MASON CITY, Iowa – This year’s NA3HL Draft was only half as long as usual, but provided the regular amount of excitement and anticipation as the Bulls look ahead to the 2020-21 season. North Iowa made seven picks in Thursday’s draft, which was only four rounds long. The decision to shorten the draft was not made due to the recent COVID-19 situation across the nation, but was a consensus decision across the league.
“I’m a fan of that, strictly for the sheer numbers of players who don’t have a choice of where they go,” said North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden. “When you have an eight-round draft with 30 teams, you’re potentially tying players up without having the choice to play where they’d like to play. Junior hockey is a developmental level of hockey, and I think a four-round draft is suitable for our needs in the NA3HL.”
High school players highlighted the Bulls draft board this season, with four of the team’s seven picks coming directly from high school teams. The first selection of the draft, however, was briefly a Bull during the past season. Minnesota Wilderness forward Gavin Rasmussen was North Iowa’s first-round pick after playing for the team at the NA3HL Showcase this past December. Two other players on the North Iowa draft board hail from the state of Alaska.
“It’s a really good group of young men that we drafted today,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “Gavin finished this season with the Wilderness, and he had interest from other teams in our division last year. If he was ever available, I would want him with us and not somewhere else. There are good players all over the country but I think other than Jeff Solow and Justin Daly coming down from Kenai River, [former Bull] Chancie Hanson is the only native Alaskan we’ve had on the team. We’re just looking to put together the best team possible..”
The Bulls’ seven selections in this year’s draft were:
1ST ROUND, 25TH OVERALL: GAVIN RASMUSSEN (MINNESOTA WILDERNESS, NAHL)
Gavin played briefly for North Iowa at the NA3HL Showcase this past December, notching a pair of goals in a 4-0 win over the defending Fraser Cup national champion Texas Jr. Brahmas. The Cloquet, Minnesota native spent most of this past season in the NAHL with the Wilderness, though, posting five assists in 38 games.
2ND ROUND, 54TH OVERALL: COLE PEARSON (LAKEVILLE NORTH H.S.)
Cole was the first blueliner taken by the Bulls, posting a career-high 25 points this past year for North and leading the Panthers to 18 wins this season. He tallied a goal and an assist in his prep finale against Hastings High in the section tournament.
2ND ROUND, 60TH OVERALL: CALEB HUFFMAN (MEIJER AAA)
Caleb is one of a pair of Alaska natives chosen by the Bulls this season, spending his last two seasons with the famed Meijer AAA program in Michigan. The Fairbanks native has three years of NAPHL experience under his belt, also suiting up for the Alaska Oilers’ 15-and-under team in 2017-18.
3RD ROUND, 86TH OVERALL: HAYDEN FOX (TEAM ALASKA)
Hayden is the other Alaska native selected by the Bulls, playing for Team Alaska’s 18-and-under squad in the NAPHL this season. The former South Anchorage High School standout has some experience on the national stage already, scoring two goals in the national 16-and-under championship game last year. The latter of those two goals was the Anchorage North Stars’ game-winner with just 51.5 seconds to play. Fox also wrapped up his 2019-20 prep season at South Anchorage on the All-Cook Inlet Conference list.
3RD ROUND, 92ND OVERALL: LAZ KLAEBEL (PRIOR LAKE H.S.)
Lazarus comes from a familiar place for the Bulls, playing for the same Prior Lake High School squad that produced stars like Connor Clemons, Dylan Zins and the Bump brothers. “Laz,” as he’s better-known, posted five goals and five assists and helped the Lakers stay in a tight South Suburban Conference race. In the end, Prior Lake finished 11-4-2 against the rest of the league, just behind Lakeville South for the conference crown. He leaves along with seven other seniors, but the team’s top three point-getters were sophomores
4TH ROUND, 116TH OVERALL: NIKOLAI DULAK (MAHTOMEDI H.S.)
Nikolai Dulak is a player who has been on the radar of many a North American Hockey League coach, signing an NAHL tender with the New Mexico Ice Wolves last month. Dulak notched 114 points in 98 regular-season games, and added 26 more in 17 postseason contests. His senior class reached the Minnesota state high school tournament all four years, and finished its final season with a state championship.
4TH ROUND, 122ND OVERALL: BRAEDON LACOMY (MINNETONKA H.S.)
Braedon gives the Bulls a great note on which to finish this year’s draft, after notching 21 points for Minnetonka High School this season and nearly leading the Skippers to a Lake Conference title. He also has a neat story to tell in the sport, playing in the coldest-ever Hockey Day in Minnesota contest – Lacomy and his team dropped the puck against Andover High School last January in an outdoor game in Bemidji with the game-time temperature pegged at 26 degrees below zero.
The North Iowa Bulls will celebrate their 10th anniversary season in Mason City in 2020-21, and their first full season at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena. Season tickets are now on sale, with early-bird discounts available on this year’s season-ticket prices until the end of April. For more information on 2020-21 season tickets, or to purchase season tickets, call 641-423-4625. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.