ANCHORAGE – Alaska Anchorage head hockey coach Matt Thomas announced Tuesday the 12 incoming freshmen who will make up the Seawolves’ 2017 recruiting class, including a defenseman and goalie with major honors on the Canadian junior circuit, and a pair of hometown players.
This year’s newcomers will be forwards Trey deGraaf (Red Deer, Alberta), Drake Glover (Anchorage), Jason Lavallée (Thetford Mines, Quebec), Zach Masson (Newmarket, Ontario), Joe Sofo (Sylvania, Ohio), Brandon Switzer (Brandon, Manitoba) and Jordan Xavier (Calgary, Alberta), defensemen Aaron McPheters (Anchorage), Eric Sinclair (Kenora, Ontario) and Cameron Trott (Anmore, B.C.), and goaltenders Brody Claeys (St. Rose, Manitoba) and Kristian Stead (Merritt, B.C.).
“We needed to improve our depth and speed, and this class addresses those needs,” said Thomas, who enters his fifth season with the Seawolves in 2017-18. “They all come from programs that won, and they were leaders and impactful players on those teams. We expect them to create a more competitive environment for our returning players to strengthen a lot of very important areas. We are excited to see them push us to the next level.”
Read below for details on all the signees, along with quotes from coach Thomas and assistant coaches Louis Mass and Chris Kamal:
Pos.: Goalie Ht: 6-4 Wt: 210 Catches: Left
Hometown: St. Rose, Manitoba Junior Team: Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL)
Claeys was a regular starter for three seasons at the Junior A level in Canada, playing in 2014-15 for the OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the past two seasons for Alberni Valley of the BCHL … in 2016-17, he manned the net in 45 games with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .908 saves percentage, earning his team’s MVP award.
Coach Kamal says: “Unlike some bigger goaltenders, Brody has high-end athleticism to go along with his sizable frame. Carrying the load for his team in Alberni, he was an integral part of almost every win the club had this season. We believe the ceiling is high for Brody and are excited to bring him on board.”
Pos.: Forward Ht: 5-11 Wt: 176 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Red Deer, Alberta Junior Team: Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
Playing all three of his Junior A seasons with the Okotoks Oilers, deGraaf finished as the third-leading scorer in franchise history with 61-83—144 totals – including 24 power-play goals – in 167 career games … in his final season, he posted 27 goals and 39 points in 66 regular-season games, earning team awards for top plus/minus, top goal scorer and top forward … in his final playoff run with the Oilers, the team captain posted six goals and five assists to lift his squad into the league semifinals.
Coach Thomas says: “Trey is a well-rounded player who can adapt his game to different roles. He is a leader and a consistent performer who will develop into a solid contributor for our team.”
Pos.: Forward Ht: 6-1 Wt: 185 Shoots: Left
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska Junior Team: Lone Star Brahmas (NAHL)
After helping Dimond High to an ASAA State title in 2013, Glover suited up for the Alaska Junior Aces Midget squad the following season and then spent two years with the Weyburn Red Wings of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he scored 13 goals and dished 47 assists in 2015-16 … moving to the North American Hockey League for his final year of juniors, Glover led the Lone Star Brahmas to their first Robertson Cup, earning playoff MVP honors with 12 points in 11 games … during the regular season, he tallied 21-26—47 totals in 52 games as Lone Star earned the NAHL South Division crown.
Coach Thomas says: “We have watched Drake develop into a solid two-way player. He was a leader at both ends of the ice for Lone Star’s championship team. His offensive strengths will create scoring depth for our club.”
Pos.: Forward Ht: 5-11 Wt: 181 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Thetford Mines, Quebec Junior Team: Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL)
Another of the top forwards in the SJHL, Lavallée ranked eighth with 67 points and tied for fourth in the league with 30 goals in 2016-17, while aiding Flin Flon’s run to the SJHL finals with six goals in 15 postseason games … he began the 2015-16 campaign with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees before joining Flin Flon for the final 39 games, combining for 13-26—39 totals that season … prior to his Junior A career, Lavallée spent two years with the Sorel-Tracy Rebelles, helping his squad to the QCHL title in 2015.
Coach Thomas says: “Jason is a very competitive and tenacious goal scorer. He has the desire to score goals that makes a player effective on any team. We expect him to come in and have an immediate impact on the score sheet.”
Pos.: Forward Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Newmarket, Ontario Junior Team: Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
Masson was a rock in the lineup for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL, skating in 175 regular-season and 17 playoff games during his three seasons, and improving his goal- and point-scoring totals each year … as an assistant captain and two-way forward in 2016-17, he scored 15 goals and tallied 39 assists in 58 contests, including eight power-play and two game-winning goals.
Coach Thomas says: “Zac is a leader and a do-what-it-takes type player. He can provide offense, play a shutdown role, and contribute to our special teams. His character and work ethic allow him to be a consistent performer.”
