Team: Muskegon Lumberjacks
2015-16 Record: 27-26-7
Top Forward: Rem Pitlick (89 points, 46 goals)
Top Defenseman: Grant Gabriele (26 points, 9 goals)
Top Goaltender: Joey Daccord (21-20-5, 3.10 GAA, .904 SV%)
Power Play: 23.3% (T-1st in USHL)
Penalty Kill 79.5% (14th in USHL)
It was the summer of major additions for the Lumberjacks. Muskegon started things off in May with the signing of Andrei Svechnikov to a tender contract. The highly touted 16-year old Russian forward added to his incoming reputation with four goals in five games at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament earlier this summer. Incoming goaltender Keith Petruzzelli will battle for the starting position in net after being named to the NHL Central Scouting Future List earlier this summer. The 6’6” Willbraham, MA native also played for Team USA this summer at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
The Lumberjacks forward group will also benefit from the addition of Keeghan Howdeshell. The Ferris State University commit spent the previous two seasons with Team USA. Howdeshell was originally a first round USHL Draft selection by the Lumberjacks in 2014. Muskegon also recently announced the addition of Jáchym Kondelík to their 30-man roster. The towering 6’6” 16-year old forward recently skated with the Czech Republic team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Kondelík scored 69 points in 44 games with HC Ceske Budejovice U18 team last season.
Last but not least, the Lumberjacks also announced the addition of new head coach John LaFontaine, who previously served the bench boss of the Wichita Falls Wildcats in the North American Hockey League as well as the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s program. LaFontaine joins Muskegon after being named NAHL Coach of the Year.
Not to be lost in all of the excitement and additions is the steady veteran presence Muskegon expects to return with forward Collin Adams and defensemen Zach Berzolla, Derek Daschke, Grant Gabriele and Bo Handson. Adams, who finished second on the team in scoring last year, was selected by the New York Islanders in the 2016 NHL Draft after being named to the All-USHL Rookie First Team.
Muskegon could become one of the most entertaining teams to watch this season in the USHL with their elite talent up front paired with a solid defensive group. LaFontaine shared his thoughts on his club heading into the season:
“The Lumberjacks look to play a puck possession game this season, using speed, skill, transition and a strong compete level. We have a good mix of veterans and first year players with high potential coming into training camp. We are very excited with the results of our scouting efforts this past spring and anxious to get these young men in front of our fans.”
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.