SUDBURY, Ont. – Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League clubs continue to make inroads in terms of seeing players advance to the next level.
With that, the NOJHL has seen a plethora of its on-ice talent secure opportunities to both further their on-ice careers, as well as continue their respective scholastic endeavours.
Presently there are no less than eight members of the 2022-23 Soo Eagles side who have committed to various programs in the fall, including five of their top seven point producers.
Leading that contingent with Doug LaPrade’s squad was their leading scorer, Jack Mortson, who will attend NCAA D-III University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Mortson, connected at over a point-per-game pace in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., as he collected 108 in 97 outings for the Eagles in his career, including 47 goals.
Then there is fellow forward Zachary Briskey, who will attend NCAA D-III school Northland College, which is based in Ashland, Wis.
A rugged two-way player, he appeared in 89 NOJHL contests over two seasons and set personal single-season bests in tallies and points to wrap-up his time in the league.
Meanwhile, the fledgling University of Dubuque D-III program in Iowa have brought in veteran coach Sheamus Gregory to handle the reigns and he helped recruit Hunter Friesen to be part of their initial class as they gear up to make their NCAA debut.
Friesen, who also spent time with the Espanola Paper Kings, was a 17-goal man, including notching a dozen for the Soo.
Then there is local product Michael Szlag committing to Western New England, another NCAA D-3 school, while the Eagles leading scorer on defence, Colin Handy, will be heading to Marian University in Wisconsin.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association has also dipped into the Soo’s talent pool to bolster some of their teams.
Among this group is talented forward Chase Tallaire, as he’ll be heading to nearby Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he’ll lace them up with the Lakers ACHA squad.
Tallaire was a pivotal performer in his time with the Eagles, surpassing the century-mark offensively with 118 points in 114 games played.
He led his club in both of his two full seasons in game-winning goals, totally 14 in all, as part of the 52 times he found the back of the net.
Then there is blueliner Isaiah Gagerman joining Indiana Tech while goaltender Logan Raffaele won’t have far to go as he’ll be part of his hometown Lake Superior State’s ACHA program.
Gagerman registered back-to-back double-digit point years for the Soo from the back-end, with Raffaele making 42 NOJHL appearances and having 16 wins, while sporting a save percentage over .900 in each of his two seasons.
“We can’t say enough about our student-athletes, who are pursuing their education and extending their hockey careers,” offered Eagles general manager Bruno Bragagnolo, in discussing his group of commits.
“They are all outstanding young men who have worked extremely hard to accomplish their goals. We have no doubt they will all be outstanding individuals in whatever they do in life,” stated the Soo GM.
Bragagnolo also went on add: “It is great to see that the schools are continuing to scout and commit to the players from the NOJHL. What used to be a well-kept secret is not so secret anymore as more and more schools are watching closely and recruiting players from our league.”
FROM CHAMPION TO COLLEGE: The two latest collegiate commitments for the NOJHL champion Timmins Rock are highly-touted forwards Brady Harroun and Ethan Pool.
Harroun has been recruited by the successful Norwich University Cadets program in Vermont and Pool is off to Calvin University in Michigan.
Coming off a tremendous final season of junior hockey, Harroun led all NOJHL skaters in goals with 50 and finished second in total points with 96.
The first team NOJHL All-Star at forward also paced the league in man advantage markers with 20 while his nine game-winning goals was also tops.
As for Pool, he was limited to just 36 games during the regular season, but still responded with 23 points on eight tallies and 15 helpers.
Returning to the Rock line-up for the final 10 contests of the playoffs, he was a point-per-game performer as he responded in a big way by scoring eight times and helping set-up two others along the way in bolstering Timmins’ run to the title.
Three of his markers were game-winners, which paced all NOJHL skaters.
He also had two points in as many appearances to share the team point lead at the Centennial Cup in Portage la Prairie, Man.
ADVANCEMENT IN ESPANOLA: The much-improved Espanola Paper Kings franchise also have a player moving on to play college hockey.
Espanola forward Jonathan Lush will be joining former teammate Friesen at the University of Dubuque where they will both lace ‘em up with the first-year Spartans.
The 20-year-old Lush performed admirably with the Paper Kings as the Pickering, Ont., product found the back of the net 12 times and doled out 35 assists for a 47-point run in 56 contests.
OVERALL NUMBERS: Follow the link to view the current list of NOJHLers from 2022-23 that have earned commitments to the next level:
Photo credit: Helene Rancourt