EDMONTON – Bram Stephen went hunting for accountability and leadership.
It’s fair to say he netted a nice haul.
The Griffins men’s hockey coach announced a 2016 recruiting class Thursday that’s full of former captains and assistants, particularly from the Alberta Junior Hockey League ranks.
“Overall, we were after guys that were leaders with their junior teams,” said Stephen. “That was something we identified early on last year when we started our recruiting process.
“We feel we’ve accomplished that goal and it’s already had an impact on the ice and in the dressing room. You can see it in the very early days of training camp so far.”
Stephen landed Lloydminster Bobcats captain Taylor Mulder, a 6-4, 225-pound power forward fresh off leading the Cats to the 2016 RBC Cup final, which they hosted.
“He has a significant physical impact on the game,” said Stephen of the hulking winger, who had 199 penalty minutes for Lloydminster last season but might start his first Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season in the stands due to a broken wrist.
“He’s a fantastic person. We’re really excited about having him here.”
Stephen is also bringing in Drumheller Dragons assistant captain Jacob Schofield, who was the third leading scorer on that squad last season with 22 goals and 48 points in 58 games. He might immediately slot into the top six on MacEwan, if camp sessions are any indication.
“Already you can tell there’s some chemistry with him and Ryan Benn, so that could be something we start the year with,” said Stephen, who is aiming to split up his No. 1 line from a year ago to balance out scoring. “So if we can have that and start the year with Brett Njaa and Benn away from each other (occupying the top-two centre positions), we should have two very dangerous lines.”
Camrose Kodiaks captain Cam Gotaas – the son of former NHLer Steve Gotaas – and assistant captain Stefan Danielson are also joining the Griffins.
Gotaas, who was Camrose’s fourth-leading scorer last season with 16 goals and 53 points in 59 games, could be ticketed for MacEwan’s top line, finding early success with former Kodiaks teammate Njaa, who led the Griffins in scoring last season with 11 goals and 31 points in 30 games.
“He’s a smaller forward, very intelligent, shifty player, responsible defensively, as well,” noted Stephen about Gotaas. “Again, he’s a really high-quality person and we’re excited about having him in.”
Danielson and another former Kodiaks defenceman, Tyler Morrison, who also has extensive WHL experience, are part of a big influx of new recruits on MacEwan’s defence. Both have solid two-way capabilities, with Danielson possibly ticketed for immediate powerplay minutes.
Also on the back end, Austin Yaremchuk joins his older brother Nolan on the squad and he, too, brings leadership experience, having served as an assistant captain with Lloydminster and Drayton Valley.
Gabriel Bystrom, a smart, mobile Swedish defender, will enter MacEwan as the youngest member of the Griffins. He’s still eligible for junior, but due to Hockey Canada import rules, he can only play in the Canadian Hockey League, not Junior A.
“His older brother played for Concordia,” noted Stephen. “He’s two years younger than all the rest of our recruits, but he’s got excellent skill. He’s really good with the puck.
“He needs to learn a little bit about the North American game and a little bit about the defensive game, but we feel he could be a good player for us. His growth already is fantastic in the week we’ve had him.”
In goal, former Drayton Valley netminder Marc-Olivier Daigle, who served as the U of A Golden Bears third ’tender last season, transfers over to add competition to the crease with incumbent and fourth-year veteran Chris Wray.
“Adding a guy like Marc-Olivier Daigle, who played for the Bears last year, it’s always good for a program when you can add a guy like that,” said Stephen. “What I really like about him is he’s driven to get better, too, which is a good thing.”
Other members of the Griffins’ recruiting class include winger Nakehko Lamothe, who was ticketed to play for Keyano before the program folded, versatile complementary forward Michael Roberts, formerly of the Vernon Vipers, and Brandon Switzer, who put up 75 points in 53 games with Flin Flon in the MJHL last season while playing with a torn ACL, an injury which will sideline him for much of his rookie season at MacEwan.
“We think we have a good core already. I think we have four guys that have been a point-a-game one season or more already,” noted Stephen. “Adding (the recruits) to the mix, we feel we should be three-four lines deep every night, as long as we’re healthy.
“We feel like we’re much more mobile on the back end, much more intelligent as a group. We should be a team that can play the game with pace.”
The Griffins, looking to improve upon a 13-14-3-1 record last season, will open preseason play with a non-conference home-and-home series Sept. 9-10 against Portage College. Saturday’s game is set for Leduc Arena at 7:30 p.m.
D Gabriel Bystrom, Sweden, (Kils AIK) … Youngest player on Griffins, he is only eligible for major junior or university/college in Canada
G Marc-Olivier Daigle, Delson, Que. (University of Alberta) … Golden Bears' third goalie last season, he starred for Drayton Valley Thunder in 2014-15
D Stefan Danielson, Red Deer (Camrose Kodiaks) … Mobile rearguard has powerplay quarterback potential
F Cam Gotaas, Sherwood Park (Camrose Kodiaks) … Son of former NHLer Steve Gotaas could play on Griffins' top line
F Nakehko Lamothe, Edmonton (La Ronge Ice Wolves) … Was ticketed to play for Keyano before the program folded
D Tyler Morrison, Sherwood Park (Camrose Kodiaks) … Has 208 Western Hockey League games to his credit, playing for Vancouver, Tri-City and Moose Jaw
F Taylor Mulder, Lacombe (Lloydminster Bobcats) … Captain of team that went to the RBC Cup final last spring in Lloydminster
F Michael Roberts, Vernon, B.C. (Vernon Vipers) … Played parts of five seasons in the BCHL
F Jacob Schofield, Yellowknife, N.W.T. (Drumheller Dragons) … Third-leading scorer on Dragons seems destined for Griffins' top six
F Brandon Switzer, Brandon, Man. (Flin Flon Bombers) … Notched 32 goals and 75 points in 53 MJHL games last season, while playing four months with a torn ACL, which will sideline him at MacEwan
D Austin Yaremchuk, Sherwood Park (Drayton Valley Thunder) … Younger brother of current Griffins forward Nolan Yaremchuk
For further information on the MacEwan University Griffins, contact Jefferson Hagen at 780-497-5324 or via email at email@example.com