MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa’s draft class will not be a big one in 2018, but it’s safe to say Bulls coach Todd Sanden and assistant coach Kevin Murdock got the guy they wanted. Kingsford (Mich.) High School forward Daunte Fortner went to the Bulls with the 34th overall pick in Wednesday’s draft in a class of one for the three-time North American Tier 3 Hockey League champions.
“I saw Daunte three years ago at a North American Hockey League tryout,” said Sanden. “He was a 14-year-old, maybe working on 15, and he impressed me so much at that time. In the course of conversation with him and his dad over the middle of our season, he told me that he’s not going to play high school (hockey) next year and he wants to be a junior hockey player.”
Fortner turned down a tender offer at the time, looking to keep his options open as he prepares to make his debut at the junior level. He certainly appears ready to impress, though, tallying 115 points for the Kingsford Flivvers in his last two seasons.
The Flivvers’ star forward was a two-time all-Great Lakes Hockey Conference pick, but also won a national 18-and-under championship earlier this month with Team Copper Country, a team made up of some of the Upper Peninsula’s top youth hockey players. Outside of hockey season, Fortner was a state-qualifying tennis player at Kingsford.
Sanden decided to forgo the remainder of the Bulls’ draft picks, opting to trade them for tenders that he and Murdock can offer to potential Bulls players.
“Our tactical decision this year was to focus on tenders and get to kids face-to-face or phone-to-phone, and really try to lock them down for a commitment,” said Sanden. “If they’re not playing in the NAHL, or the United States Hockey League or the British Columbia Hockey League, or the higher junior leagues around us, then they’re coming to the North Iowa Bulls.”
The list of North Iowa draft picks who have eventually found their way to Mason City isn’t a huge one, but there have been some impressive names on that list. Bryceton Butkiewicz and Ryan Kranz played a total of 42 games last year before their departures, and Vincent DeSanctis began the year on the Bulls’ roster as well. Josh Arnold was a North Iowa draftee two years ago, and will head to Wisconsin-River Falls next year after an outstanding run with the Bulls.
In September, the three-time national champion North Iowa Bulls begin their eighth season as a member club in the NA3HL. Season tickets are on sale now, with a 10-percent discount available for season ticket accounts that are paid in full by the end of April. For more information, click here. For team news and updates throughout the offseason, visit NorthIowaBulls.com or follow the team’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.