MUSKEGON, MI- With the USHL draft just two hours away, the Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced a blockbuster trade with the Tri-City Storm. The Jacks have sent their first-round, Phase II pick to the Storm in exchange for three forwards: Wyatt Bongiovanni, Monte Graham and Jonathan Bendorf.
The draft pick sent over to Tri-City is the 12th overall pick in tomorrow’s Phase II draft, and will not impact today’s Phase I draft.
In exchange, the Jacks bring in a trio of players, headlined by Bongiovanni, who was the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 Phase I draft (Des Moines). Bongiovanni is a Birmingham, MI native, and scored 12 goals and 30 points with Tri-City in his second USHL season last year. In his rookie year with the Buccaneers, Bongiovanni totalled three goals and 14 points.
Bongiovanni, a 1999 birthyear, is uncommitted to play collegiate hockey at this point. Currently just 17 years of age, Bongiovanni has already played 116 USHL games, the most of any Lumberjack currently on the roster.
According to general manager John Vanbiesbrouck, Bongiovanni projects to step into a prominent role in Muskegon’s top six forwards.
Montgomery “Monte” Graham is the second piece in this deal, and will bring a punch to the Muskegon lineup, both literally and figuratively. Graham, a Hanover, MA native, scored eight goals and 24 points last year, but is equally well known for his toughness. Graham doesn’t seek out fights (just 57 penalty minutes last year), but plays as gritty a game as anyone. Graham’s excellence in the faceoff dot is yet another asset Graham brings with him to Muskegon.
Graham, a 1998 birthyear, is committed to play collegiately at Boston College. Like Bongiovanni, he is a two-year veteran in the USHL and has played in 116 games. Unlike Bongiovanni, Graham has played all 116 with Tri-City. The Storm drafted him in the 7th round of the 2014 Phase I draft.
Bendorf, the final piece in the deal, is a 1999 birthyear with good size and potential. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Bendorf plays a physical game and has been a prolific goal scorer in his junior career. In 2014-15, Bendorf was named the USPHL 16U forward of the year, scoring an outstanding 30 goals and 75 points in just 28 games for Team Comcast.
In 23 USHL games last season with the Storm, Bendorf didn’t find the back of the net, but tallied five assists.
Bendorf started last year with Wichita Falls of the North American Hockey League, and totalled 13 goals and 24 points in 33 games. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 Phase I draft by Madison, and is committed to play collegiately at RPI.
“We feel like we got better through this trade” said Vanbiesbrouck. “To bring in three guys with USHL experience for one pick, we feel the Jacks got better.”
For complete draft coverage and analysis of every pick, stay tuned to the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ social media, especially twitter. Follow us @MuskegonJacks
Phase I of the USHL draft begins today (Monday) at 7:00pm, and Phase II begins tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9:00am.