Lakers unveil draft picks
With the SIJHL officially announcing yesterday that a seventh team, the Iron Range Steel, will be joining the league for the 2011/12 season, teams now could reveal which players they had selected in the 2011 draft, which took place back on June 5 in Thunder Bay as a part of the annual meetings.
The Fort Frances Lakers had a local slant to its draft picks, with five of the nine selections having been members of the Muskie boys’ hockey team.
“Our philosophy for the draft was to try and keep as much local talent available to the Lakers as possible,” head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said.
“With the five local players that we drafted, we feel that they will have the opportunity to play for us at some point down the line,” he added.
Three of the Lakers’ other draft picks, which were all 1995 birth dates, ended up coming from the Minnesota high school ranks, including Chris Benson (second round) and Travis Koepke (sixth round) from Hermantown, along with Karson Kuhlman (eighth round) from Cloquet.
“With Benson, we take a player from Hermantown, which is a place where we have had great success in finding some good hockey players,” Strachan noted.
“If he ever plays here for us, he will be great hands, plus he’s a strong skater and he has very good vision.
“Travis is also a Hermantown player who has a ton of speed and a good skill set,” Strachan added.
“And we kind of took a flyer on Karson, but he is a very good hockey player and he’s one of top in Minnesota for his age.”
The Lakers also selected Nolan Nicholas from the Thunder Bay Kings’ organization in the third round.
But he promptly was traded to the Thunder Bay North Stars in exchange for Brett Jeffries, who also played for the Kings last season.
“Brett was a player who we wanted to get, but he was taken just before our pick in the second round,” Strachan explained.
In addition to that deal, the Lakers also landed the first overall pick in the draft—Fort Frances native and Thunder Bay Kings’ forward Jordan Larson, who originally was selected by the Duluth Clydesdales.
The Clydesdales, in return, received future considerations and the protected list rights of Nolan Meyer, a 1992 birth date player from Cloquet.
Lakers’ fans will have their first chance to see all of the prospects, except for Benson, Koepke, and Kuhlman, this weekend at Bronco Arena over in International Falls as the team holds its summer camp.
Practices are slated for 8:30 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and then 10 a.m.
The biggest story of the day in the SIJHL, however, was the addition of the Steel to the league, which will be announcing its team logo and home arena over the next few weeks.
Among the ownership group for the new franchise is Steve Chelios, brother of long-time NHL blueliner Chris Chelios.
Steve Chelios also will be the head coach and general manager of the Steel.