by John Peterson
The importance of the Austin Bruins’ (26-11-1) sweep last weekend over division-rival Aberdeen was two-fold. First, the Bruins created some separation with the Wings in an ultra-competitve Central Division with just over one third of the season schedule remaining. What also made last weekend so important was Austin guaranteed itself first place in the division by Monday’s freeze date for the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Top Prospects tournament.
Wednesday, the NAHL announced the coaches and roster breakdown for each of the four divisions, based on the current standings, for the NAHL Top Prospects tournament February 17-18 in Troy, Michigan. Because Austin is in first place, Bruins Head Coach Chris Tok will be the head coach of the Central team for the second year in a row. Bismarck Head Coach Layne Sedevie, whose Bobcats team is in second in the division, will be Tok’s assistant again this year at the tournament.
The Bruins will also send five players to the tournament to play for the Central team, which will provide a great opportunity to play in front of scouts representing almost every NCAA Division I school and National Hockey League (NHL) team. In addition to the four divisional teams, an NAHL 18U Selects team will compete that week at the Troy Sports Center against USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s (NTDP) Under-17 team, and one other team yet to be named.
Each team will consist of a 20-man roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies), which will be selected by the Top Prospect teams’ head coaches, based on recommendations from each individual NAHL team. Tok will select the five players from the Bruins, four players from the Bismarck Bobcats (23-12-4), and three players each from the Aberdeen Wings (22-14-2), Minot Minotauros (16-20-3) and Brookings Blizzard (11-22-7). Because the Central Division only has five teams, two players from the South Division’s 7th-place team (Odessa) will also be selected to play for the Central team.
The final roster decisions will be submitted by 5:00pm CST Thursday, January 23rd. Top Prospects rosters will formally be announced by the NAHL Tuesday, January 28th. All players who have not already made a college commitment are eligible, which means the only Bruins players not eligible are Guillaume Leclerc (Franois, France – UMass-Lowell), Charlie Manley (Orchard Park, NY – RPI) and Casey Jerry (Hudson, WI – Minnesota State-Mankato).
Last year, over one-third of the players at the Top Prospects tournament ended up receiving an NCAA Division I opportunity.