Odessa, TX – The Odessa Jackalopes have been in the NAHL since the 2011-2012 season. In their five years in the league, they have had over 70 players go on to play college hockey, as well as some playing overseas, including two players who have played in the NHL.
Every month, Jackalopes.org will report upon some of your favorite Jackalopes and their dream of making it to The Show. This month, we take a look at the first couple of weeks of the hockey season.
Zach Main spent last season split between the Jackalopes and the Smiths Falls Bears of the CCHL.
Through the first 14 games with the St. Catharines Falcons, Main has scored eight goals and assisted on 21 more for a total of 29 points, good for second on the team in points, including three game-winning goals.
Lots of Jackalopes took their talents to NCAA and are adjusting quite well.
Niagara University forward Derek Brown has had a great start to his season. Brown has five points through his first five games. Brown was named ACHA Rookie of the Week last week after scoring a goal and two assists in his first three games. He has since scored one goal and recorded one assist against Ohio State.
Former Jackalope Lawrence Cornellier is in his final season at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and recent alumni, Andrew McLean and Brennan Miller, have just started their first year on the team.
Through the first weekend, Cornelier has two goals and two assists. McLean only played in one of the two games, but dished out one assist in the win over Aurora. Miller went pointless in his one start against Aurora.
Out on the west coast, Daniel Kiraly has played in four of the first seven games for University of Alaska – Fairbanks. Although he doesn’t get a ton of ice time, he makes his presence known. Kiraly is tied for second on the team with four assists on the season.
Across the country to the east coast, Kenny Hausinger is trying to follow in the footsteps of former Jackalopes and current NHL goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck. Hausinger has played in all eight games for University of Massachusettes – Lowell to start the season, recording one goal on four shots.
The Jackalopes currently have five alumni who are playing professional hockey outside of the US.
The two that are making a big impact for their teams so far are Mathieu Briand and Lukas Laub.
Mathieu Briand is currently playing overseas for Angers in France. Through the first 16 games of their season, he currently has seven points.
Lukas Laub played for the Magicians for a year, then headed back to Germany after his stint with the Jackalopes. In 14 games this season for Löwen Frankfurt, Laub has accumulated five goals and six assists for 11 points, tied for fourth on his team.
Jalen Smereck is the newest Jackalope alumnus to find his way onto an NHL roster. On October 6th, the Detroit native signed an entry-level deal with the Arizona Coyotes. The signing came after Smereck attended Coyotes rookie and training camps.
The 19-year-old also played one preseason game for the Coyotes on September 27th of this year against the Los Angeles Kings. Smereck earned a plus-one on the game to go along with two penalty minutes in just under 14 minutes of ice time.
In 13 games with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League, the alternate captain has 11 assists, good for third on the team.
The other current NHL star is non-other than goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Through the first nine games of the season, Hellebuyck has five appearances, starting in net for four of them. He has a 2.55 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, outplaying Michael Hutchinson in 13 less minutes. Hellebuyck has a 2-2 record and is in tough competition with Hutchinson for the starting job after four-year starter Ondřej Pavelec was sent down to the AHL before the season began.
The 23-year-old was also named to Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey earlier this year. While he did not have any ice time during the tournament, it’s an accomplishment in itself to make the national team and represent his home nation.