The Bloomington Thunder, members of the United States Hockey League, announced today that they have signed forward Calen Kiefiuk from Honeybaked (HPHL) to a tender for the 2016-17 season. Kiefiuk, a native of Macomb, MI, is Bloomington’s first tender in team history, and will take the place of the Thunder’s USHL Phase I Draft first round pick. Kiefiuk is the sixth player to sign a tender with a USHL team this season. Eight players signed tender contracts last season.
A tender contract allows USHL clubs to sign a player directly to their team in exchange for their first or second round pick in the USHL Phase I Draft. Kiefiuk is the second Honeybaked player to sign a tender contract this week.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of the organization and to take the next step in my hockey career,” said Kiefiuk. “Being in the second season and already being in the playoffs is really exciting. It gets you excited for the future. To know that I am going to be a part of this next year is just really exciting for me.”
Kiefiuk recently completed his third full season with the Honeybaked program, scoring 29 points in 23 games, including 17 goals. The University of Michigan commit finished tops in team scoring, and third in HPHL scoring behind D.J. Busdeker (Compuware) and Blade Jenkins (Compuware). Jenkins recently signed on to also play in the USHL 2016-17 season with Team USA.
“What really excited me watching him was not only does he have a great knack for scoring goals and making plays but he plays the game right,” said Bloomington head coach and general manager Dennis Williams. “He is a 200-foot player and has an edge. He competes every shift he’s out there and that’s what we look for. We want a great all-around player with high-end skill and that’s what Calen brings us. We’re getting an A-plus hockey player and also an A-plus individual as well.”
When a team signs a player to a tender contract it not only guarantees a roster spot on the team the following season, but also mandates that the player must play in at least 55% of the team’s games. Making a tender commitment to a 16-year old player is much larger than selecting a player in the first round the USHL Phase I Draft.
Bloomington director of scouting Dan Jewell explained the painstaking process involved prior to signing Kiefiuk.
“It’s a huge step for us as an organization. It’s something we have talked about at great length over the past two years, and something we have taken some serious thought about,” said Jewell. “It’s something we don’t take lightly to say the least. We’ve taken great time and effort to make sure that we got the right person not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. Someone that meets our culture and criteria for a Bloomington Thunder player when it comes to character, work ethic, relentless style of play, and great ability as well.
“It’s an extensive process for everybody we bring into our organization but this one is maybe a little special. The youngest player that will have played for our organization to date will be Calen next year. We have quite a number of scouts on staff and just about every one of them have seen him play countless times. Coach Watt has seen him play and coach Williams was fortunate enough to see him play at the national camp this summer and in Plymouth this year. It’s been quite the lengthy process. He has proven nothing short of an outstanding student athlete.”
Kiefiuk echoed the student athlete sentiment, as he looks forward to maintaining his NCAA Division I eligibility with his commitment to the University of Michigan.
“From day one, I have been a big college guy. I’ve wanted to play there and my parents have felt the same way,” said Kiefiuk. “This is the best league to play in to achieve that goal and I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
Now in its fifth year, the USHL tender process allows teams to sign up to two 2000 birth year players prior to the 2016 USHL Phase I Draft. The first tender for a team would take the place of a first-round pick in Phase I of the USHL Draft, and if the team tenders a second player, that would take the place of a second-round selection in the USHL Phase I Draft. The final day for USHL teams to sign a tender is Sunday May 1, 2016.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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