Posts Tagged ‘spartans’
November 9, 2011
SpartanMag.com Staff Writer
EAST LANSING – As promised by Tom Anastosupon his introduction as Michigan State’s new hockey coach, the Spartans program has not only turned up the heat on recruiting but recruiting top level talent.
The latest to join the fold, John Draeger, a defenseman out of the storied prep school program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota.
Draeger, a 6-foot-2, 186 senior for the Sabres from Morristown, Minn., is considered a top-level defenseman that played in an elite level prep school program that has sent many players to Division I college hockey and eventually the National Hockey League.
“I know Coach Anastos and Coach (Kelly) Miller, (from) back in the day, when they were part of the rebuilding of the program and they said they want me to be a key part in bringing back the Spartans to a national championship,” Draeger said. “That really was appealing to me because I think that’s a great challenge and I’d love to be able to help out with that.”
MSU outdueled schools like defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, New Hampshire, Mankato State and Holy Cross to get Draeger, who comes from a boarding school program known for developing future pro talent.
Some present NHL and past Shattuck standouts that Draeger hopes to someday follow to the big time includes Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby, Chicago Blackhawk Jonathan Toews, New Jersey Devil Zach Parise, Los Angeles King Jack Johnson, Detroit Red Wing Ty Conklin, Buffalo Sabre Drew Stafford, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ryan Malone and New York Islander Kyle Okposo.
In 18 games so far this season, Draeger, a right-handed shot, has five goals and 11 assists for a Sabres’ team that won a U-18 national title. Last season, the former Shattuck teammate of first-year Spartan winger Tanner Sorenson, had just 3 goals and 8 assists in 54 games.
His coach and Shattuck’s director of hockey Tom Ward said Draeger’s development has been evident over the past few seasons.
“His skating, for a long and lanky kid, is really good and so is his vision of the game. He’s a very good reader of the game. He plays with his head up and he sees things. His read and react skills are really good,” Ward said “I think as he develops he’s going to be a big horse of a kid. He comes from a big family. He’s one of these kids that’s a young boy in a big man’s body. When he’s done at MSU, he’ll have a legitimate chance. I mean, no one can guarantee anything but he’s got a legitimate chance to play (in the NHL) after his time at Michigan State.”
Draeger, who was also chosen as the 57th overall pick of the United States Hockey League’s Draft by the Indiana Ice, is listed on NHL.com’s 2012 Entry Draft Players to Watch List from Minnesota.
Luckily for MSU, Draeger, who plans to major in either marketing, business or advertising, won’t be taking the USHL route and will be in a Spartan uniform next season.
“Some knowledgeable hockey specialists think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion (that) Shattuck St. Mary’s d-man John Draeger will go places in the game of hockey,” said an analyst from thescoutingnews.com.
His coach says Draeger is a late bloomer who will only get better under the tutelage of MSU’s new coaching staff. Ward also compared Draeger to North Dakota senior defenseman and captain Ben Blood, another former Shattuck standout who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators and is expected to earn All-America honors this season.
“He’s a kid who’s grown into being a good athlete here the last five, six years of his life,” Ward said. “The past couple of years he’s played on our top team here and he’s turned himself into a fine hockey player. He’s still got a lot to go. I mean when he’s 25 he’s going to be significantly better than he is right now as an 18-year old but with regards to youth athletics, and hockey specifically, the last three or four years, he’s made a real nice jump in his game. Just about every school in the country has been looking at him, all of your big schools, because in the last 18 months, John has really turned his game into something special, plus you can’t coach being 6-2 as a hockey player. And I would imagine that he’s going to be a little bit taller than 6-2, I don’t know how much taller, and about a 215, 220-pound type of kid when he’s done at MSU.
Ward added that some of the other schools that showed interest in Draeger included Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin but it seems that MSU’s case to lure Draeger to East Lansing was also aided by the fact that present MSU director of hockey operations Adam Nightingale coached Draeger on the Midget AA level for a year at Shattuck.
“I know Coach Nightingale and I know Tanner Sorenson that was on my team last year and it was just the best fit for me,” said Draeger, whom MSU started recruiting heavily during the summer.
While it is still going to take some time for MSU to return to the high level program it was two decades ago, Anastos and his staff are already showing that they have spent many sleepless nights traveling, watching, evaluating and luring top end talent back to the fold at MSU.
The newest recruits expected to join the program in the next two to three years are defenseman Josh Jacobs, who could be in Spartan uniform in 2014, winger Michael Ferrantino, and goalie Jake Hildebrand. The Spartans have also added Ryan Keller, a forward with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. Keller, a Farmington Hills native, who played high school hockey at Detroit Catholic Central before going to Sioux Falls, is expected to join MSU in 2012 or 2013.
In addition to Draeger’s arrival next season – the Spartans could lose as many as 11 players after the season – MSU is still expected to add previous commitments, defensemen Travis Walsh and Rhett Holland, wingers Mike McCarron and Joseph Cox and center Matt DeBlouw.
Walsh, a grandson of former Spartan hockey coach Ron Mason, Cox and DeBlouw are all members of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.
In addition to the future recruits and R.J. Boyd, a transfer from Sacred Heart – who was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2010 and will join the Spartans next season as a sophomore after playing with the Indiana Ice of the USHL – the Spartans are expected to offer, if they haven’t already, Zachary Werenski, a 9th grader from Grosse Pointe, who plays for 16-under Belle Tire Team. The 14-year old is already 6-2 and 195 pounds and is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.
“A truly talented and dominant player. Is the youngest member of his team (born in ’97) but plays beyond his years. Possesses outstanding hockey sense and the game, on occasion, seems effortless for him,” said reelhockeyscouting.com analyst Ikerhodes of Werenski. “An offensive defenseman with fluid footwork and a great deal of athleticism. Sees the ice extremely well. Holds a lethal touch and patience with the puck and can hit his mark with it. Fires a quick and accurate shot. Has pro size and uses it well to smother the play and grind players off of the puck. Shows ‘flashes’ of an appetite for the big hit and has been known to absolutely devastate bodies in open ice.”