Hayden Nichol and Landry Schmuck, both of the TPH Center of Excellence in Nashville and the 18U AAA Jr Predators, received tender offers. Nichol singed a tender with the NAHL Shreveport Mudbugs and Schmuck was tendered by the Aberdeen Wings. Watch as both speak with TPH’s Justin Bradford about the exciting next step for their careers, their experience at the Center of Excellence and some fun “get-to-know-you” questions.
Learn more about the Center of Excellence here.
Learn more about the Nashville Jr Predators here.
Jed Pietila /// Michigan Hockey Advancement
Cannon Green /// 8 Week Program, Detroit CoE
Matt Hutton /// Nashville Jr Predators
Ryan Dickinson /// 8 Week Program, Detroit CoE, OHL Cup
Richie Parent /// Tri-State Spartans, Indy CoE
Nick Trela /// 8 Week Program
Carson Riddle /// Detroit CoE, OHL Cup, World Selects Invite
Tiernan Shoudy /// 8 Week Program
Samuel Brennan /// 8 Week Program, World Selects Invite
Grant Hindman /// 8 Week Program
About NAHL Top Prospects
2020 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament Schedule (all times eastern)
Monday, February 17th
Tuesday, February 18th
Thunder Hockey would like to congratulate Karlis Zirnis for being named the head coach of the Shreveport Mudbugs. The Mudbugs will play their inaugural season in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). Please click on the link below to watch the press conference and for more details.
The Shreveport Mudbugs, proud members of the North American League, have announced that Francis Anzalone has been hired as the team’s associate head coach ahead of its first season in the NAHL.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Anzalone has spent seven seasons working in the NAHL and USHL and brings a wealth of knowledge and league experience to the Shreveport coaching staff.
“I feel very fortunate to be joining the Shreveport Mudbugs,” Anzalone said. “The vision of the organization, the quality of the people involved and the passionate fan base makes this a very intriguing opportunity.”
Mudbugs general manager Scott Muscutt said the addition of Anzalone bolsters a Shreveport franchise whose culture is built around character and passion for hockey and community.
“The Mudbugs are extremely excited to have Francis join our club,” Muscutt said. “He brings extensive NAHL experience and his energy, work ethic, attention to detail and passion for the game makes him a pro. He brings a long history and ability to develop and advance players to college hockey. He also not only possesses character, but has always demanded it from his players.”
The 28-year-old most recently served as head coach of the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings. In Anzalone’s three seasons with the Wings, fifteen players advanced to the Division I level. In addition, five of the six goaltenders Anzalone coached made Division I commitments, including future UND Fighting Hawk Peter Thome, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the sixth round of the NHL draft last month.
Prior to his time in Aberdeen, Anzalone spent four seasons with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, working as a scout before being promoted to assistant coach. Alongside Shreveport head coach Karlis Zirnis, Anzalone believes his time spent in the top two junior leagues in the country will benefit the Mudbugs on and off the ice.
“I want to take all of my experiences and all of the knowledge I’ve gained and use it to help the organization and the players,” Anzalone said. “I want to help accelerate the process of fostering the right culture and help build a great program that the fans in Shreveport will be proud of and the right people in the hockey world will connect with.”
Behind the Shreveport bench, Anzalone and Zirnis will continue a hockey relationship they’ve had since 2008 when the new associate head coach worked at the bantam AAA level. Anzalone and Zirnis met at the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase in Nashville, which has further fostered the partnership between TPH and the Mudbugs.
Additionally, Anzalone’s father, Frank, was a longtime professional and collegiate coach and has worked in the same circles as Muscutt. The elder Anzalone is presently the NCAA Scout for the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
In Shreveport’s first season in the NAHL, Anzalone hopes to make an impact on the Mudbugs players and community.
“I love to teach and I love to make an impact on the players, not only as athletes but also as people,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to support and grow the vision of the Mudbugs and help each individual player be the best that he can be on and off the ice.”
TPH Detroit Center of Excellence student-athlete Max Sasson has tendered with the North American Hockey League’s Brookings Blizzard.
Sasson is enjoying a successful season with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U16 team. In 29 games with the Jr. Grizzlies, the forward has 20 goals and 17 assists for 37 points.
Brookings currently has a 18-13-2-1 record this season in NAHL play. A franchise since 2003, the Blizzard have seen many players move on to play Division I college hockey.
