Gillette Wild leading goal scorer Declan Young has been called up to the Tier II North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Bismarck Bobcats for an opportunity to make the roster.
“When the coaches first told me, I couldn’t really express how excited I was. I was just happy the rest of the day,” said Young, an 18-year-old forward from Fergus Falls, Minnesota. “This is probably one of the biggest milestones that I’ve achieved in my life because this is what I want to do.”
Young led the Wild and and is the No. 5 leading point-scorer in the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL) notching 52 points — 27 goals and 25 assists — in 23 games this season. He also led the team with six game-winning goals.
He plans to drive to Bismarck, North Dakota, on Monday to practice with the team, “and see how they like me,” he said.
“We’re excited for his opportunity. It’s well deserved. He’s been playing really well. He’s a pure goal-scorer,” Wild coach Taylor Shaw said. “We’ll miss him when he’s gone, but it allows the rest of the guys in the locker room to jump into some more minutes, and find a little bit more in them.”
It isn’t a done deal that he will stay with the Bismarck Bobcats, however. Last season, the Wild had two players — Gage Thompson and Zach VanCompernolle — get called up to practice with NAHL teams, but they were sent back to the Wild after brief stints.
The Sheridan Hawks’ Justin Schwartzmiller, the No. 2 leading point-scorer in the NA3HL, was called up by the Bobcats on Nov. 18, according to the Sheridan Press’ Joel Moline. Schwartzmiller is not currently listed on the Bobcats’ roster, and he played for the Hawks on Saturday.
“(I) just got to work as hard as I can, the whole time. Never let up. And show them what I can do,” Young said about what he has to do to stay.
Many players start their careers in the NA3HL to attract attention and get offers from NAHL teams or Division III college hockey programs. The NAHL, the only Tier II league in the United States, offers a better opportunity for players to get picked up by Division I college hockey programs.
The Bismarck Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in the six-team Central Division with a 15-4 overall record. Bismarck had eight players commit to Division I programs for the 2019-20 season.