Muskegon Lumberjacks draft recap: Paul Bunyan would be proud

By Stefan Kubus –

If the myth of Paul Bunyan set the standard in size for lumberjacks, then the Muskegon Lumberjacks did their very best to honor the monstrous giant at the 2012 USHL Entry Draft on Tuesday.

Of the 16 prospects that Muskegon selected, 11 of them are over 6 feet tall.

The Jacks had back-to-back selections at Nos. 2 and 3 overall, with which they respectively chose winger Adam Gilmour and center Connor Hurley.

“We got the guys we identified,” said Lumberjacks Owner/General Manager Josh Mervis. “We will be bigger, faster, stronger, and older. We got exactly what we hoped to get out of the draft.”

Gilmour, a recent Boston College commit standing at 6-foot-2, amassed 26 goals and 56 points in a mere 26 games for the Noble & Greenough prep school in Boston.

“Adam is a highly skilled hockey player who makes teammates better,” Mervis said. “He’s a big guy who can create offense and also score goals, plus he has an incredible drive to get better.”

The 6-foot Hurley just finished his sophomore year at Edina High School in Minnesota, where he recorded 26 goals and 58 points in 30 contests.

“He’s a playmaking center man with a very high degree of skill,” said Muskegon Scout Chris LaCombe of Hurley. “Connor is a real competitor with a scorer’s touch. He was the top available [1995-born-player] in Minnesota.”

In the second round, Muskegon looked to a somewhat unusual place: Germany. The Jacks chose Frederik Tiffels, a 5-foot-11 left winger who has tallied 60 points in 72 games over the past two seasons for his Jungadler Mannheim DNL junior league squad.

“Frederik is extremely fast, the fastest skater in his league, and he has a ton of skill,” said Lumberjacks Assistant Coach Dave Noel-Bernier. “He has a tremendous work ethic, too.”

Muskegon snagged another center with the second pick in the third round. This time, it was 6-foot-1 Ben Foster, who recently scored over 100 points at his Choate Rosemary Hall prep school in Connecticut to set the school’s all-time record. His year was good enough to get him named to the All-New England team this spring.

“He plays hard all over the ice, and he can make plays,” Assistant Coach Steve Palmer said about Foster. “He’s a big, strong, young man who plays smart in every zone.”

Once again in the fourth round, Muskegon held back-to-back picks at 46th and 47th overall. With them, they selected defenseman Dan O’Keefe, and left winger Tyler Hill.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound O’Keefe adds some offensive ability from the back end for the Lumberjacks. In 53 games this season with Team Comcast, O’Keefe registered 21 points.

“Dan is an ideal two-way defenseman,” Noel-Bernier said. “He makes a good first pass, and is very hard to play against.”

The Jacks continued to bulk up with Hill, a physical 6-foot-6 power forward who chipped in 16 points in 22 games with the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut as a sophomore.

“Tyler is a highly-regarded candidate for the 2013 NHL Draft with a ton of potential,” Noel-Bernier said.

Ben Storm of Calumet High School was Muskegon’s fifth-round choice. Standing at a towering 6-foot-6, the intimidating rearguard racked up 15 goals and 35 points in 26 games.

“When he hits, it hurts,” Palmer said. “He’s just an exceptional athlete. He has enormous potential because of his size.”

The size just kept on coming for Muskegon, as Boston University recruit Doyle Somerby was chosen in the sixth-round. Somerby, a 6-foot-5 defender, just wrapped up his senior year at Kimball Union Academy in Massachusetts.

“He’s very comparable to Jaycob Megna,” Noel-Bernier said about the former Lumberjack and current Nebraska-Omaha Maverick. “Doyle is a very good skater, very mobile. He’s a big two-way defenseman.”

With their final pick of the Entry Draft’s first phase, Muskegon nabbed Steven Spinner in the seventh round. The 5-foot-10 sophomore registered 20 goals and 30 points in 24 games for Eden Prairie.

“Steven is an energizing skill forward with a ton of speed,” LaCombe said.

With the first pick of the second phase, the Lumberjacks drafted their first netminder of the evening in Warren native Tyler Ross. The 6-foot-3 Ross, 19, played for Estevan of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, posting a solid .908 save percentage.

“He has a very big frame and he moves very well,” said goalie coach Jukka Konstas. “He’s also very sharp with the glove hand.”

Another Eden Prairie product, Luc Snuggerud, went to the Jacks in the 16th round. The left-handed 5-foot-10 defenseman, whose father Dave played four seasons in the NHL, notched 33 points in 44 games.

“Luc’s playmaking skills are lights out, especially on the power play, where he’s unbelievable,” said LaCombe. “He can see the ice extremely well and is very aware.”

Corey Ronan, a point-per-game forward for St. Sebastian’s prep school, and William Messa – 34 points in 31 games for Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts – comprised the 17th-round choices for Muskegon.

Yet another Eden Prairie product found his way onto the Lumberjacks’ club. Luc Gerdes played his hockey for Jamestown of the NAHL last year. Following Gerdes was Cullen Hurley, Connor’s brother, who also skated in the NAHL last season (Aberdeen).

The Lumberjacks looked overseas again for their next selection, snagging Niklas Folin, a Swedish 6-foot defender who has spent his last three seasons with the Frolunda junior organization.

To cap things off, Harrison Luce was the squad’s final selection. Standing at 6-foot-1, the right winger skated for the St. Thomas Stars of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League last season.

Mervis said he was pleased with the draft as a whole, but acknowledges that it doesn’t mean anything until the season begins.

“All the scouts and coaches did a very good job, but you don’t get wins from draft day,” Mervis said. “We’ll find out how good of a draft it was when the season starts. You’ve still got to play the game at the end of the day.”