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Lumberjacks prepare for Futures Draft | News

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Lumberjacks prepare for Futures Draft
Lumberjacks prepare for Futures Draft

The Muskegon Lumberjacks will take their first tangible step toward building the 2012-13 team next week, when they will have six selections in the annual USHL Futures Draft.

Only players born in 1996 are eligible to be chosen in this year’s Futures Draft, which will take place Tuesday, May 1. Unlike the Entry Draft, which is based on reverse standings order from the just-completed season, the Futures Draft order is randomized and reverses every other round in a “snake” fashion.

If there was any benefit in finishing out of the Clark Cup Playoffs this season, it was that the Muskegon Hockey Operations staff could turn a significant part of its attention to next season before most teams could afford to do the same.

“I’ve been out scouting a lot more this year,” said Assistant Coach Dave Noel-Bernier. “We looked at the standings a couple months ago and we decided to put more of our focus on the future.”

The Lumberjacks will choose 10th in Tuesday’s first round, followed by picks at Nos. 21, 40, 51, 70 and 81. Every USHL Member Club except the National Team Development Program will take part, although some teams have forfeited either one or two picks by signing 1996-born players to tenders, agreements which require the player to skate in 55 percent of next season’s games.

Muskegon elected to not use a tender this spring, meaning it will have all six of its allotted picks to restock its talent base. For a team trying to rebound from a down season, each selection is a valuable commodity.

“Once those tenders are signed you know exactly which players are available and who you can grab,” Noel-Bernier said. “The biggest thing is to get out and scout. You want to build your list, but now we’re on the phone trying to recruit. You’ve got to do both because these players have choices.”

In addition to directing more energy toward scouting earlier in the year, the Lumberjacks have more manpower than last year with fellow Assistant Coach Steve Palmer also doing his best to deliver more top talent to Muskegon.

“Last year we only had two coaches so I had to be here every weekend for the games,” Noel-Bernier said. “We relied more on scouts last year. This time around, we’re relying on Steve and me to get out and see the guys.

“I feel it’s going to be more effective that way. Of course, the pressure is more on us now too, but we’ve done the work and we’re confident in what we’ve done.”

With the Futures Draft coming first, the ’96 draft class has the Lumberjacks’ full attention at the moment. While the talent pool is relatively limited, identifying a future star at a younger age can be just as transformative for a franchise as landing an older contributor in the more expansive Entry Draft on May 22.

“You focus a big part of the year on [the Futures Draft],” Noel-Bernier said. “Steve started on the [1996-born players] early in the season and then we flip-flopped so we could cross-reference each other’s work.”

With their first pick in last spring’s Futures Draft, the Lumberjacks chose defenseman Alex Smith from the renowned Honeybaked AAA program. The native of Brownstown, Mich., went on to score 15 points in 47 games despite turning just 17 in late January.

Muskegon also acquired Grand Rapids-area product Alex Talcott (second round), Corey Schueneman (fourth) and Riley Alferd (fifth) in the 2011 Futures Draft, all of whom made their USHL debuts in the 2011-12 season.

Stay current on the Lumberjacks’ draft dealings at muskegonlumberjacks.com, with real-time updates on Facebook and Twitter (@MuskegonJacks).

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