GLEN ELLYN, IL – The Odessa Jackalopes recently completed their first NAHL training camp this past weekend, with over 40 players displaying their skills in front of the Jackalopes coaching staff and ownership.
The three-day camp, held at Center Ice of DuPage – 45 minutes outside of Chicago – featured 7 of the 14 Owatonna Express players eligible to return to the NAHL this season. The Owatonna franchise – which went 32-19 and finished one point out of first place in the Central Division last season – was purchased by the Jackalopes this spring, and the team is relocating to Odessa for the upcoming season.
The former Owatonna players skating in Glen Ellyn included forwards Lawrence Cornellier, Willie Faust, TJ Sennott, defensemen Branden Carney, Sheldon Taylor and Bryan Mitchell, and goaltender Brock Kautz.
“The Express players really stood out,” said Jackalopes head coach Paul Gillis. “The camp was a great opportunity to gauge the other players to our guys’ skill level, and we were able to accomplish that.”
Also in the lineup were two players signed to tenders from either Tier III or Midget AAA teams. Those players included defenseman Will Quillman and forward Chris Benoit.
“Both of those players proved they can skate at the NAHL level. Next year will be a step up for them, but they have the skills we’re looking for.”
The Jackalopes plan on having their final camp in late July in Minneapolis. At that camp, all players eligible to return to the NAHL, along with those who have been tendered or drafted, will be evaluated for the Jackalopes roster heading into training camp slated for late August in Odessa. The NAHL draft is scheduled for May 26.
Also attending the Glen Ellyn training camp were four players from the Permian Basin – brothers Jonathan & Jordan Voyles, forwards Alec Carrillo and Alex Flemming, and defenseman Jesus Mercado.
“The Odessa kids competed hard, and improved a lot as the camp went on,” said Jackalopes GM Joe Clark. “It would be fantastic to have next season’s roster include local talent, but they have to earn their spot like everybody else.”
Clark said the Jackalopes are looking forward to seeing the rest of the eligible players at the final camp in Minnesota.
“Some of the tenders that were signed were players evaluated by the Owatonna coaches and scouts,” said Clark. “But so far those players have proven to be of quality, and we’re confident the rest will be as well. The Minneapolis camp will give our coaches the best look.”
Players expected in that camp are former Owatonna forwards Schyler Adams, Darren Lapic and Nick Widing, and defensemen Jordan Krebsbach and Matt Youso – all of whom received quality ice time last year for the Express.
Tendered players expected in Minnesota in July, along with Quillman and Benoit, are defensemen Jared Docken, Wesley Judnick, and 6-6 defenseman Blake Butzow –all of whom are considered top prospects – along with forward Ryan Atkinson.