Twin City Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge said heading into Wednesday’s USPHL National Collegiate Development Conference draft that adding forwards was the team’s main objective.

The Thunder more than followed through, using 11 of their 14 selections on forwards.

“I did a lot of research this (spring) so far and talked to a lot of kids, and it’s about getting the kids with the best fit,” Hodge said. “I think we got a lot of kids who put up a lot of points in their prior leagues and some kids that will be hard workers.”

Out of the 11 forwards taken, Hodge expects four to make an immediate impact coming from midget hockey, including David Rankin of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U team and Hunter Schmitz of the Missouri-based CarShield 18U team. Rankin was fourth on the Penguins with 16 goals and 19 assists in 54 games played. Schmitz had two goals and seven assists in 16 North American Prospects Hockey League games.

Other two players primed to contributed quickly are 18-year-old Grant Newcomer, who put up 22 goals and 38 assists in 22 games with McFarland High School in Wisconsin, and 19-year-old Gabe Shipper of The Hill School in Pennsylvania (14 goals and 10 assists in 27 games this season).

“Wisconsin high school hockey is a real good league, and (Newcomer played for a) real good hockey out there,” Hodge said. “Shipper is a kid who is friends with Nick Rashkovsky (who played for the Thunder last year), and that’s kinda how I got introduced to Gabe, and I talked to his coach (Chris Bala), his coach went to Harvard. We had a great conversation and he said all the right things about Gabe, and I look at him as a kid that will come in here and work real hard, skates real hard, first on the forecheck and a guy that I am expecting to create his own space out there.”

The other seven forwards selected were: Tony Andrews, Justin Angle, Ryan Blackburn, Carson Holliday, Brad McNeil, Alex Ray and Jack Saavedra.

Hodge said he couldn’t pass up in selecting a goalie. He picked Noah Ping who had a stint in the North American Hockey League last season with Odessa Jackalopes, going 0-2 with a 4.04 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Duluth, Georgia, native spent the year primarily with the Atlanta Capitals of the North American 3 Hockey League (10-9-1, 3.73 GAA and a .897 save percentage).

“We did a lot of research on him and I talked to him a bunch of times, his advisor is a former goalie,” Hodge said. “(Thunder co-owner Ben Gray’s) uncle Joe Clark is our goalie consultant and does a great job interviewing these kids and getting in there and asking all the right questions. (Ping) is a gamer, and I watched some video when he played with Odessa in the NAHL and he played really well. I am excited, he’s a big kid and very athletic, he’s excited to be here.”

The Thunder also drafted a pair of defender. Andrew Cole out of St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusettes, was the defensive partner of Thunder tender Jack Gilligan last season. Cole had two assists in 20 games, and another assist in 10 games with the Islanders Hockey Club 18U team. The other defender selected was Louis Pelland of Quebec, who played for the Springfield Pics’ USPHL Premier and Elite League teams.

RIVET, OTHER AREA CONNECTIONS PICKED

Lewiston native Alex Rivet of the Maine Nordiques checks Cam Gaudette of the Northeast Generals into the boards during a game in Lewiston last December. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lewiston’s Alex Rivet was also selected in Wednesday’s NCDC draft, by the Utica Jr. Comets.

The 20-year-old just completed his first full junior hockey season, which he started with the Maine Nordiques of the NAHL (three goals and five assists in 27 games). He was released midseason and then signed with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (two assists in 12 regular season games).

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Rivet played three seasons at Lewiston High School from 2014-2017, helping the Blue Devils win two Class A championships in 2016 and 2017. He transferred to Middlesex School, a prep school in Concord, Massachusetts, and played there from 2017-19. After the Middlesex’s 2018-19 season ended, he joined the L/A Nordiques in their NA3HL playoff run and tallied 10 goals and an assist in eight games.

Another former L/A Nordiques player was also selected Wednesday, goalie Nick Beck who was drafted by the Northern Cyclones. Beck went 9-2-1 with a 2.06 GAA and .927 save percentage this past season in the NA3HL before leaving for the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canadian Hockey League in Ontario. The 5-foot-11, 161-pound Youngstown, Ohio native went 1-2-1, with a 5.70 GAA and a .824 save percentage.

Grady Friedman of Portland, the son of former Thunder coach Doug Friedman, was drafted by the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. The 19-year-old forward played at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts, where he recorded nine goals and nine assists in 21 games. He took part in the Thunder’s main camp last season.


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