Last week, Knights alumni JP Natishan and Chris McGrath were recognized for their efforts to assist the victims and families of the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
The pair have been selling custom-designed t-shirts that show support for the Broncos with a “Humboldt Broncos Strong” slogan, with all proceeds being donated to the Broncos players as well as their families. Together the duo raised $1500.
“As a junior hockey player, and all the time I’ve spent on the bus with my brothers, I couldn’t imagine something like that happening,” said Natishan. “I just want to help them out any way that I could.”
“It was just such a terrible thing to happen,” said McGrath. “As a hockey player you spend so much time on the bus with your team and a lot of bonding goes on there as well so to see something like that happen just really hit home. It affected not just the hockey community, but the whole world. I felt like everyone else I think; I just wanted to help. JP and I ended up putting together the shirts and the hoodies as our way of chipping in. It didn’t matter if we only sold 1 item or 1,000 we just wanted try and do whatever we could and it ended up doing well.”
Natishan completed his junior career last spring playing for the Knights EHL team. He and McGrath are long-time friends who skated a number of seasons together for the Knights youth program. Both are heading to play NCAA DIII college hockey this fall with Natishan lacing up the skates for Kings College and McGrath joining nearby Wilkes University.
“JP is truly a selfless guy who puts others first,” said Knights EHL head coach Josh Fusco. “He’s the type of guy every coach wants on their team and in their locker room. Getting to know him and watch him succeed on and off the ice as a player and a leader has been a really rewarding part of my time as a coach.”
The pair will not rest on what they’ve accomplished thus far. Bobby DeFriest, a 19-year old hockey player who is both a former teammate and mutual friend to both McGrath and Natishan, was recently diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain cancer. DeFriest’s family is seeking to raise money to cover medical costs via gofundme. Those interested can donate at:
For their part, Natishan and McGrath have created another shirt for sale online with the slogan “Glory Lasts Forever,” on the front and the hashtag “DeFriest Strong” to match the family’s motto on the back. The shirt can be purchased at:
ALL proceeds from the sale of each shirt will be donated to Bobby DeFriest and his family. If money cannot be offered, the pair has asked for those practicing to offer their prayers in support of the DeFriest family in their time of need.
“JP Natishan and Chris McGrath are both great examples of the traits we look for when we go out and recruit new players into our organization,” said Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “Hockey’s a sport, but it’s also a family. Chris and JP are guys that truly care about all members of that family. We are incredibly proud of them, and are happy that they were a part of our program.”
A balanced group of forwards look to bolster Knights attack in 2017-18
With each year, a new crop of Knights arrives at the Revolution Ice Centre to make their case for an NAHL roster spot. This year is no exception as large shoes have been left to fill by the team’s most recent departures. Gone are forwards Joe Schuler and Sam Antonitsch, who are headed to Colby College and Europe, respectively, while veteran Paul Maust will be vying for a spot in the USHL.
On the ice, that leaves a significant loss of production to replace. Maust was second on the team in points last year, while Antonitsch was tied for second in goals. Schuler brought top-shelf toughness and steady defensive play with each shift, particularly on the penalty kill. All three were vocal members of the locker room, with years of experience playing junior hockey.
Beyond replacing players moving on, there are other roster spots open to competition. The good news for the Knights-they have many skilled and hard-working applicants.
The International Pool
In the NAHL, teams are allowed four players from outside the US on their roster. Last season, imports Dorian Dawson, Markuss Komuls and Sam Antonitsch were major pieces in the Knights lineup.
Tender Dominik Bogdziul was unable to make it to main camp, but his skill and resume are more than worthy of bringing him to training camp.
The Lithuanian has spent the last two years stateside, playing in the NA3HL. In 85 games, he registered 63 goals and 105 assists.
“Dominik creates a ton of space and offense for his teammates,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “His speed along with his skillset make him a threat all over the ice.”
Alongside his impressive play in the US, the ’98 birth year has represented his home country in four consecutive seasons at the World Junior Classic in both the U18 and U20 age groups.
Tender Tyrone Bronte is a forward from Australia. The ’99 birth year has played in the NAPHL 18U for the past two seasons, scoring 21-35-56 in 48 games. Like Bogdziul, he has represented his country at World Juniors. For Australia’s U18 team, he scored six goals and six assists in five games last season on his way to a D2B gold-medal finish.
“Tyrone brings great offensive instincts and skills to our organization right away,” said Knights head scout Justin Schreiber. “He thinks the game really well, which pushed him to lead the NAPHL in scoring this past year.”
Tomas Koblizek is a big-bodied, 17-year old turning heads wherever he goes. The Czechoslovakian forward is eligible for the 2018 NHL draft and has even achieved top-100 ranking by some NHL draft pundits.
“Tomas is a player that’s already proven himself at an international level,” said Schreiber. “He was a point-per-game player last year at the U17 World Hockey Challenge against the best 2000’s in the world. We are excited to see what he can do with his impressive offensive skillset in North America.”
Koblizek couples a 6-2, 180-pound frame with a knack for generating plays. He picked up five assists in five games in the World Hockey Challenge last season. He’s spent most of his career playing in the Czech U16 and U18 leagues with 139 points in the past four years.
