The Metro Jets went on the offensive during last Thursday night’s North American 3 Hockey League Entry Draft, selecting 10 forwards among their 18 total picks of prospective players for next season’s team.
The Jets also tabbed six defensemen, including their first pick, Trevor Hillman, and two goaltenders.
Of the 18 players, 17 are Michigan natives and most of them local to the Waterford area.
The words “skilled” and “physical” also can be attributed to the vast majority of the Metro picks, many of which the Jets feel will indeed be playing at Lakeland Arena during the 2011-12 season.
“If I were to give our draft a grade, it would be an ‘A,’” Jets head coach Jason Cirone said. “We not only took kids that are highly-skilled, but we drafted kids we feel are good people, committed players. I’m very pleased with our scouting staff for all the countless hours they put in last season and since the season ended.”
Metro had two selections in the first round and took Hillman third overall out of the Detroit Falcons U16 program and then forward Justin Shureb from Livonia Stevenson High School.
Cirone is high on both Hillman and Shureb both playing in Waterford next fall.
“I saw Hillman at the Port Huron (Fighting Falcons of the NAHL) camp and I thought he was one of the better defensemen,” said Cirone. “He’ll shore up our back end. He’s young, just a ’94 (birth year) and has a lot of youthful energy. He’s got good foot speed, good size and plays very well in his own end.
“I also saw Shureb at the Port Huron camp and he’s an energy guy who goes hard every shift. He’s a skilled guy who can play very physical and doesn’t mind taking a hit. We didn’t think he’d last until the second round, so that’s why we took him in the first round.”
In the second round (20th overall), Metro tabbed forward Mike MacKinnon from the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League (Nor-Pac). MacKinnon is a Troy native who played high school hockey at Troy Athens before heading out west last year.
“I actually wanted him to come play for me with the Motor City Machine (of the NAHL) three years ago,” said Cirone. “He’s a big winger, a big goal scorer and a kid who likes to grind it out.”
Petoskey native Mike Pattullo was the Jets’ first goalie taken when he was taken in the third round (36th overall) out of the Bozeman Icedogs of the Nor-Pac.
“Pattullo is another kid I saw in Port Huron that has a little bit of junior experience,” said Cirone. “He’s a bigger goalie and one we’ll lean on for experience.”
Oxford native Tim Perks, a forward who played at Oxford High School, went in the fourth round (52nd overall) and should make an immediate impact for the Jets.
“Perks is a kid our head scout, Tim Ross, saw a lot of this year,” Cirone explained. “We didn’t think he’d still be there that late in the draft. Perks is another skilled player who can score goals. When we talked to his coaches at Oxford, they said they were very impressed with him and said he’s a kid who was very committed to the systems they ran there.”
The Jets grabbed Warren De La Salle goalie Jacob Theut in the fifth round (68th overall), but Cirone isn’t counting on seeing him at Lakeland Arena next season.
“Theut has an option to play for Kenai River in the NAHL and I believe he’ll make that team,” said Cirone. “We drafted him on the recommendation of (Jets goalie coach) Randy Wilson and he said he’s the hardest-working goalie he’s ever seen.”
Picks in rounds seven through 20 (Metro didn’t have a pick in the sixth round), with comments from Cirone:
7th round, 100th overall – John Baker, F, Yellowstone Quake
“Another local kid (Commerce) and a kid who has been at all of our Monday night skates. He will bring energy and experience.”
8th round, 116th overall – Sean Campbell, D, Capital Centre Pride
“A big, mobile defenseman who I saw at Kalamazoo’s (NAHL) camp. I also saw him at the NAPHL tournament in Troy last winter. He’s got a great shot and can play physical.”
10th round, 148th overall – Chris Hellebuyck, F, Lansing Capitals U18
“The older brother of (tendered goalie) Connor and a kid we’ve been after for two years now. He’s a big kid with good speed and loves going to the net.”
11th round, 164th overall – Mike Walter, D, Motor City Metal Jackets U18
“Both Tim and (assistant coach) Sean (Clark) saw him a lot last year. He’s not overly big, but plays physical. Players on other teams feel his presence and know he’s there. He’ll bring a great attitude to our team.”
12th round, 180th overall – Tyler Hughes, D, Port Huron Northern High School
“A young kid with good feet and another one we saw at the Port Huron camp. (Fighting Falcons coach) Bill Warren thinks he’s ready to play juniors and should be in the NAHL in no time.”
13th round, 196th overall – Chad Frost, D, Clarkston High School
“I see him every day at Puckmasters (training facility) in Wixom. He also came out to our Monday night skates. His coaches said that not only is he a good player, he’s a very committed player.”
14th round, 212th overall – Jared Smith, D, Port Huron Northern High School
“Smith is a lot like Hughes and when you think of one, you think of the other because they have a lot of the same attributes. We’ve talked to him and he’s excited to come play in the 3HL.”
16th round, 244th overall – Joey Emery, F, Southgate Anderson High School
“I know his dad and have seen Joey play since he was about 14 years old. He’s a skilled guy and a hard-nosed Downriver kid who I was very happy to be able to draft.”
17th round, 260th overall – Connor Lyons, F, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School
“A highly-skilled player that was also at the Port Huron camp. Randy spoke highly of Lyons. He’s got good speed and will be good for the locker room.”
18th round, 276th overall – Cam Kwaiser, F, Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School
“It was late in the draft and we were looking at our lists and Sean noted that Kwaiser was still available. His coaches told us he takes instruction well and not only is he good offensively, but he’s just as good in the defensive zone.”
19th round, 292nd overall – Tim Wlodkowski, F, Boston Jr. Blackhawks
“He’s from Houston, but has family in the Detroit area that he’s going to live with next season. He works out with Frost and is a big-bodied player with a lot of speed.”
20th round, 317th overall – Steve Klisz, F, Livonia Churchill High School
“We didn’t have a pick in the 20th round, so we made a trade with St. Louis to get this pick. Klisz is a big kid who can score a lot of goals and I really can’t believe he wasn’t tendered by an NAHL team.”
The draft now in the rear-view mirror, Cirone now shifts his focus to summer skates and the team’s tryout camp in two weeks from June 24-26 at Lakeland.
“New guys are coming in and kids from last year are moving up,” said Cirone. “Mike Moroso and Tommy Kilgore should be playing for Port Huron, Jordan Jones is close to making Kalamazoo and Dan Hudson is right there. Our guys are getting better and it’s my job to get these kids to the next level.
“We’re losing a lot of leadership in guys like Mike Corder, Justin Bennett and Brett Grech, but I think with some of the guys coming back and the new kids coming in, we’re getting some skilled guys and guys with good character.”
KOVALCHIK IS SECOND TENDER
After tendering goalie Connor Hellebuyck back in early May, the Jets used their second tender on Wyandotte Roosevelt High School co-captain and All-State forward Nick Kovalchik, a linemate of co-Mr. Hockey winner Gerald Mayhew.
Kovalchik was tendered by the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors and has a chance to crack that lineup next year and play against Mayhew, a signed tender by Kalamazoo.
“I played with (Warriors coach-GM) Moe Mantha in Winnipeg,” said Cirone. “He’s hoping Kovalchik will play in Flint next year, but if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, we’ll certainly welcome him with open arms.”