SAULT STE. MARIE – Ten Lake Superior State hockey prospects, including five defensemen, two forwards and three goaltenders, signed National Letters of Intent during the Spring 2017 recruiting period.
The defensive core includes 1996 birth year players William Riedell (Greensboro, N.C.) and Tyler Anderson (Niverville, Manitoba), 1997 prospects Steven Ruggiero (Kings Park, N.Y.) and Lukas Kaelble (Mannheim, Germany), and 1999 birth year Chase Pilawski (Lutz, Fla.).
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native Ashton Calder along with Niko Esposito of Faribault, Minn., are both 1998 birth-year forwards. Goaltenders who signed NLIs are Roman Bengert (1996, Cole Harbour, N.S.), Mareks Mitens (1998, Ventspids, Latvia) and Jack Robbel (1999, Bloomington, Minn.).
LSSU’s 2016-17 recruiting class also includes forwards Chase Gamelin (1996, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), Matthew Barnaby (1998, Buffalo, N.Y.) and Roberts Bluegers (1998, Riga, Latvia), and defensemen Patrick Kyte (1999, Pembroke, Ont.) and Michael Mannara (1999, Woodbridge, Ont.), who signed NLIs during the Fall 2016 signing period.
Riedell (6-2, 200) served as captain of the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League and ranked 27th in NAHL defenseman scoring with 8-19—27 during 59 regular-season games. The Titans swept their NAHL division semifinal series against Johnstown and lost in the second round to the Aston Rebels.
“He’s a big, mobile, smooth-skating defenseman who defends extremely well and has shown the ability to run a power play,” LSSU assistant coach Rich Metro said. “He finished second on his team in scoring for defensemen while matching up against opposing teams’ top lines.”
Anderson (6-4, 215) was invited to this summer’s Washington Capitals Development Camp after a successful season in the British Columbia Hockey League. He started the 2016-17 season with West Kelowna and totaled three goals and nine points before moving on to the Prince George Spruce Kings. Anderson, a team captain, compiled 18-31—49 during the regular season and 2-4—6 in six playoff games for the Spruce Kings. He led the BCHL in defenseman goals scored and ranked third in points by defensemen.
“He is dangerous on the power play and with the puck on his stick at the offensive blue line,” LSSU assistant coach Doug Holewa said. “He plays at an extremely high competitive level, with physicality and jam to his game. He won an RBC Cup championship with West Kelowna in 2015-16.”
Ruggiero (6-3, 218) is a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program and won a gold medal at the 2015 Men’s National U18 World Championships. He is a 2015 Entry Level Draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks (6th round, 178th overall). Ruggiero played the 2016-17 season for the United States Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms and totaled five assists and a +5 rating during 29 regular-season games.
“As a true leader on and off the ice, Steve plays against opposing teams’ top lines on a nightly basis,” Holewa said. “He’s an elite skater and plays with an incredible amount of passion and competitiveness. He competed internationally for Team USA on a number of occasions.”
Kaelble (6-1, 215) totaled 4-13—17 and a +10 rating during 38 regular-season games for the Fargo Force, which placed third in the USHL’s Western Conference.
“He is a big offensive defenseman who quarterbacks Fargo’s power play,” Metro said. “He is originally from Mannheim, Germany, where played for their U17, U18 and U20 World Junior Championship teams. He has an elite stick and shoots the puck extremely well from up top.”
Pilawski (5-9, 197) compiled 3-10—13 in 55 games this season, including 40 with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks and 15 with the Tri-City Storm.
“Chase a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman who just finished his first year competing in the USHL,” Metro said. “He’s a product of the Little Caesar’s U16 Team and led the High Performance League in defenseman scoring while finishing fifth overall in league scoring. He projects as a future power-play quarterback who can jump into the rush and impact the game offensively.”
Calder (6-1, 201) is a former Soo Indians midget AAA scoring leader who recently completed his second season of junior hockey. He began the 2016-17 season with the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness, where he played five games, and spent most of the year in the BCHL where he ranked fourth in points for the Surrey Eagles with 22-20—42. Calder scored a team-leading four game-winning goals.
“He is a real offensive-minded forward with elite size and hockey sense,” Metro said. “He is a natural goal scorer.”
Esposito (5-8, 155) ranked third in scoring for the Shattuck St. Mary’s prep hockey team with 25-35—60. He is the grandson of NHL hall of famer and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native Phil Esposito, and was second on the team in goals scored.
“He is a dynamic center with a high-end offensive skill set and extremely competitive edge to his game,” Metro said. “He’s coming from Shattuck St. Mary’s, which recently reached the semifinal round of in the U18 National Championship.”
Bengert (6-3, 183) was the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s top goaltender in 2016-17, finishing 38-7-0 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 46 regular-season games with the Steinbach Pistons. He was 6-6-0 with a 2.73 GAA and .896 save percentage during the MJHL Playoffs. He led the Pistons to the MJHL Finals in 2015-16, finishing 25-8 with a 2.07 GAA and .926 save percentage.
“Roman had the best save percentage among starting goaltenders for two straight years and was honored as MJHL Goaltender of the Year at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season,” Metro noted. “He is a big goaltender and positionally-sound. The future mathematics major is a leader in the classroom and community.”
Mitens (6-1, 176) enjoyed an historic season with the Aston Rebels, where he led the NAHL in every major goaltending category, including wins (31) and goals-against average (1.63). He was 31-10-0 during the regular season for a team that finished 46-11-2-1 with 95 points. So far during the playoffs he is 4-1 with a 2.19 GAA and .902 save percentage. The Rebels begin Robertson Cup play on Thursday in Duluth, Minn.
“Mareks broke the single-season shutout record with 11 on the year,” Holewa said. “To further his club’s success, he has vast international experience, playing for Team Latvia on a number of occasions, including the 2017 U20 World Junior Championship alongside Blugers. Mareks is very athletic, technically-sound and extremely competitive.”
Robbel (5-8, 170) and Esposito were teammates at Shattuck St. Mary’s in 2016-17. Robbel was 17-6-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .920 save percentage this season after leading St. Mary’s to the U16 national title in 2015-16.
“Jack is an undersized goaltender with fantastic athleticism and elite puck-handling skills,” Metro said. “He battles hard for positioning and loves to challenge shooters, displaying outstanding lateral movement and incredible agility. He is a true leader in every capacity, both on the ice and in the classroom.”
“We are excited to add another quality group of student-athletes to the Laker Hockey program,” LSSU head coach Damon Whitten said. “Rich and Doug have done a tremendous job of identifying impactful hockey players who fit the culture we are working to create within our program. It's going to be an exciting year of Laker Hockey, and we cannot wait to hit the ice at Taffy Abel Arena this fall.”