As the Austin Bruins prepare for the 2016 NAHL Draft, things are a little different than last season for Kyle Grabowski and his staff. With a full year under his belt, and more than a dozen players eligible to return, it’s quality over quantity for Grabowski this time around.
“We can be selective. What we’re looking for is Junior hockey experience – especially on the blue line and then players that can contribute for us up front. We know we have a good group coming back and we’re looking for guys that can go alongside them. Out of four picks we’ll look for one really good veteran defenseman to bring in and then the rest will be up front.”
The Bruins held pre-draft camp this past weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN. Many attended, but few will be drafted. The Bruins have only four picks in this year’s draft and with an already full protected list, there aren’t many spots up for grabs. Still, Grabowski was pleased with what he saw.
“I thought it was a good camp,” Grabowski said. “I was surprised with the skill level of some of the younger kids. We had some real young kids who I think are going to be really good hockey players and kids we can start to develop relationships and start the recruiting process with so that’s exciting for me." He also added: "Getting to go to a beautiful facility like St. Cloud State and see their facility, see their locker room. It was a real professional setting so we were happy about the weekend.”
The Bruins have the 11th overall selection in Tuesday’s draft, and will pick in the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th rounds. The two new member clubs – the Northeast Generals (North Attleboro, MA) and the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs will have the 1st and 2nd overall picks, respectively. When it comes to Kyle’s drafting philosophy, the unique environment of Junior hockey is a big factor.
“You always draft the best available player but in Junior hockey you’re talking about thousands of players,” Grabowski said. “You can go in so many different directions. I think you have to look at what your needs are and what suits your hockey team.”
The Bruins have added a new member to their hockey operations staff as well – naming Howie Borden as director of scouting, joining Grabowski, Keenan Kelly and Brad Clayton. Borden, an assistant coach at Bethel University, also worked with the Granite City Lumberjacks (NA3HL) as Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator. He has experience working in the NAHL, with the Alexandria Blizzard, where he spent three seasons as an Assistant Coach and Head Scout.
“We know Howie well,” Grabowski said. “He’s a good worker. He knows player pools. He’s connected in good circles. He’s got good contacts. He’s another guy like Brad [Clayton] where he’s going to help build our hockey team. We’re looking at bringing some other scouts on in different areas too – Howie will oversee those people, to make Brad’s life a little easier but we expect good things out of him.”
The 2016 NAHL Draft begins at 1:00 PM CT on Tuesday, June 7th and can be followed at NAHLDraft.com and watched like on FASTHockey.com. The Bruins will hold their main tryout camp and prospects camp from July 6th-10th at Riverside Arena, for the first time.