Recruiting Grounds: AJHL

The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) has produced many great college hockey players. More recently, the best tend to eventually migrate to the BCHL before heading to college, but over the years the AJHL has produced some legendary players including Mark Messier, Dany Heatley, Mike Comrie, Mike Vernon and most of the famed Sutter clan (including Darryl, Brent and Duane). One other name that Huskies fans will recognize is current Assistant Coach Gary Shuchuk. All of the above-mentioned alumni were all part of the AJHL's Top 50 Players of All-Time list released on the 50th anniversary of the league, in 2013. Almost the entire list mentioned from 1994 through 2013 played college hockey, and some are even currently in the NHL. The rest of the list is still quite impressive when looking at their accomplishments while playing Division I:

  • Matt Frattin (North Dakota)
  • Corban Knight (North Dakota)
  • Ben Scrivens (Cornell)
  • T.J. Galiardi (Dartmouth)
  • Dylan Olsen (Minnesota-Duluth)
  • Justin Fontaine (Minnesota-Duluth)
  • Curtis Glencross (Alaska-Anchorage)
  • Fernando Pisani (Providence)
  • Mark Bomersback (Ferris State)
  • Steve Reinprecht (Wisconsin)

Talent throughout College Hockey

Some very special players have spent time learning their craft in the AJHL over the years including current NHL players, former NCAA All-Americans, and Hobey Baker Award Finalists.

Current NHL Players:

  • Chad Johnson (Calgary)
  • Aaron Dell (San Jose)
  • Daniel Carr (Montreal)
  • Colton Parayko (St. Louis)
  • Jay Beagle (Washington)
  • Joe Colborne (Colorado)
  • Kevin Connauton (Arizona)
  • Mark Letestu (Edmonton)
  • Mason Raymond (Anaheim)
  • Mark Benning (Edmonton)
  • Rene Bourque (Colorado)
  • Taylor Fedun (Buffalo)

Former American Hockey Coaches Association NCAA All-Americans since 2005 (First and Second Team):

  • Matt Fornataro (New Hampshire-2008)
  • Aaron Dell (North Dakota-2011)
  • Mike Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth-2011)
  • Taylor Fedun (Princeton-2011)
  • Cody Kunyk (Alaska-2014)
  • Sam Brittain (Denver-2014)
  • Daniel Carr (Union-2014)
  • Colton Parayko (Alaska-2014/2015)

Hobey Baker Award Finalist since 2005 (* - also All-Americans):

  • Colin Murphy (Michigan Tech-2005)
  • Lee Jubinville (Princeton-2008)
  • Chad Johnson (Alaska-2009)
  • Ben Scrivens (Cornell-2010)
  • Matt Frattin (North Dakota-2011)
  • Corban Knight (North Dakota-2013)
Colin Murphy was a star for the Fort McMurray Oil Barrons of the AJHL before his stellar career at Michigan Tech (Photo Courtesy of Michigan Tech).

Colin Murphy was a star for the Fort McMurray Oil Barrons of the AJHL before his stellar career at Michigan Tech (Photo Courtesy of Michigan Tech).

Amazingly enough, no AJHL player has ever won the Hobey Baker Award. While there have been plenty of great players to come out of the AJHL, the closest the league has ever gotten to a winner is Matt Frattin, who made the Hobey hat trick in 2011. Frattin lead the country in goals with 36 but scored 11 fewer points than the winner, Andy Miele. While Frattin may not have won, he had a pretty spectacular career, scoring 64 goals and 119 points in his 153 games for North Dakota. He's gotten a taste of the NHL but is currently spending most of his time in the AHL where he's putting up similar numbers to his college days with two points every three games.

Current College Players

While the AJHL has lost some of its luster recently, they still have players on 46 NCAA teams and are producing some great talent including important parts of some of the top teams throughout the country. Rhett Gardner was a part of last year's National Championship team for North Dakota and is again a top-10 scorer on the team as a sophomore. The top two teams in the PWR and polls, Minnesota-Duluth and Denver, each have four players with AJHL experience including Carson Soucy, who is currently second among defensemen in scoring for the Bulldogs while Tanner Jaillet is the primary goaltender for the Pioneers. Other quality players doing well for their respective teams include Brandon Hickey (D - Boston University), Cameron Hughes (F - Wisconsin), Dyland Richard (F - Penn State), Brock Maschmeyer (F - Northern Michigan) and Michigan Tech's own Alex Smith.

Previous Recruits

Michigan Tech does have a-long standing history with the AJHL with Stu Younger, Tony Stiles, Todd Scott and Gord Salt—probably most recognizable players who actually skated for Coach MacInnes. More recently there were Brad Mueller, Jon Pittis and Colin Murphy. There was also a bit of an influx early in Jamie Russell's career with bringing in Ian Kallay as assistant, since he came right from being a head coach for Drayton Valley to help Russell. That resulted in additions of Taggert Desmet, Jordan Foote, Mark Malekoff, John Schwarz, Mike Batovanja, Malcolm Gwilliam, Jimmy Kerr, Robbie Nolan, Jordan Baker and Steven Seigo.

Jordan Foote was probably the most anticipated prospect of those to join the team in the Russell era since he had been drafted by the New York Rangers before he got to campus but Mike Batovanja was the fan favorite and Steven Seigo was by far the best of the bunch. A real hidden gem that flourished as a quality defenseman while at Michigan Tech. 

Colin Murphy deserves more than just a mere mention above as he is certainly one of the best players the Huskies have recruited to the program this century. With his ability to both score goals (46 in 103 games after his freshman year) and setup teammates (98 assists in 145 NCAA games), his Hobey Baker nomination was well-deserved and his performance on Oct. 18, 2003 is the reason Mitch's Misfits exists at all and is one of the major factors in the ultimate creation of Tech Hockey Guide. 

The Future

The current team has two players with AJHL experience (it was three until Erik Pederson left the team midseason). Alex Smith and Chris Gerrie both played in the AJHL but they moved on to other leagues before ultimately heading to Michigan Tech. Despite having a long list of committed recruits, none of them are currently playing in Alberta. Maybe this will change in the future with Gary Shuchuk being from Alberta and having former Huskies Dennis Rix and Jason McKee involved with AJHL teams. For now, it appears the Huskies are more interested in the BCHL, USHL, NAHL and high school-age kids in Minnesota or Greater Detroit.

Recruit of the Month

It's been more than our normal two weeks so we'll be doing a recruit of the month today. This time we recognize Robbie Beydoun, the goaltender for Waterloo (USHL) who's gone 7-0-2 (losing twice in overtime) since our last recruit article. Over that stretch he's allowed 20 goals in those nine games for a GAA of 2.17 and stopped 224 shots for a save percentage of 0.918. In three games, he allowed only one goal and his team is currently one point off the best record in the USHL.

Cover image of Erik Pederson courtesy of Pro Sports Photography.