The 2017-18 Austin Bruins have had many standouts, and on Monday, six were named to represent them at the annual Top Prospects Tournament. Forwards Dante Zapata, Andy Willis, and Evan Cholak, along with defenseman Lane Krenzen, were named to the Central Division team, which will coached by Steve Howard as an assistant. Defensemen Jaden Shields and Josef Mysak will also make the trip to play on one of two NAHL Selects squads. The event will take place over two days on February 27th and 28th at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
Cholak (’97, Kenosha, WI), in his third year in Austin, is second on the team in scoring with 17 goals and 21 assists – already his NAHL career high in points, through 43 games. Willis (’98, Ballwin, MO) joined the Bruins early in the season, coming over from the Lone Star Brahmas. He’s picked up 10 goals and 23 assists between the two teams, with 31 of those points as a member of the Bruins. He’s second on the team in assists. Zapata (’98, Huntington Beach, CA), like Willis has also been a playmaker, with 16 of his 19 points coming as helpers. The 2nd year Bruin has shown proficiency in shootouts as well, leading all NAHL players with four shootout goals. Krenzen (’98, Twig, MN), also in his second season in Austin, is 2nd on the Bruins blueline in scoring with 4 goals and 10 assists. The Bruins captain scored his first NAHL goal at the NAHL Showcase on September 23rd against the Springfield Jr. Blues. Krenzen has heated up offensively in recent games, with an assist in three of his last four contests.
The NAHL Selects teams are made up of mostly younger players and those with NCAA commitments, and are compiled from rosters in all four divisions. There will be a “red team” and a “white team,” with both Bruins representatives on Team White. Jaden Shields (’99, Royal Oak, MI) has had a breakout year in his Sophomore campaign in the NAHL, ranking 14th in scoring among all defensemen. His nine goals are good for second among NAHL blueliners and he leads the way on the Bruins D with 23 points. After scoring his first two NAHL goals on December 1st in Bismarck to lead the Bruins to a third period comeback, Shields scored two more the next night and had reached eight in a span of just 13 games. Josef Mysak (’99, Litvinov, CZE), has steadily improved his game from the beginning of the season, now logging big minutes on the Bruins blue line. He has three assists in 27 games but has become a shut down defenseman with size and good skating. Mysak represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior A Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia and is already committed to Division I Alaska-Anchorage.
First year head coach Steve Howard narrowly missed becoming the head coach of the Central, with the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime loss at Aberdeen on February 3rd turning out to be the deciding factor between he and Wings bench boss Scott Langer. Howard has led the Bruins to a major turnaround, already equaling the team win total from a season ago, with 24 victories through only 43 games. He’ll serve as Langer’s assistant.
The six teams (Central, Midwest, East, South, Red Selects, White Selects) will all play two games each – one each day, in front of hundreds of NCAA and professional scouts. All games will be broadcast on HockeyTV.