The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights called the names of nine players at this year’s NAHL Draft in the hopes of finding the right pieces to fit the mold of a team looking to return to the playoffs in its’ fifth season in the North American Hockey League. Here are the draft results for the Knights:
Round 1 – 9th Overall: Tim Gould (Defense)
Though Wilkes-Barre ended up drafting five forwards as opposed to four defenseman, the blue liners selected were four of the first five Knights’ picks.
Gould, 19, hails from Moncton, NB in Canada. The 2000 birth year spent the last two seasons playing for the Notre Dame Hounds in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). There, Gould registered 60 points in 104 games. Gould has already made his collegiate commitment, as he will attend the University of Maine to play NCAA Division I hockey.
Round 1 – 22nd Overall: Joshua Phillips (Defense)
18-year-old Joshua Phillips was the first of three consecutive Ontario Junior A Hockey League (OJHL) draft selections from the Knights, and the first of two to come from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
The Knights acquired the 22nd overall pick from the Jamestown Rebels a day earlier, thus being the only NAHL team to have two first round picks. With it, they selected another defenseman in Joshua Phillips. In his first full season with the OJHL Jr. Sabres, Phillips tallied nine points in 39 games. The New York native has been in the Jr. Sabres organization since 2015-16.
Round 2 – 30th Overall: Alec Cicero (Forward)
A teammate of Phillips; Cicero became the first forward the Knights had selected in the draft. At 5’8″ and 180lbs, Cicero fits the mold of a typical forward and at 18 years of age, the right-handed shot is coming off a 30-point season with the Jr. Sabres.
Round 3 – 72nd Overall: Brian Smith (Defense)
Despite being a smaller defender (5’9″, 160lbs.), Smith was the only American born defenseman on the OJHL’s Markham Royals this past season. He finished third among blue liners on his team in point production, with three goals and 18 points in 52 games. Smith scored three more goals across 18 playoff games with the Royals during the 2018-19 campaign.
Round 4 – 87th Overall: Spencer Kring (Defense)
Kring was the final defenseman to be selected for the Knights out of this year’s draft. Coming from the prestigious Selects Academy U18, the Green Bay, WI native played in 66 games at the Midget level this past season, racking up 36 points. Kring, 18, is one of the larger draft selections for the Knights at 6’2″ and 180lbs.
Round 5 – 113th Overall: Mike Manzo (Forward)
As Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shifted their focus to acquiring forwards, Mike Manzo became the next target. Coming from the familiar Detroit Little Caesars program, which has spawned several Knights’ players, Manzo is a 17-year-old who could end up being a steal in round five for the Knights. With only seven games played this past season with Detroit, the scouting report may have been sparse, but Tom Kowal, Andrew Whiteside, and Justin Schreiber believed they knew enough to feel comfortable making the pick.
Round 6 – 139th Overall: Sean Bunting (Forward)
Sean Bunting is what’s considered a “flyer” in this draft. Though still a member of the Sioux City Muskateers in the USHL, the Knights have acquired Bunting’s rights in the event the 19-year-old were to be released from Sioux City. This is considered a high risk/high reward selection. If Bunting stays in the USHL, the Knights will have nothing to show for from the sixth round of the draft. If the opposite happens, Wilkes-Barre will be gifted a tier I caliber player to play in a top six role for them this coming season.
Round 7 – 165th Overall: Zachary Aben (Forward)
The bulk of NAHL Knights come from the mid-west, but the team stayed close to home by selecting Zachary Aben from the Palmyra Black Knights 16U program. Aben at the age of 15 became the youngest player selected across the board in this year’s draft. Hailing from Shavertown, PA, the left winger tallied 43 points in 29 games with Palmyra this past year.
Round 8 – 191st Overall: Trevor Prince (Forward)
Out of Anchorage, AK, Prince became the final selection for the Knights. Wilkes-Barre is one of the newest members to the NA3HL, having a tier III team set to play this coming season, and so it became befitting that they acquired a player with experience from the NA3HL in the form of Prince. Coming from the Missoula Junior Bruins, Prince scored 11 goals and compiled 45 points in just 28 games with Missoula. Trevor is an 18-year-old who clocks in at 5’10”, 160lbs.
Thoughts from the staff
“We went defense-heavy to start this year’s draft,” said Assistant Coach and Director of Scouting, Andrew Whiteside. “Given our situation with returning defense, we wanted to make sure we got the best defensemen early in the draft. We feel comfortable with our returning forward group and with the forwards we picked up. This year we focused on drafting more players with prior experience in junior hockey. It’s a different direction than what we’ve taken in previous drafts, but we’re happy and feeling good about our selections.”
“Going into the draft we knew we needed to address our back end with the departure of a couple key members,” said Director of Player Development Justin Schreiber. “Having two first round picks was a huge advantage there as we could go after two established defensemen with junior hockey experience.”
“We focused on drafting players with junior experience in this year’s draft and I’m very happy with the job my staff of Andrew Whiteside, Justin Schreiber and Mike Maltese did finding players that will fit well with the players returning, ” said NAHL Head Coach and General Manager Tom Kowal. “There’s a good mix of youth, experience, skill, and personality in these nine selections we’ve made. Now the draft is over. The next part of the process is to get these kids here in July for main camp and see how they perform.”
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will host their main camp in their home rink of Revolution Ice Centre, July 19-21.