Jackalopes roster takes shape in wake of draft



Jun. 7, 2013



Jacks coaching staff adds eight draft picks to 30-man protected list, eager for July Main Camp.


ODESSA, TX – With just over three months remaining until the start of the 2013-14 North American Hockey League regular season, the Odessa Jackalopes added eight draft picks to their 30-man protected list Tuesday, as Head Coach Matt Cressman and the entire Jacks organization prepares for the team’s Main Tryout Camp, July 11-14th in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

In addition to the Jacks’ 30-man protected list, which includes returning players and signed tenders, Cressman and Jackalopes Assistant Coach and Director of Scouting Craig Sarner selected a trio of players from the St. Louis Blues U18 program (Brady Crabtree – F, Thomas Stahlhuth – D, Brandon Wilson – D) in Tuesday’s draft, along with USHL hopeful and forward Matt Beranek from Team Illinois’ U18 program, Mattawan, Michigan high school forward Tyler Nabozny, German import forward Lukas Laub from the Indiana Jr. Ice, Grosse Pointe, Michigan high school goaltender Tanner Colborg and Canadian forward Mitchell Emerson from Hill Academy, just north of Toronto, Canada.

“What we’ve got in all these kids is that they compete,” said Sarner by phone Thursday, “We didn’t see near enough of that last year so that’s a big thing I looked at…With this group we’ll have speed and size but the most important thing is we’ve got kids that will play hard and work for 60 minutes on the ice for each other.”

While draft picks comprise only a portion of a team’s annual talent pool, Cressman says the NAHL draft poses a challenge to coaches and evaluators in trying to balance selecting the most talented skaters with picking players that are likely not to stick at higher levels of hockey. “It’s hard,” said Cressman Thursday, “I’ve talked to several of our picks that are going to USHL (the Tier 1 United States Hockey League) camps and they all intend on making it…We try and find guys that are right on the cusp of making the USHL and might be just a hair shy of that. That’s where we come in.”

Another focus for the Odessa coaching and scouting staff this season was to find ways to utilize the four import (non-US born) spots granted to each NAHL team. “We’re going to see if it’s worth it to play in that market and I think it will be,” said Sarner, “With Laub, Emerson, and our many international tenders, we’ve got a lot of talent to draw from.”

Cressman says in Sarner, a former standout player and coach in numerous European professional leagues, the Jackalopes have an edge in identifying international talent. “Sarns certainly has a European influence and he’s got a good read on a couple of Swedish and German players and we’ve also tendered a Japanese goaltender,” said Cressman, “We’ve got to learn to utilize imports because there’s good players all over the world and they value these opportunities.”

Another pressing concern for any NAHL coaching staff is the question of which and how many players from the previous year’s squad to include on the team’s 30-man protected list. In 2013-14, Cressman says, the Jackalopes took a vastly different approach. “Obviously, some changes needed to be made from last year’s team,” said Cressman, “This year, we’ve really pared things down.”

Sarner agrees that tough lessons were learned in last season’s veteran-heavy approach. “We flat out protected too many players last year,” admitted Sarner, “I think the players we protected this time around were heavy on the qualities we want and those are leadership and work ethic. Do we expect them to play? Yes, but they’ll still have to earn their spot in camp.”

Of the seven players from the 2012-13 Jackalopes roster protected by the club this offseason (goaltender Nick Deery, defensemen Cody Slocum and Chris Taff and forwards Steven Haydon, Corey Hoffman, Anthony Olguin and Josh Racek), Cressman identified specific qualities in each individual that made them priorities.

“When you look at our returners, they’re all back for a reason,” said Cressman, “With Steven [Haydon], he’s got a role and he was one of, if not the, toughest kid in our league last year…that’s a presence we want on our team and while he was drafted in the USHL, we certainly want him back.”

Alongside Haydon in the returning forward group, Cressman spoke highly of 2013-14 Jacks leading scorer Anthony Olguin and fellow sniper Josh Racek. “[Olguin] was no question the most improved player we had last year and he can be an impact player in this league,” said Cressman, “With Racek, it’s just about his compete level and down the stretch last year he realized that…I think Josh has the talent to be a 50 point player in this league if he plays the right way and gets after it like he can.”

The youngest member of the 2012-13 Jackalopes was Syosset, New York native Corey Hoffman. A gifted, two-way centerman, Cressman lauded Hoffman as a key building block for his 2013-14 squad. “He’s got a very bright future as a 17-year old with colleges already looking at him,” said Cressman, “He’s a guy we hope to build our offense around and maybe have for beyond next year as well.”

As for his pair of veterans in the defensive corps, Cressman pointed to Cody Slocum as a perfect example of how he wants his team to play and a potential captain for the coming season. “Cody was the best defenseman from start to finish for us last season, “stated Cressman, “He’s a great kid…the type of kid you want on any team. He’s a really hard worker, a good leader, someone who will have a positive impact on the younger guys…We’re happy and I know Cody’s really excited to come back.”

Meanwhile, Chris Taff, a sly, puck-moving defenseman, figures into the Jackalopes plans primarily for his skill-set and potential, according to Cressman. “Taffer’s got all the tools,” said Cressman, “Unfortunately, he’s been shipped around to a few teams, but I think he’s found a home here and wants to be here…that’s a big thing for these kids. The sky’s the limit for Chris if he can put all the pieces together and he can definitely do something with his hockey career.”

