SIOUX CITY | Zachary Plucinski has won wherever he had played.
The physical 6-foot-1, 185-pound left defenseman from Eagle River, Alaska, was the Musketeers’ first selection in the United States Hockey League’s Phase II Draft, which was held Tuesday.
Plucinski recorded seven goals and 28 assists this past season while leading the Notre Dame Hounds to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Telus Cup. In 2012, Plucinski played for the Alaska Blue Devils team that won the USA Hockey Pee Wee Tier II national title and in 2017, he also led Chugiak to the Alaska Class 4A state high school championship.
The 17-year-old Plucinski was part of a Notre Dame team that went an astounding 20-0 in postseason play and led the program to its fifth championship.
“All of those kinds of intangibles are a big part of hockey,” said Musketeers Coach Luke Strand, whose club began the draft with Phase I (players from 2002 birth year) selections on Monday, then finished with Phase II (1998 to 2002 birth year) on Tuesday.
“(Plucinski) is a winner. He has a nice feel for the game offensively. He has good puck skills. He’ll contribute right away. He has all of the intangibles.”
Tim Gould, a right defenseman from Riverview, New Brunswick, was a fifth-round choice while James Wiseman and David Farrance went in the 14th and 15th rounds, respectively. Two more right defensemen, Jake Flynn (18th round) and Dawson Klein (19th round), were taken.
Brockton Baker, a sixth-round forward who came in a trade from Clark Cup Finalist Youngstown, is the younger brother of Tarek Baker, who came to the Musketeers in a trade with Bloomington during the 2016-17 season and provided three goals and seven assists in the Musketeers’ Clark Cup Playoffs run. Brockton Baker, a native of Verona, Wis., had 12 goals and 10 assists for Team Wisconsin, which competed in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
Quality scoring forwards were selected such as third-round pick Quinn Olson, a Calgary, Alberta, native who had 14 goals and 39 assists for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The Musketeers’ connection to Finland continued with 13th-round pick Viljami Nieminen, a center/left wing from Tampere, Finland, who had 15 goals and 18 assists for the Tappara Under-18 team.
Hermantown (Minn.) High School has produced Musketeers such as Neal Pionk, Jared Thomas and Cole Koepke, the latter, providing 28 goals and 11 assists for this season’s 26-26-8 team. Hermantown was represented by two picks, including 17th-round Phase II pick Jacob Herter, a 6-2, 155-pound forward who had 20 goals and 31 assists while leading the Hawks to the Minnesota Class A state tournament semifinals.
Blake Biondi, a 5-11, 174-pound center/right wing was taken with the Musketeers’ first selection in the Phase I Draft in the second round, where he came in a trade from Dubuque. As a sophomore, Biondi had 23 goals and 21 assists for the 17-6-2 Hermantown squad, including a hat trick in a 4-2 first-round win over Monticello.
“We were very excited to get Blake with our first pick,” said Strand. “He is a big time player. He’ll make an impact when he puts on a Musketeers jersey.”
Strand said Biondi will likely play a few games with the Musketeers, return to Hermantown for the high school season, then finish the March and April portions of the season in Sioux City.
Two goaltenders were chosen, including fifth-round pick Aidan Harper, who had a .915 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average for the 16-Under Shipjacks Hockey Club. Another goalie, sixth-round pick Jake Sibell, a 6-1, 204-pounder from Isanti, Minn., had a 9-2-2 record with a 2.17 GAA and a .927 save percentage for the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Wilderness.
“We could have a 1A and a 1B working side by side, which would be a dynamite situation,” said Strand. “I’m excited about our draft. I’d like to give Andy Johnson, our scouting director and his staff a lot of applause.”