WATERLOO — Identification. Projection. Best available.
Those were the terms being thrown around the Waterloo Black Hawks ‘War Room’ Monday during the Phase I of the United States Hockey League draft.
Commonly referred to as the ‘Futures Draft,’ Phase I, by league rules, limits USHL teams to selecting players born in 2003.
Waterloo took 10 players in Phase I, with Cole Huckins, a forward from Fredericton, New Brunswick, with its first pick, 28th overall, in the second round.
“I think in Phase 1, you are looking for the best possible players that you can get,” Black Hawks head coach P.K. O’Handley said. “I think Shane (associate head coach and director of scouting) and his group have done a tremendous job of identifying a really good list for us.
“It is always a bit of a projection when you are dealing with young players. Obviously, they are talented young kids at their age with a lot of options.”
Waterloo did not have a first round pick after tendering Philadelphia native Matt Argentina, a forward, in late March. Argentina, already committed to Notre Dame, is a player the Black Hawks had developed a close relationship with over a long period of time.
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“He came to our camp last year as a 14-year old and did not look out of place,” O’Handley said. “He has been here several times at our camps and he is our kind of guy. He fits what we do. He fits who we are and we fit who he is as a 200-foot player who has a little bite to his game, a little offense to his game.”
The Black Hawks have tendered just four players in franchise history and have struck gold with its last two — Mikey Anderson, who led Minnesota-Duluth to a pair of national titles before signing with the Los Angeles Kings last month, and Wyatt Schingoethe, who had 11 goals and 22 assists in 62 games this year as a 16-year old rookie.
“We are cautious with the tender process,” O’Handley said. “Mikey was a home run. Wyatt has been a home run, and there is no reason to believe Matt isn’t going to be that.”
Phase II of the draft began today at 10 a.m.
Waterloo potentially will return 14 players next season — forwards Griffin Ness, Matt Cameron, Patrick Guzzo, Teddy Lagerback, Ryan Drkulec, Xander Lamppa, Kyle Haskins, Connor Caponi and Schingoethe. Defenseman Ethan Szmagaj, Jacob Bengtsson and Brehdan Engum as well as goalie Logan Stein.
“Defense is certainly where we are going to look, but we need forwards, too,” O’Handley said. “I don’t think you ever assume anything and you try to improve your hockey club the best you can tomorrow, and today, but tomorrow is more immediate.”