The 2012-2013 Wichita Falls Wildcats roster began its building process today with the finalizing of tenders and the NAHL Entry Draft. Teams usually start with 10 tenders but through a number of trades this past season, the Wildcats worked their way up to 18 tenders and four draft picks, adding a total of 22 new players to the team.
Here is a short preview of the players coming in this season!
Rudy Junda comes to the Wildcats from the U18AAA Rocky Mountain Roughriders. In 40 games, he was the team's second-leading scorer, putting up 15 goals and 11 assists. Four of his goals were game-winners, best on the team in that category.
From the Roughriders' cross-state rivals comes Colin Staub of the Pikes Peak Miners. Fourth on the team in scoring with 19 points in 22 games, Colin also spent some time with the Wildcats as an affiliate player this season. In two call-ups to the 'Cats, the '94 centerman played four games, tallying a pair of assists.
Ben Kucera is another name that should be familiar to Wildcats fans, as he also spent some time with the team as an affiliate player. The small, shifty forward had a goal and an assist in four games at the NAHL level. With the U18AAA Russell Stover squad, he put up 5 points in 23 games. He also led their U16AAA team in scoring with 56 points in 38 games, third best in the country at that level.
The surname name Ledford is probably familiar to a lot of Wildcats fans, as Zach Ledford patrolled the blue line for the 2009-2010 Wildcats. The name will be seen again at the Kay Yeager Coliseum with the addition of forward Tyler Ledford, Zach's younger brother. At Culver Academy, Tyler put up 47 points in 39 games, second best on their prep team. Ledford and Ben Kucera are both 2014 recruits for the Air Force Academy hockey team as well.
Ledford's Culver Prep teammate, Oliver Janzen, is another forward added to the Wildcats' list. Janzen put up 29 points in 35 games. He is yet another native of the Denver area to bring his talents to Wichita Falls.
The Wildcats also added a pair of players with junior experience, tendering Dillon Bogart and Corey Schafer from the America West Hockey League's Missoula Maulers. Coached by Paul Baxter's son Marcus, Schafer and Bogart both were among the Maulers' top scorers this season. Schafer split the season between Great Falls and Missoula, putting up a combined 59 points in 50 games with the teams. He also showed an element of toughness, spending 108 minutes in the penalty box. Bogart, a big forward at 6'2" 185, has averaged over a point per game in two years in the AWHL. Last season, he had 47 points in 32 games with the Maulers.
Henry Hardarson is the lone European player among the tenders issued by the 'Cats. Born in Malmo, Sweden, he was an assist machine for the NAPHL's Phoenix Firebirds. In 20 games, he only scored one goal, but he put up 11 assists and was named to Team White at the NAPHL's Top Prospects Showcase.
Connor Enciso is a Michigan native who spent last season with the Dallas Ice Jets U18AAA team. In 41 games, he tallied 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists). In 2010-11, he played in the NA3HL for the Flint Generals, putting up 33 points in 42 games, good for fourth on the team.
The final forward tendered by the Wildcats was their lone addition from the NA3HL with David Fassbender of the Cleveland Junior Lumberjacks. A bruising forward with offensive skill, David led the Jacks in PIM with 122, but also chipped in 13 goals and 29 assists in 41 games. Of the NA3HL's 25 most penalized players, the Parma, OH native was the second highest scorer.
The defensive tenders for the 'Cats also contain a pair of familiar names, leading off with Clay Anderson and Jake Townsend.
Anderson played briefly with the Wildcats and the Topeka Roadrunners as an affiliate player last year. A '94 defenseman, he was a teammate of Ben Kucera's with Russell Stover and was the team's top scoring blueliner with 38 points in 40 games. He had two assists in three NAHL games as well.
Townsend was another late-season affiliate call-up by the Wildcats and a teammate of Colin Staub's with the Pikes Peak Miners. He led the Miners in scoring among defensemen with 7 goals and 8 assists. He also had a beauty of a goal in his NAHL debut against New Mexico on February 24.
Another player with significant junior experience is Blake Box of the Dallas Ice Jets. A big defenseman, Box played 10 games with Topeka last season, putting up an assist and 11 PIM. In 11 games with the Ice Jets' WSHL team, he had 5 points. Box is a tough defenseman who will be counted on to protect the front of the net.
Austin Carroll comes with Ledford and Janzen from the Culver Prep team where he was a top scorer on the team's blue line, putting up 33 points in 38 games. The Northwest Ohio native was also the team's PIM leader with 84. He and Box will form a formidable duo when opposing forwards look to crash the net.
A teammate of Rudy Junda's with Rocky Mountain, Erik Ouellette is another who led his team's defensemen in scoring. He had 7 goals and 17 assists and five multi-point games in the 40 he played.
The Wildcats looked to the Prep Schools for help once again in acquiring defenseman Blake Barnes. A native of Oklahoma, Barnes put up 19 points for Shattuck St. Mary's Prep team in 57 games.
The final defenseman added to the crew is Sean Flynn of the DC Capitals. Flynn put up 13 points in 24 games, and also spent some time in Canada playing in the BCHL and AJHL, tallying an assist in ten games.
Finally, the Wildcats added a goalie with a tender as well, picking up Shattuck St. Mary's Prep backstop Kyle Hayton. Last season Hayton led SSM with a 1.98 GAA and .925 save percentage. A native of Faribault, MN, his GAA has been below 2 each of his last three seasons.
Moving on to the draft, the Wildcats added another four players. The Wildcats had a pair of first round picks, fifth and sixteenth overall. In the five spot, the 'Cats took Eliot Grauer of the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints. Grauer put up 20 points in the USHL last season, and is familiar with the Wildcats' coaches, having played in Wenatchee with Paul Baxter and Alaska with Brian Huebel in the 2010-11 season. He scored 47 points in 54 games that year.
With the sixteenth pick, the Wildcats continued with the barrage of forwards, going this time to Shattuck St. Mary's Midget Major team to take Sebastian Weberg. A native of Oslo, Norway, Weberg led the SSM U18AAA team with 84 points and 54 assists. His 30 goals were third on the team.
The Wildcats then picked twice in the third round, selecting goalie Evan Cowley 50th overall. Cowley is a big, young goalie, measuring in at 6'3" 165. A '95 birth year, he played for the Arvada (Colorado) U16AA team, and is also a prospect of the WHL's Vancovuer Giants.
Three picks later, the Wildcats finished their draft with a forward, Dalton Bew of the AJHL's Boston Bulldogs. Bew put up 13 points in 28 AJHL games. He spent the previous two seasons in the Metropolitan Junior League, tallying a combined 35 goals and 19 assists in 58 games.
The Wildcats will whittle their roster down in late July, holding their main camp in Chicago on July 27-29. Players will report to Wichita Falls in August. For the second year in a row, the team's training camp will be open to the public.
Other Notes: Three Wildcats were picked in the USHL Entry Draft. Tucker Poolman was taken in the second round (38th overall) by the Omaha Knights. Zach Pochiro, who also has a deal in place with the WHL's Prince George Cougars, was taken in the 19th round (283rd overall) by the Lincoln Stars. Nash Worden was picked by Omaha in the 20th round (297th overall).