Editor’s note: We’ve reviewed the 2014-15 season, now let’s take a look at who’s coming in for 2015-16. This analysis comes from one of our regular posters in the UAH thread of the USCHO.com forums, who wished not to be named. He follows junior hockey more closely than either me or Geof, and we appreciate him allowing us to share this on UAHHockey.com. Remember that this site is independent of UAH and the hockey program, neither of which can comment on recruits until they have signed a NCAA National Letter of Intent. Also, this was written before the announced commitments of Madison Dunn and Hans Gorowsky. See our Commitments page for more information. — Michael Napier
It’s that time of year when junior seasons start wrapping up, and I thought I’d give an update on our recruits for this upcoming 2015-2016 season. I’ve followed our boys pretty closely and honestly believe this is the best class UAH has brought in in the last 10 or so years. I don’t think we’re done quite yet either. Here’s what I think will be next year’s incoming class:
Brandon Salerno – Pickering Panthers (OJHL), 49 GP, 30 G, 39 A, 69 Pts
After starting the year in Huntsville, but having NCAA Clearinghouse issues, he put up some fine numbers in the OJ. Sure, moving from Waterloo (USHL) in 2013-14 to Pickering this year was a step down in terms of competition, but I think it was a great move for him to regain his confidence. He played only sparingly in Waterloo and was often times a healthy scratch. In Pickering, he was “the” player on an average team and he put up well over a point per game. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got Salhany-type speed and has a knack for making plays. Salerno is a legit Division I prospect who we’ll see on special teams from day one. Arguably the top forward coming in. Check out this player of the week video and you’ll see what I’m talking about. His season’s done after Pickering failed to make the OJHL playoffs.
Jetlan Houcher – Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL), 60 GP, 39 G, 32 A, 71 Pts
Excellent numbers on an average AJHL team. Everything I’ve seen and read indicates he’s a pure goal scorer. Got a great shot with a quick release; the kid can score. He’s done it at every level he’s played at. Got to wonder if skating is an issue considering he isn’t already in college somewhere, but I highly doubt it’s a huge hindrance given his numbers. Houcher has been everything for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons this year. He’s the captain, and with 22 more points than the next closest player on the roster, they’ll be making the playoffs due in no small part to his contributions. A good kid and a leader, Houcher should challenge for top-six minutes right away.
Adam Wilcox – Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL), 41 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 Pts
Also a TPH product, Wilcox is from Atlanta and has bounced around junior leagues these past few years. He had a cup of tea with Wichita Falls (NAHL) in 2011-12, spent two season playing sparingly for Houcher’s Oil Barons in the AJHL in 2012-14, and is now with Fairbanks back in the NAHL. Wilcox is fast, big, and strong, and while he’s never going to “wow” you with his offensive abilities, he’s a heart and soul kind of player that every team needs to win. He plays with an edge (evidenced by his 62 PIMs this season) and has a lot of energy. Think Brent Fletcher here folks. Hope his offensive numbers can improve the rest of the reason and into the playoffs. We’ll love his style of play down here in Huntsville and he should be a solid contributor on the bottom six for years to come.
Kurt Gosselin – Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL), 32 GP, 12 G, 31 A, 43 Pts
Playing for Alberni Valley in the BCHL, Gosselin has really come into his own this year. A Michigan native, he has put up a whopping 1.3 points per game as a defenseman. That’s unheard of in most junior leagues. He’s been hurt since mid-January, otherwise those totals would be much higher. And even despite his injury, he was just nominated for Defenseman of the Year for his division. Gosselin has solid size, skating ability, and vision. He’s quarterbacked the power play when healthy and played big minutes. If he can fully come back from his injury, there’s no reason to think he can’t play top four minutes as a freshman.
Cam Knight – Wichita Falls Wildcats (NAHL), 57 GP, 9 G, 24 A, 33 Pts
A teammate of Beaulieu’s on Wichita Falls’ solid team, Knight has put up excellent numbers a defenseman in the NAHL. He’s already surpassed what Cody Champagne did last year and Frank Misuraca did a few years back, and he’s still got some season left. Both of those two right-handed shot defenseman have done well for UAH thus far and Knight should continue that trend. He’s a tough Mass. product with good size, solid skating ability, and a good shot. He’s a two-way defenseman who plays with a chip on his shoulder at times. Would be a good recruit for any school in our league. Like Gosselin, should compete for top four minutes right away.
John Teets – Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL), 58 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 Pts
Teets has been a teammate of Wilcox’s for awhile now. Teets played with him for two years on Houcher’s Oil Barons (AJHL) squad, and now with his hometown Fairbanks in the NA. He has great size and plays hard. A stay-at-home defenseman in the truest sense of the word, he’s another heart and soul guy like Wilcox. You need guys like him on a team. Should be a solid contributor on the PK one day. Likely will compete for playing time immediately as a freshman.
2016 and beyond
Austin Beaulieu – Wichita Falls Wildcats (NAHL), 57 GP, 22 G, 30 A, 52 Pts
A former TPH kid from Florida, Beaulieu probably has the highest ceiling of our incoming forwards. Judging by his birthdate, he’s a senior in high school. It’s rare that UAH gets an 18-year-old kid straight out of high school. Most of our guys have near exhausted junior eligibility. Clearly his speed, vision, and playmaking abilities from Midget AAA have translated well at the next level. More of a passer than a goal scorer, Beaulieu has been extremely consistent for Wichita Falls (NAHL) this season, rarely being held off the scoresheet for more than a couple games at a time. It’s his first year of juniors and he’s playing on the top line for a solid team in the U.S.’s second best junior circuit. His season isn’t done yet and Wichita Falls is poised to go deep into the playoffs. Another kid who can legitimately compete for top-six minutes right away.
Ted Rotenberger – Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL), 38 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt (includes 6 GP with Topeka)
Yet another former TPH kid, and Huntsville native, many of you have likely heard of Rotenberger. His character is reportedly off the charts and he’ll be a welcome addition to the team when he’s ready, but he’s not quite there yet. Defenseman tend to develop slower than forwards at nearly all levels and he needs another year or two to get bigger and stronger and to play more minutes. I just cannot see the coaching staff bringing him in in 2015. Could be wrong, we’ll see.
Connor Wood – Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (NAHL), 57 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts (includes 10 GP with Amarillo)
Also a TPH kid from Atlanta, Wood has had a tough year by the looks of it. He’s a quick, tough, agitator dating back to his TPH days, but that has led to some ridiculous PIM totals (182) this year. Wood can play the scrappy role well and still produce; he did it with TPH. He just needs some more seasoning before he comes to school. He’s sure to get more ice time next year and his offensive numbers will hopefully take a noticeable bump up.
Ivan Bondarenko – Wenatchee Wild (NAHL), 38 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 Pts
He’s Russian and has been committed for a long time. I believe the plan was for him to come in in 2016 or 2017 all along. Bondarenko has that Russian explosive flair as seen by his crazy numbers in the now defunct NORPAC league last year (50-51-101 in 37 games played as a 16 year old). He, like Wood and Rotenberger, just needs more time to develop. I imagine he’ll play a lot more next year, but right now he’s counted on for secondary scoring with Wenatchee in the NAHL. Will be following him closely next year.