Anchorage goaltender Kris Oldham, who played for the Kenai River Brown Bears for a little over a season, was taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in the sixth round of the National Hockey League draft.
Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant exchanged several texts with Oldham on Saturday.
“He’s excited and obviously happy going to an organization like Tampa Bay, which has proven it can develop players,” Beauparlant said. “The big thing for him is he knows there is a lot of work ahead, but he’s been taking the right steps throughout his entire career.”
Oldham, who is 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, made his debut for the Bears at the age of 15 on March 15, 2013, in a 7-5 victory over the Wenatchee (Washington) Wild, back when the Bears were coached by Oliver David.
He would join the club full time the next season and go 11-6-2 with a 3.17 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
“It’s always been there,” Beauparlant said of Oldham’s talent. “He always had potential and I think we saw that at an early age, I know Oliver saw that as well and tendered him prior to my coming here.
“He was mature for his age and had a great presence in the net, not just in stature but in his demeanor.”
For the 2014-15 season, Oldham went from the Tier II North American Hockey League to the Omaha (Nebraska) Lancers of the Tier I United States Hockey League. He went 21-6-5 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
He committed to play Division I hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he will first suit up in the 2016-17 season.
“He had a plan and stuck with it,” Beauparlant said. “Some guys are always trying to find the fast track to get where they want to go, but he stuck with his plan.”
The coach also noted that the Alaskan had to leave the state for just one year before getting drafted.
Omaha made it to the Frozen Four last season before losing to Providence 4-1 in the semifinals.
Saturday, according to the Alaska Dispatch News, Oldham became the 36th Alaskan taken in the NHL draft when his name was called with the 153rd pick.
“Words cannot express how excited I am to be apart of the @TBLightning organization!! Thank you to all who have helped me get here! #GoBolts,” Oldham tweeted Saturday.
The Lightning, who just lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, already have a sizable Alaska connection. Matt Carle of Anchorage plays defense for the squad, as does former Brown Bears player Andrej Sustr. In another coincidence, Sustr also played his college hockey at Nebraska-Omaha.
In addition to the NAHL connections of Carle, who played in the league from 2000 to 2002, and Sustr, who was with the Bears in the 2008-09 season, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and head coach Jon Cooper also have NAHL connections.
The draft continues a nice run for Oldham, who was one of four goaltenders invited to USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp on June 18. He also turned 18 two days before getting drafted.
Bears notes: Brown Bear alumni weekend will be July 10 and 11, and the seventh annual Stanley Ford Brown Bears Golf Classic will be July 11. Registration can be found at the Bears Den, or at the Brown Bears website. …
Brown Bears forward Joey Kaszupski has committed to Endicott College, a Division III program in Beverly, Massachusetts.
“They had high interest in him all year,” Beauparlant said. “He’s a great locker room guy. He will be a great addition to their program.” …
The Bears have had to cancel their summer hockey camps in July and August due to low enrollment.