Saturday, June 28, 2014

Incoming freshman drafted (updated)

USHL photo
Incoming Minnesota State freshman C.J. Franklin was drafted on Saturday, selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round of the NHL draft.

Franklin, a Forest Lake native who played the last two seasons with the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede, scoring 111 points in those two years. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward had 54 goals in those seasons.

UPDATE: Read more about Franklin, including quotes from him and Mike Hastings here.

Franklin, who was in his final year of draft eligibility, wasn't on the Central Scouting Service rankings, but he was drawing interest from individual teams. The Jets nabbed him with the 129th overall pick.

For Minnesota State, Franklin will be part of what appears to be a ready-to-play group of freshmen that includes his Sioux Falls teammate Zeb Knutson, Penticton Vees (BCHL) captain Brad McClure and others. McClure, who is past his draft age, was invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect camp this summer as a free agent.

The Mavericks' roster will have five drafted players on it next year. Other picks from previous years include Teddy Blueger (Pittsburgh), Zach Stepan (Nashville), Stephon Williams (NY Islanders) and Max Gaede (San Jose).


Franklin is one of four players with WCHA ties who was drafted on Saturday. The others are Bowling Green freshman D Mark Friedman, Alaska freshman D Nikolas Koberstein and Ferris State sophomore F Kyle Schempp.

College Hockey Inc. has a list of the 62 players with college ties who were drafted this weekend.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mavs fans embrace former Gopher

Photo by John Cross
When the Minnesota Wild made its Wells Fargo Road Tour stop in Mankato on Wednesday, the most popular member of the group clearly was Erik Haula. The former Minnesota Gopher had a solid second half of his rookie season and made quite a splash in the playoffs.

Haula didn't mind posing for pictures with folks in Minnesota State gear. He went out of his way to praise Mavericks coach Mike Hastings, whom he got to know when Hastings was a Minnesota assistant recruiting him, and has followed the coach's progress.

"I know (Hastings) really well," Haula said. "He's a great, great coach."

Read more about Haula and the Wild's Mankato stop here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wild to make Mankato stops

The Minnesota Wild's 2014 Wells Fargo Road Tour will make a stop in Mankato on Wednesday morning. Wild celebrities are scheduled to be at All Seasons Arena from 11 a.m. to noon.

Scheduled to appear are Wild players Erik Haula and Stephane Veilleux, Wild alum Antti Laaksonen and TV play-by-play announcer Anthony LaPanta.

That group (one of three groups touring the region this week) is scheduled to appear in Des Moines and Waterloo, Iowa, on Tuesday before going back into Minnesota. After the Mankato stop, it will go to Faribault for a 2-3 p.m. appearance at that city's ice arena. It will go to Rochester and Red Wing on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the group of Matt Cooke, Wes Walz and Mike Greenlay is scheduled to be at the Blue Earth Wells Fargo bank from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday, following an 11:30 a.m. stop in Worthington.

The entire Road Tour schedule can be found here.

Learn to Play

Mankato will be included in the Wild's Learn to Play Program for kids ages 5-8. That will be held at All Seasons Arena Sept. 10, 17, 24 and Oct. 1.

The program includes four introductory practices and a complete set of "Little Wild" equipment. Cost is $100.

Registration is open for that program. Go here for more details.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Talkin' with T-Mo

Free Press file photo
I had a chance to chat with Travis Morin by phone on Friday night, just a few days after he and the Texas Stars clinched the American Hockey League's Calder Cup.

I wrote about Morin for my Tuesday Free Press column, which you can read here.

Morin has become a star for the Stars and the AHL, winning that league's MVP award this year as well as the playoff MVP honor last week. At age 30, he is still hoping for that longterm stay in the NHL, a league he has played just seven games in.

Here are a few quotes from Morin that didn't get in the column. Call it a PucKato exclusive:

On having an MVP season: “I was just lucky enough to stay healthy all year. ... I had great coaches and credit my linemates and teammates. You don’t get individual awards without having good teammates around you. … I was lucky to have two good linemates (AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie and, until his callup to Dallas, Colton Sceviour) all year.”

On his back-to-back overtime game-winners in the finals: “You don’t expect to score back to back. Obviously, it was a huge thrill. Again, a lot of credit to my linemates for putting me in position. Great plays by both my linemates.”

On his relationship with Kael Mouillierat; the two were teammates at MSU for one season and played against each other in the AHL finals: “I hung out with Kael quite a bit when he was a freshman. He and Geoff Irwin hung out at our house a lot. … He came to my wedding. ... I said to my wife, ‘I hope we play St. John’s, and if we don’t win I hope Kael could win.’”

On Mouillierat's breakout season: “I didn’t even know what kind of season he was having until I was looking at the top scorers list one day midway through the season. I kept following him, and he continued to play well.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Morin leads Texas to championship

Minnesota State alum Travis Morin led the Texas Stars to the American Hockey League championship, taking playoff MVP honors in the process.

Texas beat the St. John's Ice Caps and another former Maverick, Kael Mouillierat, 4-1 in the series. Tuesday's Calder Cup clincher was a 4-3 overtime victory, the third OT win for the Stars.

