cuthrell, a smart, skilled, speedy Michigan kid who had 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points and +5 rating in just 32 games on a Soo team that missed the NAHL playoffs in 2013-2014.
Others worth consideration are graduating forwards Connor Lyons and Zack Szajner from the NAHL North Division champion Michigan Warriors.
Like Cuthrell, Lyons and Szajner are both Michigan kids who can skate and who know how to play the 200-foot game.
Lyons is not a big scorer but in watching the Warriors play multiple times in 2013-2014, it was he who was on the ice in crucial situations as a shutdown forward against the opposition’s top unit.
Szajner, on the other hand, led the Warriors in scoring in 2013-2014 with 13 goals, 27 assists, 40 points in 60 regular-season games.
It should also be pointed out that Cuthrell, Lyons and Szajner are all character kids from good families who know their way around the classroom as well as the ice surface.
PHOTO: Damon Whitten, on the day he was introduced as new coach of the LSSU Lakers. (Photo by John Shibley.)