By Joshua Boyd / USPHLNCDC.com
We’ll be taking time over the month of June to look at how some NCDC teams are working on building their 2023-24 squads through the acquisition of tenders, commitments from returning players and past draft selections they continue to evaluate.
The Idaho Falls Spud Kings were the “new kids” last season in the USPHL Premier’s Mountain Division as five Mountain teams played their final Premier season in preparation for the big move to Tier II and the NCDC. After some initial struggles, the Spud Kings went 16-10-1-0 after Dec. 1, accounting for the majority of their 19 wins on the season. Marty Quarters, a former NAHL head coach with additional coaching experience at the USHL and NCAA levels, came on board in November and has helped shepherd the Spud Kings to their NCDC future. The city in eastern Idaho near the western gateway of Yellowstone National Park is certainly ready for the Spud Kings’ new phase – the team averaged roughly 4,000 fans per game in Year 1, by far the USPHL Premier’s best attendance.
All of the quotations below are from Head Coach Marty Quarters.
“We had such a slow start to the season, that in order to recruit and make our roster competitive, we recruited with the intention of keeping these players on in 2023-24 to play NCDC next year. It was like having a few months worth of tryouts playing for us. That bodes well, as these players are now used to our systems.”
Austrian import Matteo Mitrovic (‘03), a USPHL Premier Mountain Division All-Star, and Tyler Rose (‘04), were “huge” additions to the Spud Kings. Both defensemen came in with NCDC experience under their wings, and both will be anchors for the Spud Kings’ NCDC defensive corps this year.
Forward George Goodwin (‘03) was a later acquisition, joining in late October, and ended up being one of the key players up front. He posted 30 goals and 48 points in 36 regular season games – plus five goals in four playoff games. He’ll return for his first turn at the Tier II level, and he’ll be joined by his brother Xavier ‘05), a player coming in from the Boston Junior Bruins 18U team who is “gaining Division 1 interest.”
Jack O’Rourke, an ‘04 forward, is another player who – like the blueliners Rose and Mitrovic – has already gotten looks at the Tier II level, both in the NCDC and CCHL. O’Rourke put up 16 points in 24 regular season games and three points in four playoff games. His former CCHL Brockport Braves teammate Landon Wright (‘06) put up 24 points in 34 combined regular season and playoff games after joining the Spud Kings. Both O’Rourke and Wright return to the Spud Kings to help them kick off their NCDC existence.
Noah Bird – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
The Spud Kings traded for the Knights’ 2022 Draft Pick, bringing in a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound ‘05 power forward who put up 64 points in 44 games for the Connecticut Chiefs 18U AAA team last year. He also has experience with the CarShield and Colorado Rampage AAA programs.
“He should be on one of our top lines right off the bat.”
Zeteny “Zach” Molnar – Budapest Jégkorong Akadémia U21
An ‘04 forward who played with Ontario Hockey Academy U18’s in 2021-22 (and registered 42 points in 29 games there). His NCDC rights were acquired from the Islanders Hockey Club.
“He has experience with the Hungarian National Team as well as OHA, and we have signed him.”
Prestyn Carter – Little Caesars 18U AAA
The ‘04 goaltender from Little Caesars, ranked No. 9 in the last Myhockeyrankings.com rankings, put up a .920 save percentage in 32 games and also saw two games in net for Little Caesars at the USA Hockey Nationals.
“A really good goalie who brings size and athleticism to the net.”
Brock Hart – Hudson Havoc
The ‘03 defenseman from the USPHL Premier’s Havoc, and his 59 points in 122 Premier games rank in a tie for third all-time among Havoc blueliners.
“That acquisition is another that shows the development path from the Premier to the NCDC. He’s a really good defenseman who plays hard in all three zones, has good feet, and his puck skills are his biggest asset.”
Carson Galin – Charlotte Rush
Scored 17 points in 28 games with the Rush, in addition to two points in seven games as the Rush went to the USPHL Premier Nationals. The ‘03 forward also has prior Tier II experience in the NCDC and NAHL.
“He’s a No. 1 center that gets the other team off their game due to his high compete level and high skill set.”
Michael Polston – Detroit Honeybaked 18U AAA
An ‘04 goaltender, he posted a 2.50 goals against average in 12 games with Honeybaked this past season. Had previously played for Janesville Jets 18U squad.
“He was one of the top 18U goalies this season – he had a really good season. He trains all year and takes it very seriously.”
Tobias Omholt – Nordic Hockey Academy U20
An ‘03 defenseman from Norway, he played in Austria this past year with Nordic and put up 46 points in 31 regular season games. He already has no less than four years being a teammate of Matteo Mitrovic on various teams.
“He’s a big 6-3, lanky defenseman who can skate, plays a lot of the same way as Mitrovic. That helps us get up into the play and attack with four players instead of three.”
Brad Boniface – Compuware 18U AAA
An ‘05 defenseman out of South Carolina, he joined Compuware this year after two prior years with the Nashville Jr. Predators, posting 17 points in 46 games last season.
“He’s a steady defenseman who doesn’t get beaten 1-on-1 and has the skating ability to join the rush.”
Cai Robinson – Colorado Springs Tigers 18U AAA
An ‘04 forward, he posted 18 points in 19 games for the Tigers this past season. Has played last four seasons with the Tigers at the 15U, 16U and 18U levels.
“He’s a later developing player who had a really good year, gets up and down the ice very well and plays a very offensive game.”
Nikita Soloviev – Detroit Honeybaked 18U AAA
Played a strong 18U year as an ‘05, posting seven points in 14 games for Honeybaked. He also has Belle Tire and Oakland Jr. Grizzlies experience.
“Typical Michigan player – wants to be on ice all the time, full speed all the time, plays with a high compete level.”
John Brown – Cleveland Jr. Barons 16U AAA
Brown was the Spud Kings’ first-ever pick, an ‘06 defenseman who picked up 25 points in 59 games for the Jr. Barons this season. He also scored a goal in three games at the USA Hockey 16U Tier I Nationals. He was also a USHL Draft Pick of the Dubuque Fighting Saints this spring.
“We’re really high on our first-ever pick, John Brown. He’s a linebacker on ice – 6-feet-3-inches, 195 pounds – skates well, doesn’t get beaten 1-on-1, and guys just bounce off of him. He has a real mature demeanor about him.”
Luc Plante – Victory Honda 15U AAA
Led Victory Honda in scoring with 63 points in 59 games as an ‘07 forward.
“He was one of two really good ‘07’s from Victory Honda that we drafted, and he has extremely high hockey IQ.”
Chase Reid – Victory Honda 15U AAA
Led all Victory defensemen with 34 points in 63 games, and with Plante, helped Victory Honda win the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League 15U Championship. Was also drafted this spring by the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL Priority Selection. Reid, Plante and Brown were all selected to represent their districts at the Select 17 Festival this summer, as well.
“He’s already 6-1 and skates very well. He has high NCAA Division I and pro potential. He gets up in the rush and defends well also, playing a complete game.”
Ethan Keller – Ohio Blue Jackets 16U AAA
An ‘06 forward, he posted 10 points in 23 games. Had previously played in his home state for Pittsburgh Vengeance organization.
“Ethan is a big power forward [6-2, 210 pounds] and the puck really follows him around.”
The Road Ahead
When building a new team, the recruiting never stops. The big event for the Spud Kings will be their 40-man camp in August in Park City, Utah.
“From there, we will pick our final NCDC roster and take them to training camp in Idaho Falls.”