Two TPH Detroit Center of Excellence student-athletes — Jake Transit and Cannon Green — have tendered to the NAHL’s Shreveport Mudbugs.
The two Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U18 teammates join the Mudbugs, who are in the midst of their inaugural season in the NAHL and have a 18-11-0-1 record. Both CoE students will add skill to Shreveport’s forward group.
Transit, a 17-year-old from Royal Oak, Mich., has already featured in two games with the Mudbugs. In 24 games with the OJG U18 this season, he had 11 goals and 11 assists. Before joining OJG, Transit starred for the Honeybaked and Belle Tire programs.
Green, a 16-year-old from Hinsdale, Ill., had more than a point per game with OJG U18 with 28 points in 24 games. Last season with the Jr. Grizzlies’ U16 team, he tallied 25 points in 31 games.
Congrats to TPH alum and current Lone Star Brahmas goaltender Erik Gordon on earning NAHL Player of the Week honors for the week of Oct. 31. From the NAHL:
“Thanks to three wins in Odessa this past week, the Lone Star Brahmas are not only leading the South Division, but statistically, now have the best winning percentage in the NAHL. Goalie Erik Gordon, 17, was between the pipes for two out of the three wins during the weekend and allowed just one goal on 51 shots, making 50 saves. That included a 25-save shutout on Saturday night for the 5’10/160 lbs. native of Duluth, Georgia. Gordon is a perfect 7-0-0 this season with a 1.51 goals against average and a 93.8% save percentage. “Erik was there to make the key saves. We had some breakdowns defensively this weekend and he made some big saves and stood tall when they had some quality opportunities. He was our rock back there this weekend and it was one of the big reasons we picked up three road wins against a very good Odessa team,” said Lone Star head coach Dan Wildfong.”
The Shreveport Mudbugs made an emphatic debut in the North American Hockey League on Wednesday morning in Blaine, Minnesota. Jacob Holmers scored 2:56 into the 2016-17 season — after more than five years, plastic crustaceans again hit the ice in celebration — and the Mudbugs applied pressure throughout a 3-1 victory against the Northeast Generals at the NAHL Showcase.
Head coach Karlis Zirnis couldn’t have asked for a much better start in the Mudbugs’ return to hockey as his team outshot the Generals 44-22.
Holmers’ first-period wrister from the left circle was part of a dominating opening frame for the teal and purple. The Mudbugs outshot the Generals 19-5 in the first period and 14-5 in the second.
“We want to be fast, we want to be aggressive and we want to be physical,” Zirnis said. “Props to the guys. They came out and executed what the coaching staff asked.”
Gueorgui Feduolov scored 57 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0 Shreveport. The Mudbugs took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period on a goal from Eriks Zohovs.
The Generals spoiled a shutout bid by 17-year-old John Roberts when they scored with 1:57 left in the game.
Feduolov and Zohovs garnered a goal and an assist in their Mudbugs debut. Frankie Melton collected a pair of assists.
“It’s a big showcase for these players, there are a lot of scouts and everything else,” Zirnis said. “They just worried about doing their job, their part. They weren’t distracted by the big lights, showed good composure and played Mudbugs hockey.”
Northeast, also a new NAHL franchise for 2016-17, has lost its first three games of the regular season.
Shreveport gets right back on the ice Thursday’s for an 8:15 p.m. matchup against the Janesville Jets. Friday will offer a 4 p.m. faceoff against the Kenai River Brown Bears. The Mudbugs will complete the showcase with a noon contest against the Johnstown Tomahawks on Saturday.
“I will try to get the exposure for all the players,” Zirnis said regarding the showcase. “Johnny played well in net, but we’ll give the next guy a chance.”
Zirnis said the plan is to start 18-year-old Brookline, Massachusetts, product Dario Latessa between the pipes Thursday night.
AUGUST 1, 2016
Editors Note: This story originally ran on June 24th. It has been updated to reflect the final and record-breaking commitment numbers from the 2015-16 season.
As the calendar turns to August, the North American Hockey League (NAHL) now resets its NCAA commitments for the upcoming 2016-17 season, which will be the 41st season of NAHL hockey.
Back on June 24th, the NAHL announced that it had set a new single-season record for NCAA commitments in one calendar year. Over the course of the summer, that total has steadily increased and the league is now please to announce it record-breaking final totals for the 2015-16 season.
