Hard Work Pays Off

With the North American Hockey League Draft taking place so close to the Minnesota Magician’s Inaugural Pre-Draft camp, there was no time for error. To help get a grasp on things, bench boss Scott Meyer held a meeting at Joe Sensor’s restaurant in Bloomington on Thursday, May 30th, one day before camp. The meeting consisted of Magician’s staff discussing weekend plans for the draft and the other camps in the area. With the USHL camps taking place on the same weekend, it was crucial to get a look at other camp’s talent. Some of the players would stick with the USHL, and some obviously don’t. The players that don’t make a USHL team usually end up in the North American League. It is important to build good relationships with the players on the bubble, because they could be prospects that may be available in the future.

About 24 hours later, the doors opened at the Richfield Ice Arena to register players for the Camp. With 135 players coming in from around the globe, things can get pretty hectic. The first day of camp was a chance for the entire Magician’s staff to get a look at the talent on display. Nine prospects that attended the camp came from overseas to tryout, giving the camp quite an international flavor.

Saturday morning, the following day, head coach Scott Meyer departed on a Cessna 172, as former Prior Lake defenseman Beau Laniel, was at the controls. The flight departed from Lakeville, Minnesota at 6:30am for Cedar Rapids, Iowa where Scott would be scouting the USHL Rough Rider’s camp. Back in Richfield, the Magician’s staff was evaluating talent all day, as the second day of the Pre-Draft camp was in session. By flying to Cedar Rapids, Meyer would get a chance to fly back to Minnesota to evaluate players in Richfield by 3:00pm that same day. About 42 minutes into the flight, Meyer’s phone rang. It was the Brookings Blizzard head coach Cory Laylin. Surprised it’s was even ringing at the elevation of the flight, Meyer takes the phone call. After a 10 minute phone conversation, Scott Meyer had completed a trade, acquiring USHL veteran, Finnish native, Eetu Karvinen from the NAHL’s Brookings Blizzard. Karvinen was a player that Scott Meyer was familiar with from his days as a coach with the Rough Riders.

About an hour after the transaction, the plane arrived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. By 9:00am Meyer was settled in his old stomping grounds, the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, where Meyer has spent the majority of his coaching career. The Cedar Rapid’s camp gave Meyer a chance to look at players he has already signed to tender agreements, but were also drafted by USHL teams. Alex Funk and Charlie Curti performed really well at the camp. In fact, Mound Westonka defenseman, Charlie Curti cracked the 30 man roster. After three hours of watching the Rough Rider’s Camp, Meyer got back into the Cessna at the Cedar Rapid’s airport and flew back to the State of Hockey, arriving in Lakeville around 3:15pm. About 45 minutes later, Meyer was back in Richfield at the Pre-Draft camp evaluating players for the draft. The Magician’s staff continued to evaluate the prospects at the camp, keeping close tabs on the players that stuck out from the pack. A young 16 year old from Clovis California, David Marabella, was offered a tender agreement on spot, and he signed. Immediately after the camp, the staff set up shop at Champs in Richfield for the next five hours to discuss the camps that were attended during the day and the potential trade offers from around the league.

The next morning (Sunday) was the last day of the Pre-Draft camp. From 8:00am to 1:15pm, the players had one last chance to prove to the evaluators that they belonged in the All Star Game. Just 30 players get a shot at the All Star Game. At 1:15pm, the top 30 players were split into two teams. The pace involving the final 30 was an excellent pace. At the conclusion of the final contest, the Magician’s staff went to Ridder Arena to watch the other team’s All Star Game. The Magicians had three of their tenders attending this USHL camp. The Uglem twins Tony and Nick, and also Hermantown native Travis Keopke. All three players performed well at the Fargo Camp.

After a weekend with a packed schedule, the Minnesota Magician’s staff had just over 24 hours left to prepare for the North American Hockey League draft. Monday morning provided another chance for Magician’s staff to get a look at another All Star Game. After watching more prospects, the Magicians got another chance to position the cards before the draft day. Following the final All Star Game of the four day period, Magician’s staff assembled one last time to meet to discuss the options before draft day. Having the 1st overall draft pick, there was no shortage of options.

Early on Tuesday morning, the Magician’s staff convened in a conference room at the Dakotah Ice Rink in Prior Lake to prepare in the “war room”. The room consisted of a giant white board with a list of players that were considered suitable or “draftable” for the Magicians mold. Each staff member had a computer and various notes on the available talent. For the next four hours the Magician’s staff went over options for the draft. You never run out of options when you have the 1st overall pick! So much goes into choosing a player; style of play, attitude, character, and sometimes players are more interested in relocating. Some players don’t want to leave the state they grew up in, every player is different. One thing that is consistent in the war room is the amount of phones in use. There were many phone calls before and during the draft.

A few hours before the draft had begun; the Magicians had an offer on the table from the relocating Wenatchee Wild. The Wild franchise was relocating to Rio Grande Valley, Texas and they were shopping two Minnesota products from Eagan, named Nick and Derick Kuchera. At 12:59pm, just one minute before the draft began; the Magicians officially completed the transaction for the Kuchera twins, giving up the first overall pick in the draft. Once the transaction was finalized, it stalled the draft for 35 minutes. By moving the 1st overall pick in the first round and the 64th pick in the 3rd round, the Magicians acquired 120 games of experience in the NAHL.

After this blockbuster trade, the Magicians still had 10 picks remaining. With the first three picks used to bring in veterans, the staff had a chance to breath and prepare for the first ever Minnesota Magician’s draft pick in the 4th round. As the draft proceeded to the later rounds, the pace really picked up. The Pre-Draft camp in Richfield two days before, allowed staff an opportunity to watch some of the best available talent.  It would be hard to argue that the camp was not a success as half of the draft picks the Magicians had taken attended the camp.

Those listed in red attended the Pre-Draft Camp

Round 1 – Traded to Rio Grande Valley formerly Wenatchee Wild (NAHL) for Kuchera twins

Round 2 – Traded 2nd round pick for Brookings Blizzard (NAHL) forward Eetu Karvinen

Round 3 – Traded for tender

Round 4 – Luke Davison Defenseman Notre Dame Academy HS

Round 5 – Will Mcavoy Forward Dallas Ice Jets U16

Round 6 – Logan Von Ruden Defenseman Northfield HS

Round 7 – Adam Johnson Forward Hibbing HS

Round 8 – Brady Bernhardson Defenseman Red River HS

Round 9 – Beau Starret Forward South Shore Kings EJHL

Round 10 – Cole Bjuson Defenseman Roseau HS

Round 11 – Morgan Martelle Defenseman Minot HS

Round 12 – Jeff Flicker Forward Hudson Crusaders

Round 13 – Kyle Gonzalez Defenseman Cleveland Junior Lumberjacks