Soo Eagles have yet to play their first game in the North American Hockey League but they nonetheless had a presence at Saturday's National Hockey League Draft.
Goalie Jake Paterson, who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round, is an Eagle alumnus.
It was as a 16-year old rookie that Paterson backstopped the Eagles to the 2010-11 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League championship.
Paterson then moved up to the Saginaw Spirit for the 2011-12 season and after a rocky start, took over as the no. 1 goalie with the Ontario Hockey League team. Paterson pushed Saginaw into the playoffs, where he played in all 12 games before the Spirit lost in the second round to the eventual OHL-champion London Knights.
Bruno Bragagnolo, who will lead the Eagles into their first NAHL season as coach-general manager come September, held those same positions when Paterson led the Soo the 2010-11 NOJHL title.
"He's a quiet, confident kid who is very focused," Bragagnolo said of Paterson. "From the first game he played with us, you could tell that he had ice in his veins. I never saw him get rattled, even if he gave up a bad goal."
TWO OF A KIND
Goalies Anthony Stolarz and Connor Hellebuyck share plenty in common besides being the two NAHL players who were selected at Saturday's NHL draft.
Both played for Texas-based teams in the South Division of the NAHL during the 2011-12 season, Stolarz with the Corpus Christi IceRays and Hellebuyck with the Odessa Jackalopes. Both have the size that NHL teams look for in a goalie, with the 6-foot-5 Stolarz going in the second round to the Philadelphia Flyers and the 6-foot-4 Hellebuyck becoming property of the Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round.
The two have another similarity, albeit more matter-of-fact than anything.
That is, in the American-dominated NAHL, both played for Canadian-born coaches this past season.
Montreal, Quebec native Justin Quenneville is Corpus Christi's head coach while Odessa bench boss Paul Gillis hails from Toronto, Ontario.
Gillis, in fact, is a former Ontario Hockey League head coach with both the Windsor Spitfires and Guelph Storm. He is also the younger brother of Mike Gillis, who is the general manager of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks.
Port Huron Fighting Falcons forward Brett D'Andrea wasn't selected at this year's draft but the 1994 birth year prospect is made the future file of at least one NHL team.
An NHL scout told me that he plans on keeping a close eye on D'Andrea, who is slated to begin play for the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association Bowling Green Falcons this fall.
Meanwhile, D'Andrea recently had his OHL rights traded from the Soo Greyhounds to the Windsor Spitfires.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
All NAHL teams have a current protected list of 30 players including veteran and tendered players and 2012 draft picks.
Perusing the lists of the various teams, it would appear that the Soo Eagles are in a definite position of strength between the pipes as they prepare for their first NAHL season as the former Traverse City North Stars.
The Eagles have four goalies on their protected list including former Traverse City netminders Kyle Laslo and Zach Nagelvoort. Also on the Eagles protected list are Tyler Marble, who played the 2011-12 season with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League, and 2012 NAHL draft pick Brian August.
Marble, who the Eagles tendered, has a Division 1 commitment from the Lake Superior State Lakers.
Laslo and Marble are both born in 1992, Nagelvoort is a 1994 and August is listed as a 1996.
Meanwhile, 1993 birth year goalie Chris Truehl, who had a good season with the Eagles in 2011-12 while they were a part of the NOJHL, is a free agent as far as the NAHL is concerned.
Truehl is fresh from a strong tryout camp with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League. I was told by a Division 1 coach who attended the Des Moines camp that Truehl, in his estimation, was the best goalie at the tryout.