During the 2015-16 season, the league had a final total of 253 NCAA commitments. Another astonishing fact was that the NAHL set the record with only 22 teams during the 2015-16 season.
Of the 253 NCAA commitments, 177 (70%) of those were to NCAA Division I schools, while 74 were to NCAA Division III schools and two were to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) schools. Of the 253 NAHL players making NCAA commitments, 28 of those are NAHL alumni who played in the league prior to this season.
2015-16 College Commmitments
NCAA Division I: 177
NCAA Division III: 74
The numbers again don’t lie. No other junior league in the world saw as many NCAA commitments for their players, while they were actually playing in the league. The NAHL finished second only to the United States Hockey League (USHL) in total NCAA commitments this past season.
“First and foremost, this is about the players and the quality of hockey currently being played in the NAHL,” said NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “Players are being educated and trained at a higher level, which creates a much greater level of competition across the board. Their development is at an all-time high. The amount of work that goes into player development, which not only includes the on-ice component, but also off-ice training, coaching, video analysis and nutrition, is a big reason why this accomplishment is possible.”
With 22 teams and 253 NCAA commitments, each team averaged 11 and a half commitments this past season. One of those teams who has had a recent run of success is the Janesville Jets. Their 16 commitments this season, which includes 12 players who played during the 2015-16 season, was one of the leaders in the league. Janesville Jets Owner and Governor Bill McCoshen, who is also the NAHL Chairman of the Board, echoed Frankenfeld’s sentiment about player development.
“Player advancement has become and continues to be the top priority of all of our member teams. I think everyone would like to win the Robertson Cup, but having a good number of NCAA commitments each season is something that we highlight and focus on as owners,” said McCoshen. “It is one of the primary conversations of every meeting we have. We continue to ask ourselves as owners, how can we keep increasing the opportunity for our players to move onto the next levels of hockey?”
Frankenfeld said that thanks in large part to the owners in the NAHL, the league has been able to enjoy some steady years of consistency and growth. “Our NAHL owners have continued to invest into their product and teams, which includes their coaches, their staff, their accommodations for the players, their arenas and their fans,” continued Frankenfeld. “The brand equity of being in the NAHL and operating a team has never been this high or this valuable. There is a lot of momentum because of more consistency among the ownership and teams.”
One of the big success stories this season was the commitments from the teams in the new East Division, which will be expanding to five teams in 2016-17 with the addition of the Northeast Generals. Between the four East Division teams this season (Aston Rebels, Johnstown Tomhawks, New Jersey Titans and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights) there were 51 NCAA commitments alone.
The Aston Rebels, who won both the East Division regular season and playoff titles, had 14 of those commitments and head coach Joe Coombs said that the credit is largely to the talent level of both the players and coaches. “I firmly believe that the coaches in our league are some the best young coaches in the country and the quality of player in the league is getting better each season. The ability for us as coaches to communicate with today’s players has taken a big step forward. The talent level is better than even just a few years ago,” said Coombs.
Coombs continued… “What’s important to our organization and probably any NAHL team out there is helping these players grow into more mature men. There is a process and culture that is one of growing and bringing an effort at getting better each day. We believe that if we can follow our process and believe in the positivity of our environment, that the winning will follow,” said Coombs. “It’s a deliberate and well thought out process. The sustainability of our league reflects directly back on the leadership of our teams. The NAHL allows each team to take care of its own process to build the foundations we see today.”
The NAHL Coach of the Year, John LaFontaine, guided his Wichita Falls Wildcats to the South Division regular season and playoff titles, as well as, an appearance in the Robertson Cup Championship Game. Not only did LaFontaine enjoy a season of success for his players, but it also led to his promotion as being named the new head coach of the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL on July 13th.
LaFontaine’s coaching background in the league dates all the way back to 2004 when he was with the Bozeman Icedogs. LaFontaine believes that because the league has put a priority on advancing their players, it has made great strides in recent years.
“The league has made development, exposure and promotion the highest priority for NAHL players and teams. From writing stories on an individual player basis or promoting stories written by each team’s local media, the league office has done a remarkable job of making our players the focus and marketing them the right way. This has generated strong momentum for the NAHL to grow. This momentum has allowed the strong branding of the NAHL into the Tier III junior, as well as, the 18U and 16U levels as well in a well-established ladder of development.”
