MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa Bulls head coach Todd Sanden had plenty to keep him busy during the opening rounds of the NA3HL Draft on Tuesday night, but once the draft hit the halfway point, six North Iowa picks were in the books and it was time to call it a night.
All told, it was a pretty good night for the Bulls, with two players chosen from the North American Prospects Hockey League and two more from the NAHL.
North Iowa had previously acquired early-round draft picks from the Cincinnati Thunder and the Louisiana Drillers, but worked out a trade early on Tuesday to send three late-round picks to the L/A Fighting Spirit in exchange for three tenders in 2018.
“You look at how important player acquisition is in the 3HL, we’ve had better success with the tender route,” said Sanden.
Two of the first three picks went to players from the North American Prospects Hockey League, and all of the first three went to players who won league titles in 2016-17.
“We picked a couple of kids out of the Madison Capitols program, which we saw plenty of this year,” said Sanden. “It’s no surprise that we picked a couple of guys from the top team in the NAPHL.”
The youngest pick in this year’s draft is USPHL forward Vincent DeScantis, a 2000 birth year, giving him four potential seasons in the junior game.
“This kid did a phenomenal job and made the Young Stars game (at the Bloomington Thunder USHL camp),” said Sanden. “He would have fit the speed of the main all-star game. He’s an East Coast kid – his family lives in Florida and he’s been living in New York. He plays like his hair is on fire and if we can land him, he’ll be a favorite in the Barn.”
Here’s more info on North Iowa’s six picks in the 2017 3HL Draft:
1st Round, 15th Overall: KOBE KELLER – F, Madison Capitols AAA 18U (NAPHL): Keller scored the final goal in the Capitols’ Dixon Cup title game against Meijer AAA to win the NAPHL’s 18U division. Keller also earned all-academic recognition for the Caps this past season, and was an honorable-mention all-state pick as a high-school player in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 2016.
1st Round, 40th Overall: VINCENT DeSANCTIS – F, PAL Islanders U18 (USPHL): The Bulls went to the USPHL with their late-first-round pick, nabbing a player who earned a title of his own in the league’s 18U division and led the Isles to the national tournament. DeSanctis also participated in the Bloomington Thunder’s main camp at the USHL level recently, and was a 13th-round pick for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League draft a year ago.
3rd Round, 104th Overall: JAKOB HANTHORN – F, Madison Capitols AAA 18U (NAPHL): Hanthorn was the Bulls’ second pick of the night from Madison, playing his last three seasons of hockey in the Capitols program and earning a spot in the NAPHL’s 18U All-Star Game in 2016. He’s also a player that the Bulls’ sister organizations have been following closely, signing a tender with the NAHL’s Amarillo Bulls in April.
3rd Round, 134th Overall: RYAN KRANZ – D, Centennial (Minn.) H.S. (MSHSL): Kranz was North Iowa’s only pick directly from a high-school program, and the team’s first defensive pick of the draft. Kranz scored 49 points in a three-year varsity career with the Cougars, and was a finalist this past year for the Reed Larson Award, which recognizes the top high-school defenseman in the state of Minnesota.
4th Round, 170th Overall: BRYCETON BUTKIEWICZ – F, Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL): Butkiewicz was a goal-scorer extraordinaire for Moose Lake High School, tallying 101 goals in a three-year career before heading to Cloquet and the North American Hockey League last year. His 45 goals as a sophomore in 2014-15 put him among the top 20 scorers in all of American high school hockey.
4th Round, 181st Overall: JOSH BENSON – G, Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL): Hardly an unfamiliar name for North Iowa Bulls fans, Benson won all seven of his decisions early last year before earning an NAHL call-up with Fairbanks. The good news: Benson went 10-4 last year and posted a 1.98 goals-against average. The bad news: He got stuck behind Erik Gordon, who went 24-3 and earned the goaltender spot on the all-league second-team list.
“The last thing we would want with a player like [Benson] is to have him locked out to where he got his start in junior hockey,” said Sanden. “It’s a great contingency plan for him and for us, and in junior hockey, stranger things have happened. It’s out of respect for him and protection for us if it does happen.”
Of the seven players chosen in last year’s draft, only one played a year ago for the Bulls, but he made a major impact – Josh Arnold was the team’s third-round pick, before tallying 42 points for a Bulls team that ended up winning 41 games and qualifying for the Silver Cup national championship tournament. First-round pick Jarrett Mari was briefly on the Bulls’ 25-man roster in February, but did not don a North Iowa sweater before the end of the season.
The countdown is on to the start of the NA3HL season, with just three months to go before the Bulls and the league’s other 46 teams hit the ice. 2017-18 season tickets are now on sale – for more information, visit NorthIowaBulls.com.