The Aberdeen Wings are hopeful that a successful draft will parley into a successful season.
The Wings had a list of six players they were targeting going into Thursday's North American Hockey League draft. By the end of the day, the team had signed five of those six.
“We pretty much got the guys we wanted,” said Wings head coach Pete Sauer.
In addition to the five draft picks, three more acquisitions should also benefit the squad, forwards Kyle Haak, Tanner Holmquist and Josh Cisar. Josh is the older brother of the Wings' first draft pick, Tyler Cisar. Sauer said team had to make a trade in order to keep the brothers together.
“We couldn't split the brothers up. They wanted to play together,” Sauer said. “We are proud to give them the opportunity because they can play.
Josh is the leading goal-scorer in the state of Minnesota, with an eight-goal game to his credit back in January for Moose Lake High School. Sauer noted that a lot of USHL teams asked the brothers to try out and even some NHL scouts had taken an interest.
“Their parents said, if Aberdeen signs both of them, they will not try out for the USHL camps,” Sauer said. “At our camp, the Philadelphia Flyers had a scout there, Bobby Clarke, who talked to the kids for an hour.”
Haak played for the Lansing (Mich.) Capitals, a U18 major midget team, and Sauer is expecting good things from him as well.
“We're expecting him to put up some numbers,” Sauer said. He's very solid defensively, and very intelligent on the ice. He sees the ice very well.”
Sauer said the Wings had Haak on the radar for about a month and it came down to Aberdeen and several other teams before Haak decided on Aberdeen. Haak is a “super academic student who researched the high schools, and liked everything he heard about the community,” Sauer said.
Assistant coach and director of player personnel Garrett Strot was able to get a look at Haak as well.
“I would say he's a real complete player, and plays both ends of the ice,” said Strot. “He plays very responsibly and is a quality individual.”
Holmquist comes to the Wings from Hopkins, Minn., and has great speed and is very highly skilled, according to Sauer. All three tendered players' rights are protected for one year, he said.
Defenseman Jake Horton played for Benilde St. Margaret's of Minnesota, which won a state title last season.
“He's a high-end defenseman, and played for a top team,” Sauer said. “He has good offensive skills, and also tried out in our camp, so we were able to see him.”
Baskin is a forward from Minnetonka, Minn. and was also a good catch for the Wings.
“He is a popular player and one that most teams thought would be drafted in the USHL,” Sauer said.
Defenseman Brandon Carlson will be a nice addition to the Wings as well, Strot said.
“He played three years in the USHL and played at the end of the year with Fairbanks, who won the Robertson Cup (in 2011). He is a strong, solid player with a lot of experience.”
Aberdeen's final pick, at number 62, was defenseman Scott Moldenhauer, who played with the Colorado Thunderbirds. He brings a good amount of size to the ice with his 6-foot-3, 205 pound frame.
“Garrett and I saw him play in Denver at a Showcase Tournament and talked to him,” Sauer said.
The research and homework that goes into selecting players is remarkable, Sauer said. He was in a boardroom in Minneapolis while the draft was conducted online from league headquarters in Frisco, Texas.
“We sit there and have two minutes (to pick), and we type (our picks) in and submit them,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement. It's nerve-wracking.”
The Wings make an effort to contact all of the players who are chosen.
“The guys know we are drafting them,” said Sauer. “We made calls to the kids and they were ecstatic (to play for Aberdeen).”
The Wings are allowed to have 23 players on their roster once the season starts. All the returning players, the tendered players and draft picks will attend the final invite camp July 12-16 in Minnesota, a total of 60-plus kids, he said.
“They will all compete for 30 to come back to Aberdeen, and from there we cut to 23,” Sauer said.
The season begins in early September and Sauer looks forward to seeing what the new crop of players brings to the ice.
“I can't wait to get back to Aberdeen, get on the ice and get the season going,” he said.