Playing in an area with a relatively small population and a relatively small talent base for hockey, the Kenai River Brown Bears have to search far and wide for talent.
The Bears have seven scouts stationed around the country, in addition to director of scouting Josh Romano, and the team used all those resources with eight selections in the 2015 North American Hockey League Entry Draft on Tuesday.
The selections came from a variety of leagues and locations in the country.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys on the ground around the country who we trust know what we’re looking for as an organization,” Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “They’re all good people in it for the right reason.
“We couldn’t be successful without them. They deserve all the credit.”
The Bears got eight picks Monday. A team is awarded the number of picks it needs to get to 30 protected players, or 31 if the team has tendered a player from the NA3HL.
Because the Bears must eventually cut down to 23 players, all the draftees won’t make the team. Last season, two 2014 draft picks — Tanner Schachle and Colton Fletcher — ended the season with the team.
After finishing with the least amount of points in the league last season, the Bears had the second overall pick in the draft, behind the new team from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The Bears used that selection to take Jeff Fasegha, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward originally from Calgary, Canada.
It can be relatively rare to have players from Canada in the NAHL, because Canadians have so many junior opportunities in their own country.
“He’s had some opportunities in the Canadian junior leagues, and from what he told us, from talking with him and his parents, he’s very comfortable with our coaching staff,” Beauparlant said. “He’s very comfortable with the family setting and community setting in Kenai.”
In the second round, the Bears selected Thomas Keane, a 6-3, 190-pound defenseman from Chicago Mission U18.
Beauparlant said he liked the way Keane played at the camp of the Dubuque (Iowa) Saints of the United States Hockey League last week.
“He’s got a great reach which is a good fit for our ice surface,” Beauparlant said, adding that Keane has played with current Bears defenseman Jack Nickels.
With their third pick, the Bears took forward Marshall Barnes, a player from Minnesota that Beauparlant said can put up points and also takes pride in defensive zone play.
The fourth pick was spent on Anchorage native Croix Evingson, who played last season with the Cleveland Barons. Evingson is a 6-4, left-handed defenseman.
“We’re looking to gain more size on our back end,” Beauparlant said.
The final four picks were Richie McCartney, a forward from the New Jersey Titans; Gunnar Goodmanson, a forward from Buffalo High School in Minnesota; Fredrik Blomgren, a defenseman from Sweden; and Oscar Skiold, a forward from Sweden.
Beauparlant said he knows the schooling McCartney got because McCartney is out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Beauparlant used to coach the Central Penn Panthers.
The coach said the Bears wanted to tender Goodmanson last year, but Goodmanson wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Beauparlant said the Bears are fortunate to get the skilled forward so late in the draft. Goodmanson was scoreless in one game as an affiliate player for the Bears last season.
Blomgren and Skiold will look to build on all the success Swedish players have had with the Brown Bears.
“These guys all need a lot of work in certain areas, but that’s why they’re playing junior hockey,” Beauparlant said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
Bears notes … Austin Chavez, who played defense for the Bears the last two years, has made the 30-man roster for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. …
Alec Derks, who played goalie for the Bears last season, has received an academic scholarship to St. Louis University and will give up hockey to attend school. …
The NAHL announced Monday that the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of Texas will be moving to Aston, Pennsylvania, and become the Aston Rebels. That will give the NAHL four teams in Pennsylvania. …
The 7th Annual Stanley Ford Brown Bear Classic will be July 11 at the Kenai Golf Course. It will be a part of alumni weekend for the Bears, which will be July 10 and 11. For details, check out the Brown Bears’ Facebook page. …
Andrej Sustr, who played 36 games for the Bears in the 2008-09 season, continues to see ice time as the Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a 2-1 lead on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals. Sustr, a 6-7, 220-pound defenseman, has no points and an even plus-minus rating in playing 13 minutes, 41 seconds, in Game 1, 10:29 in Game 2 and 10:15 in Game 3.