MUSKEGON, MI- Lumberjacks goaltender Keith Petruzzelli had a roller coaster Saturday. His mood changed from anxiety to elation when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NHL draft, 88th overall by the Detroit Red Wings.
“It was stressful,” said Petruzzelli. “It’s the worst anxiety, and we were all expecting it to happen a little sooner, but I’m so excited to be with Detroit. It’s an incredible franchise that’s a perfect spot for me.”
Detroit wasn’t one of the teams the Petruzzelli had many discussions with, and when they selected him, it came as a bit of a surprise, but Keith identified it as a great fit because of their lack of top goaltending prospects. Furthermore, the franchise has time to allow the development process to happen in due time.
“They have an open timeline,” said Petruzzelli. “They will let me develop at Quinnipiac for a couple years and then we’ll see.”
Petruzzelli pointed to two people when asked about those who keyed his development: Lumberjacks GM and former NHLer John Vanbiesbrouck, and Nick Cocchi, who coached Petruzzelli for six years before he moved on to high school.
“It was awesome to be able to pick Beezer’s brain this year,” Keith said. “Obviously, we have two totally different playing styles, but he knows so much about the game it’s incredible. He was there with me on draft day to congratulate me and give me a hug and that was awesome.”
But Vanbiesbrouck wasn’t the only mentor in attendance. Nick Cocchi, who coached Petruzzelli during Keith’s six-year stint with the New England Jr. Falcons, also made the trip to Chicago to support Keith.
“Coach Cocchi made a huge impact on my career,” said Petruzzelli. “I can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for me and it was special to have him there on Saturday.”
Petruzzelli was able to share the moment with both of his parents, Dave and Kathy, and neither were able to hold their emotions in.
“Yeah, both my parents cried,” said Petruzzelli with a chuckle. “My dad was pretty upset that he got caught on national television.”
A 6-foot-5 native of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Petruzzelli admits it’s been a whirlwind of action over the past couple of weeks, and the lanky, 185-pound goalie won’t have much time to rest in the near future. Red Wings prospect camp starts July 6th, and he was supposed to arrive at his new home, Quinnipiac, on July 8th, but that will have to wait.
The number one thing he’ll have to improve upon to make it to the NHL?
“I have to hit the gym, put muscle mass on and that will help me both with my speed in the crease and fighting guys off in front of me.”
MUSKEGON, MI- General Manager John Vanbiesbrouck announced today that the Muskegon Lumberjacks have acquired veteran forward Michael Graham from the Fargo Force. In return, Muskegon will send forward Garrett Van Wyhe and defenseman Ty Farmer to Fargo.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Garrett and Ty for being outstanding for us here in Muskegon,” said Vanbiesbrouck. “However, we felt this was a necessary move to round out our top group of forwards.”
Graham, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has played 45 USHL games during two seasons with the Force, tallying 12 goals and 12 assists. The 1997-birthyear was a prolific scorer during his high school career at prestigious Eden Prairie High, totaling 170 points in 137 games.
Graham, who bears no relation to recently acquired center Monte Graham, is committed to play collegiately at the University of Notre Dame.
Van Wyhe, an undrafted free agent from Seattle, was acquired from Dubuque prior to the 2016-17 season in exchange for a 7th-round pick. Van Wyhe scored nine goals and 21 points in 57 games as a Lumberjack, and scored some of Muskegon’s most memorable goals, including an overtime game-winner in Youngstown and a late game-tying goal at home against Chicago.
Vanbiesbrouck grabbed Farmer in a midseason trade with Youngstown, sending draft picks to the Phantoms in exchange for the 2014 tender. The speedy defenseman racked up three goals and nine points in 24 games while in Muskegon.
The Lumberjacks’ 30-man roster will be finalized on July 11.
MUSKEGON, MI- Nearly 150 prospective players came out to the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ main tryout camp over Memorial Day weekend, but the group was trimmed down to 40 by the end of the three-day camp.
The event culminated with Sunday’s All-Star game that featured the camp’s top players, selected by the Jacks’ hockey staff.
The best was indeed saved for last this weekend: the All-Star game was a thriller, and several players made their names known to the several hundred Jacks fans in attendance.
Team Gold and Team Black went back and forth for three periods, with Team Black taking the early 3-1 lead after one. Team Gold rallied in the second, scoring three unanswered to get on top 4-3. Team Black was able to tie it in the third, and took the 5-4 lead on John Mulera’s penalty shot goal.
With the goaltender pulled and on a power play, Team Gold got the late equalizer when returning defenseman Marc Del Gaizo lit the lamp with only 4.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Tied at five, the already entertaining All-Star game would become even more thrilling.
The teams trimmed down to three men a side for OT, and for better than five minutes, goaltenders Strauss Mann and Matt Vernon stole the show. After ceding the late goal to Del Gaizo, Mann recorded a series of mind-boggling saves for Team Black in the extra period to keep them alive long enough for Mulera to get another golden chance.
Coming in on a breakaway, Mulera used a wrist shot to beat Vernon, and Team Black was victorious 6-5.
Mulera, who was on the Lumberjacks’ affiliate list last season and played at the Winchendon School in Massachusetts, recorded three points in the All-Star game and flashed drool-worthy potential. He possesses strong puckhandling skills, creativity, speed and a scoring touch. The Providence commit and 1999-birthyear was drafted in the 11th round of 2016’s Phase II draft.
Mulera hopes to be named to the 30-man roster that GM John Vanbiesbrouck must submit to the USHL in mid July. Vanbiesbrouck will have a series of very difficult decisions to make: there were very few weaknesses to be found in the 40-player All-Star game, and there were three notable players absent. Goaltender Adam Brizgala and centers Jachym Kondelik and Monte Graham were not able to make the trip.
Newly-acquired Emilio Pettersen was outstanding all weekend, looking like the best player on the ice when he was out there. Also acquired after the completion of the season, winger Wyatt Bongiovanni showed off a skillset that features not only the ability to create scoring opportunities for himself and his linemates, but also strength and grit.
Mark Cheremeta, who played five games for Muskegon last regular and postseason, was a standout on Friday playing alongside Reggie Millette and Max Sasson. Cheremeta didn’t register a point in the All-Star game, but Millette and Sasson (both 2000-birthyears) each scored.
Defensively, the Jacks will have four returning players entering next season. Marc Del Gaizo and Colby Bukes are the likely top pair, followed by Travis Mitchell and Ty Farmer. Additionally, Cooper Zech, Collin Murphy and Caleb Everett saw some USHL action this season and were solid over the weekend. New blueliners Nash Neinhaus, Michael Mannara and John Stampohar all impressed, and the trio of new faces all provide offensive firepower.
With camp now concluded, the heavy lifting is winding down for the Lumberjacks’ hockey staff led by Vanbiesbrouck. The evaluation process has come to a close, and now the final task is underway: whittling the roster down to 30 by the July 11 deadline. Those 30 players will be the ones who attend fall camp in August, and the ones who compete for the 23 available roster spots for the regular season.