Pos.: Defenseman Ht: 5-9 Wt: 161 Shoots: Left
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska Junior Team: Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL)
One of two hometown signees, McPheters contributed to South Anchorage High’s 2013 State runner-up squad before spending two years in South Kent, Conn., with the Select Hockey Academy’s U16 and U18 squads … in his first of two seasons with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in 2015-16, he tallied three assists in 11 playoff games as the franchise earned the Robertson Cup, and he finished his career with 6-41—47 totals in 99 regular-season games … in his final season, McPheters captained the Ice Dogs to another playoff berth in 2016-17.
Coach Mass says: “Aaron is a solid, puck-moving defenseman with a high level on-ice IQ and poise beyond his years. He’s a prototypical power play quarterback. We have high expectations for Aaron.”
Pos.: Defenseman Ht: 6-0 Wt: 174 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Kenora, Ontario Junior Team: Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL)
The two-time Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Defenseman of the Year, Sinclair earned trips to the SJHL Canalta Cup finals in all three of his Junior A campaigns, including championships with the Melfort Mustangs in 2014-15 and 2015-16 … last season, the defenseman averaged better than a point per game with 15-31—46 totals in 44 outings as team MVP for the Flin Flon Bombers, while ranking fourth in the league with 12 power-play goals … Sinclair was also the Bombers’ 2017 playoffs MVP, helping Flin Flon overcome a 3-1 semifinals deficit to reach the finals and racking up 4-9—13 numbers in 16 games.
Coach Mass says: “Eric is a well-rounded player who will have an impact at both ends of the ice. He’s an efficient skater with high-end foot speed who can easily jump up into the rush and also recover defensively. His character and competition level are extremely high."
Pos.: Forward Ht: 5-10 Wt: 183 Shoots: Left
Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio Junior Team: Coulee Region Chill (NAHL)
Sofo played three seasons in the North American Hockey League, helping the Coulee Region Chill to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015-16 and 2016-17 … in his last campaign, he led the Chill and tied for seventh in the NAHL with 27 goals, and he was his team’s third-leading scorer overall with 51 points in 57 games, including six power-play and two game-winning goals … Sofo began his Tier II career with the Keystone Ice Miners in 2014-15.
Coach Thomas says: “Joe brings speed to our lineup. He has had a knack for scoring big goals and he will be a threat on the Olympic-sized ice at the Sullivan Arena due to his quickness.”
Pos.: Goalie Ht: 6-2 Wt: 183 Catches: Left
Hometown: Merritt, British Columbia Junior Team: Nipawin Hawks (SJHL)
Stead spent the past two seasons starring for the Nipawin Hawks as the B.C. native earned the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s MVP and Top Goaltender awards, before capturing the CJHL Top Goaltender award as the best netminder in all of Canada Junior A hockey … in 2016-17, he posted a 1.97 GAA and a league-best .936 saves percentage in 42 regular-season games, and playoff numbers of 1.91 and .946 as the Hawks lost 4-3 in their SJHL semifinals series … Stead also led the SJHL in wins (29) and shutouts (7) last year.
Coach Kamal says: “Kristian is a great goaltender and character kid coming off of an outstanding season in Nipawin. He’s a winner and hard-working young man. With excellent instincts in the blue paint and a commitment to his trade, we expect his game will improve exponentially over his four years.”
Pos.: Forward Ht: 5-10 Wt: 174 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Brandon, Manitoba Junior Team: Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL)
Prior to taking last year off due to a ruptured ACL, Switzer played in 193 combined regular-season and playoff games in three Junior A seasons from 2013-16, starting with the Whitecourt Wolves of the AJHL and concluding with the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL … despite playing the majority of his final season with the knee injury, he tallied 32 goals and 43 assists in 53 games during the regular season, before leading Flin Flon with 10-9—19 totals in 16 playoff games that year, helping the Bombers to within two wins of the league championship.
Coach Thomas says: “Character and desire are two words that kept coming up in conversations about Brandon. His injury was a setback but he has worked extremely hard to recover and we believe that he can make a significant impact over his four years. He has the skill level to create offense.”
Pos.: Defenseman Ht: 6-3 Wt: 185 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Anmore, British Columbia Junior Team: Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
Trott scored 50 points in two seasons at the junior A level, spending his first year and a half in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks before finishing with the Vernon Vipers … in 51 regular-season games in 2016-17, he combined for six goals and 20 assists while committing just eight minor penalties, while in the playoffs he delivered 3-5—8 totals while staying out of the box completely … Trott also helped Salmon Arm to a playoff appearance in 2015-16.
Coach Mass says: “Cameron has a big frame and all the tools to be a future pro. He has great feet and a heavy shot and will be able to play in every situation."
Pos.: Forward Ht: 5-11 Wt: 174 Shoots: Right
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta Junior Team: Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
Xavier played in 155 career games for three different Alberta Junior Hockey League squads, improving his scoring totals each season and helping Okotoks to a 2017 AJHL semifinals berth with seven goals in 12 playoff games … splitting his final campaign between Okotoks and his hometown Calgary Mustangs, he tallied 25-29—54 totals in 56 regular-season efforts … Xavier spent half the 2014-15 campaign and the entire 2015-16 season in Calgary after starting his Junior A career with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
Coach Thomas says: “Jordan has speed and skill. When you combine that with him being a right-shot center, he immediately improves our team up the middle. He has all the tools to be a great collegiate player.”
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