Another big piece of the puzzle for the league is the popularity of the league-wide events, which include the NAHL Showcase, the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament and the NAHL Robertson Cup Championship, which all annually see hundreds of NCAA and NHL scouts at each event during the season. Over half the NCAA commitments made this season came following the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament held in Plymouth, Michigan in late February.
“It is very significant that half the commitments come after our Top Prospects event, which goes back to and is a testament of our model. The NAHL Showcase, which has literally become the Greatest Show on Ice, sets everyone up on the grandest stage for an initial evaluation in September. Scouts can see how players develop, make an assessment throughout the season and then follow up with that later in the season with their progression. That model is the core root of our success,” said Frankenfeld.
For only the second time in league history, the Robertson Cup was hosted and run by the NAHL, diverting from the formats in the past, which included a play down, as well as, a team-hosted event similar to the Memorial Cup format, which had a run in the NAHL from 2004-12. Over 100 NCAA and NHL scouts attended this year’s Robertson Cup in Edina, Minnesota in the middle of May, which added another positive piece to the NAHL’s event component.
“Adding the Robertson Cup to our list of events just further reinforced that philosophy,” said Frankenfeld. “While there are only four teams, those teams are playing at a very high level and the scouts not only get another opportunity for evaluation, but also see a player compete when pressure is at its peak. The scouts are getting a look at a player who has evolved, matured and excelled throughout the season. Our events are all taking place at the same time of year and in the same location and I think that consistency has benefitted the scouts the most.”
McCoshen agreed with the event set up and its effectiveness. “The NAHL puts on fantastic major scouting events such as the NAHL Showcase, the Top Prospects Tournament and the Robertson Cup Final Four to promote our players. These events are all strategically timed and conveniently located for maximum scouting benefit.”
“I have been impressed with the professionalism and attention to detail that our league office has given to our NAHL Showcase, Top Prospects Tournament, Robertson Cup and Annual Coaches Meetings. It makes you proud to be part of this league,” stated LaFontaine.
Lastly, the NAHL may be seeing an annual increase in commitment numbers because of its ability to cater to all types of players. In recent years, the league has trended towards adding more younger players to the mix of older, more developed players. The average age of an NAHL player at the start of the season was right around 18 ½ years old.
“I think it is a two-pronged approach that works for all types of players. On the one hand, an older player who develops later in his junior career may pose less of a risk for NCAA teams. They are getting a more mature player, who has been through a season or two of junior hockey and all that it involves, whether that be being away from home, the travel, the competition, the exposure and playing on the road in environments you just can’t replicate until you have actually done it,” said Frankenfeld. “At the same time, the NAHL is a more attractive league to play in and attracting the younger players as well because we are keeping our players safe and have placed a premium focus in recent years on player safety. Guys can play faster and harder with the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe, which includes our exclusive Department of Player Safety, and keep the focus on skill development.”
“I agree that the league has gotten a little younger. I think the younger players come in with something to prove and are very hungry for that opportunity to play a high level of junior hockey. This in turn, this pushes the older players because there are only 23 roster spots,” said Coombs. “Yes, it takes time for the younger players to garner experience, but by Christmas they are up to speed. The colleges are recruiting both the younger player for the future and the older player for more immediate need. What we are seeing is inquiries and interest on both types, so as a coach it is important to have a balance of both younger and older players.”
McCoshen agrees that one of the big reasons for the rise in commitments each season is because the league is trending younger. “I think there is significant evidence to support the increase in NCAA commitments, especially Division I commitments, is directly related to the league accepting and developing younger talent. They are showing these scouts that they not only are good hockey players, but can also handle the rigors of NAHL competition against players that may be older than they are,” stated McCoshen.
So, when considering what league may be best for the junior-bound hockey player, consider the sheer evidence that the NAHL continues to prove: A record-breaking season resulting in 253 NCAA commitments and still rising. It also includes committed ownership that is providing players top quality coaching, skill development and community-supported teams in stable markets, and one-of-a-kind events that provide unparalleled exposure with the continued support from the NCAA coaches themselves, who continue to support the numbers that when it comes to earning an NCAA commitment while playing junior hockey, no one does it better than the NAHL.
“Heading into our 41st season, the NAHL is in the best position it has ever been in both on and off the ice. That’s a credit to strong leadership from our Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld, our tireless and extremely talented staff and to our Executive Committee and Board of Governors that plans for the future and executes to succeed,” concluded McCoshen.