Kiryll Ulanov, son of NHL and KHL veteran Igor Ulanov, is looking to form his own legacy as he moves forward in his hockey career.
The forward’s towering 6-4 frame was hard to miss at camp, and so too was his day-two performance in which he picked up three assists on three consecutive goals. The lefty has prior experience playing junior hockey in Canada.
Expectations were high for Josh Fricks as he entered main camp. In 2016-17, he tallied 23 goals and 35 assists in 40 games played with the Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18.
“Josh is an extremely gifted and skilled forward who put up a ton of points this year with his midget U18 team,” said Whiteside. “We feel that Josh will complement our returning core group of forwards right away.”
Watching his electric speed at main camp left no doubt that the Knights excitement for the ‘98 forward is well-warranted. Veteran Matt Kidney tabbed Fricks as one of the most impressive players he saw at camp, as the pair played three games together, often on the same line.
“He’s opened my eyes pretty wide,” said Kidney. “He’s very fast, a little bit like Curtis Carlson.”
Jack Olmstead isn’t a stranger to the Knights. He played in two NAHL games as an affiliate player last year, scoring his first NAHL goal and flashing impressive hands and speed in his audition. The staff liked what they saw from the 19-year old off the ice as well.
“The biggest thing that jumps out at you when you see Jack play is his character,” said Knights scout Justin Schreiber. “He just plays the game the right way; he’s a high character guy on and off the ice and has a ton of offensive skill.”
The lefty forward continued the trend of impressive showings from tenders at camp by showing off quick hands and a hearty helping of skill. He emerged as a leading scorer, with 2-2-4 in four games, plus two game-winning goals in shootouts.
The Draft Class
Gabe Temple, the Knights most recent first-round pick, displayed the power element to his game, working alongside veteran Mike Gelatt for portions of camp. It was while playing alongside the latter when Temple took a slick pass and flipped it backhand for a slick goal.
“It’s a little bit faster here,” said Temple on his main camp impressions. “There’s a lot of good guys here with a lot of skill. It’s pretty fun though, I like the competitiveness. I’m a big forward, I can put the puck in the net, I make plays, I have a lot of speed.”
“Gabe projects as an impact player,” said Whiteside. “That blend of talent and want-to is something we value highly on our team.”
As with any member of their draft class, the Knights were eager to see what fifth-round pick Lincoln Hatten would bring to the ice at main camp. At each stage of the scouting process, the Dallas Stars U16 product made an impression on those the Knights sent to scout him.
“He’s a player who got better every time we evaluated him,” said Whiteside. “He’s a skilled, big forward and stood out on one of the better midget rosters in the country.”
Hatten was a consistent force across the ice at camp, showing a finishing ability to accompany his bruising tenacity, registering three goals and two assists in four games played.
Tucker Chapman, the team’s sixth round pick, is a long-time veteran of the USHS playing in his home state of Minnesota. Chapman was a standout there, finishing in the top five in goals, assists, points, and games played in Lourdes Eagles history (per eliteprospects.com).
“Tucker is a skilled forward that uses his elite skating ability to create space for himself on the rush,” said Schreiber.
A local product from Shavertown, Pennsylvania, Chris McGrath came to camp with a strong pedigree. His brother Patrick plays for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. McGrath, a former member of the Knights 16UA teams from 2012-2014, held his own at Knights main camp, scoring goals on both day one and two before playing in both all-star games on day three.
Another former Knight returning to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area is Alex Rowella. After playing youth hockey within the organization until 2015, he has spent the last two years in his home state of Connecticut playing for the EHL’s Connecticut Oilers. A 6-1, 190-pound ‘97, Rowella is coming off a strong season in which he scored 20 goals and 17 assists in 47 games.
Rounding out the forwards is yet another familiar face in Tyler Uravage. Like Rowella, Uravage played at various levels of Knights youth hockey until 2015. He spent last season with the Binghamton Jr. Senators of the NA3HL, lighting up the score sheet with 33-69-102 in 52 games. At main camp, he skated well alongside NAHL veterans Paul Maust and Reed Robinson, picking up three goals and two assists in five games played.
Back in 2016, Knights 2017 second-round pick Justin Engelkes was selected in the 2016 USHL Futures Draft by the Des Moines Buccaneers. As such, he’ll attempt to make their roster in the coming weeks. If he does not, the Knights can add him back to their own. The talented two-way skater offers versatility and physicality, and is already committed to play division one hockey for Miami University (Ohio).
“Justin is another quality two-way forward that plays the NAHL-style game,” said Schreiber. “He plays a very aggressive, physical style of hockey and can put the puck in the net as well.”
With main camp in the rear-view mirror, this young group will soon be competing to make the Knights roster to start the season. The best teams often must make hard decisions come roster cut deadlines, and in that regard, the coaching staff will have a lot to think about. With that said, those are the types of decisions that put together good hockey teams that produce great hockey players.
The Knights report to training camp at the beginning of September and will open their season against the New Jersey Titans at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 15th. Tickets can be pre-ordered by calling (570)-883-1100.