SIOUX CITY | All of the scouting is done.
Same with the video watching.
Sioux City Musketeers Coach Luke Strand said Andy Johnson, the team’s scouting director, witnessed about 300 games as he prepared for the United States Hockey League draft. General manager Mark Le Rose saw his share of games along with the Musketeers’ scouting staff and coaching staff alike.
Tonight, starting at 6 o’clock, the Musketeers will be among the league’s 16 teams which will select 2002 birth-year players which will be selected in the Phase I Draft. Because the squad signed defenseman Anthony Kehrer to a tender agreement, Sioux City will not have a first-round pick tonight.
Strand expects Kehrer to be an immediate impact player for the 2018-19 season. The 16-year old, who Strand describes as a younger version of the 2017-18 captain Brady Ferner, will mix it up in the upcoming season with several returning players and those who will be selected beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Phase II Draft, where players from the 1998 to 2002 birth years will be chosen.
“The best way to describe (Kehrer), he’s a puck-moving defenseman who has very good skating offensive instincts,” said Strand. “He’s a very reliable defenseman who in his case, his ceiling is super-high. We’re just touching it now. He’s here for the long haul. He’s physically ready.
“He’s a younger version of a Ferner. He adds offense so well to his skating. That’s a goal of ours this season. We return (Nate) Knoepke, (Luke) Johnson and (Jack) Babbage. We need to find more offense on the blue line.”
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kehrer is one of eight players from throughout the league who have signed USHL tenders thus far, which means he must play in 55 percent of the team’s games. It’s the third time in the past four years the Musketeers have tendered a player and Kehrer joins a list that includes Eeli Tolvanen and Sampo Ranta, selected in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and who combined for 76 goals in their time.
Depending what type of a player is available, that’s the kind Strand and his staff will take with the fifth overall pick. Because of a trade made with Youngstown, the Musketeers will have two second-round picks and due to a trade with Central Illinois, the Musketeers will have a pair of fifth-round selections.
USHL member clubs will be picking Tuesday until each team has 45 players, which includes returning players from the 2017-18 roster. Incidentally, Team USA does not participate in either draft.
“I’m looking to have an impact forward for sure,” said Strand. “Someone who could play in our top six. You hope that kind of a player is already there on your affiliate list. I want a forward who could jump in and contribute right away.
“But you also look for the best player available. If the best one is a defenseman, then it’s a defenseman. If there’s a narrow discrepancy between two players, it’s hard to pass on a defenseman, but it could be a forward. Then you recruit them and make sure they arrive in Sioux City.”
Martin Pospisil, the Musketeers’ 2017 No. 1 Phase II selection, will be among the returning players in overall, Strand’s fourth season. Pospisil had eight goals and a team-high 29 assists for last season’s 26-26-8 club.
Other returning forwards include Parker Ford (8 goals, 14 assists), Matyas Svoboda (6, 7), Hayden Rowan (2, 8), Randy Hernandez (3, 7), Matt Miller (5, 4), Bobby Brink (2, 2) and Aaron Grounds (1, 3). Knoepke (14 assists) and fellow returning defensemen Johnson (1, 7) and Babbage (1, 6) will play in front of returning goaltender Ben Kraws (5-4-4, 3.34 goals-against-average).
Brink played in 13 games after being selected in last year’s Phase I draft. Forward Sam Stange, scoreless in two games, was an affiliate player while Strand is looking forward to contributions from affiliates like center Kelly Kallonkieli and defensemen Thomas Pasanen, Mason Snell and Luke Reid.
“As far as the 2002 birth-year players, we’re looking for players who have a high ceiling,” said Strand. “They’re players who aren’t at their potential yet, but who are still in a growth pattern. With our affiliates now, we have a good balance of defensemen, forwards and goaltenders who haven’t arrived yet, but are prepared to be big time players down the road.”