UAA Seawolves Head Coach Matt Thomas introduced the 2015-16 Seawolves incoming freshman class in this release today. Let's delve into his comments a bit, but first it's clear now that Jonah and Nathan Renouf will be suited up for the squad this fall. My last entry assumed that to be the case initially, but then I corrected/edited it based on NCAA transfer rules. It was unknown to me that both players redshirted last season and hence are indeed eligible this season to play for UAA.
There are two players I'd been tracking as coming that aren't mentioned in the press release: Alex Jackstadt and Jake Larson. I'll comment on these subtractions from the list at the end of this post.
Now onto Coach Thomas' comments about the incoming players. On Cam Amantea (5'10" 190lbs) he said,
“Cam is a character guy that has done a lot of winning during his junior career in Penticton. He has played for arguably the most talented junior team in North America and has played his role consistently and effectively. This is a guy who shows up each and every day with his hardhat and lunch pail, ready to work.”
Initially, this sounds like Cam is coming here to fill a role. Nobody is going to expect him to put up big numbers but instead be the dependable workman who does what is necessary to contribute to the success of the team on which he's playing. I heard Cam has good speed.
On Nicolas Erb-Ekhom Coach Thomas had perhaps his most interesting comments he said,
“Nicolas has the tools to be a really special player for us. Once he adjusts to the style of play in North America he’s going to be elite. Nicolas is a unique recruit for us and I am excited to get him to that level.”
So what this means to me is there is some development needed before this Swedish import becomes a regular contributor. Not to worry as we've seen more than a few European players come here and go onto be very polished players who contribute relatively nicely. Don't underestimate the word "elite" as used by Thomas.
Next Thomas talks about the player I'm most excited to see in the Green and Gold; Jeremiah Luedtke. Thomas says,
“Jeremiah is a proven point producer. He has been a top scorer in the BCHL for the last two years and his ability to create plays will be a welcomed addition. Jeremiah makes the players around him better and he is also very hard to contain in one-on-one situations because of how crafty he is.”
His junior coach had many similar adjectives to describe Jeremiah including "great hands, good top speed, pure skill" etc ...
Coach Thomas gives no mention of Mason Mitchell's (6'3" 195lbs) toughness and/or penalty statistics when he said,
“Mason has the potential to go pro someday. There are not many 6-3-power forwards that skate like him. Mason is hard to play against and will certainly be a force that opponents will not look forward to facing each weekend in the WCHA.”
Mason's cousin is former Wisconsin Badger and current NHL'r Rene Bourque, who was once a terror in the WCHA and throughout his NHL career has been a thorn in many an opponent's side while contributing 148 goals and 142 assists in 611 NHL games. If Mason becomes as productive here as Rene did at Wisconsin then we'll all be in love with a guy that every opponent hates. I sure hated Rene Bourque back in the day.
On the Renouf twins, Nathan and Jonah (both 5'8" 155lbs), Coach Thomas had this to say,
“Jonah and Nathan are two guys that I know our fans will instantly fall in love with. They aren’t the biggest guys, but they are feisty and competitive and have elite vision and skill. Our coaching staff had the opportunity to see them a lot in 2013-14, and they were top-10 scorers in terms of points per game.”
These two guys are the frosting on this year's recruiting class cake. Now in his third year Coach Thomas is showing a clear predilection for an uptempo game strategy. In the NCAA that most always means you have a bit of a smaller team. UAA is certainly trending that way. With these brothers the Seawolves will have 10 rostered players who are 5ft 10in or smaller.
If the Renouf brothers are the frosting on the cake then D-man Wyatt Ege (5ft 11in, 160) is the delicious fruit filling. Thomas says,
“Wyatt is a recruit that I could not be more excited to get into a Seawolves jersey. He is a gifted skater who will help our power play and offensive game immediately. I truly believe Wyatt has All-American potential, easily making us better as a team.”
Wyatt has done a lot of power play quarterbacking in his junior career. Expect the same here. Expect him to play in every game barring injury.
Lastly, there's defenseman Eric Roberts (6'2", 195lbs) whom Coach Thomas described thusly,
“Eric is a winner that you want on your team. He pays attention to detail and does all the little things that make programs successful. He was the captain of a very strong team in Chiliwack and is someone who I envision being a leader within our program.”
That explains Eric's future role. His experience, numbers and scouting reports peg him as a responsible player who knows his first priority is defending his zone and net.
Alex Jackstadt and Jake Larson aren't coming to UAA. Without any specific mention in the press release, I'll just assume that UAA didn't see Alex as a player who would make the lineup at UAA. He definitely had some not so fine seasons after his initial recruitment and not catching on outside the NAHL probably hurt him. I'm sure he's a fine young man and a hard working hockey player. Sometimes guys just don't live up to expectations from the time they were recruited until their supposed to show up on campus. I think Alex is one of these guys.
As for Jake Larson, I wouldn't imagine the same thing. He has moved around a bit during his junior career after showing high potential as an 18 year old. But I can't see that his numbers alone disqualify him from coming to UAA. Perhaps there are reasons beyond hockey for his absence. It's tough to guess about things like that.
It's good to have all that clarified and buttoned up. There's enough good potential in the incoming class to make me more positive about what this group of 7 guys can bring to the table to help the Seawolves succeed at a higher level in 2015-16. Be a little excited too; it's good for the offseason.