The 2003 United States Hockey League entry draft was held May 7th. The draft is held via the internet and lasts approximately six hours. Like other drafts, the order is based on the standings from the prior season. Each team submits a protected list prior to the draft. This list consists of players they are intending on returning next season. Each team selects until each team reaches 23 players (including the protected list). Once they are all at the same point, all teams again select until they are all at 30 players. The age varies in the league anywhere from 15 to 21. Since the league has moved to Tier I last season, teams are allowed to carry only three 21 year olds this season.
Waterloo Black Hawks Head Coach and General Manager P.K. O’Handley had his mind set on what he was looking for heading into the draft, “We went into it with three major needs. The first was defense, the second was size and the third was age.” O’Handley was referring to youth as the USHL is slowly trimming down the number of older players in the league.
Below is the list of the 13 players Coach O’Handley selected by round:
1st – D Andrew Thomas (11/14/85), 6-3 192 lbs, NH Junior Monarchs (6g-12a-18pts)
3rd – D Josh Duncan, 5-11 185 lbs, Rochester Lourdes High School
4th – F David Meckler (7/9/87), 5-10 157 lbs, Chicago Freeze (7g-15a-22pts) (NAHL)
5th – F Jesse Vesel, 5-10 180 lbs, Hibbing High School
6th – D Matt Lashoff (9/29/86), 6-1 185 lbs US National Team (2g-5a-7pts)
7th – D Tom Filangieri, 6-1 185 lbs, NY Bobcats
8th – D Brandon Zangel, 6-2 200 lbs Hotchkiss Prep
9th – F Zach Bearson (6/13/87), 6-1 170 lbs, Team Illinois (21g-29a-50pts)
14th – F Drew Heredia (1/26/86), 6-0 185 lbs, Team Illinois (14g-21a-35pts)
15th – F Eric Sargent (7/11/84), 5-10 185 lbs, Pittsburgh Forge (11g-5a-16pts) (NAHL)
16th – D Will Carpenter, 6-2 200 lbs, AAA Ice Dogs
17th – D Gregg Flynn, 6-1 200 lbs, Centennial High School
18th – D Tom Gorowsky, 5-11 180 lbs, Centennial High School
Waterloo was in the unusual position picking towards the bottom of the group. Last season the Black Hawks held the #1 pick overall in the draft. This year, the Black Hawks are the defending Eastern Division champs, and held the 11th spot out of 12 teams. “It’s early, but we feel pretty good about the group that we got,” said O’Handley. “Obviously having a good season put us at the bottom of the draft position, but we feel pretty good about what we did” he added.
When asked who was this year’s Joe Pavelski (last season’s USHL rookie of the year) the coach replied, “There’s a number of guys on our list that could fit that role. The highest profile player we have is Matt Lashoff, but to be quite honest he has a lot of options. But we took a chance on him because we’d like to see him in a Black Hawks uniform.” Lashoff (2g-5a-7pts), who is 6-1 and 185 pounds, played for the US National program in the NAHL. Waterloo took two players from the NAHL, David Meckler (7g-15a-22pts), a 5-10, 157 pound forward from the Chicago Freeze and Eric Sargent (17g-17a-34pts), a 5-10, 185 pound forward who split time last season between the Soo Indians and the Pittsburgh Forge. Both will add some junior hockey experience to the roster. Also, two Team Illinois players, Zach Bearson (21g-29a-50pts) a 6-1, 170 pound forward and Drew Heredia (14g-21a-35pts), another forward, who stands 6 feet and weights 185 pounds were selected. Current Black Hawk Mike Radja came from the same team.
Although these players have been drafted, there are no guarantees they will make the squad. Tryout camp is coming up and the coach knows the players will have to prove themselves on the ice. “We’re a month away from tryout camp and they have to be ready to go,” the coach said. “I expect, and we expect as a coaching staff, that they come in and stick with our contents here and that’s team first. Contribute where they can when it’s got our interests and we’ll give them every opportunity to improve and reach their goal,” O’Handley added.
Although the season is still a ways away as preseason games will not start until sometime in August, the coach knows he has the right supporting cast to make a strong encore performance next season. “We’re very optimistic. If you look at the potential returning cast, it’s very very good. With what we’ve got in the form of tenders, we feel we have a high character group. And we’re hoping these guys we drafted can come in and be part of our team. We’re ready to get going, it seems like an eternity since it ended,” O’Handley concluded with a laugh.
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