Morin, who was also the AHL's MVP during the regular season, scored two OT winners in the finals. He had five goals and three assists in the finals and 22 points, including nine goals, in the playoffs. 

Mouillierat finished the playoffs with 13 points, including seven goals.

Curious to see what their future is after this year. Will either get an NHL chance (Morin has had a cup of coffee with Dallas)? Or will they be top-notch AHL players? Morin is 30 years old; Mouillierat is 26.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Many Mavs going camping

Every summer, NHL teams hold summer camps for prospects. That can include draft picks as well as free-agent invitees. Minnesota State will have seven players attending camps this summer, according to a release issued by MSU on Sunday. The group includes:

Draft picks
Stephon Williams (New York Islanders)
Teddy Blueger (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Zach Stepan (Nashville Predators)

Free-agent invitees
Zach Palmquist (Minnesota Wild)
Cole Huggins (Calgary Flames)
Sean Flanagan (Winnipeg Jets)
Brad McClure (Pittsburgh Penguins)

A few notes:

McClure is an incoming freshman. Hearing some buzz that incoming rookie C.J. Franklin could be on some teams' draft radar this summer, which, if he gets taken, might make him an eighth player hitting a camp.

Palmquist has attended camps by the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks in previous summers.

MSU senior Max Gaede, a Sharks draft pick, has attended that team's camps in the past but is not going this year. You can read more about him and his thoughts about the camps in the MSU release.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mankato West's Frentz gets NAHL call

Photo by Pat Christman
Mankato West standout Derek Frentz plans to continue his hockey career post-high school next season after getting picked by the Michigan Warriors of the first round of the Junior A North American Hockey League draft on Tuesday.

Frentz, who led the Scarlets in scoring the last two years and finished his career with 150 points in 81 games, spent the offseason going to several junior camps and combines. He was passed over during the United States Hockey League but was scooped up quickly by the NAHL, with the Flint, Mich.-based Warriors taking him with the 16th overall pick.

This doesn't put anything in stone for Frentz. He'll have to go to Fint's summer camp next month and earn a roster spot. But being a first-round pick should put him in a good starting position. His goal is to play college hockey one day, which, he knows, could be a few years down the road.

He's starting an adventure few Mankato kids have experienced. West alums Corey Leivermann and Tyler Bruggeman did it, with Leivermann playing two seasons in Fargo of the USHL before joining Minnesota State. (He finished his career this past season at Gustavus). And Bruggeman moving around the country in the USHL and NAHL  (Fargo, Fairbanks, St. Louis, Des Moines, Austin) for four seasons before going to St. Scholastica, where he will be a junior next season.

Read my Freep story about Frentz here.

Morin vs. Mouillierat

Travis Morin
The American Hockey League's championship series, the Calder Cup finals, will begin on Sunday in Dallas with the Texas Stars hosting the St. John's IceCaps.

The Stars are led by AHL MVP and former Maverick Travis Morin, while the IceCaps feature former MSU player Kael Mouillierat.

Should be a fun series.

Kael Mouillierat

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jutting a BSU candidate (and other alumni notes)

Interesting happenings out of Bemidji on Monday, as Bemidji State announced four finalists for its women's coaching job. The group includes two coaches with MSU ties: current women's assistant Brett Bruininks and, the surprise name of the batch, former Maverick men's coach Troy Jutting.

The other candidates are BSU assistant Amber Fryklund and East Grand Forks girls coach/athletic director James Scanlan.

Bruininks has been an assistant to Eric Means for one season but was a head coach for the Division III Concordia women's team for three years prior to that and had success there.

But Jutting is a bit of a wild card here. He's been an assistant coach at Nebraska Omaha the last two seasons after getting fired from Minnesota State, his alma mater. While it's not surprising that he's seeking another head coaching job, it is surprising that he's in the running for one in the women's game.

St. Cloud State just hired a men's assistant, Eric Rud, as its new women's coach. It's his first college head coaching job. Rud had been an assistant at Colorado College and previously with the St. Cloud men.

All four of Bemidji State's candidates are to interview on Wednesday.

McKelvie leaves Lake Forest

Former Maverick Ryan McKelvie has stepped down as coach at Division III Lake Forest after three seasons there. He will take over as head coach and director of hockey operations for an expansion U18 team in Wenatchee, Wash., that will play at the Junior A Tier III level.

Wenatchee is his wife's hometown and where McKelvie was the associate head coach for the Wenatchee Wild of the NAHL for two seasons.

McKelvie was the NCHA coach of the year last season, leading Lake Forest to a 15-12-1 record, the program's best mark in 10 years.

Morin vs. Mouillierat?

The AHL playoffs are still going on, and the Calder Cup finals could see a pair of Mavericks going head to head.

Travis Morin and the Texas Stars are in the Western Conference finals, and Kael Mouillierat and the St. John's IceCaps are playing in the Eastern Conference finals. Going into Monday, each MSU alum's team had a 3-2 series lead.

Read more about them in my Free Press column here.

UPDATE: Toronto defeated Texas 3-1 on Monday night to force a Game 7 on Tuesday (tonight). St. John's and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton play Game 6 on Tuesday.