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 Jersey Hitmen have been the dominant force in the NCDC essentially since its inception, winning the regular season championship (which gives them the Founders Cup) five straight seasons from 2019 through 2023, as well as the 2021 and 2022 Dineen Cup playoff championships. They also average more than 10 players advancing to the NCAA Division I level each season.
All quotes below are from Head Coach Toby Harris.
All team rankings mentioned are from Myhockeyrankings.com.
Returning Players / Organizational Assets
“We have no returners from last year’s roster. We have 16U, 18U and Premier Hitmen players moving up from last season.”
Tyler Hansen – Sioux Falls Power
An ‘04 defenseman out of Minnesota, Hansen’s 14 points in 37 games and overall defensive play helped the Power to reach the USA Hockey National Championships, where he also scored a goal. Hansen has also played in the past for the Minnesota Walleye Midget program and St. Michael-Albertville High School in his home state.
Vinny Ipri – Mount St. Charles Academy 16U AAA
An ‘06 defenseman, Ipri was a standout player on the No. 7-ranked Mount St. Charles squad this past year. He put up 40 points in 54 games. The 2022 Hitmen NCDC Draft Pick out of Ohio registered a 1-1-2 line in three USA Hockey 16U Nationals games.
Edwin Liang – Chicago Mission 18U AAA
An ‘05 defenseman, the native Chicagoan had 10 points in 14 games for the hometown Mission. He had previously played with the Shattuck/St. Mary’s 15U squad in 2020-21.
Lucas Rauner – Cloquet High School (Minn.)
The ‘05 defenseman more than doubled his prior year points total by putting up 30 points in 25 games for his hometown high school.
Grant Burback – Colorado Rampage 18U AAA
A career Rampage, the ‘04 blueliner from Lincoln, Neb., played in 54 games this year putting up 29 points, and he also helped the Rampage make the 18U Nationals.
Liam Waugh – Colorado Rampage 18U AAA
An ‘05 left wing and teammate of Burback, Waugh posted 30 points in 53 games this past year, his first with the Rampage after previously playing for the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets.
Alex Helgeson – New Jersey Colonials 18U AAA
Originally coming out of Ridge High School in New Jersey, Helgeson (‘05) has manned the blue line for the Colonials at both the 18U and 16U levels the last two seasons. He put up eight points in 16 games this year.
Jackson Dickson – Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets 18U AAA
An ‘04 forward from Columbus who’s been with the Jr. Blue Jackets for essentially his whole career, putting up 46 points in 62 games this past season and 73 points in 121 total 18U games.
Kaleb Pitman – Northstar Christian Academy
The ‘04 right wing from the No. 3 ranked NCA squad was nearly a point-per-game producer with 41 points in 44 games this past season, and he finished his 18U career with 71 points in 96 games the last two years.
Conrad Moline – Verona High School (Wis.)
Moline (‘04) had 55 points in 27 regular season games for the third-ranked high school in Wisconsin, and followed that with 10 points in five postseason games.
Andrew Jicha – Oregon High School (Wis.)
You can’t ignore 39 goals in 24 games, and that’s what Jicha (‘05) put in to help lead Oregon with 56 points, and 10 more points in five playoff games. He leaves Oregon, Wis., with 106 goals and 174 points in 60 career regular season high school games. The playoff performer also had 22 goals and 30 points in 11 career postseason games.
Cole Ranta – Belle Tire 18U AAA
Ranta (‘04) had a fantastic career with Marquette High School in Michigan, including 35 points in 46 games, before joining Belle Tire this past season. He put up an assist in 10 games and added another assist in another four postseason contests.
Daniel Moor – Northern HIghlands High School (N.J.)
An ‘06 goaltender, the Hitmen used what would have been their first draft pick to instead tender Moor, who put up a .946 save percentage in 47 career games for Northern HIghlands. He also played for the Ramapo Saints 18U AAA team and rang up a 1.36 goals against average and .943 save percentage in 11 AYHL games.
Matthew Campanella – French River Rapids
An ‘06 center from Hamilton, Ont., Campanella has already picked up very valuable junior experience, posting 35 points in 56 games this past season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. He was the Hitmen’s third round pick in this past April’s NCDC Entry Draft.
Tommy Holtby – Windy City Storm 16U AAA
Originally from Victor, N.Y., the ‘06 forward with great size (6-feet-1-inch, 206 pounds) has played the past two years for the Windy City Storm, putting up 19 points in 16 games and then five points in five playoff games. A 2022 NCDC Draft Pick, he was also selected by the Fargo Force in the 2022 USHL Draft and played his first USHL game this past season for Fargo.
Kirby Perler – Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers 15U AAA
Perler went to the 15 Pure Nationals this past season with Mid-Fairfield, and is a very impressive 2007-born prospect for the Hitmen on the blue line. He was a 2023 Draft selection.
Jude Hunt – Belle Tire 18U AAA
A 2005-born defenseman, Hunt was a teammate of tender Cole Ranta on the Belle Tire squad this past year. The 2022 Hitmen draft selection registered five points in 10 games with Belle Tire.
The Road Ahead
The Hitmen, who will play host to the 2023 NCDC Summer Showcase over July 17-18 in Wayne, N.J., are staying busy as ever, always working to build their best possible team for both standings success and college advancement. They will be scouting USHL camps, USA Select Festivals and the Beantown Summer Classic, as well.