With a season in which the Jackalopes were forced to patch together a six-man goaltending corps in the rearview mirror, Nick Deery was nevertheless included on Odessa’s protected list. “We kept Nick because he’s still got two years [of eligibility] left and he’s got some potential,” said Cressman, “He’s also worked with our goalie coach Cody Campbell in the past so there’s a relationship there, but we’ll have a lot of goalies in camp this year and Nick’s really going to have to battle to make this team.” Aside from the numerous goaltenders already registered for camp, Deery will have to compete with seventh-round draft pick Colborg and Japanese national Yoshihiro Kuroiwa, who signed a tender with the Jacks following one season spent with the Richmond Generals of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League.

Cressman also pointed to a few former Jacks that while not protected by the team, will have an opportunity to play their way onto the roster during July’s main tryout camp. “Dylan Campbell, Jimmy Peplinski and Trace Jablin will all be at camp,” confirmed Cressman, “They’ve all been told that they’ll have an opportunity and they’ll have the chance to earn their job back…If that happens, I think it’d be great, but there are absolutely no guarantees.”

All things considered, both Cressman and Sarner feel confident that with a new personnel approach and a fresh crop of talent, the 2013-14 Jacks will be a much different team, both on the ice and in terms of makeup. “My job is to replace everybody,” said Sarner, “The ideal is to win it all and replace all 23 guys because they’ve all moved on to college. Will that happen? Probably not, but we’re going to have a new excitement within the team and we will no doubt ratchet up our compete level.”

“We thought we were in a good place this time last year too,” admitted Cressman, “We weren’t….But we’ve learned so much about how a team gets constructed in this league. We won’t know until we get into camp, but Sarns and I are really excited about the tenders and draft picks, and we know what we’ve got coming back in terms of veterans and there’s a really good base there…We’re hoping there’s a lot of tough decisions when we get to camp and I’m really excited.”

Cressman, Sarner and the rest of the Jackalopes hockey operations department are hard at work preparing for the team’s lone offseason tryout camp, set for July 11-14th at the Cranbrook School in suburban Detroit, Michigan. Registration information for the Jackalopes 2013 Main Tryout Camp is available now, via the “Tryout Info” button on the team’s website, www.jackalopes.org.

In 2012-13, the Odessa Jackalopes completed their second season as a member of the North American Hockey League and 16th campaign in franchise history. Season ticket packages for the 2013-14 season of Jackalopes hockey are available now starting at just $179. To reserve your seats, contact the Jackalopes’ ticket office today at 432-552-7825 or log on to www.jackalopes.org for more information.

Be sure to follow the Jackalopes on Twitter @LetsGoJacks all year long and don’t forget to ‘Like’ the official “Odessa Jackalopes” fan page on Facebook.




2013 Odessa Jackalopes Draft Picks

Name    Pos. Prev. Team Round Overall Country
Brady Crabtree F St. Louis Blues U18 1 20 USA
Thomas Stahlhuth D St. Louis Blues U18 2 27 USA
Matt Beranek F Team Illinois U18 2 43 USA
Tyler Nabozny F Mattawan (MI) HS 2 47 USA
Brandon Wilson D St. Louis Blues U18 5 102 USA
Lukas Laub F Indiana Jr. Ice 6 124 GER
Tanner Colborg G Grosse Pointe N (MI) HS 7 141 USA
Mitchell Emerson F Hill Academy (CAN) 7 142 CAN

2013 Odessa Jackalopes Tenders  
Name    DOB Pos. Prev. Team     Country
Dylan Adler 4/23/1995 D Chicago Fury U18   USA
Alex Alger 5/15/1995 F Cranbrook Kingswood (MI) USA
Connor Chambers * 3/31/1995 D Dallas Stars U18   USA
David Chavis 4/20/1995 D Grosse Point (MI) HS   USA
Drew Gannon * 7/7/1994 F Dallas Stars U18   USA
Chad Guderian * 12/2/1994 F Dallas Stars U18   USA
Alex Gleason 1/16/1995 F Team Comcast U18   USA
Yoshihiro Kuroiwa 10/9/1993 G Richmond Generals   JPN
Jefferson Martin 3/1/1995 D Cranbrook Kingswood (MI) USA
Andrew McLean 1/12/1995 D Oakland Grizzlies U18   USA
Austin Murray 11/11/1994 F Texas Tornado U18   USA
Michael O'Reilly 7/6/1995 D Little Caesar's U18   USA
Joey Palumbo 1/7/1995 F Belle Tire U18     USA
Rob Stautz 10/22/1994 F Roseville (MN) HS   USA
Razmuz Waxim-Engback 10/12/1994 F Indiana Jr. Ice     SWE
  * – Affiliate Player in 2012-13            

2013 Odessa Jackalopes Protected Veterans
Name    Pos. Prev. Team      
Nick Deery G Odessa Jackalopes      
Steven Haydon F Odessa Jackalopes      
Corey Hoffman F Odessa Jackalopes      
Anthony Olguin F Odessa Jackalopes      
Josh Racek F Odessa Jackalopes      
Cody Slocum D Odessa Jackalopes      
Chris Taff   D Odessa Jackalopes