Done drafting: Gillette Wild pick 12 players in Tuesday’s NA3HL draft
By Roy Frazier Gillette News Record
Jun 15, 2016
One year made a huge difference for Gillette Wild coach and general manager Brendon Hodge at the North American 3 Hockey League draft.
Last year, Hodge was hired just a week before the June draft and made selections with little help and minimal recruiting knowledge.
The former Rapid City, South Dakota, Rushmore Thunder assistant hockey coach was coming off his first season with the Wild in which he led them to their fifth straight playoff appearance when he prepared for the draft this time. Tuesday’s draft, and the entire offseason, offered a much better ride for Hodge.
“It’s different worlds,” said Hodge, with a chuckle. “Last year I don’t even think Tim (Brownell, the assistant coach) was hired yet. I was just sitting there with eight draft picks, maybe nine. I don’t even know. I was just sitting there without a recruiting season thinking, ‘What do I do?’ This year we had more of a game plan. We knew what kind of guys we were looking at.”
At Tuesday’s NA3HL draft, he even was able to do some wheeling and dealing to trade for more picks. The Wild traded with Hodge’s brother — Dan Hodge, the owner of the Cape Cod Islanders — to ultimately have 12 selections.
Gillette used nine of those selections on forwards, two for defensemen and one for a goalie. Hodge also used 11 of the Wild’s tenders this offseason. If he can sign and bring all those players to town next season, Gillette could have 23 new players on the ice.
Training camp is still a few months off, but Hodge is excited about what this draft class could become.
“Overall this offseason is going to be a positive thing,” Hodge said. “At this level of hockey, you don’t really get excited until September. That’s when everyone comes into camp. You can start to realize this person that you drafted, that you tendered, that you talked with in the summer is actually here. But overall … it’s a huge step for us in the right direction.”
Hodge and Brownell have racked up frequent flyer miles scouting players once the 2015-16 season ended in March. Hodge took visits to Omaha, Nebraska, Denver, Alaska and several other places around the region. Brownell, Hodge said, went everywhere.
Their selections mirrored their travel patterns.
“We pulled guys in the draft out of Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, from everywhere,” Hodge said.
The team’s first pick was forward Tyler Miknich of Alaska. Miknich also was selected in last week’s NAHL draft by the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls. The Wild’s patience could be tested, but it might be worth it.
“With our ties up in Alaska, we are always calling about players,” Hodge said. “We were thinking, ‘Why don’t we take a chance on this kid?’ We heard some very positive things about him. A lot of comparisons to players that were in our league this year. His main goal is to make the NAHL. Right now we’re not going to get in his head. When the time comes and tryout cuts are made, hopefully he makes a team. But if he doesn’t, that’s when we’ll reach out to him.”
Gillette’s next two picks were on forwards Colton Fletcher and Derrick Scoggins. John Newman was the first defender, taken with the 141st selection.
The Wild added forward Blake Ramsey next, and then picked up goaltender Chris Armstrong.
The next four selections — Grant Smith, Caleb Moretz, Zack Ciampa and Josh Gillrie — were all forwards. Defenseman Cody Taylor was acquired with the 313rd pick.