The Kenai River Brown Bears wanted more scoring, so that’s what they shot for in Tuesday’s North American Hockey League Draft.
The Brown Bears used five of their first six picks on forwards and seven of their nine total on offense in Tuesday night’s draft, including their first choice and seventh-overall pick Pavel Karasek, a right winger from Kladno, Czech Republic.
Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said the goal of the team was to search for guys that brought in enough junior hockey experience that could also fill in the gaps that the Brown Bears lost to players that have aged out of the league.
“We return (top scorer) Zach Krajnik, but after some other pieces up there aged out or moved on to college hockey, we saw the need to rebuild there and get guys that we can piece into spots that we think could be successful,” Murdock said.
The Maine Nordiques had the first pick in the draft and chose Swedish defenseman Casper Soderling.
Murdock teamed up with associate head coach Dan Bogdan to make Tuesday’s picks having not yet coached a game for Kenai River. Murdock was announced as Bears head coach April 11 after a 2018-19 season that saw former bench hoss Josh Petrich resign for personal reasons with the team standing at 15-23-2-2 at roughly the 2/3 mark of the season. Bogdan went 8-8-1-1 down the stretch as interim head coach.
Tuesday was the third time Murdock has been a part of a draft process, having done it twice before with the North Iowa Bulls in the Tier III NA3HL.
For the Bears, Tuesday’s NAHL draft was about picking up scoring potential. Last season, Kenai River ranked second-worst in the league in scoring with 2.3 goals per game, and with players either aging out or headed off to college opportunities, the team lost four of the team’s top six scorers, but still retained top scorer Zach Krajnik of Eagle River. Krajnik ranked 34th in the league last year with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists).
After Kenai River took Karasek seventh overall, the team followed up with forward Theo Thrun (second round, 33rd overall), defenseman Michael Spinner (third round, 59th overall), forward Nash Hatcher (fourth round, 85th overall), left winger Tyler Shetland (fifth round, 111th overall), center Austin Adamic (fifth round, 126th overall), defenseman Teemu Paloniemi (sixth round, 137th overall), forward Dmytro Danylenko (sixth round, 146th overall) and forward Cam Fagerlee (seventh round, 163rd overall).
Murdock said he and Bogdan had seen film on all nine players they chose, and had seen six of them on ice in person. Murdock said four of the players — Karasek, Hatcher, Danylenko and Fagerlee — have prior junior hockey experience.
“The biggest thing was getting some guys with junior experience who are battle tested and (have dealt) with the longer schedule,” Murdock explained. “They know how to travel on the road, they’ve ridden on the road more than guys with just high school experience.”
Karasek brings in two years of experience of junior hockey with the Northern Cyclones organization in Hudson, New Hampshire, and the Springfield Pics U16 team. Karasek tallied 19 points in 31 regular-season games last year with the Cyclones, and led Springfield with a eye-popping 62 points in 27 games.
Murdock said Karasek’s upside is that he brings three years of junior hockey eligibility to the Bears, which he hopes will serve the team well for the long run. Plus, growing up in Europe means Karasek has plenty of time on the bigger, Olympic-sized sheets of ice like the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex holds.
“He’s a guy that we watched a lot of video on,” Murdock said. “He’s still pretty young, he still three years of eligibility left, and we hope he’ll come in and generate a lot of offense for us.”
Murdock said the players will converge on the Brown Bears main camp in Michigan from July 31 to Aug. 4, where the training camp roster will be decided. That will provide the first opportunity for the new draftees to join their potential future teammates.
Ovrl pk name weight height Age Pos Home
7 Pavel Karasek 5-10 161 18 RW Kladno, Cze
33 Theo Thrun 5-9 135 17 F Grand Rapids, MI
59 Michael Spinner 6-0 192 18 LD Prior Lake, MN
85 Nash Hatcher 5-8 132 19 F Woodhaven, MI
111 Tyler Shetland 5-6 160 18 LW Laguna Hills, CA
126 Austin Adamic 5-11 155 18 C Livonia, MI
137 Teemu Paloniemi 6-3 195 19 RD Palokka, Fin
146 Dmytro Danylenko 5-8 159 19 F Kiev, Ukr
163 Cam Fagerlee 5-10 165 20 F St. Anthony, MN