MASON CITY, Iowa – Wednesday’s North American Tier 3 Hockey League draft brought about some unique circumstances for Bulls head coach and general manager Todd Sanden.
Sanden will serve as the head coach of the North Iowa entry in the North American Hockey League next season, but since the Bulls’ move to the NAHL is technically a relocation of Amarillo’s spot in the league, there is still the matter of building the NA3HL squad while the matters of the team’s location, brand and coaching staff for 2021-22 are sorted out.
The Bulls kept plenty busy during Wednesday’s draft, selecting 11 players over the four rounds. Four of those picks were originally allotted to North Iowa, while the other seven were acquired in various transactions with fellow NA3HL teams.
“We picked kids who we feel could translate to the Tier II team,” said Sanden. “We wanted to go after kids that we felt could make that transition in year one. There is no way we want this going off the rails into the ditch – we want this transition to be somewhat seamless and this team does what this team has done and stays the top team in the West Division and the NA3HL.”
Four of the selections in this year’s draft are players on teams that faced off against North Iowa in one fashion or another during the past season – two came from the Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep program, whom the Bulls split with in exhibition play, while two others came from a Des Moines Buccaneers U18 team that scrimmaged Sanden’s team during Minnesota’s two-month COVID shutdown.
“I want to see players live to evaluate them,” said Sanden. “We did give some credence to teams that were in our building and teams that we played this year.”
NORTH IOWA SELECTIONS IN THE 2021 NA3HL DRAFT
27th Overall: David Schoeneman (D – Owatonna, MN – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep)
Schoeneman was injured when the Sabres made their visit to Mason City in January, limiting his numbers somewhat this year. The native of Owatonna, barely an hour from Mason City, has played in five games this year with two assists. It’s his fourth season in the Sabres program.
30th Overall: Johnny DeVoe (F – Edina, MN – Edina H.S.)
DeVoe recently finished his second season of varsity hockey for the Edina Hornets, posting 15 points in 20 games. He’s become a regular on the AAA hockey circuit in Minnesota, playing for the Minnesota Sharks, Minnesota Lakers and Minnesota Bulls (no relation). He comes from a steady hockey lineage, with father John enjoying a four-year Division I hockey career at Notre Dame and Providence, and uncle Michael playing four years at Harvard.
31st Overall: Shane Stoitsiadis (F – Commerce, MI – Belle Tire AAA)
Stoitsiadis comes from the same Belle Tire program that produced former Bulls defenseman Jase Sofo and five other players on NA3HL rosters this past season. He racked up 20 goals and 26 assists this past season, and also has experience in the Victory Honda and Oakland Jr. Grizzlies programs.
61st Overall: Noah Pickart (D – Fond du Lac, WI – Fond du Lac Springs H.S.)
Pickart posted 44 points in just 18 games for Fond du Lac Springs High School this past season, but has also logged time the last three years with Team Wisconsin and made his junior hockey debut with two NAHL games this past season as a St. Cloud Norseman. Not surprisingly, he earned first-team all-Badgerland Conference honors this past year for his efforts at Fond du Lac Springs.
65th Overall: Colin Goff (F – Wasilla, AK – Soo Indians AAA)
Goff played for Wasilla High School last season, leading the Warriors to a third-place finish in the Alaska state tournament. He posted nearly a point a game for the Soo Indians this season, with 30 points in 37 appearances, and has plied his trade in several programs in his home state, including the Anchorage North Stars and Alaska Oilers.
81st Overall: Kameron Langefels (D – Eden Prairie, MN – Eden Prairie H.S.)
Langefels made his junior debut in December for the New Mexico Ice Wolves of the NAHL, and has been a regular in the lineup for Eden Prairie High School over a three-year varsity career. In all three of his seasons with the Eagles, they have landed in the state title game, bringing home a championship in this year’s Minnesota state tournament.
84th Overall: Brady Braun (F – Fargo, ND – Des Moines Buccaneers AAA)
Braun impressed the Bulls and everyone else he faced during the 2020-21 season, leading the North American Prospects Hockey League with 36 points in 23 NAPHL contests. All told, he notched an incredible 82 points in 63 games for the Bucs’ under-18 squad, in his third year in the capital city out of Fargo, North Dakota. Braun also signed an NAHL tender with the Maine Nordiques in February.
85th Overall: Tyler Krivtsov (G – Santa Clarita, CA – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep)
Krivtsov landed a spot on the Sabres’ prep roster this season alongside older brother Jazz, and posted seven wins in 10 appearances with an impressive .930 save percentage and a goals-against average of just 1.64. It’s his fourth season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s out of the Los Angeles Jr. Kings. Fans of “The Voice” may find his last name a bit familiar – Tyler’s father Sasha is the NBC show’s longtime bass player, and has toured with artists such as Cher and Billy Idol.
118th Overall: Kade Nielsen (F – Burnsville, MN – Burnsville H.S.)
Nielsen goes onto the ice for each shift expecting to score, and score he did in his senior year for the Blaze – his 50 points, including 30 goals, led the team in a 9-11 season. Nielsen has been a stat-sheet stuffer for Burnsville in his three years on the ice, notching 127 points over his varsity career and factoring into 70 percent of Burnsville’s goals this past year.
119th Overall: Matt Kochanowski (D – Apple Valley, MN – Des Moines Buccaneers AAA)
The Bulls went back to the Bucs for their penultimate pick of the day, picking a first-year Bucs AAA blueliner who still racked up 37 points in 58 total games in Des Moines. On top of NAPHL experience for both Des Moines and the Sioux Falls Power, Kochanowski turned heads immediately in 2019-20 as a 30-point scorer for the USPHL’s Rum River Mallards.
125th Overall: Tim Christiansson (F – Landskrona, Sweden – Olofstroms IK)
North Iowa went outside the box – and the continent – for its final pick of the draft, choosing a forward with a lengthy history in Swedish junior hockey. He has played for several Swedish junior programs, but has spent the past two seasons with Olofstroms’s U20 squad.