BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
June 6, 2015
The next chapter in the Corpus Christi IceRays franchise has officially begun, and the focus now shifts to the future of the organization both on and off the ice with the 2016 NAHL Entry Draft tomorrow afternoon. In case you're new to the junior draft process, let's go through how the draft will be formatted.
The NAHL Draft is a maximum 30-round process that helps retool all 24 teams in the NAHL for the upcoming season. Much like the USHL and other junior leagues, there is no fixated number of rounds like professional drafts, only the number of rounds it takes for a team to reach 30 players combining protected lists, tenders, and the players drafted. Teams like the Northeast Generals and Shreveport Mudbugs, who are the league's two expansion franchises for the 2016-17 season, will need most of the available rounds to build their team from the ground up while most of the league will not need most selections.
Players that are 20 years old or younger on December 31, 2016 and have played less than ten (10) NAHL games in the 2015-16 season are eligible for the draft. This means that players that are born in 1996 or younger are eligible. For perspective, players like Carter Johnson and Drake Lindsay, who were born in 1995, would not be eligible for drafting if they were looking to continue their junior careers and had not been on a NAHL roster the previous year. On the other hand, if a player like Trevor Heuser, who was born in 1996, had not played more than 10 games last year, then he could be drafted by an organization.
Draft order is determined by the final league standings for the 2015-16 regular season with preference given to any expansion franchises. Unlike the NHL Entry Draft, a team’s success in the NAHL Playoffs does not determine draft placement, meaning that the regular season standings are what is looked to for order of selections. For instance, even though the Aston Rebels made the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals, they will not pick in the final four picks because their position at the end of the regular season was eighth. The first overall selection was decided by a coin flip by the NAHL.
The draft order lists as follows, with South Division teams labeled with an asterisk:
1. Northeast Generals (expansion)
2. Shreveport Mudbugs* (expansion)
3. Kenai River Brown Bears
4. Amarillo Bulls*
5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
6. Aberdeen Wings
7. Minnesota Magicians
8. Brookings Blizzard
9. Corpus Christi IceRays*
10. Odessa Jackalopes*
11. Austin Bruins
12. Springfield Jr. Blues
13. Johnstown Tomahawks
14. Coulee Region Chill
15. Topeka RoadRunners
16. New Jersey Titans
17. Aston Rebels
18. Minnesota Wilderness
19. Minot Minotauros
20. Janesville Jets
21. Bismarck Bobcats
22. Lone Star Brahmas*
23. Wichita Falls Wildcats*
24. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
After a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the IceRays will select ninth in this year's draft. While this falls short of the team's farthest selection (14th in 2015), it is far from the team's lowest (3rd in 2014) while keeping them below mid-pack. This year, the IceRays have eight picks available after holding 22 players on the team's protected list in combination with tendered players and returning veterans. The hours leading up to and during the draft present numerous trade opportunities to jockey for positioning, and the IceRays have notably done this in the past. Last season, the IceRays traded for a 5th Round Pick with the Kenai River Brown Bears to select Regen Cavanagh, one of the team's best point-per-game players during 2015-16.
The IceRays made 13 selections in the 2015 NAHL Draft, and five of the first six picks were all impact players throughout the season. Goaltender Graham Hunt (49th overall) and forwards Brad Power (55th overall) and Carter Johnson (67th overall) were the first three picks all in the third round followed by forward Drake Lindsay (81st overall) in the fourth round and Regen Cavanagh (91st overall) in the fifth round. Hunt helped lead the IceRays back from the brink through the midway pole of the season with five-straight wins including four in five days, Power finished tied for second on the team in goals (13), Johnson committed to a NCAA Division I program in Miami University (OH) while leading the team in goals (16) and placing second in points (37), Lindsay led the way with 26 assists and 38 points, and Cavanagh shared the team lead in power play goals (6) and finished second in points-per-game (0.622) behind Lindsay (.679) while missing 15 games.
Coverage of the 2016 NAHL Draft begins Tuesday, June 7 at 12:45 p.m. on www.FASTHockey.com with live broadcast coverage provided by NAHL Director of Communications Alex Kyrias with the draft officially commencing at 1:00 p.m. All selections can also be seen live on www.NAHL.com for all 24 teams. The IceRays will have exclusive content and selections on Twitter (@goicerays) including every, information on each selection, and reactions. A full recap of the NAHL Draft will be released following the conclusion of the day’s events.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.