MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa has long built a reputation as a place where top junior hockey players flock to play. Some of the North American Hockey League’s top prospects are in Mason City again this season, with the announcement of the NAHL’s Top Prospects rosters for this season. Four Bulls will be on the ice representing the Central Division at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, slated for February 7 and 8 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh.
Michael Mesic will be one of the youngest players at the event, after posting 30 points for North Iowa and tying for the team scoring lead heading into the final full week of January. Mesic is committed to Northern Michigan University, after playing for the Honeybaked 16-and-under team last season in his native Michigan. He opened his junior career with a three-point game in a win over the Minnesota Wilderness on September 15 at the NAHL Showcase, and has not looked back since.
Carter Rapalje is the other man tied for the Bulls’ team scoring lead, and his Central Division-leading 21 goals ranks fourth in the NAHL. He will also represent the Central Division at the Top Prospects event, making a repeat appearance after playing for the South Division team and scoring a goal at last year’s showcase.
Logan Dombrowsky will play for the Central Division at the Top Prospects event as well, with 11 goals and 18 assists on the season, a point off the team pace. Dombrowsky played for the Amarillo Bulls last season, scoring a goal and four assists before joining the team in its move to North Iowa during the offseason. He surpassed his 2020-21 scoring total before September was out, posting points in nine of North Iowa’s first 11 games this season.
Dylan Gajewski will be the Bulls’ final representative in Pittsburgh, cranking out 12 goals and 15 assists so far in his final junior hockey season. Nine of his goals have come since joining the North Iowa roster after Thanksgiving, and he became one of only two Bulls to score goals in each of his first four games with the team.
Three former Bulls from the team’s final seasons in the North American Tier 3 Hockey League will also take part in the event. Zack Simon will represent the Central Division, starring for the Minot Minotauros this season with 28 points, including a team-best 16 goals. Amarillo Wranglers goaltender Max Gutjahr will play on the Central Division roster as well, turning in 17 wins thus far for the Wranglers in his return to the NAHL. Carson Jones leads the Springfield Jr. Blues with 29 points this season, and was also named among the league’s Top Prospects, playing for the Midwest Division group. The latter two helped lead the Bulls to their fourth NA3HL Fraser Cup national championship last season, while Simon played for North Iowa during its 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
Austin Bruins head coach Steve Howard will lead the Central Division group at the Top Prospects event, while Aberdeen Wings head coach Steve Jennings will serve as his assistant. The Central Division team will play two games at the showcase, facing the Midwest Division squad at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, followed by a 9 a.m. meeting with the team representing the South Division.
The NAHL Top Prospects event is the first one to be held at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the primary practice and training home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The facility has hosted numerous prominent events in the sport of hockey, including the annual United States Hockey League Fall Classic, the NHL Kraft Hockeyville game, National Women’s Hockey League (now Premier Hockey Federation) regular-season and All-Star events, and USA Hockey national championships and tournaments.
For full details on this season’s NAHL Top Prospects showcase, visit www.nahl.com/tpt.